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

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    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: The sun rises near the White House on November 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

    The White House. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

    Are you an expert on the presidency?

    Presidents Day is as good a time as any to test your knowledge of the 45 men who have held the highest elected office in the country. Take this 15-question quiz to see where you rank.

    The post How well do you know presidential history? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at El Paso, Texas, opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Picture taken from the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez.

    A view of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at El Paso, Texas, opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Picture taken from the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez.

    WASHINGTON — Sixty feet and the U.S-Mexico border separated the unarmed, 15-year-old Mexican boy and the U.S. Border Patrol agent who killed him with a gunshot to the head early on a June evening in 2010.

    U.S. officials chose not to prosecute Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. and the Obama administration refused a request to extradite him so that he could face criminal charges in Mexico. When the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca tried to sue Mesa in an American court for violating their son’s rights, federal judges dismissed their claims.

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday is hearing the parents’ appeal, which their lawyers say is their last hope for some measure of justice.

    The legal issues are different, but the Supreme Court case resembles the court battle over President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven majority Muslim nations in at least one sense. Courts examining both issues are weighing whether foreigners can have their day in U.S. courts.

    READ MORE: Crossing the Line at the Border

    Privacy experts also are watching the case because it could affect how courts treat global internet surveillance, particularly when foreigners are involved. It’s there that the “Fourth Amendment question in Hernandez seems to matter most,” George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog.

    The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Precisely what happened in the cement culvert that separates El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is in dispute, although the competing accounts are legally irrelevant to the court’s decision.

    Sergio’s family says he was messing around with his friends that day, playing a game in which they ran down the culvert from the Mexican side and up the American side to touch an 18-foot fence. Mesa arrived on a bicycle and detained one person while the others scampered back across the culvert, actually the dry bed of the Rio Grande River. He then shot Sergio as the boy ran toward a pillar supporting an overhead rail bridge. Mesa and other agents who arrived on the scene rode away on their bikes, without checking on the boy or offering medical aid, the family says.

    The Justice Department said Mesa was trying to stop “smugglers attempting an illegal border crossing” and fired his gun after he came under a barrage of rocks. Mesa argues in his court filings that Sergio was among the rock throwers.

    READ MORE: Here’s what the Mexico border wall looks like now

    But Robert Hilliard, the family’s lawyer, said U.S. officials met privately with the parents to explain the decision not to prosecute Mesa and told them that their son had not thrown rocks. A cellphone video appears to show that Sergio was running and trying to hide before he was shot.

    Had Sergio been shot a few feet to the north, he would have been on American soil and U.S. courts would be open to his family, Hilliard said. There’s no dispute that Mesa was on the U.S. side of the border, he said.

    If the family is kept out of court, Hilliard said, the Supreme Court will be saying “that 100 percent of the conduct of a domestic police officer in the United States is unconstrained by the U.S. Constitution.” The family is seeking at least $10 million, Hilliard has said.

    The Trump administration, like its predecessor, is arguing that the location of Hernandez’s death, in Mexico, should be the end of the story.

    The right to sue “should not be extended to aliens injured abroad,” the government said in its court filing. In addition, the government said the parents’ claims under the Fourth Amendment should be dismissed because its protections against unreasonable search and seizure don’t apply to non-citizens outside the U.S. The government also said Mesa should be shielded from liability for the shooting, even if the family could prove he violated other rights Sergio might be able to assert.

    Judge Edward Prado of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially voted to allow the case to proceed because “if ever a case could be said to present an official abuse of power so arbitrary as to shock the conscience,” Sergio’s shooting appeared to be it. The full 5th Circuit later sided with Mesa.

    Sergio’s shooting was not an isolated border episode. Parents of a teenager killed in Nogales, Mexico, from gunshots fired across the border by a U.S. agent have filed a civil rights lawsuit that is being delayed until the Supreme Court rules.

    The government’s response to that shooting was notable because prosecutors are pursuing second-degree murder charges against Agent Lonnie Swartz.

    In that episode, 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was hit about 10 times by shots fired across the border from Arizona. The Border Patrol has said Swartz was defending himself against rock-throwers.

    The boy’s family says he was not involved and was walking home after playing basketball with friends. Swartz is on leave and his trial is set for June.

    A 2013 report commissioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and written by an outside group faulted the agency for insufficiently investigating the 67 shootings that took place from 2010 to 2012 and questioned the use of force in some of those cases. The agency has said it has tightened its policies, particularly in response to rock-throwers.

    The post Supreme Court weighs case of Mexican boy slain across border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Prime Minister Theresa May holds a regional cabinet meeting Jan. 23 in Runcorn, Cheshire, as she launched her industrial strategy for post-Brexit Britain. Photo by REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool.

    Prime Minister Theresa May holds a regional cabinet meeting Jan. 23 in Runcorn, Cheshire, as she launched her industrial strategy for post-Brexit Britain. Photo by REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool.

    LONDON — Britain’s House of Lords launched a bid Monday to gain a greater say for Parliament over the terms of the U.K.’s European Union exit, as Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers not to hold up “what the British people want” by trying to delay the process.

    The Lords, Parliament’s unelected upper chamber, began two days of debate on a bill authorizing the government to trigger the EU divorce process.

    The Lords can’t overrule the elected House of Commons, which has already passed the bill. But opposition members of the Lords are seeking amendments to guarantee Parliament a bigger say in the negotiations. Any amendments they pass would go back to the Commons for approval.

    That parliamentary “ping pong” could delay the bill’s passage, endangering the government’s self-imposed March 31 deadline for triggering two years of Brexit negotiations.

    Angela Smith, the opposition Labour Party’s leader in the Lords, promised that “we will not block, wreck or sabotage the legislation before us.”

    But, she added, “neither should we provide the government with a blank check.”

    READ MORE: Political, legal opposition adds obstacles to Brexit

    Peers packed the red leather benches of the Lords chamber, which does not have enough seats for all 800 members of the house. In an unusual move for a prime minister, May sat inside the chamber to watch the opening of the debate — a move some saw as a warning to peers not to impede the will of the people.

    Speaking earlier on a visit to the central England city of Stoke-on-Trent, May noted that the House of Commons approved the bill earlier this month without amendments.

    “I hope that the House of Lords will pay attention to that,” she said.

    Natalie Evans, the Conservative leader of the Lords, said Parliament must respect voters’ decision in a June referendum to leave the 28-nation bloc. She warned colleagues not to try to “restrict the government’s hand before it enters into complex negotiations or attempt to re-run the referendum.”

    But Smith said the Lords would fulfill its role as the chamber of sober second thought and hold “a serious and a responsible debate.” Almost 200 peers are due to speak during the debate on Monday and Tuesday.

    READ MORE: Britain braces for EU exit. Not so fast, UK court rules

    “If we ask the House of Commons to look again at an issue, it is not a constitutional outrage, but a constitutional responsibility,” Smith said.

    Opposition amendments will seek to guarantee a vote for Parliament — or even a second referendum — on the deal agreed between Britain and the bloc.

    Another change will seek to guarantee the rights of 3 million EU citizens living in the U.K. after Britain leaves the bloc. So far Britain and the EU have failed to ensure that the EU nationals — and 1 million Britons living in other parts of the bloc — can stay, despite repeated assertions by both sides that people shouldn’t be used as leverage.

    Scores of EU citizens and their supporters rallied outside Parliament Monday to lobby lawmakers, carrying EU flags and stickers declaring: “I am not a bargaining chip.”

    Former Foreign Secretary William Hague — now Lord Hague — said Parliament should pass the bill, let the government start negotiations and “end the uncertainty” surrounding Britain’s future.

    “The country cannot go around in circles,” he told the House of Lords.

    The post UK’s May says Lords must respect people’s will on Brexit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster was one of several candidates President Donald Trump interviewed over the weekend to fill the open national security advisor role. Credit: Army photo

    Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster was one of several candidates President Donald Trump interviewed over the weekend to fill the open national security advisor role. Credit: Army photo

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump has tapped Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser, replacing the ousted Michael Flynn.

    Trump announced the pick Monday at his Palm Beach club and said McMaster is “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”

    The president, who has no military experience, has shown a preference for generals in the top security roles. McMaster, who wore his uniform for the announcement, joins Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, both retired generals.

    Trump says retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg who had been his acting adviser, will now serve as the National Security Council chief of staff. He also said he would be asking John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to work with them in a “somewhat different capacity.”

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Trump made the announcement from a luxurious living room, sitting on a couch between McMaster and Kellogg. The president told reporters as he exited the room that Vice President Mike Pence had been involved in the process.

    Trump brought four candidates for the position to Mar-a-Lago over the weekend for in-person interviews, McMaster among them. McMaster called the appointment a “privilege.”

    McMaster served in the first Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. Considered a scholarly officer, he holds a Ph.D. in military history, and has authored a book called “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.” He has also written articles questioning the planning for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The position of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation.

    Trump pushed out Flynn a week ago after revelations that the adviser had misled Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition. Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.

    Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the offer.

    The post Trump taps military strategist as national security adviser appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The al-Qassabs, Iraqi Christians from Mosul, prepare to board a flight out of Beirut to the United States. Their father was denied entry twice. (Read their story.) Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    The al-Qassabs, Iraqi Christians from Mosul, prepare to board a flight out of Beirut to the United States. Their father was denied entry twice. (Read their story.) Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    When President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month suspending the U.S. refugee program in order to implement more “extreme vetting,” there were many questions not only about his proposal but also about how our current system for vetting refugees works.

    A federal court put a stop to the order last month. Mr. Trump said at a press conference Thursday that he planned to release a new version this week, based on the court’s ruling.

    As we’ve covered the immigration ban and the debate around it, PBS NewsHour viewers have asked: How long does refugee processing take now? What kinds of checks and interviews take place? How did President Trump’s order aim to change that?

    We took your questions to Sarah Krause, senior director for programs at the Church World Service’s Immigration and Refugee Program, to create a quick guide to the U.S. refugee vetting process as it stands.

    Who are refugees?

    Refugees are those forced to flee their home country due to a fear of persecution based on:

    • race
    • religion
    • national origin
    • political opinion
    • membership in a particular social group such as the LGBT community.

    They must have crossed a border from their home country to another country to be considered a refugee. In the second country, they can file for protection with the U.N. refugee agency, known as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

    UNHCR decides whether to return refugees to their home country; keep them in the country in which they’ve sought refuge; or resettle them in a third country, like the U.S.

    For the third option, the U.N. refugee agency, along with the U.S. Embassy or a nongovernmental organization, can refer the refugee to the U.S. to start the application process. The case goes to one of nine Resettlement Support Centers stationed in different regions around the world.

    UNHCR summarizes the U.S. role in resettling refugees. Click to enlarge.

    UNHCR summarizes the U.S. role in resettling refugees. Click to enlarge.

    Who does the security screening and where does it take place?

    Staff members at Resettlement Support Centers travel to where applicants are staying to conduct face-to-face interviews, cross-reference their personal information and enter the data into the State Department’s Refugee Admission Processing System.

    Officers from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services review the information, interview the applicants again and take their fingerprints.

    U.S. agencies, including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and Department of State, along with the intelligence community, conduct security checks including running the fingerprints through:

    • FBI’s Next Generation Identification System
    • The Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Biometric Identification System, including the U.S. watch-list
    • The Department of Defense’s Automated Biometric Identification System, including fingerprints collected from scenes of attacks in Iraq.

    The security checks can expire if the overall vetting process takes too long. Any expired steps must be repeated if the applicant is still being vetted, Krause said.

    The agencies are looking for potential security threats, including “connections to known bad actors, and past immigration or criminal violations,” according to the State Department’s website.

    For refugees from Syria, DHS conducts additional reviews and collects additional biometric data, including iris scans, according to the department’s U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

    The average length of time to process a refugee is 18-24 months, but it can take longer depending on the person’s nationality or their location. For example, people in certain refugee camps are more difficult to reach, and the rainy season in Africa may cause delays, Krause said.

    Once the refugees clear security and are approved to enter the U.S., they undergo health screenings by the Department of Health and Human Services to make sure they do not have contagious diseases such as tuberculosis. If they do, they are treated and then undergo the health screening again.

    The International Organization for Migration handles their travel logistics.

    When refugees enter the United States, resettlement offices around the U.S. help them locate housing and jobs. The Pew Research Center tracked where the refugees came from by region since 1975:

    Where refugees come from

    Did people in charge of vetting get laid off under the new administration? What happens to the investigations that were already underway?

    The executive order set a 50,000 cap on the total number of refugees allowed in the United States. If that ceiling remains in the rewritten order, the Resettlement Support Centers — along with other agencies that partner with the State Department to conduct the vetting — will face layoffs due to the decrease in refugee arrivals, said Krause.

    The 50,000 maximum is down from last year’s target of 85,000 refugees (84,995 arrived). The target set by the Obama administration for this year was 110,000 refugees to resettle in the U.S.

    So far this fiscal year, more than 30,000 refugees have arrived in the U.S.

    The investigations already underway will continue. Whether the Resettlement Support Centers can take on any new cases depends on the regional targets set by the Presidential Determination, Krause said.

    More information:

    The post You asked: How are refugees vetted today? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Children play soccer at the Olympic park which was used for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 5, 2017. Picture taken on Feb. 5, 2017. Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters

    Children play soccer Feb. 5 at the Olympic park which was used for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters

    “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” President Trump said at an emotional roller coaster of a news conference last week.

    The Washington establishment reeled at that metaphor. Trump lost his national security advisor, Mike Flynn, to a scandal involving Russia, while his immigration ban stood frozen by the judiciary. But Trump’s supporters saw a different picture.

    “He doesn’t need the media to chide him to make the right decisions,” Kevin Felty told the Associated Press. “It’s something he’s been doing well for decades.”

    While the country may not be able to agree on what happened last week, and the Russia questions still linger, here are five stories everyone can agree were overlooked.

    1. Six months later, Rio’s fate after the Olympic Games doesn’t look golden.

    An aerial view of Maracana Stadium, which was used for the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, shows the turf being dry, worn and filled with ruts and holes, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil January 12, 2017. Picture taken on Jan. 12, 2017. Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters

    An aerial view of Maracana Stadium, which was used for the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, shows the turf being dry, worn and filled with ruts and holes, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Picture taken on Jan. 12, 2017. Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters

    Prior to the Rio Olympic Games last year, organizers repeated the assurance that there would be “no white elephants.”

    Officials signaled there would be careful financial steps to prevent all the infrastructure constructed for the event from falling into disrepair. Granted, several past host cities have seen these Olympics projects, like the ski jumps from the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games, are easily forgotten and difficult to translate into useful infrastructure.

    A view of the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, which was used for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is seen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 5, 2017. Picture taken on Feb. 5, 2017. Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters

    A view of the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, which was used for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is seen Feb. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters

    Several international cities dropped out of the bidding to host the 2020 Olympics because the Games looked more and more like an expensive investment not worth the risk.

    “Arranging a Winter Olympics would mean a big investment in new sports facilities, for example for the bobsleigh and luge,” Stockholm officials in 2014 said of its decision to drop its bid. “There isn’t any need for that type of that kind of facility after an Olympics.”

    There were hopes in Rio that the projected heavy tourism would help Brazil climb out of its debilitating recession.

    So, six months after the Rio Olympic Games, how did the city fare in the aftermath?

    Presumably, not great.

    Why it’s important

    A woman carries a baby in front of the Deodoro Sports Complex, which was used for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 7, 2017. The clapboard reads: " We are in recess for maintenance of the pool, we will return in January. Merry Christmas and Happy new year". Picture taken on Feb. 7, 2017. Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters

    A woman carries a baby in front of the Deodoro Sports Complex, which was used for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is seen Fb. 7 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The clapboard reads: ” We are in recess for maintenance of the pool, we will return in January. Merry Christmas and Happy new year”. Photo by Pilar Olivares/Reuters

    Before the scheduled Games in August, the list of woes for Rio included: concerns over the city’s security forces following budget cuts, the Zika virus, contaminated waters and other pollution problems, displacement of “favelas” — and, at one point, parts of a mutilated corpse that had washed ashore on the Copacabana Beach.

    These concerns were largely muted as the sporting event got underway as the feats of Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, among others, grabbed headlines.

    However, a check-in from The New York Times concludes that Rio “has quickly become the latest, and perhaps the most striking, case of unfulfilled promises and abandonment.”

    Olympic Park failed to attract any investors, meaning the city will now have to foot the bill to maintain it. Currently, the Times reported, the park is in shambles, as are many other structures built for the Games. And although city officials said there were plans to re-purpose some of the structures for public use, no time frames were given.

    Camila Felix Muguet, who partially lost her home to construction for the Olympics, said her community of Deodoro, one of most affected by the projects, will be “forgotten.”

    “The government, business people — they tricked us,” she told the Times. “They came, they robbed, and they said goodbye. Now they’re gone, and where are our upgrades?”

    2. The number of hate groups rise, new report says

    Community members take part in a protest to demand stop hate crime during the funeral service of Imam Maulama Akonjee, and Thara Uddin in the Queens borough of New York City, Aug. 15, 2016. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    Community members take part in a protest Aug. 15 to demand stop hate crime during the funeral service of Imam Maulama Akonjee, and Thara Uddin in the Queens borough of New York City. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    The number of operating hate groups in the U.S. rose from 892 to 917 in 2016, according to an annual census from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    The group, which monitors extremism in the U.S., also found a spike in anti-Muslim and white nationalist groups, which it says was fueled in part by rhetoric in the presidential campaign.

    “2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow and editor of the center’s “Intelligence Report.” “The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists.”

    The report also said the number of Muslim hate groups in particular nearly tripled, jumping from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016.

    Why it’s important

    A newspaper left as a sign of support is pictured at a makeshift memorial at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, faces sentencing after he was convicted of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officialsinvestigated as a hate crime. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    A newspaper left as a sign of support is pictured at a makeshift memorial at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, faces sentencing after he was convicted of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials investigated as a hate crime. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    The SPLC said it has documented more than 860 bias-related incidents in the first 10 days after President Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the country. More than 300 of those targeted immigrants or Muslims.

    Since then, there have been more bias-related incidents. A fire that destroyed a Texas mosque was ruled an arson, although authorities are still investigating whether it was a hate crime.

    Jewish Community Centers across the nation reported receiving nearly 60 bomb threats in January.

    And days before the inauguration, Asian American Advocating Justice launched a website that tracks hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. The civil rights group cited a rise in crimes against this community as the catalyst for the website.

    “When you have moments of crisis, communities often consolidate themselves by scapegoating others,” Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department for African-American Studies at Princeton University, told the NewsHour in November. “And, usually, that scapegoating, at least in the context of the United States, has taken violent form.”

    When asked last week at a press conference about the rise in attacks on JCCs, Trump said “some of it is written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that?”

    The response to this level of hate will be “messy,” Glaude said, adding that the efforts would include civil disobedience and voting, offering one solution to the crisis.

    “What we need to do is kind of organize ourselves to put forward a vision of America that runs counter to what we’re seeing now. And that’s going to be hard … But we have to do it,” he said.

    3. The long road to recovery for giant tortoises in the Galapagos

    A young Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is seen together with its mother Nigrita (back) and father Jumbo (R) at an enclosure at the zoo in Zurich in December 2014. Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

    A young Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is seen together with its mother Nigrita (back) and father Jumbo (R) at an enclosure at the zoo in Zurich in December 2014. Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

    The Galapagos Islands are known for their biodiversity and being home to species not found anywhere else on the planet. The island was named after its most famous inhabitants: giant tortoises, which can live past 100 years old.

    Since the 1880s, however, the several species of giant tortoises on the island drastically declined, to extinction, in some cases. Initially, hunters were blamed for the dwindling numbers, while invasive species, like the non-native black rat, also threatened the tortoises and their habitats.

    Writing for The Conversation, conservationist James P. Gibbs noted several ways decades-long efforts to protect these vulnerable tortoises have walked them back from the brink of extinction.

    Most recently, giant tortoises on the Pinzon Island of the Galapagos successfully bred in the wild, a first in a century.

    That moment was made possible by conservationists in the 1970s who insulated the remaining tortoises from threats like the rats that feasted on their eggs and hatchlings. There was also a large-scale effort to eradicate the rats from the archipelago that began in 2011.

    Why it’s important

    The sole surviving giant Galapagos tortoise known as Lonesome George walks away from a pool on Santa Cruz island, May 9, 2009. Photo by Teddy Garcia/Reuters

    The sole surviving giant Galapagos tortoise known as Lonesome George walks away from a pool on Santa Cruz island, May 9, 2009. Photo by Teddy Garcia/Reuters

    One of the most famous inhabitants of the Galapagos — and cautionary tale for conservationists — was Lonesome George.

    The Pinta Island giant tortoise, the last known of his subspecies Geochelone abingdoni, died in 2012 after decades of failed attempts to continue his lineage. George didn’t fertilize any eggs when in close proximity with different females.

    Researchers thought his subspecies was extinct until he was found on the Pinta Island in the 1970s.

    After he died, conservationists decided to preserve the tortoise through taxidermy.

    Video by American Museum of Natural History

    Rick Schwartz of the San Diego Zoo told National Geographic that Lonesome George could act as a reminder of the human impact on the future, while the tortoise’s own history is “an opportunity to educate about other species and conservation efforts as a whole.”

    4. Three Olympic athletes reported abuse. It took years for someone to react.

    A member of USA Taekowndo competes with a member from the Netherlands' team in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Photo by REUTERS/Issei Kato.

    A member of USA Taekowndo competes with a member from the Netherlands’ team in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Photo by REUTERS/Issei Kato.

    Three aspiring Olympic taekwondo athletes told the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2014 that they had been sexually abused by their coach. But the USOC never intervened, according to an investigation published last week by The Washington Post.

    In a document addressed to the USA Taekwondo Ethics Committee and published by The Washington Post, athlete Yasmin Brown described how her coach, Marc Gitelman, or “Master G,” repeatedly abused her over the course of three years as she competed in tournaments across the country. Brown writes that she was first abused by Gitelman, then 44, in May 2010 while in a hotel room. She says Gitelman gave her alcohol and she quickly became intoxicated. She “did not have the motor control” to get him off of her when he started making sexual advances.

    Two other athletes described similar accounts in letters to USA Taekwondo, alleging abuse by Gitelman and urging the committee to open an investigation.

    USA Taekwondo, which acts as the Olympic national governing body for the sport, never launched an investigation, prompting Brown to seek help from the United States Olympic Committee. When they did not intercede, as the Post reports, the three athletes took their case to court.

    In late October 2015, the three athletes filed suit against Gitelman in Los Angeles County Superior Court, as reported by The Orange County Register. The judge involved in the case, Bruce Marrs, ordered Gitelman be registered as a lifetime sex offender and sentenced him in September 2016 to more than four years in state prison for sexually abusing children, according to The Los Angeles Times.

    Why it’s important

    A U.S.A. Olympic Flag, hangs inside the Pettit National Ice Center and U.S. Olympic Training Facility lobby in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images.

    A U.S.A. Olympic Flag, hangs inside the Pettit National Ice Center and U.S. Olympic Training Facility lobby in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images.

    This case is years old. But despite calls for more awareness and oversight, allegations of sexual abuse — specifically within America’s most prominent Olympic organizations — continue.

    Multiple instances of abuse within USA Gymnastics — which includes 148,000 athletes and more than 25,000 professional, instructor and club members — were uncovered last year by an IndyStar investigation, including a case in Georgia in which a coach reportedly preyed upon athletes for seven years after USA Gymnastics dismissed the first of four warnings against him. Other national governing bodies, including USA Swimming and U.S. Speedskating, have faced allegations as well.

    Part of the problem: “To the best of my knowledge, there’s no duty to report … if you are a third party to some allegation,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a 2015 deposition.

    Though USA Gymnastics would not disclose the total number of sexual misconduct allegations it received each year, IndyStar independently reported USA Gymnastics collected complaints of improper conduct by more than 50 coaches between 1996 and 2006 and consistently declined to forward them to authorities. The paper documented abuse of at least 14 underage gymnasts even after warnings were issued.

    But steps to combat sexual abuse are underway. In 2010, after allegations of abuse in USA Swimming, the U.S. Olympic Committee organized the creation of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a non-profit that responds to abuse claims from the national sports organizations that fall under USOC’s umbrella according to USA TODAY.

    The center requires national governing bodies of Olympic sports to forward all sexual misconduct complaints to the organization immediately, without any sort of screening process.

    The center was expected to open in 2015, but was delayed because of difficulty raising the additional $16.7 million the organization needed to operate, the Post reports. It’s now slated to open in April of this year.

    “Sexual abuse is obviously a societal issue, not just something happening in the world of youth sports,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said during the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly. “But as leaders in the world of sport, we have to do everything in our power to keep athletes safe.”

    5. Fly me to the moon … again

    The SLS Five-Segment Solid Rocket Motor, that will launch NASA's Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft to deep space, undergoes a static test fire in 2016 at the Orbital ATK facility in Promontory, Utah.  Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via Reuters.

    The SLS Five-Segment Solid Rocket Motor, that will launch NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft to deep space, undergoes a static test fire in 2016 at the Orbital ATK facility in Promontory, Utah. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via Reuters.

    In late 2018, NASA is planning its first launch of the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, equipped with an Orion capsule that will orbit the moon before returning to Earth.

    Now, that mission, known as EM-1, could include astronauts.

    In a letter to NASA employees last week, acting agency director Robert Lightfoot asked that human spaceflight be included in EM-1, Buzzfeed reported.

    EM-1 was intended as a test of only the SLS/Orion system, according to Wired; humans weren’t included on the timeline until several years after the initial launch. This letter could change that.

    Why it’s important

    In 1968, Apollo 8 made history as the first manned spacecraft to leave the Earth’s orbit, circling the moon 10 times before it splashed into the Northern Pacific ocean. It paved the way for Apollo 11 to bring Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in July 1969 — “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

    Those were the glory days.

    Many people believe that America’s role in global space research has dimmed over the past few decades. Some of that has to do with mixed messages from U.S. presidents and Congress.

    A Pew Research study in late 2015 showed that 48 percent of U.S. adults believed the federal government should “play a minor or no role in advancing space exploration.” But 47 percent said the federal government should have a major role.

    Plenty have wondered: what’s next for America’s space travel?

    The Washington Post speculated on a return to the moon after Trump won the presidential election in November.

    Why? It sends a message that America is still serious about space. China, Japan and Russia, among other countries, have all said they want to send humans on a lunar mission. Articulating a similar priority could be a tool for diplomacy, experts say.

    NASA handout photographs from the various Apollo missions between 1968 and 1972 are shown in this collage.  The photographs are some of more than 12,000 from NASA's archives aggregated on the Project Apollo Archive Flickr account.  Photo by REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters.

    NASA handout photographs from the various Apollo missions between 1968 and 1972 are shown in this collage. The photographs are some of more than 12,000 from NASA’s archives aggregated on the Project Apollo Archive Flickr account. Photo by REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters.

    Still, NASA tends to take its time, spending years to create plans and specific timelines for its missions. Comparatively, this would be a rushed addition to a long-planned orbit around the moon, experts told the Post.

    Experts at a House Committee Hearing on NASA last week showed enthusiasm for the project. But NASA itself is at a crossroads, as The Atlantic wrote last week. “NASA’s Apollo-era budget accounted for 4.5 percent of the federal budget,” it said. “Today’s budget is less than half a percent.”

    Many experts don’t think NASA has the resources to achieve those goals, according to ArsTechnica. Congress is re-evaluating the agency’s budget and priorities — and Politico has reported Trump also wants to explore the privitization of some space stations and “the large-scale economic development of space.”

    Not to mention NASA is currently without a permanent chief.

    The bottom line: Keep an eye on the sky — this story is far from over.

    The post 5 important stories that aren’t Russian propaganda appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Yemeni child receives polio vaccination during an immunisation campaign at a health center on February 20, 2017, in the capital Sanaa.  / AFP / Mohammed HUWAIS        (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

    Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

    A Yemeni child receives a polio vaccination Feb. 20 during an immunization campaign at a health center in the capital of Sanaa.

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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

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    A newspaper vendor rides his bicycle on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTX1WM22

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: India’s capital, Delhi, now outranks Beijing as the world’s most polluted large metropolis. And it’s taking a toll on its residents’ health.

    But, as special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports, there are efforts under way to make the city’s air less toxic.

    It’s part of his ongoing series Agents for Change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He murmurs and he gasps, waiting for a spot to free up, for a chance to just breathe.

    As nebulizer treatments open up the lungs of a handful of patients, dozens more await their turn at the chest clinic in a Delhi government hospital.

    This is the scene outside of the doctor’s office. Clinic hours are 9:00 in the morning until 1:00. And on a typical day, the doctor says he sees about 120 patients who’ve been here before and 30 brand-new ones.

    Three to four patients are seen at the same time, in the same room, by Dr. Raj Kumar and his team of junior doctors and residents. The most common complaint? Simply change of season, the winter, which brings dust and tiny carbon particulates into the environment

    DR. RAJ KUMAR, India: When there is a change in environment or increase in the particulate matter and everything, these asthmatic and COPD patients do get exacerbation of their symptoms.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They get exacerbation of their symptoms?

    DR. RAJ KUMAR: Yes.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. Kumar can do little more than check on their medications and advise patients to avoid some of the most polluted outdoor air on the planet.

    Weather and wind patterns are blamed for trapping pollutants over India’s capital, carbon dioxide, ozone and fine carbon particles. Dirty fuels are the culprit from several sources. Automobiles are the major one. On average, 1,400 new vehicles are added to Delhi’s streets every day, most now burning a highly polluting diesel long outlawed in Europe and the United States.

    By 2021, diesel fuel here will meet European standards. The government has also promised to shut down old coal-fired plants and restrict new ones. And wood- and coal-burning brick kilns has been moved farther away from the city.

    But the pollution continues. To get an idea of how polluted the air is, we went to one of the cleanest places in Delhi, the American Embassy School. It serves the children of American and other expats and diplomats. Many don face masks, but only until they’re inside, says the director, Ellen Stern.

    ELLEN STERN, Director, American Embassy School: We have an air system that goes all the way through the school. We now have four different kinds of filters on it that filter out various kinds of things.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Barun Aggarwal showed me the elaborate system his company, BreatheEasy, has set up in the school, pulling out the first layer of filter, thickly coated with a grimy soot.

    So, if you were to walk outside today, this is what is coming into your lungs?

    BARUN AGGARWAL, BreatheEasy: Absolutely.

    Most of the black carbon actually passes through a filter like this. This is mostly dust. And the black carbon will get trapped in the finer particle filters.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, how old is this accumulation?

    BARUN AGGARWAL: Less than six days.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The fine particle filters also show stark before-and-after evidence of the harmful air outside. You would think such systems would be in strong demand, but Aggarwal says, aside from a few buildings mostly occupied by expats, its been a hard sell.

    Among India’s growing middle class, he says, he’s there’s denial or indifference, a sense that pollution is the price of India’s rapid economic progress.

    BARUN AGGARWAL: The number of myths that are there with regards to air pollution in India are incredible. The first one that I get by mostly Indians is that, if I breathe clean air for eight hours, then my immunity will come down, and when I go out, I will fall sick.

    Completely wrong, because this is — if you believe that, then you should be giving your children two packets of cigarettes to smoke every day.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The problem, like cigarette smoking is, except for those with lung disease, the health consequences of pollution, such as lung and heart disease and stroke, come later in life.

    KAMAL MEATTLE, Environmental Activist: It’ll happen in 10, 20, 30 years. So if you ask a 20-year-old, is this important, they say, no, no, no, forget it. I have to make money. I have to get ahead in life.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Kamal Meattle is an environmental activist who also designed the embassy school’s filtration system. It works well, he says, but it is no panacea for a city of 20-plus million residents.

    KAMAL MEATTLE: You cannot have just air purifiers and cleaning systems for the people who can afford them. It has to be for the people who are on the road, who are in (INAUDIBLE) slums. And they have to be dealing with people who go on motorcycles, go on metros, go on buses. They’re the ones who are exposed most to the pollution.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Meattle, who trained at MIT, has developed lower-cost ways to cope with the pollution, which we measured just outside an office building he owns in central Delhi, using an instrument used to measure fine carbon particles.

    KAMAL MEATTLE: Two-ninety, 288.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What is the WHO standard?

    KAMAL MEATTLE: It’s 50.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, what you have outside your building…

    KAMAL MEATTLE: Six times.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: … is an air quality that’s six times worse than the WHO standard?

    KAMAL MEATTLE: That’s right. That’s right.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Can we step back inside and see what it’s like inside?

    From 290, the level dropped to nine, thanks not just to filters and air purifiers, but to plants, thousands of them in this rooftop greenhouse.

    But this greenhouse produces clean air, and each floor is pulling it in as needed.

    KAMAL MEATTLE: Yes.

    And there are plants on each floor also. This is the central air cleaning system for the whole building.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Plants do more than produce oxygen, he says. They are natural air purifiers. Their roots eat bacteria and fungi and they absorb chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene produced by office products.

    KAMAL MEATTLE: These are areca palms for the day time, bamboo palm.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Most importantly, he says, these are common, fast-growing species and should be in every home for clean air benefits to both lungs and brains.

    KAMAL MEATTLE: Harvard and also University of California at Berkeley have done studies to show that your cognitive abilities improve in such an environment.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They’re small steps people can take indoors, but he acknowledges there’s a huge complex problem outside these clean air bubbles, not easily solved in India’s chaotic democracy.

    KAMAL MEATTLE: I think its politicians anywhere in the world, they think the same, that they will only act when they have learned a solution and it’s a very straightforward solution. Then they will implement it and take credit for it. But until they find that they don’t — or they know that they don’t have a clean, straight solution, they will keep the matter confused.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But environmentalists say years of lobbying seem to be yielding some results, helped by prodding from India’s Supreme Court, which has compelled government agencies to act.

    One group claiming the credit says it distributed pollution gauges to prominent Delhiites. Its leader, Sunita Narain, says campaign targets included the court.

    SUNITA NARAIN, Activist: We took the machine in. We put the machine there. And the chief justice said, this is unacceptable. So I think, slowly, that sense of unacceptable, this is not right, this is not fair, it’s increasing the burden of health on our children, we have to change it, that’s happened.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But, in the meantime, for years to come, India’s capital and, for that matter, most of its major cities will continue to be among the most difficult places on Earth to breathe.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro in New Delhi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today is February 20, one month into the new Trump administration. It’s an early moment to pause and ask where things stand.

    For that, we turn to our Politics Monday team, Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And welcome to both of you.

    It is Monday. We are already a month, as we just said, Amy and Tam, into this administration. So, let’s take a little bit of stock.

    Tam, you have been looking at the president’s appointments for big, important positions, the positions that have to be confirmed by the Senate. What are you seeing? How is he doing compared to other presidents at this point?

    TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: In terms of getting them confirmed, he is behind schedule. That’s not entirely his fault. Senate Democrats have been slow-walking the nominations, in part because they say that many of these nominees are sort of out of line with the mainstream.

    Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, just the other day said that this is the most conservative Cabinet he’s seen. Democrats take that as validation of their arguments.

    But in terms of broadly, beyond just the Cabinet, the Senate-confirmed positions, President Trump has named 34 people so far. That is just slightly behind pace of President Obama and ahead of the pace of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. So he’s not actually behind, despite many stories saying, oh, my gosh, he’s behind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Because you look at some of the numbers. You said 500 — you were telling us 515 awaiting confirmation, the 34 they have named, and 20 of them are still waiting.

    TAMARA KEITH: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, there is a lot of focus on these numbers. How much does it matter?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: I think there is the story about the process and then there’s the story about the perception.

    And I think that, as we learned from Tam, the process, he’s not that far off. If you look, again, academic studies, President Obama, by his first 100 days, only had about 17 percent of his appointees in. So, it’s not the pace that’s the problem. It’s the perception that there’s chaos here.

    Some of it is about the people that he’s chosen who have visions or views that are different from the president’s. Ideologically, we don’t really still know where the president is on a whole lot of issues, where his North Star is.

    And so, as you pointed out, today, you had the secretary of defense go to Iraq and say, I know that the president himself has said we’re going to come take your oil. Don’t worry.

    That’s one reason for that. The other is a lot of talk about this loyalty test, so-called loyalty test for people who want to be in high-level positions. Every president wants somebody that is loyal to them. There is nothing wrong or different about that.

    What is different, though, is that it seems to be taken to a level like we haven’t seen before. If you have written or said anything during the course of the campaign that was critical of Donald Trump, you are not going to be appointed or you may lose a job that you have been appointed for once they find out what you have actually said.

    So I think that’s what lends this idea that this is sort of a Cabinet or a process in chaos.

    TAMARA KEITH: And there were so many people in the so-called establishment, so the people that would be in line for these sorts of positions, that spoke out against Trump during the campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. There’s a lot of material out there to work with.

    But, Tam, he said at his news conference last week: I have gotten more accomplished in the first four weeks of my time in office than, he said, some presidents have done in their entire term.

    I think a lot of people thought that was hyperbole and let him get away with a little of that. But what has he accomplished? What have we seen? We have seen a few executive orders. Legislation is not there yet.

    TAMARA KEITH: Legislation is definitely not there yet.

    And at least one of those executive orders is on hold pending court action. And now President Trump, with the travel ban, is planning some time soon to do a new one that would get around some of the legal challenges.

    But, yes, things he has done, the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipeline, he signed that executive order. It’s not legislation, but it is that something that was on hold and is moving. So, there is a new president in town. He is able to do some things just simply by being there and by not being Barack Obama.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy?

    AMY WALTER: And there still is a legislative process to this. He wants to build a border wall, we have got to pay for that. It has to go through a legislative process to appropriate that money.

    You want to get rid of Obamacare? We know that there is a whole process legislatively that’s involved with that. So, he’s setting the ball rolling, but you still need Congress and, of course, the courts to go along with your procedures.

    The other piece of this — and I feel like a broken record, Judy — we have talked about this almost every time I’m on.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will forgive you. We don’t think you’re a broken record.

    AMY WALTER: But part of it, too, is the reason we’re not talking so much about what he’s done in three weeks is that he steps on his message more than anybody else does.

    Again, a more traditional president would come in and they would spend every single morning waking up and talking about the two or three or four issues they want to talk about. Instead, it’s attacks on the media. It’s tweets that go even above and beyond just simple attacks on the media, calling them an enemy of the people.

    And so the issue is, if he wants to talk about what he’s accomplished, he has to have the discipline, the president needs to have the discipline to focus on those issues day in and out and let the people around him not put out fires, but actually focus on talking about and pushing ahead on this agenda.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, he pulls out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal, for example, but we don’t hear — we’re not hearing …

    AMY WALTER: We hear a little bit about it, but there has to be a replacement, which is, he says: I’m going to do bilateral deals.

    OK. Let’s see what they look like. We still — look, we’re only a month in, but that’s what we have to look for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one thing you could argue he’s done, Tam, is stir up the anger and frustration of a lot of Democrats, or at least people who are opposed to him. We don’t know if they’re Democrats or Republicans.

    There was another one of those sets of protests today. We have got a map. In fact, around the country, there were a number of protests in cities. People called it the president’s — this is — Not My President’s Day.

    How much anti-Trump energy is there out there? And can we tell if this is something that has legs? Is it going to last?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, clearly, there is anti-Trump energy. There is also energy showing up at many of these town halls that members of Congress are having.

    I think that we don’t know, if it’s real, whether it’s the new Tea Party, whether it sticks. And, in part, we don’t know whether the Democratic Party is going to be able to capitalize on this energy because at the moment there is not really a leader of the Democratic Party. They’re in the middle of an election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

    AMY WALTER: Yes, I absolutely agree with that.

    And we have to watch and see where this energy goes. And for those folks who watched in 2009 these raucous town halls and said, well, it’s probably not going to be much of anything, obviously, that was proven wrong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Tea Party.

    AMY WALTER: All of — the Tea Party emerged in 2010.

    Donald Trump, all of his rallies, oh, well, maybe they’re not such a big deal. Clearly, underneath all of it, there was a great deal of energy for Donald Trump that we were able to physically see.

    But I agree with Tamara. We have got to see where this goes. The challenge for Democrats is not that they don’t have energy. They have a geography problem. And the states that they need to win in order to take control of the Senate or in order to win seats in the House, maybe even control Congress, are red states on the Senate side, and then states that are really — or districts that are really Republican.

    That’s the challenge. So, what we’re seeing is two sides really, really fired up. That doesn’t help Democrats. What Democrats need is to see Republicans become depressed and fall out of love with Donald Trump. That hasn’t happened.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The geography problem, you have written about this.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, great to see you both. Thank you.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Perhaps the biggest campaign promise President Trump has called for action on is building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Jean Guerrero of KPBS and the Fronteras desk — it’s a public media partnership — discovers crossing the border is already a dangerous journey, as she joins a group of immigrants patrolling vast swathes of desert from California to Arizona.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Marco Antonio Garcia vanished while crossing the border weeks ago. Maximo Garcia shows me a text message from a drug mule with a crucial clue about his missing grand-nephew.

    MAXIMO GARCIA, Relative of missing migrant: “Look for him in the coyote arroyo near the border, where there’s some fencing.”

    JEAN GUERRERO: A drug mule using Garcia’s phone said he’d found the young man’s body and phone in the Arizona desert. These men have volunteered to search for him.

    We are now starting our search for Marco Antonio.

    We drive into the desert, on our way to hike along one of the most dangerous smuggling routes near the U.S.-Mexico border.

    MAXIMO GARCIA (through interpreter): If we find him, it’s bad news for me. If we don’t find him, it’s bad news either way.

    JEAN GUERRERO: The volunteers prepare their gear for hours of walking in 100-degree heat. They stock up on water and ice. They call themselves Aguilas del Desierto, or Eagles of the Desert.

    They’re plumbers, farmers, construction workers. Most are immigrants who live in San Diego. They spend their weekends rescuing migrants or recovering their bodies as far away as Arizona.

    ELY ORTIZ, Founder, Aguilas del Desierto (through interpreter): So, their relatives will stop having uncertainty about, what happened to my relative to give them that peace.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Founder Ely Ortiz started the group after his own brother, Rigoberto, disappeared trying to enter the U.S. through here in 2009. His coyote, or human smuggler, confessed he’d abandoned Rigoberto during his last breaths.

    ELY ORTIZ (through interpreter): I would think, where’s my brother? What happened to him? How did he die? A thousand thoughts went through my head. And I told myself, I’m not going to leave my brother lying out there.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Ortiz called the Mexican consulates, Border Patrol and other agencies.

    ELY ORTIZ (through interpreter): I asked everyone for help, and nobody would help me.

    JEAN GUERRERO: So he went out on foot, with the help of human rights activist named Rafael Hernandez. Together, they found his brother’s body. It was closure for the Ortiz family.

    Inspired, Ortiz launched Aguilas del Desierto. He chose the name Aguilas because of the eagle’s powerful eyesight and wingspan. His volunteers walk into the desert. Some stay with the cars to rescue us if necessary.

    Ortiz reminds us not to lose sight of each other, for safety. Along the coyote arroyo, the earth is unusually fertile for a desert. It’s one of the most transited border routes precisely because there’s so much vegetation for cover. But that means it’s also impossible to follow Ortiz’s mandate to keep an eye on each other.

    There’s people to my left inside of the brush and to my right. Signs of migrants are everywhere, tossed Red Bulls, backpacks, dolls.

    Here’s a toy.

    And drug mules’ shoes with carpet strips on the bottom to cover tracks.

    There are all over the place.

    Most prevalent are these black gallon jugs, which smugglers sell as a sort of supernatural, strength-inducing water. I’m following a volunteer named Jose Genis. He says it’s hard to spot bodies in this area because of all the foliage. Dying migrants often crawl beneath trees seeking shade.

    JOSE GENIS, Volunteer: And it makes it difficult for us to find them because they kind of blend in, especially after a body has been decomposing.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Genis is a Navy veteran and a licensed EMT. On previous searches, he has found dehydrated migrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally. He has helped save their lives, treating them until Border Patrol could come take them to the hospital.

    JOSE GENIS: I feel American, but, at the same time, I have my roots from Mexico, so I try to help out as much as I can.

    JEAN GUERRERO: The heat is oppressive, even through the trees. There are snakes and scorpions and cattle skeletons. We keep losing each other. We repeatedly have to stop and regroup, finding each other by blowing whistles. We have to make it out before sunset, when smugglers inhabit this terrain. But we’re not covering nearly enough ground.

    JOSE GENIS: If anything, we have one-and-a-quarter miles.

    JEAN GUERRERO: We press on.

    Genis and I find a Bible crawling with insects. I wonder if the person who dropped it made it out of this desert alive. Hundreds of people die crossing the border each year from things like dehydration or hypothermia.

    In Arizona alone, the death count is astounding. Official figures exclude the countless bodies that are never found.

    Ev Meade of the Trans Border Institute says border deaths since the 1990s range as high as 10,000.

    EV MEADE, Trans Border Institute: Yes, this is a large number of people. And this is the kind of number we talk about when we talk about an armed conflict or a war.

    JEAN GUERRERO: He says the deaths are linked to U.S. border fence construction. Border crossing deaths were almost unheard of until the U.S. built long stretches of border fence in the ’90s.

    Today, about 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border are fenced, mostly around cities. This has forced migrants onto remote, dangerous routes through the desert, with its extreme temperatures.

    President Donald Trump has already signed a directive to start building a border wall.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to build the wall.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Meade says Trump’s wall could increase migrant deaths by funneling them onto still more dangerous crossing routes. Some are dying on the way.

    EV MEADE: We just really haven’t had a serious policy discussion or a public discussion about the humanitarian consequences of the building of the wall.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Back in the desert, we pass barbed-wire fencing. Could it be the fencing referred to in the text message? Suddenly, someone finds something. I scramble up a hill, following Genis.

    It might be him, but we don’t know.

    First, I see the skull. A few meters away are the legs, clothed in pants. The body has been torn apart by coyotes or some other animal. Genis says the body looks like it’s been decomposing for about a month. Marco Antonio disappeared a month ago.

    MAXIMO GARCIA, Volunteer (through interpreter): Unfortunately, we just found remains of a human being. We’re going to investigate to see if it’s him.

    JEAN GUERRERO: Garcia calls his relatives to tell them what we have found. The Aguilas get to work. They can’t touch the body. It could be a crime scene.

    They note the coordinates of the remains, which they will share with local police. Officials will pick up the body and take it to the medical examiner for DNA analyses.

    The men improvise a marker out of a balloon they find to help officials spot the body. Back at the vehicles, Garcia thanks the Aguilas for the search. He says they were the only people willing to help him.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jean Guerrero along the U.S.-Mexican border.

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    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Vice President Mike Pence give a statement after a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Vidal - RTSZIDQ

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Top members of the Trump administration have been traveling overseas to calm some raw nerves among U.S. allies. The main source of the concern? Comments from President Trump that led to worries in Europe and beyond about American commitments to longstanding alliances and institutions.

    John Yang has more.

    JOHN YANG: Vice President Pence spent his holiday weekend hard at work, trying to reassure nervous leaders in Europe that the United States has their back.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and, above all, the same purpose, to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

    JOHN YANG: In Brussels, the vice president underscored American support for NATO and for the European Union. President Trump has called NATO obsolete, and praised Britain’s decision to abandon the E.U.

    At a campaign-style rally in Florida this weekend, Mr. Trump seemed to soften his tone a bit, even as he called again for greater burden-sharing among the allies.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m a NATO fan. But many of the countries in NATO, many of the countries that we protect, many of these countries are very rich countries. They’re not paying their bills.

    JOHN YANG: Today, European Council President Donald Tusk welcomed the vice president’s reassurance, but appealed for unequivocal American support.

    DONALD TUSK, European Council President: Too many new, and sometimes surprising, opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common security for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.

    JOHN YANG: Separately, the head of NATO said he doesn’t believe America first means America alone.

    Republican Senator John McCain issued his own critique at the Munich security conference. Without naming the president, he wondered aloud what earlier leaders would have said.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.

    JOHN YANG: Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis made a stop in Iraq today. President Trump set off alarm bells there last month

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe we will have another chance.

    JOHN YANG: Today, Mattis walked it all back.

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I’m sure that we will continue to do so in the future. We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.

    JOHN YANG: Mattis also promised continued U.S. support for Iraq’s offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State.

    We turn now to Steven Erlanger, the London bureau chief for The New York Times.

    Steve, thanks for joining us.

    I should warn folks, I think we have got a little bit of a satellite delay here.

    But, Steve, how reassuring were these visits from the vice president, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state to the European leaders?

    STEVEN ERLANGER, The New York Times: Well, they were reassuring up to a point, but not that reassuring, because, after all, the president of the United States has very different views.

    And when the president of the United States says words, words matter. And you have this strange image of his major security officials and Cabinet officials running around telling everybody, actually, don’t listen to the president of the United States.

    And then two seconds later, the president tweets something or had that strange, rambling press conference, and everybody gets nervous once again, because everything seemed to be — you could turn everything upside down in a minute.

    So this is really the problem. I mean, Trump has surrounded himself with a lot of basically sensible, traditional security figures. He’s just done it again with McMaster. A lot of them are either businessmen, who don’t really know diplomacy, or they’re generals, who have a very strict notion of diplomacy, which usually starts with a gun.

    And they’re dealing with a whole network of European officials who are used to American leadership beginning from the top and American support for the idea of a Europe which is free, which has shared sovereignty, which is in America’s interests.

    I mean, Trump seems to talk, as far as they’re concerned, about every alliance being transactional, that it’s a debt to pay or a bill. NATO isn’t about bills. America’s part of NATO because it’s in America’s interests. And America does pay quite a lot, but it has Asian interests, it has lots of other defense interests.

    And, in fact, the Europeans are paying more. The price is less of an issue than the efficiency of the spending and the way it’s actually used, particularly in the face of new threats from Russia. And Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin shakes people a great deal, though they don’t like to talk about it. They don’t really understand it.

    But in the face of more aggressive Russia, of cyber-warfare, of fake news, of the misuse of social media — or the use of social media to undermine allied leaders like Angela Merkel or the British government or the European Union itself, these are really troubling things for people.

    So, it’s great for Vice President Pence to come and Jim Mattis to come and basically issue the kinds of platitudes that most American leaders and administrations have rarely had to do. But even those platitudes were greeted with some relief by people, though they do wait for the next Trump statement about some terrorist attack in Sweden that actually never happened or how NATO is somehow about paying bills and not about mutual defense.

    JOHN YANG: Steve, as you look across the European capitals, is there one country or one nation — or what nations are more concerned than others about what’s going on now with the Trump administration?

    STEVEN ERLANGER: Well, I would say right now it’s Germany, because Germany is in the middle of an election campaign that will climax in September.

    And Angela Merkel is running for a fourth term. And she has been weakened by the migrant crisis and simple fatigue. And yet she is the person who is most seen as the strongest figure in Europe, not just in terms of the power of Germany and the economy of Germany, but in standing up to Moscow and Putin over Ukraine and Crimea.

    She’s been crucial in keeping the sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea and current activities. And there is a sense in Germany that Trump, for whatever reason, doesn’t care for her. And he’s very much a lover of Brexit. There’s a suspicion that somehow his real sympathies are with the alternative right, and not with the people who are keeping Europe strong.

    JOHN YANG: Steve Erlanger with The New York Times, we have to leave it there.

    Steve, great to see you again.

    STEVEN ERLANGER: Thanks.

    The post How U.S. allies are responding to mixed messages of support appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced recent threats against Jewish community centers as “horrible” and “painful.” He said they are a “very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

    Watch Trump’s remarks at the museum in the player above.

    Trump made the remarks after touring the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

    “This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said.

    His comments about recent threats at Jewish community centers across the country marked the first time he had directly addressed a wave of anti-Semitism and followed a more general White House denouncement of “hatred and hate-motivated violence.”


    READ MORE: 5 important stories that were lost in last week’s news overload

    That statement, earlier Tuesday, did not mention the community center incidents or Jews. Trump “has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable,” that statement said.

    The FBI said it is joining with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate “possible civil rights violations in connection with threats” to the centers.

    On Monday, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, wrote on Twitter, “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers,” and used the hashtag #JCC. She converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 marriage to Jared Kushner. She joined her father at the African American museum tour.

    The White House was criticized by Jewish groups after issuing an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement last month that did not mention Jews.

    The post WATCH: Trump denounces ‘horrible’ threats against Jewish centers during visit to African-American history museum appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    (L-R) U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell listen to Vice President Mike Pence address the media during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia. Photo by   REUTERS/Mark Makela.

    (L-R) U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell listen to Vice President Mike Pence address the media during the 2017 “Congress of Tomorrow” Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia. Photo by REUTERS/Mark Makela.

    WASHINGTON — Add a potential government shutdown to President Donald Trump’s growing roster of headaches.

    Beneath the capital’s radar looms a vexing problem — a catchall spending package that’s likely to top $1 trillion and could get embroiled in the politics of building Trump’s wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a budget-busting Pentagon request.

    While a shutdown deadline has a few weeks to go, the huge measure looms as an unpleasant reality check for Trump and Republicans controlling Congress.

    READ MORE: 5 things to know about the incoming Republican Congress

    Despite the big power shift in Washington, the path to success — and averting a shuttering of the government — goes directly through Senate Democrats, whose votes are required to pass the measure. And any measure that satisfies Democrats and their new leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, is sure to alienate tea party Republicans. Trump’s determination to build his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border faces a fight with Democrats, too.

    For now, the new Democratic leader is cautious.

    “We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Schumer said. “I hope they won’t jam up the supplemental (spending bill) with poison pills.”

    At issue is the annual must-do legislation funding government agencies and departments. The path for the huge spending measure — by Republicans’ own choice a piece of leftover business from last year — would be difficult and complicated in a smoothly running Washington. But partisanship has engulfed the city, and the upcoming measure is made even more challenging once upcoming Trump requests for $18 billion or more for the Pentagon and money for his contentious border wall are added to the mix.

    READ MORE: Paul Ryan: Congress will pay billions for border wall

    For years, Republicans needed President Barack Obama’s signoff and relied on Democratic votes to pass the measures and balance out opposition from tea partyers.

    Trump’s election has shifted the balance of power in Washington, but the GOP’s grip on the Senate — where 60 votes are needed for most legislation — is actually weaker. Some House conservatives are demanding a round of budget cuts to “offset” new spending on the Pentagon and Trump’s wall.

    “If all of a sudden we’re not worried about pay-fors for our spending, then we have been hypocrites,” said tea party Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. “I’m not going to vote for anything that just increases spending without looking for a way to pay for that in the future.”

    That’s far easier said than done, especially with the budget year nearly half over. Democrats might accept the Pentagon funding — aimed at reversing what Pentagon hawks see as a slide in the military’s ability to prepare against new threats — even though it would unravel a hard-won 2015 budget pact. But they won’t stand for cuts to domestic programs to pay for it, and neither will more pragmatic Republicans.

    “I don’t think we’d be able to jam anything through that didn’t have some significant buy-in by Democrats,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said.

    Lawmakers face an April 28 deadline, which seems like plenty of time. The administration, however, is off to a slow start, just last Wednesday winning Senate confirmation of its budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who has his hands full with Trump’s broader budget submission for the upcoming year as well as plans for the supplemental Pentagon spending or the border wall

    It’s all complicated by the tumult surrounding Trump’s presidency, including his low approval ratings and vehement opposition from rank-and-file Democrats still stinging from Trump’s upset victory and his provocative travel ban.

    GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are eager to avert any shutdown. The most recent one, caused by House Republicans, came as tea party lawmakers insisted on a failed strategy of using shutdown threats as leverage to try to block implementation of Obama’s health care law.

    READ MORE: Senate passes stop-gap spending to avert government shutdown

    An end-of-April shutdown still seems unlikely. Neither Republicans nor Democrats want that. But a stumble is possible if Senate Democrats filibuster the measure over budget additions like the border wall with Mexico.

    And in the House, dysfunction is always possible, especially if conservatives shun the measure as they have with previous bipartisan versions of spending bills. That led top leaders like then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to turn to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, hat in hand, to get enough votes. Now, with Trump in the White House, House Democrats can’t be counted upon to help.

    “If they need Democratic votes, because some of their people will vote for nothing, as you well know, then we’ll have to talk,” Pelosi said. “But I fear that if they don’t need Democratic votes, the product would be something very horrible for the American people.”

    And there’s still the Senate, where Republicans hold a 52-48 edge, short of filibuster-proof 60.

    “So it doesn’t mean just because (Republicans) have a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate and now the White House that we can do anything we want,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said.

    The post In Trump’s future looms a familiar shutdown threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Corporate business meeting. HR manager. Human resources, raise, job hunt, salary negotiation, job search. Photo by Getty Images

    Corporate business meeting. HR manager. Human resources, raise, job hunt, salary negotiation, job search. Photo by Getty Images

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: Our office has undergone a review process, and we have all been offered promotions after going through interviews. When they notified me that I got it, I said I wasn’t going to accept until we worked out the salary.

    My boss met with me two days later. We both had figures in mind. I played hardball, and in the end, he agreed to the lower part of the range I was aiming for. We shook hands, and I accepted the job. He told me he would draw up the paperwork.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Should you tell a recruiter your salary?

    Two days later, he has now come back saying HR and senior management don’t agree with this salary. They think it’s too high. He has re-offered me the lower salary that I had previously turned down.

    Can they do this? Do I have any rights since my boss agreed to the salary and we shook hands? I’m not going to accept the promotion, and I feel very disheartened and annoyed. I hope you can help me, because our HR department isn’t helping. Thanks.

    Nick Corcodilos: I’m sorry to hear this — but it’s a story has become altogether too common. (See “I got a job promotion in writing, and then they took it back.”) Rescinded job offers are the number one complaint I get from readers now. That’s why I think we need to keep talking about it — perhaps employers will notice they’re doing damage to employees and to themselves.

    Either your company is disorganized and one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing … or this is a nasty form of bullying.

    Either your company is disorganized and one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing — top management and HR don’t talk to your boss until it’s too late — or this is a nasty form of bullying. It’s hard to tell which.

    Disorganization is when employers and bosses make commitments, then renege and claim someone else up the ladder nixed the offer. It’s irresponsible and unfair — but I don’t believe it’s illegal. You’d have to talk with an attorney to get the legal picture.

    It’s bullying if they’re playing a negotiating game. They offer a better job and get you excited after they agree to a salary. Once you’re hooked, they count on you not to reject a subsequent, lower offer, because you really want the new job. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s illegal either.

    You must ask yourself two things:

    • Will you be content, if not happy, at the lower salary?
    • Can you afford to say no and go find another job?

    I can’t answer those questions for you, though I can hear your dissatisfaction clearly. Still, I urge you to take a day or two to think about those two questions, because this is a big decision.

    Of course, you can agree to the final terms they’ve offered and still go find another job after you take the promotion. I don’t see any ethical problem with that. It’s a business decision, just like your company’s decision to revoke a commitment to you.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: I think my employer cheated me on salary

    But, if you take the lower offer and start a job search, my advice is to smile and say thanks. Do your job, but don’t let on that you’re starting a job search. That’s not sneaky; it’s necessary. And when you get to the point of an offer from another employer, be careful what you tell both employers — and when. See “Protect Your Job: Don’t give notice when accepting a new job.”

    I’m not surprised your HR department won’t help you. They must support the company’s position, though the HR manager must also grapple with how broken promises affect employee morale.

    Use your own best judgment, make a decision that’s best for you, and go from there. I’m really sorry they’ve put you in this position. I’d love to know what you decide and how this turns out.

    Dear Readers: Has a promotion or raise ever been pulled out from under you? Is it unethical for this reader to accept a reduced offer and then look for a new job?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: My boss gave me a promotion, but HR won’t agree to my raise. What now? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    “We have not yet reached the mountaintop. I am deeply grateful that it is my job to help us get there and to push every day as hard as I can so that we will,” Catherine Lhamon, the new chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says.

    Since President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, he has issued roughly two dozen executive orders and sent dozens more tweets.

    Many of those actions have dealt with issues of civil justice, which has made Catherine Lhamon’s introduction to her new job as the chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights eventful, to say the least.

    “It is our job on the commission to be the federal eyes and ears for every American every day on every issue that affects civil rights,” said Lhamon, who led the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights under the Obama administration. “That’s a daunting task but also an enormous privilege.”

    In her role, Lhamon wants the commission to identify and propose more U.S. civil rights policy recommendations, to respond to more civil rights complaints and to produce more reports that examine what progress has been made in expanding civil rights nationwide and what challenges remain.

    “We are in a present where we have not yet reached the mountaintop,” Lhamon told PBS NewsHour.

    The commission, established six decades ago by Congress, will convene Feb. 24 for its first meeting since Mr. Trump’s inauguration. The agenda includes testimony from Karen Korematsu, whose father, Fred Korematsu, was sent to an internment camp during World War II under an executive order issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps. Korematsu later challenged the federal government’s authority to round up and imprison citizens and residents solely based on their ethnic heritage.

    Lhamon says she will look to continue that fight as Trump cracks down on who can enter the country and how they are vetted.

    “I’m very grateful that the courts have stepped in to take appropriate action to make sure that we can satisfy our nation’s core democratic principles. That is democracy working well,” Lhamon says of the immigration ban.

    An early executive order from Trump that temporarily banned immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations was suspended by a federal court. But Lhamon says her office will be looking at any revisions Trump makes to that order going forward.

    “It is well within the commission’s mission to examine whether religious animus drives government action, to examine whether national origin discrimination drives government action, and to make recommendations for change,” Lhamon says.

    READ MORE: Immigration ban reveals a nation divided

    Trump is also cracking down on those living in the U.S. illegally. Immigrations Customs and Enforcements officials, under a new series of memos from the Department of Homeland Security, are more aggressively detaining those they believe to be undocumented immigrants. Recent raids conducted by ICE rounded more than 600 people in a week, though officials said those raids are no different than those carried out under President Barack Obama.

    Some of these actions, including an 8-year prison sentence for a woman accused of voter fraud earlier this month, have made people fearful, Lhamon says.

    The decision by a Texas judge to sentence Rosa Maria Ortega — a permanent resident who came to the United States as an infant — to eight years in prison for voter fraud can be seen by some as a political verdict, Lhamon said, one that could propel Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

    One of the reasons we continue to have issues getting people to the polls is fear, Lhamon says.

    Trump complained about voter fraud shortly after he took office. But the White House canceled an event that was supposed to launch that investigation, CNN reported; it has not rescheduled that event.

    If there’s voter fraud, the U.S. should protect against it. But research has shown that’s not the case. It’s “offensive and dangerous to suggest there is rampant voter fraud” in a country that still struggles to secure voter access to the polls.In 2016, fewer than two-thirds of eligible U.S. voters cast their ballots, according to the United States Elections Project.

    Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists worked to secure the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and wanted to see a world without poverty or war, said Clayborne Carson, who directs the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

    “King would be disappointed that so much of (our) energy is devoted to defending past civil rights gains rather than envisioning (and) expanding human rights throughout the world,” Carson wrote the NewsHour.

    Lhamon’s life is an outgrowth of that movement. Her African-American mother rode in the back of the bus and attended segregated schools. It was illegal to marry her husband, Lhamon’s white father, in the state of Virginia. Lhamon wants her own children grow up “in a more equal America.”

    “I am deeply grateful that it’s my job to help us get there,” she said.

    The post U.S. ‘has not yet reached the mountaintop,’ says new civil rights commission chair appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bao Bao, a female panda bear cub, is seen in the panda exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, in August 2014. Photo by David Galen/Smithsonian National Zoo

    Bao Bao, a female panda bear cub, is seen in the panda exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, in August 2014. Photo by David Galen/Smithsonian National Zoo

    One of the nation’s beloved giant pandas packed her bags and moved to China on Tuesday.

    Bao Bao, a female giant panda, was born and spent the first two years of her life at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

    Bao Bao has thrilled the American people since her birth, which was captured live on the Smithsonian National Zoo’s high-definition cameras in 2013. In the following days, audiences cheered on the healthy cub as it grew.

    The last and only time a D.C.-born panda cub survived for more than a few days was in 2005, when male panda Tai Shan entered the world. He was relocated to China five years later.

    China owns all giant pandas in the United States, part of a diplomatic gesture that, by some estimates, dates back to the 7th century.

    The pandas are on loan at the Smithsonian Zoo until the age of four. They are then relocated to China where they are placed into breeding programs as they reach sexual maturity.

    The giant panda population has grown, prompting an upgrade in its status from endangered to vulnerable last year, as The New York Times pointed out.

    Now, as we say “Bye, bye, Bao Bao,” here’s a look at some of her best moments in America:

    The 2013 government shutdown’s effect reached Bao Bao, whose camera was shut down. Here we saw her again for the first time in weeks.

    Bao Bao takes a nibble at her toes. Bao Bao shows off her flexibility in this clip.

    In 2014, Bao Bao goes outside for the first time.

    Bao Bao celebrates her first birthday with a Zhuazhou ceremony, when young ones are presented with gifts believed to foreshadow their future. Bao Bao received an ice cake.

    Bao Bao plays in the rain (and falls off a tree branch)

    Bao Bao’s first snow day.

    Bao Bao holds ice on a hot day in 2015.

    Bao Bao celebrates her second birthday — and becomes a big sister!

    Bao Bao turns 3!

    The post U.S. bids farewell to Bao Bao. Here’s a look at her best moments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Author and poet, Maya Angelou, poses for a portrait in Washington, D.C. in 1992. Photo by Dudley M. Brooks / The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Author and poet Maya Angelou poses for a 1992 portrait in Washington, D.C. Photo by Dudley M. Brooks / The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Back in 1988, Maya Angelou described to a predominantly white crowd in Salado, Texas, how a maid’s smile inspired one of her most enduring poems. She says she wrote it to honor a maid she once watched ride the bus in New York City.

    But it was the woman’s laugh that caught Angelou’s attention.

    The unnamed woman, who was carrying two shopping bags, laughed whenever the bus stopped abruptly. She also laughed when it stopped slowly.

    “I thought, hmmm, uh huh,” the poet told the crowd, verbalizing her internal thought process. Angelou, who was also an author, performer and activist, was a keen observer of the world around her.

    “Now, if you don’t know black features, you may think she’s laughing, but she wasn’t laughing,” Angelou continued. “She was simply extending her lips and making a sound — ha, ha, ha, ha.”

    “Oh, I see. That’s that survival apparatus,” she says.


    The scene appears early on in the PBS documentary “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” airing tonight as part of the “American Masters” series. The poet, who died in 2014 at age 86 before the completion of this film, recounts many of her life’s memories in the documentary. In several moments, Angelou is seen upending someone’s worldview.

    The reaction shots of the Texas audience, for example, are telling. People hang onto the cadence of her words. With this poem, Angelou invites them to empathize with the maid and Angelou’s recognition of the painful history that drives the motivation behind the woman’s laughs.

    Angelou demonstrates by widening her lips like a rubber band, resistant to keeping up the facade. And the laugh — the ha-has — grows increasingly desperate every time Angelou, with tears pooling in her eyes, mimics the maid’s hollowed laughs in her poem:

    “Seventy years in these folks’ world, The child I works for calls me ‘girl’.

    I say, “Ha, ha, ha, yes, ma’am,” for workin’s sake, I’m too proud to bend and too poor to break.

    So — ha, ha, ha, ha — I laugh until my stomach ache, when I think about myself.”

    Rita Coburn Whack, who co-directed and co-produced the documentary, said she’s seen Angelou recite the poem several times over the years, often times intermingling it with Paul Laurence Dunbar’s 1892 poem, “Masks.” Angelou often alluded to those masks as a form of survival for black people in America in her work, Whack said.

    “The mask was the two-facedness that black people had to have in the country to survive,” she told the NewsHour. “To grin and bear it, and then to bear the unbearable that this is who they were.”

    The maid’s story, excerpted in the documentary, is also embedded in a larger poem of Angelou’s, titled “For Old Black Men.” The poem describes fathers who “nod like broken candles” and who “laugh to shield their crying.”

    A year earlier, in another reciting of the poem, Angelou states it more plainly.

    “Black Americans, for centuries, were obliged to laugh when they’re weren’t tickled and to scratch when they didn’t itch,” she said.

    “I don’t think we often enough stop to wonder, ‘How did that black man feel?’ when his throat starts to ache … when you must cry, but you won’t,” she added.

    Video by YouTube user Pogmog

    The fact that this was not fair and there was nothing you could do about it was a common thread in Angelou’s work, Whack said. Recall the maid’s “too proud to bend and too poor to break” line.

    “The poem struck her very deeply because it wasn’t just the observation of the maid, but it was all of her life,” Whack said.

    The nearly two-hour documentary, airing tonight, is but a snapshot into a life and career that echoes moments from Angelou’s 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The film covers the poet’s treks to Africa, her performance as the White Queen in Jean Benet’s play “The Blacks,” and her work as a civil rights advocate, among other milestones.

    Interview subjects in the film also described Angelou as a “consummate performer,” who sang and danced long before she penned autobiographies. Special mention must be made for her time as a calypso singer in the 1950s when she adorned vinyl LPs as “Miss Calypso.”

    Video by YouTube user kaldurahm

    Most notable, perhaps, is when Angelou is heard speaking about growing up in the Jim Crow South in Stamps, Arkansas.

    “I was terribly hurt in this town, and vastly loved,” Angelou says in the film of her hard-won time spent there as a child.

    Her memories are punctuated with good times, too, often associated with her brother Bailey and her grandmother, who taught her to read. But Angelou also remembers how her grandmother, who owned the only black-owned store in Stamps, was disgraced when three white girls came to the store one day, stripped down nearly naked and showed themselves to her.

    “The atmosphere was pressed down with old fears,” Angelou said of the town in the documentary.

    Angelou was also raped — “I won’t say severely raped, all rape is severe,” Angelou once said — when she was nearly 8 years old, which she also discussed in “Caged Bird.” At the time, women, much less black women, didn’t talk openly about being raped.

    Photo by Ron Groeper

    Photo by Ron Groeper

    The film also delves into Angelou’s later involvement with civil rights advocacy, including work done with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

    Guy Johnson, Angelou’s son, described how his mother stood her ground when police rode into a 1960 protest on horseback.

    To deflate the police intimidation, she pulled out a huge hairpin and stuck it in a horse. The sergeant riding on top who fell off. Angelou believed that when you see things that are wrong, and don’t say something, nobody benefits, Whack said.

    Johnson, 71, said a five-part series would be needed to document his mother’s “gigantic life.” She has known “times of sadness and total depression,” but she realized that wasn’t “constructive,” he added.

    “If you want to do more than survive, if you want to thrive, you have to do so with grace, passion, compassion and joy,” Johnson told the NewsHour. And that meant speaking to the “common denominator of humanity,” he added.

    Angelou’s works spoke empathetically, as with the maid. They spoke personally, with Angelou mining her own life experiences. And they spoke universally.

    “She spoke from the black perspective because she knew that best, but she addressed to what was human in us all,” Johnson said. “And her message has to do with equality and justice for all human beings.”

    Johnson said his mother demonstrated this during his son’s fifth grade graduation. Angelou walked around the class and Johnson remembered her saying, “Somewhere, there’s someone graduating fifth grade who’s going to find the cure to cancer, going to find the cure to poverty, who’s going to be able to take us to the stars.”

    And then she turned around and said, “Why not you, young man? Why not you, young lady?”

    Angelou believed that “within the human being, there’s the capacity to solve all of our difficulties. If we give the total mental capacity of the species, if we allowed that to be realized, we could resolve everything,” Johnson said.

    Angelou communicated this when she wrote and publicly read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the first inauguration of former President Bill Clinton in 1993.

    Video by The Daily Conversation

    In that poem, she invoked the struggles of Native Americans and African Americans, among others, but sought to dwell on how “human beings are more alike than we are unlike.” Our differences, Angelou said, enriched humanity.

    Here on the pulse of this new day,
    You may have the grace to look up and out
    And into your sister’s eyes, into
    Your brother’s face, your country
    And say simply
    Very simply
    With hope
    Good morning.

    Watch the new documentary “American Masters — Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” which premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 21 on PBS. Check your local listings.

    The post Maya Angelou knew how a laugh could be a survival tool appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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