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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    President-elect Donald Trump speaks as part of his "Thank You" tour in Mobile, Alabama, in December. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump speaks as part of his “Thank You” tour in Mobile, Alabama, in December. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday abruptly called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons.

    Trump made the statement on Twitter and did not expand on the actions he wants the U.S. to take or on the issues he sees around the world. His comments came one day after meeting with incoming White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    Trump’s transition website says he “recognizes the uniquely catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons and cyberattacks,” adding that he will modernize the nuclear arsenal “to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent.” Beyond that, he has offered few specifics, either as a candidate or during the transition.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Trump’s vanquished campaign rival Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast the Republican as too erratic and unpredictable to have control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Ten former nuclear missile launch operators also wrote that Trump lacks the temperament, judgment and diplomatic skill to avoid nuclear war.

    Trump was spending Thursday at his private estate in South Florida, where he has been meeting with advisers and interviewing potential Cabinet nominees. He is also building out his White House staff, announcing that campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will join him in the West Wing as a counselor.

    Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, is widely credited with helping guide him to victory. She also is a frequent guest on television news programs.

    Trump called Conway “a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda.”

    The president-elect has spent part of the week discussing national security issues, including the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Germany. He called the violence an “attack on humanity” and appeared to suggest a willingness to move ahead with his campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States.

    Trump proposed the Muslim ban during the Republican primary campaign, drawing sharp criticism from both parties. During the general election, he shifted his rhetoric to focus on temporarily halting immigration from an unspecified list of countries with ties to terrorism, though he did not disavow the Muslim ban, which is still prominently displayed on his campaign website.

    The president-elect, when asked Wednesday if the attack in Berlin would cause him to evaluate the proposed ban or a possible registry of Muslims in the United States, said, “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”

    “What’s happening is disgraceful,” said Trump, who deemed the violence “an attack on humanity,” and added, “it’s got to be stopped.”

    A transition spokesman said later Wednesday that Trump’s plans “might upset those with their heads stuck in the politically correct sand.”

    “President-elect Trump has been clear that we will suspend admission of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives,” spokesman Jason Miller said. But transition officials did not comment on whether Trump could also push for the overarching ban on Muslims.

    The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in Berlin that left 12 people dead and 48 injured. On Wednesday, German officials launched a Europe-wide manhunt for a “violent and armed” Tunisian man suspected in the killings.

    Conway said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday that Trump is “the guy out there saying we need extreme vetting policies, that we need to have a better system vis a vis countries that train, harbor and export terrorists.”

    “He said during the campaign long after he originally proposed that that this would be more strictly tied to countries where we know they have a history of terrorism and that this is not a complete ban,” she added.

    Trump, who addressed journalists Wednesday for less than two minutes outside his palatial South Florida estate, said he has not spoken to President Barack Obama since the attack.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

    The post Trump: U.S. must ‘greatly strengthen’ nuclear capability appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Heather Padgett dresses her daughters Kinsley and Kiley at her home in Cincinnati, Ohio July 16, 2015. Until she got clean last August, Heather was part of what the Centers for Disease Control has called a heroin epidemic - a 100 percent rise in heroin addiction among Americans between 2002 and 2013. The sharp rise in heroin addiction, coupled with the risks of newborns developing withdrawal symptoms after they are sent home, has led a group of Cincinnati hospitals to try what they say is the first program of its kind in the United States: testing all mothers, or their infants, for opiates regardless of background, not just those who seem high-risk. To match Feature USA-HEROIN/MATERNALTESTING  Picture taken July 16, 2015.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX1NGE8

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman sat down with Heather Boushey, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, to discuss DC’s new family policy and why she thinks it’ll be a boon for not only workers, but for business and the District as a whole. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Want productive workers? Give them paid family leave.

    Want lower turnover? Give your workers paid family leave.

    Want to keep your community’s economy thriving? You got it — paid family leave.

    According to one economist, paid family leave is the answer to all three.

    On Tuesday, the District of Columbia passed a new paid family leave policy — one of the most generous in the United States. As we reported last year, the United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two nations in the world to offer no paid maternity leave. And we’re the only industrial nation to not offer paid family leave.

    READ MORE: D.C. Council passes one of the nation’s most generous paid family leave bills

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman sat down with Heather Boushey, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, to discuss the new policy and why she thinks it will be a boon for not only workers, but for business and the District as a whole. Read that conversation below and for more, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e segment, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour. The following text has been edited for clarity and length.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    PAUL SOLMAN: So what’s happening now with paid family leave in DC?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Well, here in the District of Columbia, the city council just voted by a wide margin to implement a paid leave program that will provide eight weeks of paid leave for new parents, six weeks to care for a sick loved one and two weeks if you have your own illness to be paid at 90 percent of your salary. We capped it at a fairly reasonable level. It’s very progressive. It means that lower-income workers are going to benefit a lot more than those at the top, and we’re going to make sure that everybody who works here in the District of Columbia has access to the kind of leave that allows them to care for their family and to keep their job.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Who pays for it?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: So this is going to be paid for by a small tax on employers, a payroll tax just like the kind of payroll taxes that we all pay on our paycheck each week. It’s just like Social Security taxes. It’s a flat rate on paychecks that employers will pay.

    READ MORE: Almost every country in the world offers more generous maternity leave than the U.S.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So isn’t this something that employers were resisting? I mean, it’s another tax on employers, in addition to the taxes they already had to pay for unemployment insurance, say.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: So what you saw in the District was some resistance from the employer community, but his passed by a very wide margin in DC city council, so there’s a lot of people actually think this is a good idea for the economy. What we know from other places around the country that have done this kind of policy – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York – is that this has been good for business, and it’s taken a burden off of businesses. So even though they have to pay this tax, they don’t actually then have to pay if an employee needs to take leave to care for her child or to care for a sick family member. They can rely on this broader system.

    So while there is this fairly small tax, there’s a big benefit to employers. We know that there’s a boost in employee retention, it improves labor supply. So this on net can be quite good for business.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So let me understand. If everybody is paying into the system, it’s like insurance. In other words, if a person takes leave at your company, then it’s not just your company that’s subsidizing it.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Exactly. It’s insurance that says that anybody who works here in the District of Columbia will be able to tap into this program. Employers will, of course, have to deal with the absence of their employee, but employers already have to deal with this.

    So regardless of whether or not this program exists, people get sick, people have babies, people need to take time to care for an aging loved one. Employers already have a management problem, and they all have a cost problem, because their employee needs to be out for a few weeks to take care of their new child. They already have to deal with that, and of course, employers do that each and every day. What this insurance program does is sets up a system that actually helps their employee deal with the income fluctuation.

    READ MORE: Column: Working parents have two jobs — and both are important to the economy

    We know that when families have new children, it causes enormous income volatility for families. They see their income drop and that adds to their economic anxiety. We know that employees that have this benefit are more likely to come back to their employer, saving the employer costs on having to replace that person over the long term.

    So it takes that burden off the employer and allows them to focus on just getting the job done. They are going to have to figure out what to do while that employee’s out of the office, but they already had that problem. It’s not a new problem for them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: From the point of view of an employer, it’s now costing more out of pocket than it would have cost, right? You’ve got a tax to pay that you didn’t have to pay before.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: So from the perspective of the employer, they’re going to have this new small tax to pay, but there will be this new benefit for employees that will also ultimately benefit the employer as well as the local economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Some good employers provide people benefits. Many do not. The ones that do not tend to be the low end of the pay scale. This program will give those employers a way to support their employees. The employees will get this benefit, making it more likely that their employee will come back to them — that’s a benefit for the employer over the long term and a benefit for the employee and all the while supporting families in their time of need.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I see why this is good for employees, but what’s in it for me as the employer?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Well, there’s a few things. One, as an employer you already have a management problem when your employee has a new child or needs to care for their ailing family member. You’ve got to replace the person, at least temporarily; it’s a tremendous pain to hire somebody new.

    Many good employers have an additional cost right now, because they pay their employee sick time, or they already provide them with some sort of benefit, and many employers can’t afford to do that. For those employers that can’t afford to do this, this is a small tax that will then give that benefit — paid leave — to their employees, and that will make it more likely that their employee comes back to work for them. It’s going to improve job retention, and I need to stress this – that this is going to be good for the overall DC economy. So it’s not just about the challenges facing any one employer – it’s about how this all adds up to what’s good for the economy. If we see less turnover of employees because of this benefit, if we see income stability for families because of this benefit, that’s going to be a net good for our local economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How? How?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: It’s going to maintain family incomes. You’ve got a new child coming in to the family – that’s when a lot of families see a big income shock. This is going to help smooth that out. They’re going to be able to go out and keep buying diapers and formula and all the things that they need.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As opposed to moving out of town.

    READ MORE: Inside the candidates’ plans for paid leave and child care

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Yeah. And it’s going to increase the probability that people see the District of Columbia as a great place to work. It’s going to increase the ability of employers to lure good talent here to the District. And that’s what we’ve seen in other places that have done that. What DC is doing right now – they’re not going out to the wild blue yonder doing something we don’t know anything about. There are other states that have implemented these kinds of programs, and they found that they’ve been good for families, good for businesses and good for those economies.

    PAUL SOLMAN: There’s a lot of concern about communities retaining their economic vitality at this point with some people just leaving. So you’re saying for any given community, employers now share the cost of family leave, and of course, the employees benefit and therefore stay or even come into the community, whereas they wouldn’t have without this policy.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Yeah. You could add something really important, which is that we live in an economy where the vast majority of families have all caregivers in the workforce. You have mom and dad, you have people who are caring for elders. Most people have jobs, and this kind of policy makes it possible for people to actually live their daily lives, provide the care for their kids and their sick loved one when they need to and focus on their day jobs and do that job really well.

    So what we know is that it boosts our labor supply, especially among women and people who have care responsibilities, it increases job retention for people, because people are more likely to keep their job when they have the tools to actually make it possible to balance all of these competing challenges in their daily life.

    And all of that means that the economy is able to tap into that talent. It means that families have higher incomes all else equal so that they can spend that money in their community.

    So this is the kind of policy that actually makes work possible for families, and that is a net good for our local economies.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So this is a race to the top, as opposed to a race to the bottom.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Certainly. And thinking about racing to the top or the bottom, you’ve already asked about the cost, right? Who’s going to pay for this? The reality is that right now, people in the District of Columbia are already paying for this. They’re paying for it through lost incomes, they’re paying for it through maybe losing their job and not being able to maintain it, because they don’t have this added benefit. That’s hurting both families, and it’s hurting employers. So this is a sane and sensible way to say: It’s not unexpected that people are going to have children or sick family members. It happens to all of us at one point or another. We need to plan for it. We need to have good policies that actually support our labor force and support our businesses, so that we can grow our economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the current environment, I can imagine a lot of people listening saying: You know, this is just the same old liberal policies of the past that really haven’t changed the direction of the American economy. It’s been going on with some people doing fabulously well at the top while more and more people struggle at the bottom.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Yes. So I have a few reactions to that. First off, the United States now has lower employment rates for both men and women compared to most of our economic competitors in the developed world. Economists have been looking at why, and one of the reasons is because we don’t have these basket of policies. We don’t have policies that actually allow families to go to work and provide care. That is a net loss to our economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So every month when the Bureau of Labor Statistics does their survey for the jobs report and asks 60,000 families, “Have you looked for a job?” about 5 million people or more say, “No, I haven’t looked in the last year.” But when asked, “Do you want a job?” they say yes. Are those are the kind of people you’re talking about?

    READ MORE: What happens when both Mom and Dad can take paid family leave?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Exactly. And I’m also talking about people who may think to themselves they can’t even answer yes, because they’re so frustrated with this labor market that doesn’t make it possible for them to fulfill their responsibilities at home and work. And this is both men and women.

    Of course, you see it more among people with young children and people that have elderly parents. We have an aging society. People are caring for an elder, and people in their 50s and 60s want to keep their job, but need to have the flexibility to care for their ailing loved one. That is lowering American labor force participation rate in measurable ways, which is harming our national economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And we are at something like an all time low with regard to labor force participation rate, right?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: Yes, for both men and women. So for men it’s been this long term slow decline and then a drop off in the Great Recession. For women it had been going up, but it plateaued in the late 1990s. Research has shown that a big part of that flattening of labor force participation is because we don’t have policies like paid family medical leave, child care and access to supports for help aids to care for ailing loved ones. These are real economic issues.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It could become too generous though, couldn’t it?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: What do you mean by generosity? All of us were born at some point, and at some point, unfortunately, most people get sick or need to care for a loved one who is sick. I mean, that’s just acknowledging the reality of how we have to have labor market policies that allow people to have families, which is why we work in the first place. We have to have policies that allow us to be able to focus on our jobs and be highly productive employees. You need to be able to have policies that allow us to adjudicate between those two.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the last 10 or 20 years there’s been a surprisingly low productivity rate for American workers. Do you think that paid family leave has anything to do with it?

    HEATHER BOUSHEY: What is productivity? Productivity is how well you use your work force and combine it with capital and all the things inside of a workplace to produce more efficiently. Well, if you’re inefficiently using the talent at your disposal in the workplace, then that’s going to lower productivity. What we see time and time again is that employers and communities – states, cities, governments – that don’t take seriously the need to make sure that their workforce is able to be highly productive at work are going see lower productivity growth. The basket of policies that give workers the time to get back to work and to focus on their jobs with the right sort of boundaries and support so that they can also care for their families – those are policies that improve productivity within workplaces and of course aggregate out to affecting U.S. productivity overall.

    The post The economic case for DC’s family leave policy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A boy flashes the victory sign while riding a bus to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria on Dec. 18. Photo by Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

    A boy flashes the victory sign while riding a bus to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria on Dec. 18. Photo by Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

    When President-elect Donald Trump enters office on Jan. 20, the bloody war in Syria against the Assad regime will be nearing its sixth year. What should Trump do about one of the most intractable problems he will face as president?

    We asked several analysts and here’s what they said:


    Joshua Walker
    Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States

    Upon taking office, the Trump administration will have no greater challenge than Syria. Having haunted the Obama administration, the new president will have an opportunity to start over. Identifying America’s key national interests at stake in Syria, militarily destroying the so-called Islamic State, and stabilizing the region will all be paramount.

    Joshua WalkerBased on his campaign rhetoric and the recently leaked defense priorities for his administration, focusing on the military defeat of the so-called Islamic State (IS) is Trump’s stated near-term objective in Syria and is achievable in the short-term. Defeating IS would be a convenient way to reset relations with Russia — notably absent from the defense priorities document — along with other key regional allies such as Turkey. But it won’t address the longer-term challenges facing the region. Nor does it solve the historic local rivalries dating back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire in which minorities of Sunnis and Allawis have ruled over Shiite and Sunni powers respectively in Iraq and Syria. As a result, the broader regional rivalry between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia or Turkey must be considered in understanding how every action will cause a counter-move and reaction.

    Defeating [the Islamic State group] would be a convenient way to reset relations with Russia — notably absent from the defense priorities document — along with other key regional allies such as Turkey. But it won’t address the longer-term challenges facing the region.

    The Trump administration will be given wide latitude in Syria and the Middle East upon taking office as regional allies and adversaries react to the new President’s policies. Helping to mobilize America’s transatlantic allies and refocus its Middle Eastern allies on a more stable region that does not produce refugees and terrorists is an important first step, difficult as it may be.

    Getting Syria right may not be the easiest foreign policy challenge to start with, but it will undoubtedly have some of farthest-reaching ramifications that are easier dealt with now rather than ignoring them as the current administration has learned the hard way. As the current administration has learned the hard way, ignoring or tolerating Syria does not solve the problem. Let us hope that the president-elect takes a principled and informed approach to set a tone for his leadership on the global stage.


    Elizabeth Ferris
    Research professor at Georgetown University

    The Trump administration will be confronted with a complex, difficult and incendiary Syrian refugee situation. The brutal war in Syria has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and has forced millions of Syrians to leave their homes, their communities and their country. Make no mistake: The Syrians are not leaving because they want a “better life” or to “see the world.” They have left because they are desperate. Because they cannot survive at home.

    Elizabeth FerrisAlmost 5 million refugees are now living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Over a million Syrian refugees have made their way to Europe where most are waiting for decisions on their asylum applications. Another 6 million Syrians (at least) have been displaced within the borders of their country where they are likely more vulnerable than refugees because they are closer to the violence. This means that half of Syria’s pre-war population has been displaced.

    None of the front-line countries wants Syrian refugees. They have all responded generously, welcoming desperate people arriving on their borders. They have all paid a price for that generosity. And they have all mostly closed their borders. Just as Jews were trapped inside Nazi Germany because no country would take them, Syrians are now trapped inside the hellhole of their country.

    The No. 1 priority should be to negotiate a peace agreement, begin the long and painful task of rebuilding the country and initiate a reconciliation process — including bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

    As long as the war continues, the refugees cannot — should not — be returned. And the scale of destruction and the wounds of the bitter war mean that even after a peace agreement is negotiated, it is likely to take years before refugees can return “voluntarily and in safety and dignity.”

    Setting up safe zones inside Syria may seem like an attractive alternative — to protect desperate civilians closer to home and to relieve pressures on host countries. But safe zones are not the answer. Who will protect them if the Assad regime or militant factions decide to attack? As I argued two years ago, establishing safe zones is a Pandora’s box.

    There is no shortcut. The No. 1 priority should be to negotiate a peace agreement, begin the long and painful task of rebuilding the country and initiate a reconciliation process — including bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice. I hope with all my heart that President Trump can find a political solution that brings peace and justice to the country. Failing that, I hope (but am not holding my breath) that he will launch an ambitious plan to resettle Syrian refugees throughout the world. Without bold leadership on either front, then the only answer is to continue to support the host countries, to raise still more funds to care for the refugees, and to muddle along as we have been doing these past six painful years.

    Children run from what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad near the Syrian Arab Red Crescent center in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus on May 6, 2015. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

    Children run from what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad near the Syrian Arab Red Crescent center in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus on May 6, 2015. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters


    Michael Rubin
    Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

    The Syria crisis has been like a cancer diagnosed at stage 1 which, while doctors debate whether to prescribe an aspirin, metathesizes to stage 4. President-elect Trump first must do no harm. Syrian President Assad has become the Islamic State’s greatest recruiting tool; he cannot bring stability. Nor does he want to. Prior to 2014, Assad’s air force has a monopoly over Syrian air space but did not once bomb Raqqa, the Islamic State capital. The 2011 torture and murder of 13-year-old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb paralleled the U.S. civil rights-era lynching of Emmett Till, right down to post-mortem photographs of his body. To tell Syrians to accept Assad is akin to telling Till’s family to get over it.

    Michael RubinNor should Trump trust his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan supports the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, and prioritizes targeting Kurds over the Islamic State. Trump should demand Erdogan change his visa policies: There is a correlation between foreign fighter citizenship and countries which receive visas on demand in Istanbul’s airport. If Turkey required visas in advance for those under 40, the foreign fighters flow would slow to a trickle.

    Airpower hasn’t failed; it hasn’t been employed effectively.

    Airpower hasn’t failed; it hasn’t been employed effectively. U.S. planes strike Syria on average seven times per day: that is an order of magnitude lower than in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and 100 times less than in Iraq and represents only four minutes of aircraft carrier launch time.

    Trump should shrink the tumor. Special Forces should target the irredeemable. Trump should provide Kurds with military support and demand Iraqi Kurdistan lift its blockade. He should work with Jordan rather than Turkey to create and expand a safe haven. Iran should have no free pass in the war zone. Syria is now a generational problem. Its future is federal. Trump should embrace the benign and shrink the malignant.


    Anthony Cordesman
    Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

    The United States has no good options in Syria, and all of the bad options pose significant risks. It has already lost most of its diplomatic influence over the fate of Western Syria, with the fall of Aleppo. Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah’s influence and military power are now dominant over an area with around 70 percent of Syria’s remaining population and economy. It is too late to create no-fly and safe zones or to confront Russia militarily.

    Anthony CordesmanThe Arab rebels actually fighting in the East have minimal ties to the United States, which they see as weak to the point of near betrayal. What’s more, Islamist extremist elements are the strongest fighters. The U.S. backs two weak moderate Arab rebel groups, but can’t put advanced weapons or money into the main body of rebels out of the fear this will back terrorism. America’s strongest support comes from Syrian Kurds, who present major problems in dealing with a Turkey over which the U.S. has steadily less influence. Defeating ISIS may bring some gains but it may simply make the civil war worse, and disperse its fighters to conduct terror attacks or to join other Syrian Islamic extremist groups.

    Highlighting Russia’s role in war crimes and support of Iran can have a diplomatic affect outside of Syria, but little inside it.

    So what can the United States do? It badly needs to rebuild its alliances with its Arab partners like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco and the Gulf states — which could help contain the violence in Syria, but it won’t end it. The U.S. can strengthen its military role in Iraq, try to limit the role of Iran, and push for Iraqi national unity — but this won’t help Syria. It can push hard against Iran’s efforts to expand its role, provide missile defense to the Gulf states, and increase its role in challenging Iran’s asymmetric forces in the Gulf.

    But as for Syria, U.S. humanitarian aid will serve a good cause but not alter the balance of power. Highlighting Russia’s role in war crimes and support of Iran can have a diplomatic affect outside of Syria, but little inside it. It can arm Syrian rebels, but doing so presents the serious risk of effective weapons falling into the wrong hands. In many ways, the United States’ best hope is that the situation grows so bad that Syria’s factions will change and seek some real solutions, but hope is perhaps the weakest option of all.

    Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour on Dec. 13. Photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

    Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour on Dec. 13. Photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters


    Andrew Tabler
    Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

    President Bashar al-Assad does not have the manpower to retake the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control anytime soon. At the same time, Assad is not going anywhere absent a major military intervention by the U.S. and the West. This is essentially a redo of 1990s Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where the country was divided and unstable. This time around, however, Assad’s military is far weaker than Saddam’s, leading Iran to send more Shiite militiamen to help Assad blast his way back into power. President-elect Trump not only faces a divided Syria, but an unstable one in which U.S.-designated terrorist groups play a considerable role on every side.

    Andrew TablerTo deal with this situation and put the pieces of Syria back together again, the Trump administration should:

    1. Accept Syria is de facto partitioned and establish safe zones: The U.S. should deal with Syria’s component parts in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering, stem the flow of refugees, and combat terrorism. Establishing safe zones for Syrians in different opposition held areas bordering Turkey and Jordan would be the best way to build the areas that President-elect Trump says can help Syrians “have a chance.” Turkey’s establishment of a de facto safe zone north of Aleppo, with an understanding from Russia, is a new and potentially powerful opportunity to protect Syrians and serve as a military and political basis for uprooting ISIS down the Euphrates Valley. Kurdish areas and southern Syria are other options.

    Establishing safe zones for Syrians in different opposition held areas bordering Turkey and Jordan would be the best way to build the areas that President-elect Trump says can help Syrians “have a chance.”

    2. Negotiate hard with Moscow: The Trump administration should test Russia’s commitment to combat terrorism in Syria, restraining the Assad regime, and bringing about a workable political settlement by renegotiating the Joint Implementation Group agreement struck with Moscow last autumn. Key will be setting up clear dilemmas to determine Moscow’s intentions. And keeping Washington’s covert program going in order to be able to deliver key parts of the opposition in stabilization and attempts at national reunification.

    3. Split Iran and Russia on Syria: Tehran and Moscow support the Assad regime with militia and airpower, respectively. But the question remains to what political end. The U.S. should negotiate with Russia on a sustainable Syrian settlement that will keep Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shia militia out of Syria. This will go a long way to fulfilling the Trump administration’s goal of getting a better outcome from the recent Iranian nuclear agreement and checking its regional expansion.

    The post What should Trump do about Syria? We get 5 takes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Avalon, the fictional starship in Passengers. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Avalon, the fictional starship in Passengers. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Alert: This pieces discusses stalking and rape culture; it contains spoilers.

    The best science fiction blends reality and imagination, so a viewer walks away contemplating the limits of human possibility. The worst takes leaps of faith that toss a viewer into an oblivion of head scratching.

    Passengers, a space thriller directed by the Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum and starring Hollywood mainstays Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, begins in the first category before rocketing into the second. In the film, Avalon — a commercial starship — ferries more than 5,000 colonists on a voyage from Earth to a new home world called Homestead II. To survive the 120-year trip, the travelers are placed into induced hibernation, but an accident rouses Chris Pratt’s character — mechanical engineer Jim Preston — 90 years early.

    The ensuing plot is run-of-the-mill, as culture critics have noted, which isn’t necessarily a strike against the film. Plenty of average but enjoyable storylines populate small and big screens. For instance, the trailer features a scene where Avalon’s artificial gravity fails while Aurora Lane (Lawrence) swims in a pool. The floating water encases her in a massive droplet and she struggles to escape…which makes little sense.

    Swimming pool set in Passengers. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Swimming pool set in Passengers. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Swimming is possible on Earth thanks to water’s viscosity or its resistance to being moved. When you swim, you’re pushing against water molecules, which get momentarily stuck in the way and you move forward. (That’s also why astronauts can’t simply paddle through a space station — air’s viscosity is too low.) A blob of water floating in a space station should retain its viscosity, so go ahead and dive right inside.

    Here’s the rub, and why this movie warrants a closer look.

    Viewers will no doubt flock to Passengers this holiday season due to the star power of Pratt and Lawrence, but the movie calls on real mental health issues experienced by astronauts to introduce what is a clearcut case of stalking and sexual manipulation. We address this topic and other aspects of the psychology and science in Passengers below.

    Passengers wake up in a realistic way

    A hibernation bay in Passengers. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    A hibernation bay in Passengers. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Ok, let’s start at the top, given Passengers orbits near the realm of believability with its portrayal of induced hibernation. All the Avalon voyagers are encased in air-filled pods, until a glitch causes Jim Preston’s vessel to pop open. A series of injections jumpstart his body, and he spends the next few days groggily returning to full function.

    “The fact that they had him in this kind of sleep-deprived state and a little lethargic means someone did their homework,” said John Bradford, aerospace engineer and SpaceWorks Enterprises COO. SpaceWorks is an aeronautics firm that specializes in aerospace software development, satellite networks and hypersonic flight. The company also has a budding project on human hibernation — or induced torpor — which has been partially backed by two separate NASA grants since 2013.

    Deep space missions will push the limits of human exploration by placing people in isolated environments for lengthy periods. NASA estimates a one-way, human trip to Mars might take anywhere from six to 13 months. Imagine trying to keep occupied on a yearlong family trip to Disney World. You might slowly lose your mind. Throw in radiation exposure in deep space, and hibernation inside a well-protected pod begins to sound like proposal worth exploring.

    SpaceWorks’ concept for induced hibernation leans on therapeutic hypothermia, which is currently used in hospitals to treat cardiac arrest and traumatic brain injuries in adults. The practice lowers a body’s temperature, in a controlled fashion, by 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This is far from Han Solo being frozen in carbonite or cryogenics. But the drop lowers a person’s metabolism and can prevent a patient’s organs from succumbing to a nasty cascade of biochemical deterioration. Most therapeutic hypothermia lasts on the order of hours to a few days, though studies in Germany and China have extended the windows to 10 days and 14 days, respectively, without long-term complications.

    One SpaceWorks concept involves a group hibernation pod. An open pod for small crew could save on cargo weight relative to individual pods, while still maintaining the conditions for torpor. Photo by Mark Elwood/SpaceWorks Enterprises

    One SpaceWorks concept involves a group hibernation pod. An open pod for small crew could save on cargo weight relative to individual pods, while still maintaining the conditions for torpor. Photo by Mark Elwood/SpaceWorks Enterprises

    It’s unclear if a human body can handle longer bouts of torpor, so researchers at SpaceWorks and elsewhere are looking for clues among mammals like bears and arctic ground squirrels. Both can spend months in hibernation, though there are physical consequences. Bears keep their bones and muscles, which bests the current experience for space station residents. Yet bears maintain their regular temperature during hibernation, which requires a 30 percent loss of body mass, mostly fat deposits. As Arctic ground squirrels slumber, nerve connections in their brains shrivel and regrow. The adaptation might shift their brains into neutral, to conserve energy and cope with oxygen deprivation. Such neural makeovers could be a symptom of hibernating in cold temperatures and don’t seem to create neurological deficits.

    This brings us back to why Jim or any space traveler might be groggy when they escape hibernation. Cold temperature hibernators, like ground squirrels and dwarf lemurs, don’t stay in torpor the whole time, but rather their bodies are aroused on a regular basis. The weird part: These animals may wake up to sleep.

    Would Chris Pratt still look young after 30 years of hibernation? There’s no solid evidence that hibernation stalls aging in humans. But some studies in small mammals suggest torpor can extend lifespans. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Would Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence still look young after 30 years of hibernation? There’s no solid evidence that hibernation stalls aging in humans. But some studies in small mammals suggest torpor can extend lifespans. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    “They don’t enter an REM sleep in hibernation. Your brain needs to enter REM sleep, because that’s where a lot of the restorative processes occur,” Bradford said. He continued a big subject of debate in torpor research is the value of sleep, and whether space travelers would need to cycle in and out of hibernation. Maybe waking up every few days means a human body would still lose bones and muscles?

    So even though the technology for induced hibernation is far from reality at this point, Bradford said long bouts of hibernation could likely result in a few days of discomfort, grogginess and recovery for those aboard the Avalon.

    A deserted island for sexual predators

    After waking, Jim soon realizes that he can’t put himself back into hibernation and spends a year on his own, while gradually slipping into depression. The portrayal does echo a mental health trend seen among astronauts and cosmonauts that spend long durations on space stations. Some experience prolonged depression, social withdrawal, insomnia, fatigue and anxiety.

    The movie takes a dark turn after this case of space malaise.

    Jim seems doomed until he stumbles upon a pod containing writer Aurora Lane (Lawrence) -- then things get creepy. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Jim seems doomed until he stumbles upon a pod containing writer Aurora Lane (Lawrence) — then things get creepy. Photo by Columbia Pictures

    Jim seems doomed until he stumbles upon a pod containing writer Aurora Lane. She becomes his sleeping beauty, meaning he spends months reading her books and watching profile videos shot back when she was journalist in her hometown of New York City. Naturally, he decides to use his mechanic skills to break her pod, so he can woo her. Jim and Aurora proceed to fall in love — all without her knowing the truth about why she woke up.

    If this scenario sounds like stalking, that’s because it is stalking, based on accepted definitions. Jim’s behavior fits the profile of “intimacy-seeker stalking,” as described by psychologist Robert T. Muller in Psychology Today:

    The intimacy seeker identifies a person, often a complete stranger, as their true love and begins to behave as if they are in a relationship with that person. Many intimacy seeking stalkers carry the delusion that their love is reciprocated. In 2009, country star Shania Twain had a stalker who fit this profile and received numerous love letters from him. He even attended Twain’s grandmother’s funeral without an invitation. The focus of management of intimacy seekers is on the underlying mental disorder coupled with efforts to overcome the social isolation and the lack of social competence that sustains it.

    TV and movies are hardly strangers to rape culture, and popular science fiction is no exception. HBO’s Game of Thrones has performed dozens of rapes. Blade Runner — one of the most regarded sci-fi flicks of all time — features a rape scene between the two main characters.

    When asked about Jim’s creepy nature, director Tyldum told The Film Stage:

    I think you identify with Jim because of Chris’ performance. When you have characters who make questionable moral choices you need to identify with them. I think I would’ve done what Jim does and I think most people would. It’s interesting to be part of that journey. As soon as you understand him it doesn’t become creepy. I still want people to feel discomfort. I want people to talk when they leave the movie.

    There are many examples where sexual assault in cinema expose the harsh realities of rape culture. But some critics argue that Passenger’s romantic storyline promotes and normalizes this destructive behavior. Entertainment writer Kristy Puchko explains for CBR:

    It’s not that I have no sympathy for Jim’s dilemma and pain. But the moment he breaks Aurora from her hibernation, the film crosses a line it refuses to fully acknowledge, and so the romance is not fun, but FUBAR. This is not the premise of a love story: Boy sees girl. Boy becomes obsessed with girl from afar, decides he loves her, decides they are made for each other, she just doesn’t know it yet. Guy rips the girl out of her life, abducts her to live with him in a bunker she can’t escape.

    This is cyberstalking, and then kidnapping. “Passengers” abruptly becomes a horror movie, but hopes you’ll be so caught up in the beauty of its sci-fi visuals and gorgeous stars — who repeatedly engage in make-out sessions and off-camera sex — to notice.

    When Aurora does find out — after months of having sex with the man she has no idea abducted her — the heartbroken heroine tries to avoid Jim. This shouldn’t be difficult on a spaceship designed for 5,000 people to live for the final four months of the journey. But Jim won’t let her go; he values his need to explain himself over her wish for some space. He sneaks up on her while she’s eating. When she flees, he uses the ship’s announcement system to broadcast his apology as she’s jogging. She’s literally running from him, but can’t escape!

    After a set of mishaps where Jim saves Aurora and then Aurora does the same, the couple reunites and opts to live together — even though Jim figures out a way to put Aurora back into hibernation. To recap, she picks to live the rest of her days with a cyberstalker and manipulator rather than be one of 5,000 people in the whole history of humanity to visit a new planet.

    Some may view Aurora’s choice as an act of forgiveness, while others will brand the finale as a case of Stockholm Syndrome — where a captive feels sympathetic for their captor — but with interstellar proportions. Many survivors of domestic and emotional abuse rationalize their experiences. A 2015 report by Stanford social scientist Robb Willer found those who think of themselves as powerless tend to accept the status quo and agree to the wills of the powerful.

    Passengers opened everywhere in the U.S. on December 21.

    The post Analysis: ‘Passengers’ is part space odyssey, part stalker flick appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight, an author channeling his inner child through graphic novels. Jeffrey Brown sits down with Gene Luen Yang, one of this year’s MacArthur Genius Award winners.

    GENE LUEN YANG, Ambassador for Young People’s Literature: I’m super excited to be here with you. My name is gene.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Gene Luen Yang can seem like one of the kids himself.

    GENE LUEN YANG: This is what I look like in real life. That is what I look like as a cartoon and this morning, what I’m going to do is I’m going to share with you about two things that I love.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sharing things he loves is now part of his official job description, as the national ambassador for Young People’s Literature, an honor given him by the Library of Congress earlier this year.

    And the two things he loves? Comic books and coding. We spoke recently as he visited Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Virginia.

    GENE LUEN YANG: I think they’re so related. Coding and writing stories, I really feel like I use the same parts of my brain to do both, right?

    When you’re making a comic what you do if you take a fairly complex storyline, and you have to break it up into individual panels. And coding is very much the same way. You take a complex concept and you break it up into individual lines. So, it’s all about taking the complex and breaking it into simple, understandable pieces.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I don’t think everybody thinks of it that way, thinks of the connection between writing and coding.

    GENE LUEN YANG: I think there is a tendency in modern American culture to separate the sciences from the arts, and to me it just feels like such a false dichotomy. You know, there are so many people who are interested in both. There are so many people pursuing both and who want to become good at both.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yang began drawing as a young child and creating comics and graphic novels by fifth grade. The son of Chinese immigrants, he grew up in California, majoring in computer science at U.C. Berkeley with a minor in creative writing. He taught computer science at an Oakland, California high school for 17 years before turning to full-time writing.

    In 2006, his “American Born Chinese” became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award. And the two-volume “Boxers and Saints,” about the boxer rebellion in China, also received a nomination, in 2013.

    What is it about comics, or graphic novels, that somehow works? Because not everybody gets it, right?

    GENE LUEN YANG: Yes, yes, yes. For me, I love the combination of the visual with the text. And as a reader, I just think that the interplay between pictures and words can be so complex. You know, like in the hands of a really good cartoonist, you can get some really amazing things out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I see you with the kids and you play up their kind of insecurities that you had, right, you’re very upfront about that.

    GENE LUEN YANG: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “I’m a nerd, I was this, I was that.” Why?

    GENE LUEN YANG: Well, first, because it’s true! I think, this is what I realized as an adult, as somebody who has been doing comics for almost 20 years now, that self-doubt just never goes away. It’s constantly with you and I think that’s true for maybe not every creator but almost every creator. Getting over that self doubt is huge and to realize that even adults have those issues, I think it’s important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He’s been an advocate for diversifying the faces and stories of graphic novels —

    GENE LUEN YANG: Are you Chinese?

    WOMAN: Yes, I’m from Shanghai.

    JEFFREY BROWN: — and made the Chinese-American experience one of his main subjects.

    GENE LUEN YANG: Growing up, I did go through a period when I really struggled with my own ethnic heritage. I remember being in late elementary school and junior high and realizing that who I was, the culture that I came from made me different from most of the kids around me. And you get — like I think every kid goes through this period where you want to excise all the stuff that makes you different. It took me a really long time to come to a place where I felt like I accepted myself as a Chinese-American.

    And a lot of my work is about that, is about how you can build an identity out of two pieces that don’t always easily fit together.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just connected with the students, his avid readers, on this visit.

    MAN: You can be an outsider to different situation like different cliques and groups and sometimes it feels like that in life.

    WOMAN: I know about like binary numbers before, and it was cool how he showed us like the 1,100 could be like 12, I was like, whoa, that is so cool.

    GENE LUEN YANG: Reading is a great way of exploring the world. Every ambassador picked a platform. The platform that I chose was “reading without walls”, and by that, I mean just getting outside your own comfort zones through books.

    One of the best things about books is that it gives you a window into somebody else’s mind, into somebody else’s soul. So, I’m challenging kids to read books about people who aren’t like them, who don’t look like them or live like them. Number two, read books about subject matter they might find intimidating. And, number three, read books in different sorts of formats.

    So, if you’ve never read a graphic novel, you’ve never read a book in verse or even a chapter book, I want you to give it a try.

    So, what I’m going to do now is show you what logo looks like on a modern computer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even while taking on his duties as an ambassador for reading, Gene Yang continues to work on a variety of projects, including a graphic novel version of the television show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, and a D.C. comics’ new series about a Chinese Superman. Coming up: a nonfiction graphic novel about race and sports.

    From Manassas, Virginia, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour”.

    The post This graphic novelist and reading ambassador tells kids to reach beyond their comfort zone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For many years, most businesses were closed on Sundays in the U.S. But for many decades, shopping on Sundays has become the norm here. However, in Greece, it remains a major point of contention, pitting religious tradition against recent economic realities.

    Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In Piraeus, Greece’s main port city, the churches are filled to bursting point as orthodox Christians maintain traditions handed down the generations. Here, Sundays are for devotions to the saints, not for worshipping at the altar of profit.

    The city’s bishop has condemned Sunday shopping as an act of war with the church. But in Saint Evangalistra Church, Father Yiorgios Yiorgakopoulos is more measured.

    YIORGIOS YIORGAKOPOULOS, Saint Evangalistra Church (translated): We are of the opinion from a religious point of view that the sixth day of the week is provided to man for communication with God but also that attempts are being made to get rid of what we know as normal life. To try and turn us into robots and machines by making all the days the same, every day a working day — all days without meaning.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And this is the heart of Piraeus’ shopping district on a Sunday morning. Everything is firmly shuttered. But the International Monetary Fund believes it’s time for this particular trade barrier to be lifted.

    MAN: Liberalizing the trade market will allow for small and medium enterprises to get an advantage in the market by allowing them to open on Sundays.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: One man who’d like to use a sharp implement on what he regards as Greece’s restrictive trading practices is Notis Mitarakis, a conservative opposition politician who used to be a development minister.

    NOTIS MITARAKIS, Conservative Lawmaker: Allowing people the right to work is a fundamental right in our system of economy. In order to get out of the crisis, the key parameter is to increase production, is to increase GDP. And anything that can help to that direction, anything that allows people who are willing and able to work, to get out and get into the market, is positive.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This mall is a compelling memorial to the corpse that is the Greek economy. It’s on Stadiou Street, once Athens most expensive shopping thoroughfare. It was never exactly Fifth Avenue, but before the crisis it was throbbing and thriving.

    Greece’s mom and pop businesses have really taken a battering during this seven-year-long financial crisis. In all, a quarter of a million small and medium sized enterprises have closed down, throwing half a million people onto the streets and into the vast army of the unemployed.

    Despite vigorous oppositions from trades unions and the church, shopkeepers were given permission to open for a handful of Sundays each year at special times like Christmas. But according to business leaders, this has made absolutely no difference at all to the level of trading.

    In its heyday, store owners would pay up to $1,500 a square feet for retail space on Stadiou Street. In amongst the boarded up shells of former businesses on Stadiou, Andreas Papagiogiou is clinging on, just for the sake of his 35-year-old son who will inherit the shop. Papagiogiou has been here for 40 years and on the day we met, he had sold goods worth just 60 dollars.

    ANDREAS PAPAGIOGIOU, Store Owner (through translator): Opening on a Sunday so far has benefited nobody. We’re making a loss. We can’t afford to bring in the staff because we can’t pay them a Sunday rate.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This is Ermou, now Athens main retail street, on a Sunday before Christmas, which explains the large crowds. But many of them were just window shopping. People weren’t over laden with Christmas goodies.

    MAN: The Sunday opening, of course, is creating more, let’s say, expenses to the companies because they have to pay 75 percent more to their employees for the Sunday working compared to the other working days. Therefore for the small sized companies, this is something that they cannot afford.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Vassilis Korkidis is the head of the country’s Small Business Federation. Korkidis claims that Sunday trading would only benefit multinational corporations and outlets like Athens main mall, which he says can afford premium wages on a Sunday.

    VASSILIS KORKIDIS, Small Business Federation President: The life of a small and medium sized entrepreneur is a nightmare. He has to live every day in order to pay taxes. We pay almost 65 percent of our turnover for taxes. The 35 percent left is not enough actually to run a business for your family to live and to buy growth.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Greece’s plight was high on President Obama’s list of priorities when he visited Athens just after the election. He made it clear that Greeks deserves a break.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In order to make reforms sustainable the Greek economy needs the space to return to growth and start creating jobs again. The IMF has said that debt relief is crucial. I will continue to urge creditors to take the steps needed to put Greece on a path towards a durable economic recovery because it’s in all of our interests that Greece succeeds.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Greece’s beleaguered prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has angered the country’s creditors by repeatedly reneging on promises.

    ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Greek Prime Minister (through translator): The Greek economy and our society, after seven whole years, cannot take any more austerity.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But the European Union, which has provided most of Greece’s bail out cash ignored the U.S. president. Analyst Nick Malkoutzis believes that any recovery will be further delayed while the IMF and European Union disagree over what is the next step.

    NICK MALKOUTZIS, MarcoPolis: The Europeans are reluctant to provide the debt relief that Greece needs because of political reasons. The IMF is reluctant to back down on what it sees as the structural side which it thinks is very important moving forward. There’s wrong and right on both sides.

    The problem is Greece is caught between the two. The finance minister likened it to be being trapped between two elephants that were fighting and that’s the reality for Greece at the moment.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The financial crisis may mean hardship that will last a generation. But at St. Evangelistra’s Church, theologian Ilias Liamis was resolute over the issue of Sunday trading.

    ILIAS LIAMIS, Theologian (through translator): This is an attempt to eradicate the better things in life — the joy of meeting up with a friend ,the joy of having a day when your mind will not be occupied solely with numbers, cash and consumer goods, the concept of having a day to relax and rest one’s soul. This concept seems to be considered as something that should no longer exist. The important thing here is that this is a challenge urging us to change the way we think.

    YIORGIOS YIORGAKOPOULOS: (through translator): The crisis is basically a spiritual one. People themselves decide how they will live their lives, just as those older than us lived with less and were happy. So will we learn to live with less money and still be happy.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This woman is unburdening her troubles to Saint Spyridon. Elsewhere millions of Greeks are crying silent tears of anger at what they perceive as the injustice of a never ending financial crisis.

    For the “PBS NewsHour”, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

    The post Why shopping on Sunday is a controversial economic idea in Greece appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: This week, Washington, D.C. passed one of the most generous paid family leave laws in the country. The district now joins California, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York in approving similar measures.

    Our economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story. It’s part of our weekly series, “Making Sense,” which airs Thursdays on the “NewsHour”.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Diana Alvord feels lucky — lucky that her daughter was born in September without complication, lucky that she came home just days after she was born, because four years ago, Alvord’s son was born, prematurely, at just 24 weeks.

    DIANA ALVORD: We wondered for weeks and weeks if he would live.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Alvord, who kept vigil over him in the neonatal intensive care unit for months, also wondered how either of them could have endured the trial if she hadn’t worked for an accommodating non-profit in Washington, D.C.

    DIANA ALVORD: I was given the opportunity to just take a leave of absence, and so, I was one of the few, probably, who could return to their jobs at the end of our ordeal. But, I know.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Unpaid, unpaid leave?

    DIANA ALVORD: Unpaid leave. But I know that there are many people, that isn’t a choice that they have. And most people have to go back to work. And it’s really, an impossible choice that families face. Do I stay here and hold my baby’s hand? Do I go to work and keep the roof over our heads? How do you put a price on whether you stay or go?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Many can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Yet, just thirteen percent of American private sector workers get any paid leave.

    Alvord has seen the results.

    DIANA ALVORD: When I sat at his bedside in the NICU, very, very often, I was alone. Very often, I would look around the room and there would be 20 babies in all their separate isolettes, and there weren’t 20 sets of caregivers around them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not mandate any paid family leave, giving the responsibility to states and cities, like the District of Columbia.

    In D.C., supporters lobbied for a paid leave law for more than a year.

    WOMAN: This is an urgent thing for me personally.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But businesses and the mayor balked at the cost.

    WOMAN: Councilmember Silverman.

    WOMAN: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Despite the backlash, though, this week, D.C.’s city council passed a scaled-back version of the bill.

    MAN: The measure passes.

    (CHEERS)

    PAUL SOLMAN: This means D.C. parents who work in the private sector can now take eight weeks off at up to 90 percent of their pay, funded by a roughly half-a-percent payroll tax on all non-government employers.

    And that, says Heather Boushey, who studies work-life balance, will be good for the local economy.

    HEATHER BOUSHEY, Washington Center for Equitable Growth: It boosts our labor supply, especially among women and people who have care responsibilities, it increases job retention for people, people are more likely to keep their job when they actually have the tools to actually make it possible to balance all of these competing challenges in their daily life. And all of that means the economy is able to tap into that talent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: True, says Georgetown University economist Harry Holzer, but —

    HARRY HOLZER, Georgetown University: There is a strong need to balance the benefits that workers and their families get from paid family leave with the costs on employers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Holzer worries the D.C. plan will hobble local businesses.

    HARRY HOLZER: They’re providing 90 percent wage replacement up to close to $1,000 a week. You’re giving the worker almost no incentive to limit the amount of time they ask for. Other states that have done this provide 60 percent, maybe 70 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But what would an employer do if it was too expensive — the cost was too high?

    HARRY HOLZER: So, employers can be quite ingenious in terms of figuring out ways to get the work done with fewer workers. Another possibility is that employers simply might move across the river to Arlington, Virginia. Keep in mind that in the state of Virginia, no one is required to provide paid leave to employees.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But D.C. restaurant operator Greg Casten now will be. So, will he skip town?

    GREG CASTEN, President, ProFish: You can’t just pick up a restaurant and move it over the state line to avoid the tax because restaurants are, you know, the three most important things: location, location, and, of course, location.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Casten, who also co-owns a seafood supply company, complains the D.C. government already imposes a host of costs on businesses, including a recent minimum wage hike.

    GREG CASTEN: This just gives an idea of how many different laws an employer has to put up with. I’m not saying any of them on the face are bad. All I’m saying is, there’s a lot, a lot.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Casten insists most employers will ultimately pass on the cost to the employees themselves.

    GREG CASTEN: Not getting the raise, maybe cutting the number of hours a week, maybe cutting some of your staff back so you have less people.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But not every employer.

    ROGER HOROWITZ, Co-Founder, Pleasant Pops: For us, it just really would be extremely helpful as a way to retain good employees.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Roger Horowitz is the co-owner of Pleasant Pops, purveyor of popsicles and coffee.

    A major labor cost? Employee turnover.

    ROGER HOROWITZ: Between $2,000 and $3,000 is how much it costs us every time an employee leaves, to train someone and to fill their position.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s more than the $2,000 Horowitz estimates the new family leave tax will cost him.

    Plus, he will be able to offer a benefit he can’t currently afford. Horowitz himself returned to work just two days after the birth of his daughter in June.

    ROGER HOROWITZ: We have an employee who will in three months and will not be able to, you know, have paid leave because we don’t have the financial resources to make that happen right now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, key for you is that this functions as an insurance policy?

    ROGER HOROWITZ: Absolutely. Being part of a larger pool and working with all the other small businesses and having all that money be administered by the city would be very helpful for us.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So Pleasant Pops pays a small tax into the pool, like all the other firms in the city. And in return, it’s insured, so it can draw from the pool to cover its costs if its employees need family leave.

    But economist Holzer worries other firms will be discouraged from employing low-income workers if they think those workers would be the most likely to take paid leave.

    HARRY HOLZER: They could simply cut back on less educated young women in the childbearing age and just replace them with other employees. They would presumably try to hire employees who would take less leave.

    So, for instance, young men in the same age are less likely to take leave because they’re less likely to have custody of the kids or the men take leave less frequently.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But restaurant server Shanae Bond illustrates just how vulnerable workers are as things currently stand. While pregnant with her daughter Zane, Bond’s employer axed her.

    SHANAE BOND: I believe I was taken off the schedule because I was pregnant. I think that it was just easier to accommodate other servers wanting more hours.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Out of work, Bond has gotten by only because her father moved in and helps with the bills.

    DANTE CHURCH: She’s always held down a job. She’s always paid her bills on time. She never really had to ask me or her mother for any help, you know, until, you know, this pregnancy and I know it was hard for her to come to me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As for Diana Alvord, that dangerously premature baby is now this fellow — an imaginative four year old. Alvord says the early days she spent at her son’s side were critical to his development.

    DIANA ALVORD: Children’s outcomes are better if they have skin-to-skin contact, it’s called kangaroo care, you do it in the NICU, and it’s shown to lower babies’ stress hormones, it’s shown to regulate their heart rate, they are able to regulate their own body temperature sooner, their breathing is more regular. And the economic argument part of it comes in when you think about the services and the care that the city would otherwise provide to these families and these children later on down the pipeline, rather than investing right at the first moment where you can make a greater impact from day one.

    What were you doing with the Legos?

    CHILD: Making that and that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, you made another rocket ship.

    And just look how far her son has come.

    DIANA ALVORD: We were told that it was in the single digits that he would even come out of his birth surgery without incredible complications like cerebral palsy and all sorts of things. I mean, we were lucky, maybe. Or, or maybe we did all the things that there are out there to do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Things more Washingtonians will now be able to do, because of paid family leave.

    In Washington, D.C., this is economics correspondent Paul Solman.

    The post Will D.C.’s new paid family leave policy help or hobble business? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO - Chief Strategist & Communications Director for the Republican National Committee Sean Spicer arrives in the lobby of Republican president-elect Donald Trump's Trump Tower in New York, New York, U.S. November 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo - RTX2W7UI

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President-elect Donald Trump continued to round out his White House team today, tapping two of his key campaign advisers to senior West Wing positions.

    She’s been one of Donald Trump’s most visible advisers since taking over as campaign manager last summer. Today, the president-elect named Kellyanne Conway to be White House counselor.

    He followed that with word that Sean Spicer will serve as White House press secretary. Spicer had been communications director for the Republican National Committee for five years. Last month, he moved over to become chief spokesman for the Trump transition.

    Now, Spicer, along with Jason Miller and Hope Hicks, will handle relations with the news media, and that could be a tall order.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: The people back there, the extremely dishonest press.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As candidate and president-elect, Mr. Trump has called out reporters in general, and at times, by name, like NBC’s Katy Tur.

    DONALD TRUMP: They’re not reporting it. Katy, you’re not reporting it, Katy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last month, he retweeted attacks on CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, after the correspondent reported on Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. And during the campaign, the Trump team at times barred “The Washington Post,” Univision, “Politico” and “BuzzFeed” from its rallies.

    Reince Priebus, the incoming chief of staff, is signaling changes could be ahead for the White House press corps.

    REINCE PRIEBUS, Incoming White House Chief of Staff: Even looking at things like the daily — you know, the daily White House briefing from the press secretary, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you, we’re looking at that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, Kellyanne Conway promised today there will be plenty of access.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY, Incoming White House Counselor: You will have a great deal of press availability on a daily basis, and you’ll have a president who continues to be engaged with the press.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president-elect has met with reporters off-the- record since the election. He has not held a news conference since late July.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more, we’re joined now by Brian Stelter. He’s senior media correspondent for CNN. And Jeff Mason, he’s a White House correspondent for “Reuters”, and he’s president of the White House Correspondents Association.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Jeff Mason, to you first. Based on what you’ve seen of Donald Trump so far, both the campaign and the transition, what do you expect from him when it comes to press relations?

    JEFF MASON, Reuters: Well, Judy, we’re sort of going to wait and see right now. We’re pleased to see and we congratulate the new members of Donald Trump’s press team going into the White House and we look forward to working with them. Certainly, there have been some challenges between the media and the Trump team during his campaign, but we’ve made a lot of progress during transition in working on that relationship and setting up a protective pool, for example.

    So, I am cautiously optimistic that we will continue to make that progress once they’re in the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brian Stelter, we know there has been attention on some difficulties between the Trump team and the news media. Do you think it’s been very different from other presidential nominees and people who’ve run for president and people who’ve served in the White House?

    BRIAN STELTER, CNN: On the surface, actually, there are a lot of similarities, right? The transitions having daily conference calls with reporters, it is putting out press releases. Donald Trump has given a couple of interviews. He, of course, has not held a press conference in many months, but he’s given a couple of interviews.

    I would say, on the surface however, Donald Trump continues to wage an anti-media war, a campaign against the press by complaining about the dishonesty of journalists, by attacking individual journalists and institutions on Twitter. He’s doing exactly the same sorts of things he was doing during his presidential campaign and this reasonably, they’ll continue to do that when he’s in the White House.

    You know, he told me in June, he would not be black listing reporters from the White House press briefing room, for example. He has indicated he will make some changes once he’s actually in the Oval Office. But this anti-media campaign, I think we should expect it to continue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How worried — how concerned are you, Jeff Mason, about that?

    JEFF MASON: I mean, I’ll call it cautious optimism. We’re not naive about the challenges that the press corps faces, but I base it on the fact that we’ve made a lot of progress just in the last several weeks since the election on setting up a protective pool, for example. You may remember shortly after the election, President-elect Trump came to Washington without a pool of journalists.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    JEFF MASON: He went out for dinner one night in New York without a pool.

    Since then, we’ve got a pool in place. It’s not perfect. It’s not on his plane, for example, but we expect that to change once he’s on Air Force One and we expect a full White House protective pool to be in place once he’s in office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brian Stelter, certainly, the three of us understand this being part of the news media, but for the public watching, why — what are they to believe about what a president’s real obligation is to the press? Why shouldn’t a president feel free to do whatever he wants, talk over the heads of the press, if he wants to?

    BRIAN STELTER: Yes, we should do a better job as an industry explaining how press freedom is your freedom. It’s the freedom of the viewers watching this program, that we are only there at the White House working for them. And I know sometimes there is a disconnect, a grave disconnect, and we need to work to reestablish that connection.

    You know, we’re not in the business of making assumptions, right? We should not be assuming the worst about a Trump presidency nor should we be assuming the best. Journalists should not make assumptions.

    But journalism lawyers, journalism advocates do have a sense of what the worst-case scenarios are here. It doesn’t mean blacklisting reporters from the White House press briefing, which the new press secretary Sean Spicer says will not happen, which Trump said will not happen. It could be IRS tax audits of journalists. It could be revoking FCC licenses. It could be defunding public media. It could be using the Espionage Act against journalists to prosecute them for investigative reporting.

    These are all things that are feasible, that are possible. I’m not saying it’s going to a happen, but certainly, First Amendment lawyers are focusing on these issues now, preparing for worst-case scenarios with Trump, given how anti-media he has been during the campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jeff Mason, how would you describe what the president’s obligation is to the news media? I mean, the First Amendment talks about don’t do anything to abridge freedom of the press, but what does that really mean today?

    JEFF MASON: Well, certainly, the way we view that is making it possible for reporters to do their jobs, and that means having access to the president himself, it means having access to his staff and not only his communications staff, but also other senior advisors. And that’s something that the White House Correspondents Association will continue to press for and, honestly, you know, Judy, that’s an issue we have been pushing for with every president, and there is always a little bit of tension there. Regardless of what party the president comes from, there is always going to be a little bit of a tense relationship between the press and the administration, and we anticipate that.

    But we, to answer your question, certainly expect that upholding the rights and the freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution in that First Amendment include allowing the press to do its job.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brian Stelter, what does Donald — the president-elect’s choice of these individuals to be in the press operation, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, the others he’s named in the communications office, what does that tell you about what his approach will be? Other presidents have sometimes gone to a former journalist —

    BRIAN STELTER: There is talk about a FOX News host, for example, as press secretary or Laura Ingraham, the conservative talk radio host. Instead, he’s going with a veteran of Washington, Sean Spicer, well known in the press corps. He is someone who will reply to emails, who will respond, he can also be combative. And certainly, Donald Trump would embrace that about Sean Spicer.

    But he is going with someone who’s a veteran, who knows D.C. But I think we should make no mistake about this, I respect Jeff’s cautious optimism. But Donald Trump is different from what we’ve seen in modern times from presidents. The indications that we’ve gotten and we’ve received over the 18 months of his campaign is that he will restrict access, he will attack and ridicule the press, and he will say things that are flatly untrue when it’s very obvious things are untrue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about these tweets today from the president-elect. Just late this afternoon, he tweeted, quote, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35,” which is a fighter jet, he said, “I’ve asked Boeing to cost out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet.”

    So, Jeff Mason, when you look at this, when you look at the tweet earlier today where he talks about the need for the United States to beef up its nuclear capabilities, what does this say in terms of the news media and its ability to, frankly, keep up with what this president is trying to do, this president-elect is trying to do?

    JEFF MASON: Well, it is certainly the case that previous White Houses, especially the Obama White House with the age of social media, have used Twitter and other bits of social media to get their message out. But President-elect Donald Trump has taken that to a whole new level, and you’re right to say, how will the media adjust to that?

    So far, it’s been an adjustment in terms of just reporting out those tweets when they come, and I think Brian was right, too, when he talked about fact checking, and sometimes certainly the president-elect has tweeted things that are not correct and the media has for the most part tried to do its job of saying when that is the case. But it is a challenge and something that I think reporters and news organizations will be grappling with not just during the transition but in the months to come once he’s working from the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Brian —

    BRIAN STELTER: In the fall, he said he was going to be restrained with Twitter once in the Oval Office. But we haven’t seen that in this transition period. If anything, we’ve seen Donald Trump, the same person he was in the 1980s, doing deals, doing business in New York city, now doing it on the global stage.

    You know, Judy, this contract for the F-35 was done years ago, of course, with the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin. It’s going to take days to decipher what he’s trying to say on Twitter, but trying to create the sense of a bidding war. I mean, this is exactly what his voters wanted to see crump do and he’s using Twitter in an entirely new way to do it.

    And, by the way, you know, Sean Spicer, the new press secretary, says this will continue once Trump is in the White House. We’ll see about that idea that he’s going to be more restrained once he’s in charge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brian Stelter, Jeff Mason, thank you.

    BRIAN STELTER: Thanks.

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    Police secures the area near the Schoenhauser Allee shopping mall in Berlin, Germany, December 22, 2016.     REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski - RTX2W5ZP

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Anis Amri, the man suspected of carrying out Monday’s attack on a Berlin Christmas market, was well known to German authorities. He was under surveillance for six months this year and was slated for deportation. But his home country of Tunisia refused to accept him.

    Joining me now for more on how Amri allegedly was allowed to pull off this attack is Peter Neumann, founder and director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. He joins us tonight from Munich.

    What’s the latest in the investigation?

    PETER NEUMANN, International Center for the Study of Radicalization: Well, the latest is that they are still trying to track down where exactly he is right now, and they are conducting raids on different places that are connected to the jihadist scene. It is now known that he was part of a wider network of jihadists in Germany, and they are raiding different places that they seem to be believing that they are connected to the scene.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell me, how is it possible the German authorities not just had this person on the radar but were scheduling him for deportation? How did it get this far? How did they miss the signs?

    PETER NEUMANN: So, there are a couple of things.

    The first thing is capacity. There are around 550 jihadists in Germany who are believed to be potential terrorists. In order to surveil a single person 24 hours a day, you need about 20 officials. It’s not possible.

    And so, you know, authorities need to make judgment calls all the time — who do they consider to be acutely dangerous and who do they consider to be less dangerous. And this one may have fallen through the net.

    The second point is federalism. Police and intelligence services are essentially on a state-by-state basis. And this guy traveled from a lot of different states to different states, and some of the information may have slipped through the cracks there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the possibility he was radicalized in an Italian prison? That’s something one of his brothers had said.

    PETER NEUMANN: Yes, he was in an Italian prison about four years, and it may well be that he was radicalized there. He went further up north to Germany afterwards. He shouldn’t have been able to do that because he was claiming asylum in Germany, and coming from Italy, that claim should have been refused immediately.

    And so, basically, the whole system has failed. And I think it’s all down to the fact that Germany is not really used to being the target of terrorist attacks. It’s a little bit like America before 9/11. Germans are quite naive still about terrorism. We haven’t been confronted with the kind of terrorist attacks other countries have been confronted with, and the whole system has not been geared up to confront this kind of threat.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, post-9/11, the American system geared up, to use your phrase. I mean, how does Germany’s sensitive history with the surveillance state play into all of this?

    PETER NEUMANN: That’s a very good point because ultimately, after the end of the Second World War, Germans before reeducated to be against surveillance and to be pacifists. And guess what? America and the ally succeeded. Germans by and large are against surveillance and they are pacifists.

    And that means that when being confronted with this kind of threat, a lot of reactions by politicians but also by society are very much against kind of confronting this threat head on. I very much hope that after this incident, the pendulum doesn’t swing entirely the other way, but that we are able to have a reasonable debate about what kind of measures are really necessary to confront this rather than staying one side or the other.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do you see changes happening now in the interest of public safety that’s swinging the pendulum?

    PETER NEUMANN: I think there is a lot of debate right now. A lot of people are very unhappy with how the authorities have dealt with this case. There is a sense of real outrage, and there is a sense that the system isn’t working and that we really need to think about how to make this work.

    And I believe it’s necessary to basically have something like the 9/11 Commission that you had in America after 9/11 that basically goes through I’ve aspect of government policy and says, this works, this doesn’t work, and how do we construct a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy?

    We don’t have that in Germany right now. We don’t have a counterterrorism strategy. We have a lot of authorities working on different things. We need a comprehensive thing, and I hope that’s what’s going to come out of this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Peter Neumann — thanks so much for joining us.

    PETER NEUMANN: Thank you.

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    Shortwave is a podcast. That you listen to. With your ears.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government was behind the email hack into the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations, but have yet to produce their evidence publicly. President-elect Trump has questioned that conclusion.

    Today, the private cyber security company that first uncovered the DNC hack unveiled new details they claim confirm Russian military intelligence service was behind the computer breach.

    Here to explain all of this is Dmitri Alperovitch. He’s the co- founder of CrowdStrike, the company that did the investigating. And Thomas Rid, he’s a professor at King’s College London. His latest book is “Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History.”

    And we welcome both of you to the “NewsHour”.

    Dmitri Alperovitch, let me start with you. What is this new information?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CrowdStrike: Well, this is an interesting case we’ve uncovered actually all the way in Ukraine where Ukraine artillerymen were targeted by the same hackers who were called Fancy Bear, that targeted the DNC, but this time, they were targeting their cell phones to understand their location so that the Russian military and Russian artillery forces can actually target them in the open battle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this is Russian military intelligence who got hold of information about the weapons, in essence, that the Ukrainian military was using, and was able to change it through malware?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Yes, essentially, one Ukraine officer built this app for his Android phone that he gave out to his fellow officers to control the settings for the artillery pieces that they were using, and the Russians actually hacked that application, put their malware in it and that malware reported back the location of the person using the phone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so, what’s the connection between that and what happened to the Democratic National Committee?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, the interesting is that it was the same variant of the same malicious code that we have seen at the DNC. This was a phone version. What we saw at the DNC was personal computers, but essentially, it was the same source used by this actor that we call Fancy Bear.

    And when you think about, well, who would be interested in targeting Ukraine artillerymen in eastern Ukraine who has interest in hacking the Democratic Party, Russia government comes to find, but specifically, Russian military that would have operational over forces in the Ukraine and would target these artillerymen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, in the sense, these are like cyber fingerprints? Is that what we’re talking about?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Essentially the DNA of this malicious code that matches to the DNA that we saw at the DNC.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thomas Rid, to you in London, as you read about this, understand this new information, what do you make of it? How do you see it?

    THOMAS RID, King’s College, London: Well, the important piece, I think, is that we’re looking at only one piece in a larger puzzle which CrowdStrike has discovered is one piece of a larger picture. And the picture is already rich. We know how they choose their targets. We know thousands of their targets even by individual names. We know how they get in, how they move around, how they take information out, we know the infrastructure, the flight card they used to take the information out.

    And I think we’re approaching the point where the evidence is so rich that there are only two reasons not to accept it — one, because you don’t understand the technical details because you don’t have to skills, or because you don’t want to understand it for political reasons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you do have the technical expertise. Does it hold up for you?

    THOMAS RID: Yes. You know, what I do is I look at specific cases and I drill down and I zoom into the details of the picture and look at that detail. So, we can often link specific cases like the one that Dmitri was just describing to another case because the tool set that they’re using is the same, really like the tool of the burglar that breaks into one building and uses the same or a comparable tool in another building.

    So, one thing that I’m, for instance, interested in and that I focused on is how they broke into the German parliament and that we can link that to the DNC and, indeed, we can also link those two cases. So, the evidence is really strong that we have at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the evidence is really strong. Are you saying there is just no doubt about it, at this point?

    THOMAS RID: Among people who studied the true forensic evidence, among people who do incident response, the vast majority of this community — and, you know, bear in mind this is an entire profession trained to do digital investigations — most people in that profession accept the evidence that we have. It’s really not controversial anymore that we’re looking at a major Russian campaign.

    You know, keep in mind: this has been going on for many years. This particular act, that we watched them for eight years, and over the past year, they made quite a lot of mistakes which revealed themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Dmitri Alperovitch, we want to point out and we said earlier, you were — your company was the one that uncovered this in the first place. You were working for the Democratic National Committee. Are you still working — doing work for them?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: We’re protecting them going forward. The investigation is closed in terms of what happened there. But certainly, we’ve seen the campaigns, political organizations are continued to be targeted, and they continue to hire us and use our technology to protect themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask you that because if there’s a question of conflict of interest, how do you answer that?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, this report was not about the DNC. This report was about information we uncovered about what these Russian actors were doing in eastern Ukraine in terms of locating these artillery units of the Ukrainian army and then targeting them. So, what we just did is said that it looks exactly as the same to the evidence we’ve already uncovered from the DNC, linking the two together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if there’s still someone out there like the president-elect or others who support him who say, we just don’t believe this, we don’t think it’s been proven, we haven’t seen the CIA and the FBI’s information, what’s your response to that?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, I think it’s legitimate to ask questions and this is why we wanted to produce more evidence that raises the level of confidence that we have, even internally, that this is Russian intelligence agency called the GRU. I think it’s also important for the government to release their own evidence. And I’m encouraged that President Obama ordered this review. I hope the report that comes out will be made public so that everyone can look at it and make their own judgments.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thomas Rid, what more would you need to see, what more a skeptic need to see in order to erase all doubt?

    THOMAS RID: Of course, we can always see more evidence and look for more details, for instance on specific names of operators, and we know that, you know, some intelligence agencies in the United States seem to have that information.

    But let’s keep something in mind. What they want to achieve — what this Russian operation is trying to achieve at this point is to drive a wedge between the president-elect, between the next administration and the intelligence community. And so far, if you see that as part of the operation, they have been spectacularly successful. So, releasing more evidence and then having critics possibly even the president-elect say, well, that’s not good enough, that is exactly the outcome that they want because it introduces friction inside the security establishment in Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly. Dmitri, is that what you see as well?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: I think it’s important to bring out the evidence. Some people legitimately have questions about this. It’s important for the U.S. government to tell us what they know because they have access to classified intelligence and sourcing methods that we are not privy to as a private security company. So, I think it’s important to know what happened in the most consequential hack we’ve ever seen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, of course, we have no way of knowing if that’s what they will do — what they will do. But, of course, we will continue to watch it very closely, as well you Dmitri Alperovitch, Professor Thomas Rid. We thank you both.

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.

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    A general view shows damage in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX2VYQ4

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The long, bloody battle for Syria’s largest city is finally over, with the fall of Aleppo. The Syrian army announced tonight that it is now in full control of the eastern half of the city, where rebels had ruled for four years. The last rebel fighters and civilians left Aleppo today, moving through heavy snow and wind before the military declared victory.

    MAN: (through translator): By virtue of the pious blood of our martyrs, we declare the return of security and safety to the city of Aleppo. This is a crushing blow against the terror project and its backers. It is the starting point of a new phase to drive out terror from all the lands of the Syrian Arab Republic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least 34,000 people streamed out of Aleppo since last week. It marks the biggest victory of the civil war so far for President Bashar al-Assad.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news, a memorial ceremony in Moscow honored Andrey Karlov, Russia’s slain ambassador to Turkey who was gunned down on Monday. The killer shouted slogans about the plight of Aleppo. President Vladimir Putin was among the mourners who paid respects today at the Russian foreign ministry building. He promised retribution for Karlov’s assassination.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still no sign tonight of the Tunisian man wanted in Monday’s massacre in Berlin, Germany. A manhunt is under way for the killer who plowed a truck into a crowded Christmas market, killing 12.

    Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News, reports from Berlin.

    ROHIT KACHROO, ITN: He’s in hiding on his 24th birthday, but Anis Amri is embarrassing German intelligence. Today, we learned they had intercepted old messages in which he offered to become a suicide bomber.

    Police raided homes across Germany, and yet still no sign. Attempts to arrest him for a fourth and perhaps final time this year have been complicated by his 36-hour head start. Though officers did question several people, four taken away in Dortmund.

    He left his ID card in a lorry he used as a weapon. But today, investigators discovered he left his DNA there, too.

    The interior minister, alongside Chancellor Merkel said, “The suspect is with high probability the perpetrator. In the driving cabin, fingerprints were found and there is additional evidence that supports this.”

    Investigators have traveled to Tunisia where Anis Amri’s heart-broken family say he must be innocent.

    “If my brother is listening to me, I want to tell him to surrender, even for our family. We will be relieved. We don’t do such things. Everyone knows our reputation here.”

    At the Christmas market in Berlin, a sort of normality returned, except this isn’t normal. Concrete blocks were put up as the shutters went up for the first time since Monday night.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’ll take a closer look at questions about German security measures later in the program.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.N. Security Council has put off a vote on condemning Israel’s settlement-building, indefinitely. Egypt pulled back its proposed resolution today, after Israel strongly objected. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also pressed the United States to use its veto. President-elect Trump spoke with the Egyptian president today and issued his own statement, saying, quote, “Peace will only come through direct negotiations. Not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president-elect tweeted today about two major defense issues as well. He said the U.S. must greatly expand its nuclear weapons capability, until, in his words, “the world comes to its senses.” And he asked Boeing for the price of buying more F-18 Super Hornet Fighters. He cited what he called the “tremendous cost” of Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

    Also today, Kellyanne Conway was named White House counselor, and Sean Spicer was named White House press secretary. We’ll return later to the prospects for press relations with the Trump White House.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: State lawmakers in North Carolina were back home today, after an effort to repeal the so-called “bathroom law” ended in stalemate. The law bars legal protections based on sexual orientation. And, it requires that transgender people use bathrooms conforming with their sex at birth. Opponents of the law are expected to raise repeal again, next year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials in southern Japan are going to destroy another 120,000 chickens, in a spreading bird flu outbreak. Today’s announcement came just days after 200,000 birds were gassed at a farm in northern Japan. South Korea has culled 20 million birds since it reported an outbreak last month.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Just days before Christmas, it’s nearly warm enough at the North Pole to melt ice, thanks to a surge of warm air. Air temperatures there were 32 degrees today, when it’s typically 20 below. Worldwide, this year is set to be the warmest on record. The Arctic Region is warming at twice the global average.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And another sluggish day on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 23 points to close below 19,919. The NASDAQ fell 24 points, and the S&P 500 slipped four.

    The post News Wrap: Syrian military declares victory in Aleppo after last rebel fighters, civilians leave appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Reindeer at the Cairgorm Herd wait to be fed on December 14, 2014 in The Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. — Reindeer were introduced to Scotland in 1952 by Swedish Sami reindeer herder, Mikel Utsi. Starting with just a few reindeer, the herd has now grown in numbers over the years and is currently at about 130 by controlling the breeding. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

    ‘Tis the season for reindeer to occupy people’s minds — and decorate their sweaters. But these charismatic cervines are more than holiday icons; they are culturally important yet bizarre arctic animals. Here are a few surprising facts about the peculiar creature that is the reindeer.

    1. Christmas cartoons got things all wrong

    In the 1964 classic animated film, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is thin, brown and wimpy.

    Most Christmas decorations depict reindeer in a similar vein, but these portrayals are closer to an amalgamation of other deer species than they are to an actual reindeer.

    Reindeer come in 14 subspecies — two of which are extinct — and they look nothing like their cartoon counterparts. While their colors and size vary, reindeer are invariably stocky, with thick necks, big hooves and square noses.

    Male Reindeer's transformation throughout the year.

    A male reindeer’s transformation from October to November.

    2. Reindeer are the same species as caribou.

    “Reindeer” is to “caribou,” as “donkey” is to “ass.” They are the same animals, but the word reindeer, like donkey, more often refers to the domesticated or semi-domesticated ones. Still, if you’ve ever seen a majestic caribou, you were looking at the species, Rangifer Tarandus — or reindeer.

    3. Female reindeer have antlers.

    Antlers are branched bones that shed and grow back every year. These ornaments are exclusive to the deer family, which includes moose and elk.

    Deer exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females have separate and identifiable physical characteristics. In most deer, that means the males have antlers and the females don’t, barring anomalies. Some deer species have no antlers at all.

    Reindeer, however, are the only deer species in which females have antlers too.

    Male Reindeer's transformation from December to February.

    A male reindeer’s transformation from December to February.

    4. Their eyes change in the summer and winter.

    Reindeer live primarily in the Arctic, where winter is drastically colder and darker than the summer. Reindeer hooves are soft during warmer months, but in the winter, their hooves become hard and sharp for breaking through the ice to forage vegetation.

    As a result of seasonal changes in light levels, reindeer eyes adapt. Their tapetum — the part of the eye behind the iris — changes color from gold in the summer to blue in the winter. However, you wouldn’t notice this shift unless you shined a light in the animals’ eyes.

    Reindeer also shed their fluffy winter coats in the summer. Males and females both shed their antlers and grow them back each year, but in different seasons.

    5. Reindeer float.

    Diabetes researcher Andy Karter lived in Norway herding reindeer for a decade. The temperatures were so cold that they needed a warm material for clothing. So they dressed head to toe in reindeer skins, he said.

    The skins are so warm because reindeer have two layers of hair: a dense undercoat, and a top layer of hollow hair. The air-filled hairs “float like a cork,” Karter said, which is useful for migrations. Some populations travel up to 3,000 miles and swim long distances along the way. People have even used reindeer hair to fill life jackets, Karter said.

    Male Reindeer's transformation from March to May.

    A male reindeer’s transformation from March to May.

    6. Reindeer are the Swiss Army Knife of domestic animals.

    For the Sami people, native to Scandinavia, reindeer herding is a major part of the heritage and economy. They, along with other indigenous people in the Arctic and subarctic, raise reindeer primarily for meat, which they eat and sell.

    “They are the lifeblood of a lot of indigenous cultures,” Karter said. “It’s not just a way of making money, it’s a lifestyle. They live around the herds, they live with the herds. [Reindeer are] very important to their culture.”

    Traditionally, reindeer were used for milk, skins, furs, blood to make blood sausages and the sinews for their sleds. Sami use the antlers for knife handles and tools. Some people even ride Siberian reindeer, which are larger than other subspecies.

    However, things have changed with modern reindeer harvesting.

    “Now the reindeer are slaughtered in certified slaughterhouses, and roundups are done by helicopter, motorcycle and snow machine,” Karter said. “It’s highly organized. Even though they still hold on to the tradition of free-ranging, for the most part.”

    7. Climate change is harming reindeer, and the people who depend on them.

    Reindeer eat “reindeer lichen,” and in the winter, they must paw through the ice on the ground to forage.

    With warmer temperatures, ice melts, exposing water. The water evaporates, making wetter air and inducing rain. In 2013, unprecedented rainfall coated the ground in Siberia and froze, making it exceedingly difficult for the animals to break through and eat. Instead, 60,000 of them starved to death. A similar situation occurred in 2006, leaving 20,000 dead. A study in November linked these events to climate change.

    Male Reindeer's transformation from July to August.

    A male reindeer’s transformation from July to August.

    The Siberian government has proposed a cull of 250,000 reindeer before Christmas this year. Officials insist that these killings are being done to reduce animal overpopulation. They worry there are too many animals without enough access to food and that the density of the animals could potentially spread disease. Reindeer herders argue that energy interests are at the root of the killings.

    The post 7 things you didn’t know about reindeer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Radio City Rockettes dance on stage at the Rockefeller Center as they rehearse before the lighting of the Christmas tree in New York in 2013. Photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

    The Radio City Rockettes dance on stage at the Rockefeller Center as they rehearse before the lighting of the Christmas tree in New York in 2013. Photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

    NEW YORK — The Radio City Rockettes will be dancing at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next month but not everyone is kicking up their heels at the booking.

    One of the famed dancers took to Instagram to say she was “embarrassed and disappointed” by the gig, triggering calls for a boycott by some on social media. Critics have posted the phone numbers of the dancers’ union and the Rockette’s employer to urge complaints.

    But Madison Square Garden Company, which employs the dancers, said Friday no dancers are being compelled to attend the event.

    “For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural. It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available.”

    Many on social media believed attendance was mandatory, including Julissa Sabino, a performer who is part of the union, who tweeted that the issue “breaks my heart” and urged supporters to “help these ladies.” Autumn Withers, a former Rockette, supported a boycott, saying “take a knee, ladies!”

    The American Guild of Variety Artists, which represents the Rockettes, has not publicly responded.

    However, BroadwayWorld said it obtained a copy of an email from a “high-ranking member” of the guild who told the Rockettes that boycotting the event was “invalid.”

    “It is a job, and all of you should consider it an honor, no matter who is being sworn in,” the email read.

    The email went on to say that full-time Rockettes were “obligated” to perform.

    The Rockettes, who have performed at Radio City Music Hall since the 1930s, have previously appeared in Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades and George W. Bush’s inaugurations in 2001 and 2005.

    The Rockettes who choose to attend will join The Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20. Earlier this month, Trump’s inaugural committee announced that “America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho will be singing the national anthem at the ceremony.

    Why ‘negative partisanship’ is flipping politics on its head

    The post Rockettes owner says inauguration attendance is a choice, contrary to union’s message appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A construction site is seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, in the occupied West Bank. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A construction site is seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, in the occupied West Bank. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    UNITED NATIONS — In a striking rupture with past practice, the United States allowed the U.N. Security Council on Friday to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation” of international law. In doing so, the outgoing Obama administration brushed aside Donald Trump’s demands that the U.S. exercise its veto and provided a climax to years of icy relations with Israel’s leadership.

    The decision to abstain from the council’s 14-0 vote is one of the biggest American rebukes of its longstanding ally in recent memory. And it could have significant ramifications for the Jewish state, potentially hindering Israel’s negotiating position in future peace talks. Given the world’s widespread opposition to settlements, the action will be almost impossible for anyone, including Trump, to reverse.

    The resolution said Israel’s settlements in lands the Palestinians want to include in their future state have “no legal validity.” It demanded a halt to such activities for the sake of “salvaging the two-state solution.” Loud applause erupted in the council chamber after U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power permitted the resolution to pass.

    The condemnation, a day after Egypt suddenly postponed a scheduled showdown, capped days of frantic diplomacy in capitals around the world.

    American officials indicated they would have been prepared to let the resolution pass, despite blocking such proposals for years. Israeli officials said they were aware of such plans and turned to Trump for support. The U.S. president-elect sent a tweet urging President Barack Obama to block the U.N. effort. Egypt then pulled its resolution, with U.S. officials citing fierce Israeli pressure as the reason. Israeli officials then accused Obama of colluding with the Palestinians in a “shameful move” against the Jewish state. Washington denied the charge.

    Most of the world is united in opposition to Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements in lands it seized in the 1967 Mideast War. The primary holdout at the U.N. has been the United States, which sees settlements as illegitimate but has traditionally used its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to block such resolutions on the grounds that Israeli-Palestinian disputes should be addressed through negotiation.

    Klapper reported from Washington and Federman reported from Jerusalem.

    The post U.S. abstains as UN votes to condemn Israel settlements appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ARLINGTON, MA - OCTOBER 21: Brianna Wu, software engineer and the found of Giant Spacekat, which makes games with female protagonists. Wu is one of three woman targeted for abuse and death threats by the gaming community after posting online about the misogony in the gaming industry. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

    File photo of Brianna Wu, software engineer and the founder of Giant Spacekat, who was targeted for abuse and death threats by the gaming community after posting online about the misogyny in the gaming industry. Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    BOSTON — In the gaming world, Brianna Wu has earned a reputation battling the online harassment campaign known as Gamergate, a fight that led to rape and murder threats from the darker recesses of the male-dominated realm.

    Now the 39-year-old Boston-based software engineer is setting her sights on another male-dominated institution: Congress.

    Wu, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, said she made the decision almost immediately after the November election.

    WATCH: #Gamergate leads to death threats against women in the gaming industry

    “On election night I was standing 30 feet from where Hillary should have accepted the presidency. I had planned to go back to Boston and work on shipping our next game, but I knew I couldn’t do that,” Wu said Thursday in an email to The Associated Press, calling President-elect Donald Trump “an incredible threat to the United States and American values.”

    She’s said she wants her campaign to focus in part on privacy rights and online harassment, but also on the wider economy which she said is rigged against Massachusetts families.

    Wu is lead engineer at the video game company Giant Spacekat. She rose to prominence after becoming a target of Gamergate, which has subjected several women in the video-game industry to misogynistic threats after surfacing in the summer of 2014.

    The threats became so intense that Wu and her husband had to leave their home.

    While Wu says she wants to run for one of Massachusetts’ nine U.S. House seats, she’s not sure which one. She said it will be in the greater Boston area and she won’t challenge Rep. Katherine Clark, whose district covers a swath of the city’s northern and western suburbs.

    Clark has championed bills in Congress aimed at cracking down on the kinds of online harassment that Wu faced. Clark said earlier this year that she began fighting online harassment after hearing Wu’s story.

    As a political novice, Wu faces the daunting challenge of unseating an incumbent Democrat.

    The post Once the target of online threats, gaming engineer plans run for Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The two hijackers of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 surrender to Maltese military on the runway at Malta International Airport, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit-Lupi MALTA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN MALTA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2WBGL

    The two hijackers of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 surrender to Maltese military on the runway at Malta International Airport, Dec. 23, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Darrin Zammit-Lupi

    Two Libyan hijackers surrendered to authorities in Malta after threatening to use hand grenades to blow up a plane they diverted from Libya. 

    Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, tweeted “hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody.” He also said that weapons found on the hijackers were replicas.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    The Afriqiyah Airways flight took off in Sabha, a city in the southwest of Libya, and was bound for the capital Tripoli. Instead, the one-hour flight arrived on the island of Malta two hours later.

    The 117 people on board, including crew members, were peacefully released from the plane by the two men.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Muscat tweeted that the first group of passengers released were women and children. The first group was followed by another group of 25 and more groups followed until the crew were released last.

    The pilot, Ali Milad, told Libya Channel TV network that the hijackers — whom he identified as Moussa Shaha and Ahmed Ali of Libya — had originally ordered him to go to Rome, the Associated Press reported.  

    Maltese troops survey a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Darrin Zamit-Lupi MALTA OUT - RTX2W9Q3

    Maltese troops survey a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, Dec. 23, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Darrin Zamit-Lupi

    According to AP, the pilot explained that the men were on a quest to seek political asylum in Europe and wanted to start a political party called “the New Fateh,” a reference to the revolution led by the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi after his coup in 1969. One man was seen waving a green flag associated with Gadhafi as he exited the plane.

    Since Gadhafi’s ousting and death in 2011, Libya has experienced political uncertainty, which has led to the rise of different militant groups.

    The BBC reported that European airspace has not been open to Libyan flights for over two years.

    The post Libyan hijackers release hostages and surrender peacefully in Malta appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 23 : Decorated pine tree is seen in New York, USA on December 23, 2016. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    A Christmas tree in New York on Dec. 23, 2016. Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Federal authorities are warning Americans that Islamic State sympathizers are continuing to call for attacks on churches and other holiday gathering sites. The warning was issued after a publicly available list of U.S. churches was posted on a militants’ social media site.

    READ MORE: Berlin attack suspect killed in shootout with Italian police

    The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued the warning to law enforcement agencies nationwide Friday, just days after an attack at a Christmas market in Berlin. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in which a truck plowed into the holiday market, killing 12 people and injuring 56.

    FBI spokesman Andrew Ames says the FBI is aware of the list of churches posted online and is investigating its credibility.

    The post U.S. warns of possible attacks on churches, holiday gatherings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    singalong

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, to celebrate the holiday spirit, a special singalong. Join in with these members of the military, serving around the world.

    (SINGING “THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS”)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They keep our country safe, and can you imagine a better way to say, Merry Christmas? Thank you all.

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    shields and brooks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    So let’s start out talking about two major foreign policy waves, I guess you could say, that Donald Trump is making today, David. He directly intervened with the White House as they were deciding how to handle this U.N. resolution on Israel. There is now an open rift with President Obama. This is different, isn’t it, from the way we see a transition normally work?

    DAVID BROOKS: Certainly, the country can’t have two presidents at once, so the tradition has been to hang back if you’re the president-elect and wait for your time in office. Trump is not a hang-back kind of guy.

    And he has shifted — President Obama has shifted American policy in a much more critical way in Israel with the settlements than the previous presidents. But we’re about to get a head-snapping shift the other way. President-elect Trump’s ambassador to Israel is further to the right than almost anyone in Israel, further to the right than Bibi Netanyahu on the settlements, and almost opposes the two-state solution, doesn’t he?

    So, we are about to see a tremendous shift in American policy toward the Middle East.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this, Mark? Are there consequences of this or is this going to be something we look back on and say, well, that’s what happened?

    MARK SHIELDS: No, I mean, I think Donald Trump is sui generis. I mean, he is acting by president or tradition. He’s acting as Donald Trump has throughout his entire public career of, what, a year and a half, and that is to be impulsive, be spontaneous, keep his opponents or adversaries off balance. That’s his approach. He is not into nuance, that is not his strength.

    And the president said this week, he’s entitled to his own policies and but just hope that it’s deliberate and thoughtful. And this strikes me as anything but.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in addition to Israel, what we were sitting here talking about nuclear policy because Donald Trump tweeted, as far as we can tell, out of the blue yesterday, David, that the United States needs to beef up its nuclear arsenal. He did an interview with Mika Brzezinski of NBC this morning and I’m just reading the quote here. He said, “Let it be an arms race, we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

    So, what does this say?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, one of the things I think about with Donald Trump is what are his words actually attached to? With a normal president like President Obama, he says a word, and that’s because there has been some thought that he’s done and there had been policy papers and there’s been aides and there’s been advisors and then there is a connection to an actual set of policies. And so, the words like have roots into actual stuff.

    With Trump, I’m not sure the words have roots. They are emanations of his psyche, but has he thought it through? Is there an argument, is there a policy implication?

    Even in this nuclear thing, he says we should be stronger and expand. What does that mean? So, what is concrete in what he’s saying?

    And I think as we interpret him and frankly as the world learns to interpret Donald Trump, are these just words that are enigmatic things floating on air or are they actually shifts in policy and will they change moment by moment, day by day without any underlying connection to the actual stuff of governance? I don’t know.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, we’re talking about nuclear arms policy. This is something that in the past, it was something that people spent time thinking about before statements were made. You know, you said a minute ago, you think he’s keeping everybody off balance. Is this a deliberate strategy?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think that’s part of it. The points David make I think really deserve reflection and consideration. I think Donald Trump, we have to understand, has not had experiences like any other president we’ve ever had. He’s never been accountable to anybody, save Donald Trump.

    I mean, he has no investors. He has — he has debtors, but he doesn’t have a board of directors. He doesn’t have a corporate structure he’s had to answer to. So he’s been able to kind of wing it at every stage.

    I just don’t think he understands — the point David was making is when a president makes a statement, Judy, it is studied around the world, the nuance and was there an emphasis here, and what was in the last statement that’s missing — perhaps overly done, maybe overly analyzed. But because the president’s words are pretentious, they really carry with them enormous significance and are usually reflective of great consideration and even arguments within that one side is wanted, one particular paragraph or sentence, while the other said, no, that shouldn’t be in there.

    So, I just think that Trump — he has not made the transition, it seems to me, from candidate to even president in waiting. He has been a sore winner. He continues to in his rallies to berate Hillary Clinton. That sense of gracious, generosity or larger vision has eluded him so far.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, some — not but — and some people, David, have looked at what he’s doing and they said, this is really part of a strategy. Keep people off balance, keep them guessing about what you’re going to do.

    DAVID BROOKS: I think that’s a rationalization for just the way he is. But it does have the effect of keeping people off balance. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing.

    And to bring us back to the nuclear thing, keeping people off balance with nuclear weapons is not a good thing at all.

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    DAVID BROOKS: And — so I would say, given, as Mark describes, sort of — he’s not part of a process. And so, I think there are two things that could happen as a result of this.

    One, it’s possible to imagine him having relatively little influence on his own government because he will be off in his own world and the agencies and the permanent bureaucracy will just go on and do its merry way. There is a lot of passive aggressive behavior in all governments. It’s very hard to get things done.

    But at the same time, because he’s not tied down, there could be a lot of erraticness and he could get caught up, just the macho thing, especially, let’s say Vladimir Putin, or somebody like that, and then more and more erratic with, you know, potentially, some sort of nuclear weapons attached.

    MARK SHIELDS: It was even suggested to me, apropos the point David was making, that Republicans and Democrats have been adversaries for a long time on foreign policy. But, I mean, it could be a common interest at some point in sort of uniting in solidarity. I mean, we’ve had every president, Judy — I mean, John Kennedy began in 1963 with a nuclear test ban treaty banning, you know — agreeing with the Soviets to ban all testing in the atmosphere or space or underwater. I mean, that has been the guide of every president.

    I mean, Ronald Reagan who came in as the leader of the toughest Soviet bloc, the evil empire — I mean, ended up as really a possible arms reduction advocate, a champion of it. When Mikhail Gorbachev — you know, I mean, it’s been the policy of both parties, presidents of both parties, and just to see something like this cast aside as an aside, as his own people are going on the air last night explaining what he actually meant was to stabilize or modernize.

    Then, he goes on with Mika Brzezinski this morning before the show and says, no, no, what he said originally he meant. I mean —

    JUDY WOODRUFF: An arms race.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’ll outlast them all.

    So even he’s got — he seems to have a lot of support among Republicans and even Democrats for his position on Israel, nuclear — nuclear is something different.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about incoming Trump administration potential conflicts of interest. Story in the “Wall Street Journal” this week, David, about Tom Price, the congressman from Georgia having done stock trading in the last few years and health medical companies, he’s going to be overseeing these policies — he was voting observe these policies as a congressman, he will be overseeing that at the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Carl Icahn named as an informal to the president on business regulation. He’s somebody who’s got enormous business interest.

    And then there’s the story about Eric Trump, his son and the charitable organization. Do we — how do we even get our arms around all this?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, to me, it’s mostly about public trust. Do — can you trust people to do their public service roles in a pretty much straight-up, honorable way on the merits of the issues? And I happen to think most people go into government do it for the right reasons and they really do things as they see them on the merits of the issues.

    But it doesn’t help if there’s the appearance and it doesn’t help if the standards by which we separate public and private life begin to erode. And that generally was the course — you leave private life behind when you go into public life, because you’re not just a person. You’re inhabiting a role that the Constitution gave you.

    And I’m not sure Trump has had that distinction between private and public life in his head. And so, I think there’s likely to be an erosion of just that standard, that different standard, consciousness, and I think it’s likely we’ll see what we haven’t seen in the last eight years and even the last 12 or 16 of private enrichment in office and scandals where people have to resign and things like that, because just once the standards go, behavior tends to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, are his supporters prepared to accept a different standard for Donald Trump?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, I think part of Donald Trump’s appeal is that he’s a guy that does cut corners, that he’s the guy that does get deals and maybe does break a speed limit. I think there was sort of a roguish, rascally, but I get things done even if I break the rules.

    But I do think, you know, the words of Jefferson echo even today, when a man assumes a public trust, he must assume he is public property, and that’s exactly what’s the case here. I mean, Tom Price, I don’t know he had time to make votes on the floor, he had such an active stock portfolio and in areas that he was legislating on. I mean, so that will be a subject of hearings.

    But Donald Trump’s statement that Carl Icahn, because he’s not taking a salary doesn’t have a conflict of interest — I’m sorry. I mean, Carl Icahn has major oil interests. He urged and recommended the appointment of the EPA administrator, and, you know, he was championed for him.

    Of course, there are conflicts of interest. It doesn’t come down to a salary. It comes down to your own enrichment. And is there a difference? Is there concept in Donald Trump’s mind of public policy that there is a public interest that is separate and distinct from personal interest?

    I don’t know if there are people around him, who — certainly they haven’t been throughout his career, who are saying this is in the greater public interest. It just doesn’t seem to be part whether in his personal behavior, personal comportment, doesn’t seem to be a strong commitment or value of public service.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We seem to keep coming back, David, to this question of what he was used to in the private sector and what now he faces in the public sector.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right. He’s one thing. Some people are very different in different circumstances. He’s not. He’s one thing.

    And he’s been one thing. Remember, we were talking about he’s got to moderate his campaigns. So, it’s worked for him, at least by his lights. So, I imagine he’s going to be this way all straight through. I can’t imagine a 70-year-old guy is going to change.

    And so, he’s going to be this way and we’re going to have to cover it and the world is going to have to — I keep coming back to the world literally — how much of this is actual literal and how much is a marketing guy who treats words as tools for money? And so, we’re going to have to adjust and not react a lot of the time and think that something’s substantively actually happening.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Gentlemen, we wish you a merry Christmas, happy New York and happy Hanukkah and every holiday that’s coming. Thank you both.

    DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David, Mark.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Trump’s unprecedented transition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Haitian migrants wait outside Migrant Care office after leaving Brazil, where they relocated to after Haiti's 2010 earthquake, in Tijuana, Mexico, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido - RTSQSVR

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first, thousands of Haitians are waiting to get into the U.S., and thousands more are on their way through Latin America. Hurricane Matthew — which killed hundreds of Haitians and destroyed thousands of homes — has upped the stakes for their migrating relatives.

    Jean Guerrero, our partners at location station KPBS Fronteras reporter, has the story.

    JEAN GUERRERO: The surge of Haitians started in May. U.S. customs officials couldn’t process them fast enough, and a backlog formed in Tijuana. Here, shelters like Desayunador Salesiano have had to improvise spaces for the migrants, as they wait for their turn to cross into the U.S.

    The destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew about two months ago has left these Haitian migrants more desperate than ever.

    LEONARDO MARTINEZ, Desayunador Salesiano Coordinator (through translator): They have family members who’ve suffered, and their concern is to help them from here, or from the United States.

    JEAN GUERRERO: One of those Haitians is Frederic Saint Cois, whose family in Haiti survived the devastating floods. But he wants to send them money so they can get by in the newly ravaged country. He hopes to find a job in the U.S.

    FREDERIC SAINT COIS, Haitian Migrant (through translator): We came here looking for life.

    JEAN GUERRERO: He said he spent a lot of money to make it this far, as did his fellow travelers. The journey involved long walking stretches, bus travel and more through some of Latin America’s most dangerous countries.

    FREDERIC SAINT COIS (through translator): I saw many, many people die.

    JEAN GUERRERO: That’s why sudden shifts in U.S. immigration policy have left him so bewildered. Since the 2010 earthquake, the U.S. has been letting Haitians in under a humanitarian parole provision.

    But a few weeks ago, responding to the overwhelming influx of migrants, the U.S. revokes that privilege. The decision to resume deportations was motivated by improved conditions in Haiti. But Hurricane Matthew struck a few days later, plunging the country back into crisis. Even so, officials continued detaining and deporting new Haitian arrivals. But recent overcrowding in detention centers have led officials to allow some Haitian migrants to enter the U.S.

    Among the Haitians who managed to cross into the U.S. before the policy changes is Sandra Alexandre, whose baby was born hours after she crossed the border. The baby’s father, Volcy (ph), missed the birth and still hasn’t met his daughter. He was supposed to cross a few days after Sandra, right when the policy shifted. When he crossed, he was placed in an immigration detention center. He still hasn’t been released.

    SANDRA ALEXANDRE, Haitian Migrant (through translator): It’s very difficult for me and for the baby. I don’t know when he’s going to come here.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Alexandre says she wishes she’d known the policy was going to change before making the dangerous trek through Latin America with her fiance, while she was nine months pregnant. Many times she almost gave up.

    SANDRA ALEXANDRE: I was like, “it’s too difficult, I won’t make it,” but Volcy said, “Yes, you can make it. Little by little, but you’re going to make it. Be brave.”

    JEAN GUERRERO: She says she can’t go back to Haiti.

    SANDRA ALEXANDRE: In Haiti, life is very difficult. Very, very, very difficult. It’s also very dangerous.

    JEAN GUERRERO: In the meantime, Tijuana residents are responding to Haitians with unusual hospitality. All day, they stop by the migrant shelters where Haitians congregate, giving away clothes, dropping off snacks like sandwiches and sports drinks, even preparing full meals.

    JANETH AGUILAR, Tijuana Resident (through translator): We come every day with them. We bring them candy, food. We’re with them a little while. Yesterday, they braided my whole head of hair.

    JEAN GUERRERO: She remembers when she first saw the large crowds of Haitians on the streets. It was an unusual sight — only about 1 percent of Mexico’s population is black.

    Aguilar went online to find out what was happening. She learned that the migrants were coming from countries with political and economic crises, and she wanted to help.

    JANETH AGUILAR: We come to give them a happy moment. Since they lack everything, we want to make sure they don’t lack a smile.

    JEAN GUERRERO: The streets of Tijuana have long been filled with migrants heading to the U.S., as well as the deported — mostly from southern Mexico and Central America. Those migrants are often shunned by the locals, forced to live out of sight, in sewers. When Tijuana residents recently set up a table on the street, offering fried chicken, rice and beans to the Haitians, a Mexican migrant got in line. Jorge Cruz, a Tijuana taxi driver who brought the chicken, was not happy about that.

    JORGE CRUZ, Taxi Driver (through translator): I told him, “You’re Mexican, what do you lack?”

    JEAN GUERRERO: Despite the warm welcome in Mexico, the Haitians are intent on making it into the U.S.

    FREDERIC SAINT COIS (through translator): I have faith in Christ, in God. God is always helping me.

    JEAN GUERRERO: He knows he might be placed in a detention center and deported. But that’s not going to stop him from trying, and hoping.

    For the “PBS NewsHour”, I’m Jean Guerrero in Tijuana, Mexico.

    The post Tijuana welcomes Haitian immigrants stuck at U.S.-Mexico border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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