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

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    President-elect Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the media after a meeting with Pentagon officials at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the media after a meeting with Pentagon officials at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s choice to be secretary of the Navy, businessman Philip Bilden, said Sunday he was withdrawing from consideration for the post, citing concerns about privacy and separating himself from his business interests.

    Bilden’s withdrawal raises similar issues to that of Vincent Viola, Trump’s nominee for Army secretary who stepped aside earlier this month.

    Bilden was an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve from 1986-1996. He relocated to Hong Kong to set up an Asian presence for HarbourVest Partners LLC, a global private equity management firm. Bilden recently retired from HarbourVest Partners after 25 years.

    In a statement released by the Pentagon, Bilden said he determined that he would not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without what he called “undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement that he would make a recommendation to Trump for a nominee in the coming days.

    Viola cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defense Department rules concerning family businesses. A military veteran and former Airborne Ranger infantry officer, he was also the founder of several businesses, including the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial. He also owns the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and is a past chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

    This report was written by Ken Thomas of the Associated Press.

    The post Trump’s choice to be Navy secretary withdraws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In one of the final scenes of "Moonlight," actors Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland sit at a diner. Credit: Photo by David Bornfriend, courtesy of A24

    In one of the final scenes of “Moonlight,” actors Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland sit at a diner. Photo by David Bornfriend, courtesy of A24

    “Moonlight” won Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards, in a ceremony in which presenters and award recipients called for unity and pointed to the strength of diversity in the film industry on its biggest night of the year.

    “Moonlight,” which follows the story of a young boy grappling with life as a young, gay, black man growing up in the 1980s in a Miami housing project, won after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced that the award had gone to “La La Land.” Beatty said he had been handed the wrong card. Earlier in the evening, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award for his role in “Moonlight.” The film, which was nominated for eight categories total, also won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

    “Tonight is proof that art has no borders,” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told the audience at the awards, which were hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. “All creative artists around the world are connected by an unbreakable bond that is powerful and permanent.” “Tonight is proof that art has no borders.” — Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

    Kimmel, a first-time host of the awards ceremony, said in his opening monologue that although he was “not the man to unite this country… it can be done.” The late-night host suggested that every one of the millions watching the show reach out to someone they disagree with and “have a positive, considerate conversation — not as liberals or conservatives, as Americans.”

    Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, was absent from the ceremony in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.

    Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American engineer, read a statement from Farhadi while accepting the award on his behalf. “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” the statement read. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants into the U.S.”

    Filmmaking helps bridge the gaps caused by divisive rhetoric, the statement continued. “Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others, and empathy which we need today more than ever.”

    Other presenters and recipients echoed this sentiment and called for unity. While presenting the award for Best Animated Feature Film, Gael Garcia Bernal said that as a Mexican and migrant worker, he was “against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”

    “The White Helmets,” a documentary on the humanitarian group of the same name working to save lives amid war in Syria, won the award for Best Documentary, Short Subject. But Raed Al Saleh, head of the White Helmets, was not able to attend the ceremony after Syria revoked his passport, The Guardian reported.

    Orlando von Einsiedel, director of the film, read a statement from Saleh. “We’re so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world,” the statement said. “I invite anyone who hears me to work on the side of life.”

    In an emotional speech to accept the award for Actress in a Supporting Role, Viola Davis, who played the role of Rose Maxson in “Fences,” said the place that holds the most potential for storytelling is “the graveyard.”

    “People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’ And I say, ‘Exhume those bodies, exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost.’”

    “La La Land,” which starred Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a struggling jazz musician and actor working toward success in Hollywood, picked up several of the 14 awards for which it was nominated, including a win for Emma Stone for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Director. The film garnered acclaim by some critics even as others criticized it as tone-deaf, including Vogue contributing editor Michelle Ruiz, who said it “falls flat in the diversity department.”

    Another standout film from this year: “Hidden Figures,” the story of three black women who helped pioneer NASA’s space program. Octavia Spencer earned a nomination for Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan, and the film also received nods for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Katherine Johnson, real-life inspiration for “Hidden Figures,” joined its lead actors onstage to help present the award for Best Documentary Feature.

    After months of conversation around #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year added 683 new members, 46 percent of whom are female and 41 percent of whom are people of color. This year brought a record six nominations for black actors, even as other categories, such as Best Director, remain predominantly male and white.

    Read more of our coverage of the nominees as we go beyond the red carpet.

    The winners are listed in bold below.

    Best Picture
    “La La Land”
    “Moonlight”
    “Manchester by the Sea”
    “Arrival”
    “Fences”
    “Lion”
    “Hidden Figures”
    “Hacksaw Ridge”
    “Hell or High Water”

    Actress in a Leading Role
    Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
    Emma Stone, “La La Land”
    Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
    Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
    Ruth Negga, “Loving”

    Actor in a Leading Role
    Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
    Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
    Denzel Washington, “Fences”
    Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
    Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”

    Director
    Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
    Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
    Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
    Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
    Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”

    Actress in a Supporting Role
    Viola Davis, “Fences”
    Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
    Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
    Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
    Nicole Kidman, “Lion”

    Actor in a Supporting Role
    Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
    Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
    Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
    Dev Patel, “Lion”
    Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

    Best Documentary
    “O.J.: Made in America”
    “13th”
    “I Am Not Your Negro”
    “Fire at Sea”
    “Life Animate”

    Best Foreign Language Film
    “Toni Erdmann”
    “The Salesman”
    “Land of Mine”
    “A Man Called Ove”
    “Tanna”

    Best Animated Feature Film
    “Zootopia”
    “Kubo and the Two Strings”
    “Moana”
    “The Red Turtle”
    “My Life as a Zucchini”

    Best Adapted Screenplay
    “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins
    “Arrival,” Eric Heisserer
    “Lion,” Luke Davies
    “Fences,” August Wilson
    “Hidden Figures,” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

    Best Original Screenplay
    “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
    “Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
    “Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
    “The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
    “20th Century Women,” Mike Mills

    Best Original Song
    “How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
    “City of Stars,” “La La Land”
    “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
    “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” “Trolls”
    “The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”

    Best Original Score
    “La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
    “Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
    “Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
    “Jackie,” Mica Levi
    “Passengers,” Thomas Newman

    Best Cinematography
    “Moonlight,” James Laxton
    “La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
    “Arrival,” Bradford Young
    “Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto
    “Lion,” Greig Fraser

    Best Production Design
    “La La Land,” David Wasco
    “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Stuart Craig and James Hambidge
    “Arrival,” Patrice Vermette
    “Hail Caesar”
    “Passengers”

    Best Visual Effects
    “The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
    “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould
    “Doctor Strange,” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
    “Deepwater Horizon,” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
    “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff

    Best Costume Design
    “La La Land,” Mary Zophres
    “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Colleen Atwood
    “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Consolata Boyle
    “Jackie,” Madeline Fontaine
    “Allied,” Joanna Johnston

    Best Makeup and Hair Styling
    “Star Trek Beyond,” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
    “Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson
    “A Man Called Ove,” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

    Best Film Editing
    “La La Land,” Tom Cross
    “Moonlight,” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon
    “Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert
    “Arrival,” Joe Walker
    “Hell or High Water,” Jake Roberts

    Best Sound Editing
    “La La Land,” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
    “Hacksaw Ridge,” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
    “Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare
    “Sully,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
    “Deepwater Horizon,” Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

    Best Sound Mixing
    “La La Land,” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
    “Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
    “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
    “Arrival,” Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
    “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

    Best Short Film, Animated
    “Piper”
    “Pearl”
    “Borrowed Time”
    “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
    “Blind Vaysha”

    Best Short Film, Live Action
    “Timecode”
    “Sing (Mindenki)
    “Silent Nights”
    “Ennemis Interieurs”
    “La Femme et le TGV”

    Best Documentary, Short Subject
    “The White Helmets”
    “Extremis”
    “Watani: My Homeland”
    “4.1 Miles”
    “Joe’s Violin”

    The post At the Oscars, wins for ‘Moonlight’ and calls for art without borders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People wait outside the Internal Revenue Service office in the Brooklyn borough of New York in 2015. The GOP is preparing a tax overhaul that could eliminate some popular tax breaks.  Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

    People wait outside the Internal Revenue Service office in the Brooklyn borough of New York in 2015. The GOP is preparing a tax overhaul that could eliminate some popular tax breaks. Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

    WASHINGTON — When Republicans say they want to lower taxes and get rid of loopholes to make up the lost revenue, they’re talking about eliminating some very popular tax breaks enjoyed by millions of people.

    That’s why making big changes to tax laws is so hard — and why it hasn’t been done for 30 years.

    Unless Congress simply cuts taxes for everyone, there will be winners and losers, and the losers won’t go quietly. If Congress does cut taxes for everyone, lawmakers risk exploding an already large budget deficit.

    Republican leaders in the House and Senate say they don’t want a tax overhaul to add to the national debt. That’s what they mean when they say “revenue neutral.” The new system would raise the same amount of tax revenue as the old one, after taking into account some broader economic effects.

    President Donald Trump has said he will make public a tax proposal in the coming weeks. Republicans in Congress are also working on plans, with the House GOP taking the lead.

    Last year, House Republicans released a blueprint that would lower income tax rates and reduce the number of tax brackets. The gist of the plan is to lower tax rates for just about everyone, and make up the lost revenue by scaling back exemptions, deductions and credits.

    A look at the biggest tax breaks enjoyed by individuals, along with The Associated Press’ assessment of how safe they are as Congress works to overhaul taxes. All estimates are from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress.

    RETIREMENT SAVINGS

    Contributions to pension plans are tax-exempt, including defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s. This exemption saved taxpayers $180 billion in 2016, making it the biggest tax break for individuals.

    RATING: Safe.

    EMPLOYER-PROVIDED HEALTH INSURANCE

    Nearly half of all those in the United States get their health insurance from an employer. The value of those insurance policies is exempt from taxation, saving taxpayers $155 billion in 2016.

    Proposals to start taxing at least some health benefits are dividing House Republicans as they struggle to replace President Barack Obama’s health law. Some see it as another version of Obama’s “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health insurance, which has been delayed until 2020.

    RATING: In danger.

    CAPITAL GAINS AND DIVIDENDS

    Investors pay reduced tax rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, saving them $131 billion in 2016. The tax rate for investment income is 15 percent for most investors, though the very wealthy pay a top rate of 20 percent. The top tax rate on regular income is 39.6 percent.

    In 1986, President Ronald Reagan raised taxes on investments and used the revenue to dramatically reduce tax rates for regular income. Today, few Republicans embrace the idea of increasing taxes on investments.

    RATING: Safe, as long as Republicans are in charge.

    EARNED INCOME CREDIT
    Nearly 30 million families claimed the earned income tax credit in 2016, which targets low-income working families with children. They saved a total of $73 billion. Republicans like the credit because it rewards work. Democrats like it because it is one of the federal government’s largest anti-poverty programs.

    RATING: Safe, but there could be changes.

    STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

    More than 43 million families deducted their state and local income, sales and personal property taxes from their federal taxable income in 2016. The deductions reduced their federal tax bills by nearly $70 billion. More than 90 percent of taxpayers who itemize take advantage of this deduction. Nevertheless, the House Republican blueprint would repeal it to help pay for lower tax rates.

    RATING: In danger.

    MORTGAGE INTEREST

    Nearly 34 million families claimed the mortgage interest deduction in 2016, reducing their tax bills by $65 billion. Some economists say the deduction is an inefficient way to promote home ownership. But it has strong support among home owners and every industry associated with buying and building homes. Recognizing the political peril of targeting this deduction, the House GOP blueprint would keep it.

    RATING: Safe, but it could get a haircut for high-priced homes.

    CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS

    Nearly 36 million families claimed deductions for charitable contributions in 2016, reducing their tax bills by more than $57 billion. Most tax overhaul proposals, including the House GOP blueprint, would spare this deduction.

    RATING: Safe.

    CHILD TAX CREDIT

    More than 35 million families claimed the $1,000-per-child in 2016. They saved more than $54 billion.

    RATING: Safe. Some proposals would increase it.

    SOCIAL SECURITY AND RAILROAD RETIREMENT
    Most Social Security and railroad retirement benefits are not taxed, saving these people $40 billion in 2016. Individuals with a combined income below $25,000 do not have to pay taxes on Social Security. The income threshold for married couples is $32,000.

    RATING: Safe.

    PROPERTY TAXES

    Nearly 35 million families deducted their taxes on their home or other real estate from their federal taxable income in 2016. They saved a total of $33 billion. This deduction makes it easier for school districts to raise money from property taxes. It is, however, targeted for elimination in the House GOP blueprint.

    RATING: In danger.

    The post These tax breaks could be affected by the GOP’s tax overhaul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Trump on Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by  REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool.

    Former U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Trump on Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool.


    WASHINGTON — Former President George W. Bush said Monday “we all need answers” on the extent of contact between President Donald Trump’s team and the Russian government, and didn’t rule out the idea that a special prosecutor could be necessary to lead an investigation.

    The Republican also defended the media’s role in keeping world leaders in check, noting that “power can be addictive,” and warned against immigration policies that could alienate Muslims.

    “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law,” Bush told NBC’s “Today” show.

    Bush’s comments came after a prominent Republican in Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, called for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and was in touch with Trump’s top advisers during the campaign.

    What we know about US investigations into Russia and possible ties to Trump’s campaign

    Bush said he would trust Senate Intelligence panel Chairman Richard Burr to decide if a special prosecutor is necessary.

    But, Bush added, “I think we all need answers … I’m not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.”

    Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during the Sept. 24 dedication of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. In an interview with NBC's "Today" show Feb. 27, Bush said more information is needed about Russia and its possible connections to President Donald Trump's presidential campaign.    Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during the Sept. 24 dedication of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show Feb. 27, Bush said more information is needed about Russia and its possible connections to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    The former president, who is promoting a book of his paintings of wounded veterans, also took issue with Trump’s characterization of the media as an “enemy of the people.” Bush said the U.S. won’t be able to convince authoritarian governments, including Russia, to open up their governments to media scrutiny if U.S. leaders try to discredit their own press.

    “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account,” Bush said. “Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

    On the issue of immigration and Trump’s recent attempt to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, Bush warned that if the U.S. freezes out other countries and turns inward, that would only make it more difficult to fight the Islamic State group and other foreign extremists.

    “I think it’s very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we’re in retreat,” he said.

    The post George W. Bush: ‘We all need answers’ on Trump and Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)  is among the Republicans who have made the case for high risk pools. Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is among the Republicans who have made the case for high risk pools. Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images.

    Some Republicans looking to scrap the Affordable Care Act say monthly health insurance premiums need to be lower for the individuals who have to buy insurance on their own. One way to do that, GOP leaders say, would be to return to the use of what are called high-risk insurance pools, for people who have health problems.

    But critics say even some of the most successful high-risk pools that operated before the advent of Obamacare were very expensive for patients enrolled in the plans, and for the people who subsidized them — which included state taxpayers and people with employer-based health insurance.

    Craig Britton of Plymouth, Minn., once had a plan through Minnesota’s high-risk pool. It cost him $18,000 a year in premiums.

    Britton was forced to buy the expensive coverage because of a pancreatitis diagnosis. He called the idea that high-risk pools are good for consumers “a lot of baloney.”

    “That is catastrophic cost,” Britton said. “You have to have a good living just to pay for insurance.”


    The argument in favor of high-risk pools goes like this: Separate the healthy people, who don’t cost very much to insure, from people who have preexisting medical conditions, such as a past serious illness or a chronic condition. Under GOP proposals, this second group, which insurers expect to use more medical care, would be encouraged to buy health insurance through high-risk insurance pools that are subsidized by states and the federal government.

    Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made the case for high-risk pools on public television’s “Charlie Rose” show in January.

    “By having taxpayers, I think, step up and focus on, through risk pools, subsidizing care for people with catastrophic illnesses, those losses don’t have to be covered by everybody else [buying insurance], and we stabilize their plans,” Ryan told the TV host.

    Minnesota’s newest congressman, Rep. Jason Lewis, a Republican representing Burnsville and Bloomington, recently endorsed high-risk pools on CNN.

    “Minnesota had one of the best … high-risk insurance pools in the country,” Lewis said. “And it was undone by the ACA.”

    It’s true that the Affordable Care Act banned states’ use of high-risk pools, including the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association, or MCHA. But that’s because the MCHA was no longer needed, the association’s website explains; the federal health law requires insurers to sell health plans to everybody, regardless of their health status.

    Supporters of the MCHA approach tout a return to it as a smart way to bring down the cost of monthly premiums for most healthy people who need to buy insurance on their own. But MCHA had detractors, too.

    “It’s not cheap coverage to the individual, and it’s not cheap coverage to the system,” said Stefan Gildemeister, an economist with Minnesota’s health department.

    MCHA’s monthly premiums cost policyholders 25 percent more than conventional coverage, Gildemeister pointed out, and that left many people uninsured in Minnesota.

    “There were people out there who had a chronic disease or had a preexisting condition who couldn’t get a policy,” Gildemeister said.

    And for the MCHA, even the higher premiums fell far short of covering the full cost of care for the roughly 25,000 people who were insured by the program. It needed more than $173 million in subsidies in its final year of normal operation.

    That money came from fees collected from private insurance plans — which essentially shifted a big chunk of the cost of insuring people in the MCHA program to people who get their health insurance through work.

    Gildemeister ran the numbers on what a return to MCHA would cost. Annual high-risk pool coverage for a 40-year-old would cost more than $15,000 a year, he says. The policyholder would pay about $6,000 of that, and subsidies would cover the more than $9,000 remaining.

    The big question is whether lawmakers will balk at the cost of keeping premiums down for consumers — whatever the approach, Blewett said.

    University of Minnesota health policy professor Lynn Blewett said there is a better alternative than a return to high-risk pools. It’s called “reinsurance.” In that approach, insurers pay into a pool that the federal government administers, using the funds to compensate health plans that incur unexpectedly high medical costs. It’s basically an insurance program for insurers.

    The big question is whether lawmakers will balk at the cost of keeping premiums down for consumers — whatever the approach, Blewett said.

    “The rub is, where that funding is going to come from?” she said. “And is the federal government or the state government willing to put up the funding needed to make some of these fixes?”

    The national plan Ryan has proposed would subsidize high-risk pools with $25 billion of federal money over 10 years. The nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund estimates the approach could cost U.S. taxpayers much more than that — almost $178 billion a year.

    Researchers at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company say reinsurance would likely cost about a third of what the high-risk pool option would.

    This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with Minnesota Public Radio and Kaiser Health News. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Drowning in a ‘high-risk insurance pool’ — at $18,000 a year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump will make his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

    President Trump will begin his remarks around 9 p.m. EST. Watch on this page.

    Trump will stride down the center aisle to lusty cheers and hearty handshakes from his Republican supporters. First lady Melania Trump, accompanied by special guests, will smile from the gallery above.

    From there, though, the president who favors disruption over decorum can take the night in any number of directions. So can the Democrats who oppose him.

    The White House is promising that Trump’s first address to Congress will be a forward-looking one about the “renewal of the American spirit.”

    The speech offers Trump an opportunity to stand before millions of viewers around the United States and the world, and try to reframe his presidency after a chaotic opening in which he’s rattled world leaders, railed against leaked information, engaged in open warfare with the press and seen his signature effort to halt some immigration thwarted by the courts. He probably will stress early achievements such as his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and a series of executive orders to rein in government.

    Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery.

    In a Monday meeting with the nation’s governors, Trump said his address to Congress will also include a “big statement” on his plans to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges. He said he’ll also provide more details on his plans to rebuild the military. Trump said he wants to overhaul the nation’s tax system but it’s a “tiny little ant” compared to what he has to do with Obamacare.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Donald Trump’s address to Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new survey of children ages 13 to 17 conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research  finds that America's teens are almost as politically disillusioned and pessimistic about the nation's divisions as their parents. Photo by REUTERS/Adrees Latif.

    A new survey of children ages 13 to 17 conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that America’s teens are almost as politically disillusioned and pessimistic about the nation’s divisions as their parents. Photo by REUTERS/Adrees Latif.

    PORTLAND, Ore. — In the days after President Donald Trump’s election, thousands of teenagers across the nation walked out of class in protest. Others rallied to his defense.

    It was an unusual show of political engagement from future voters who may alter America’s political landscape in 2020 — or even in next year’s midterm elections.

    Now, a new survey of children ages 13 to 17 conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research with the permission of their parents finds that America’s teens are almost as politically disillusioned and pessimistic about the nation’s divisions as their parents. The difference? They aren’t quite as quick to write off the future.

    Eight in 10 feel that Americans are divided when it comes to the nation’s most important values and 6 in 10 say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

    READ MORE: Immigration ban reveals a nation divided

    Nyles Adams, a 14-year-old from New York City, was in kindergarten when Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s first black president. Adams, the grandson of Trinidadian immigrants, remembers watching the inauguration on TV and talking with his mother about the particular significance of Obama’s election for his black, immigrant family.

    Now, with Trump as president, he feels America’s best days are behind it, and the nation will be worse off in 40 years. Yet like 57 percent of his peers, he is still optimistic about the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

    “Sometimes it does get you down, but I try not to focus on it too much because I see myself as someone who despite all the odds that are against me, I’m still going to prevail,” he said.

    That youthful optimism is hard to crush. While rates vary by race, 56 percent of all teens surveyed believe America’s best days are ahead, compared with the 52 percent of adults in an AP-NORC poll conducted in June 2016 who said the nation’s best days are behind it.

    But like adults, the poll reveals deep divisions along familiar lines.

    Just 16 percent of teens feel the federal government is doing a good job promoting the well-being of all Americans, and not just special interests. Fewer than 2 in 10 teens surveyed feel the federal government is doing a good job representing most Americans’ views.

    Just a quarter of teens say they have a lot in common with people of different political views. Three in four already have a party preference, including 29 percent who say they’ll be Democrats, 23 percent Republicans and 24 percent independent or another party. Less than one-third have a favorable impression of Trump, but only slightly more think well of Hillary Clinton.

    Elijah Arredondo, a second-generation Mexican-American from La Habra, California, disliked both major party candidates but is now worried about his family under Trump.

    His mother signed up for the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has promised to dismantle and replace.

    “I feel like anyone can achieve the American Dream, but for some people it’s a lot harder for them to do, so these things help people,” he said.

    Caroline Millsaps, of Garner, North Carolina, describes herself as a liberal Democrat and says climate change and women’s rights are her top political concerns. Last year, she took time away from her busy competitive dance schedule to attend two Bernie Sanders rallies with her mother.

    Like 40 percent of teens surveyed, she feels she has a “moderate” amount in common with people of different political views.

    “I always watch Fox News to get a different perspective, and I have some friends who support Trump and so I’ll ask them, ‘What is your opinion on this?'” she said. “I try to see both sides of the situation and see which side fits my view best.”

    Millsaps, 16, talks about politics daily with her parents and that has strongly influenced her views.

    READ MORE: The very real consequences of fake news stories and why your brain can’t ignore them

    Nearly 40 percent of teens surveyed said they did the same at least weekly and, like Millsaps, those talks seem to sway them. A majority of respondents said they agree with their parents’ political views most of the time. Only 3 percent disagree most of the time.

    Sophie Svigel, 17, attends a private Christian school in Dallas and identifies herself as a conservative Republican. She talks to her Republican parents about politics and almost always agrees with them, but is also heavily influenced by her faith-based school, she said.

    “I feel like a lot of the bad things that are going on are not really spoken of and are hidden,” she said. “I feel like the politicians and people in politics speak very vaguely about the problems that we’re facing.”

    That cynicism echoes in the AP-NORC poll. Just 16 percent of teens feel the federal government is doing a good job promoting the well-being of all Americans, and not just special interests. Fewer than 2 in 10 teens surveyed feel the federal government is doing a good job representing most Americans’ views.

    Jessi Balcon, from Bend, Oregon, has tried to fight that cynicism by pouring her energy into delivering food to homeless people and engaging in open-minded debate with those whose politics are different from hers. Nine in 10 teens say they have participated in civic activities like volunteering or raising money for a cause.

    “It’s not you versus me, it’s us versus the problem and the problem isn’t other people,” said Balcon, 17, a Green Party supporter.

    “There are a lot of really big problems that we need to solve, but I think that getting angry is the worst thing that we can do,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what side of politics they’re on, conservative or liberal. I don’t want to hate anyone.”

    The AP-NORC poll of 790 teenagers age 13-17 was conducted online and by phone Dec. 7-31, 2016. A sample of parents with teenage children was drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Parents gave permission for their children to be interviewed. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.


    Associated Press Polling Editor Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Teens disillusioned by politics—but aren’t as quick as their parents to write off the future, study says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In the 83 years accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has handled the balloting and award envelopes for the Oscars, it says there had never been a major mistake. Until last night, when presenter Warren Beatty was mistakenly given the wrong envelope, leading him to initially announce “La La Land” as the winner of best picture instead of “Moonlight.”

    Beatty later said he had been given a card that said “Emma Stone, La La Land” — a duplicate of the card used earlier to announce best actress. Confused, he and co-presenter Faye Dunaway announced “La La Land” the winner.

    PwC, one of the Big Four professional service firms, apologized Monday morning for the error. In a statement emailed to NewsHour, it said “the presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope” and that the firm was “currently investigating how this could have happened.”

    Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan, said that while “it’s a mistake anybody can make, it’s not a mistake you pay your accountants to make.”

    “Accountants are supposed to set up systems that don’t fail,” he said.

    The system behind the Oscars envelopes is an intense and secretive one. In an Academy blogpost on Medium earlier this month, PwC shed some light on the process. It begins with the counting of the Oscars ballots, which come in from more than 6,000 Academy members. The ballots can be cast on paper or online, but the counting happens all on paper, a task divided among multiple PwC team members so no one can know the actual total. No one, that is, except PwC lead partners Martha L. Ruiz and Brian Cullinan. They were the two people tasked with overseeing this year’s process — from physically putting the winning cards in the envelopes to safeguarding them in briefcases until they were given to the Oscar presenter. Ruiz and Cullinan have both performed the task before.

    Ruiz and Cullinan also said they memorize all the winners, so names do not need to be written down again.

    “We check things dozens of times, recounts and double-checks,” Cullinan wrote in the blog post.

    On the big night, Ruiz and Cullinan travel to the show with their envelopes in briefcases, riding in separate cars and on separate routes, according to the BBC. But what’s perhaps most interesting is, for security purposes, both briefcases contain two copies of every envelope — which explains how there could have been two sets of the best actress cards Sunday night.

    In the post, Cullinan explained he and Ruiz “stand on opposite sides of the stage, right off-screen, for the entire evening, and we each hand the respective envelope to the presenter. It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope.”

    Last week, in a Huffington Post piece that explored what would happen if a wrong name was read at the Oscars, Ruiz insisted there were stringent checks in place to make sure that didn’t happen. “It’s him checking me and me checking him, and we do it multiple times against each other to make sure that when we leave and are ultimately handing the envelopes to someone, we’re very confident they’re getting the right envelopes and the contents in them are accurate,” she said.

    In that piece, Cullinan and Ruiz also said if a presenter ever declared a false winner, they would alert the nearest stage manager, who would then inform the show’s producers. On Sunday night, that communication process took a long time, with three producers of “La La Land” making acceptance speeches before the error was corrected. After people with headsets came on stage, along with Cullinan, to check the envelopes, it was “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz who ultimately made the announcement that his film had not won.

    “Guys, guys, I’m sorry, no,” he said. “There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”

    The implications for PwC could be serious and long-lasting, Gordon says, though he added the caveat that changing accountants was expensive; the biggest hit to the company could be its ability to attract new business.

    “Public companies pay PwC and other accounting firms a fortune to certify that the companies have sufficient internal controls,” he said. And in perhaps the most viewed event besides the Super Bowl, “they didn’t have a system to make sure the best picture envelope is the right envelope.”

    For now, it’s dealing with Sunday’s fallout. On Monday, there were reports that PwC executives were seen in crisis meetings, as critical comments rolled in online, mostly variants on the theme that the accounting firm had just one job to do. PwC’s work on the next year’s Oscars typically begins in March.

    The post Inside the secret process that’s supposed to prevent an Oscars mishap appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A boy, who just fled a village controlled by Islamic State fighters cries as he sits with his family inside a bus before heading to the camp at Hammam Ali south of Mosul, Iraq February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSZWFU

    Photo by Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

    A boy, who just fled a village controlled by Islamic State fighters, cries on Feb. 22, 2017 as he sits with his family inside a bus before heading to a camp at Hammam Ali south of Mosul, Iraq.

    READ: As fighting worsens in Mosul, aid groups struggle to help those who choose to stay

    MORE: Conditions deteriorate in west Mosul as Iraqi advances slow

    The post Photo: Fleeing the Islamic State for a camp outside Mosul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Travis County residents vote at a shopping mall in north Austin, Texas. An attorney for a voting rights group said Monday that President Donald Trump's administration said that the federal government no longer plans to challenge Texas' strict voter ID law. Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images.

    Travis County residents vote at a shopping mall in north Austin, Texas. An attorney for a voting rights group said Monday that President Donald Trump’s administration said that the federal government no longer plans to challenge Texas’ strict voter ID law. Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images.

    AUSTIN, Texas — An attorney for a voting rights group said Monday that President Donald Trump’s administration said that the federal government no longer plans to challenge Texas’ strict voter ID law.

    Danielle Lang, of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, said the Justice Department informed plaintiffs in the case that it will be filing documents to formally drop its opposition to the Texas law. She called the decision an “extraordinary disappointment.”

    “It’s a complete 360,” said Lang, the center’s deputy director of voting rights. “We can’t make heads or tails of any factual reason for the change. There has been no new evidence that’s come to light.”

    READ MORE: How Texas’ voter ID law landed it in federal court — again

    The move marks a stark reversal under new Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the Obama White House, which joined a lawsuit against Texas in 2013. The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

    A federal appeals court last year ruled that the Texas law discriminated against minorities and the poor, and it ordered changes ahead of the November election.

    The Justice Department joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week in seeking a delay in the case until summer. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who is presiding over the case, turned down the request.

    The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification to cast a ballot. It was softened in August to allow people without a driver’s license or other photo ID to sign an affidavit declaring that they have an impediment to obtaining required identification.

    The post White House won’t challenge Texas voter ID law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a "strategic initiatives" lunch Feb. 22 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a “strategic initiatives” lunch Feb. 22 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — The White House says President Donald Trump’s upcoming budget will propose a whopping $54 billion increase in defense spending and impose corresponding cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid. The result is that Trump’s initial budget wouldn’t dent budget deficits projected to run about $500 billion.

    White House budget officials outlined the information during a telephone call with reporters Monday given on condition of anonymity. The budget officials on the call ignored requests to put the briefing on the record, though Trump on Friday decried the use of anonymous sources by the media.

    Trump’s defense budget and spending levels for domestic agency operating budgets will be revealed in a partial submission to Congress next month, with proposals on taxes and other programs coming later.

    The increase of about 10 percent for the Pentagon would fulfill a Trump campaign promise to build up the military. The senior budget official said there will be a large reduction in foreign aid and that most domestic agencies will have to absorb cuts. He did not offer details, but the administration is likely to go after longtime Republican targets like the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The tentative proposals for the 2018 budget year that begins Oct. 1 are being sent to agencies, which will have a chance to propose changes.

    OMB director Mick Mulvaney speaks to the press Feb. 27 about the budget proposal.

    In Congress, Democrats and some Republicans are certain to resist the cuts to domestic agencies, and any legislation to implement them would have to overcome a filibuster threat by Senate Democrats. A government shutdown is a real possibility.

    “It is clear from this budget blueprint that President Trump fully intends to break his promises to working families by taking a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle class,” said Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York. “A cut this steep almost certainly means cuts to agencies that protect consumers from Wall Street excess and protect clean air and water.”

    The White House says Trump’s budget also won’t make significant changes to Social Security or Medicare.

    The president told American governors at the White House on Monday that “we’re going to make it easier for states to invest in infrastructure” and that, overall, “we’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people.”

    Trump’s first major fiscal marker is landing in the agencies one day before his first address to a joint meeting of Congress. For Trump, the prime-time speech is an opportunity to refocus his young presidency on the core economic issues that were a centerpiece of his White House run.

    READ MORE: How plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act could affect Medicare

    The upcoming submission covers the budget year starting on Oct. 1. But first there’s an April 28 deadline to finish up spending bills for the ongoing 2017 budget year, which is almost half over. Any stumble or protracted battle there could risk a government shutdown as well.

    The March budget plan is also expected to include an immediate infusion of 2017 cash for the Pentagon that’s expected to register about $20 billion or so, and to contain the first wave of funding for Trump’s promised border wall and other initiatives like hiring immigration agents.

    The president previewed the boost in military spending during a speech Friday to conservative activists, pledging “one of the greatest buildups in American history.”

    “We will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything, bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” he said.

    In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said cuts to Social Security and Medicare would not be part of the administration’s first budget. Trump’s priority is passing legislation to reduce middle-class and corporate taxes, he said.

    As a candidate, Trump promised to leave major entitlements untouched, breaking with some Republican leaders who believe the costly programs need to be reformed.

    By increasing defense and leaving Medicare and Social Security untouched, the Trump budget plan is sure to project sizable deficits. In the campaign Trump promised huge tax cuts, but top GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin don’t want this year’s tax reform drive to add to the budget deficit.

    The post Trump budget will hike defense spending by $54 billion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A reveler catches a pair of beads as members of the Krewe of Thoth parade down St. Charles Avenue the weekend before Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Louisiana March 6, 2011. Photo by Sean Gardner/REUTERS

    A reveler catches a pair of beads as members of the Krewe of Thoth parade down St. Charles Avenue the weekend before Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Louisiana March 6, 2011. Photo by Sean Gardner/REUTERS

    Shiny, colorful bead necklaces, also known as “throws,” are now synonymous with Mardi Gras.

    Even if you’ve never been to the Carnival celebrations, you probably know the typical scene that plays out on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street every year: Revelers line up along the parade route to collect beads tossed from floats. Many try to collect as many as possible, and some drunken revelers will even expose themselves in exchange for the plastic trinkets.

    But the celebratory atmosphere couldn’t be more different from the grim factories in the Fujian province of China, where teenage girls work around the clock making and stringing together the green, purple and gold beads.

    I’ve spent several years researching the circulation of these plastic beads, and their life doesn’t begin and end that one week in New Orleans. Beneath the sheen of the beads is a story that’s far more complex – one that takes place in the Middle East, China and the United States, and is symptomatic of a consumer culture built on waste, exploitation and toxic chemicals.

    ‘The same thing over and over’

    The Mardi Gras bead originates in Middle Eastern oil fields. There, under the protection of military forces, companies mine the oil and petroleum, before transforming them into polystyrene and polyethelene – the main ingredients in all plastics.

    The plastic is then shipped to China to be fashioned into necklaces – to factories where American companies are able to take advantage of inexpensive labor, lax workplace regulations and a lack of environmental oversight.

    It’s estimated that up to 920,000 pounds of mixed chlorinated and brominated flame retardants were in the beads.

    I traveled to several Mardi Gras bead factories in China to witness the working conditions firsthand. There, I met numerous teenagers, many of whom agreed to participate in the making of my documentary, “Mardi Gras: Made in China.”

    Among them was 15-year-old Qui Bia. When I interviewed her, she sat next to a three-foot-high pile of beads, staring at a coworker who sat across from her.

    I asked her what she was thinking about.

    “Nothing – just how I can work faster than her to make more money,” she replied, pointing to the young woman across from her. “What is there to think about? I just do the same thing over and over again.”

    I then asked her how many necklaces she was expected to make each day.

    “The quota is 200, but I can only make close to 100. If I make a mistake, then the boss will fine me. It’s important to concentrate because I don’t want to get fined.”

    At that point the manager assured me, “They work hard. Our rules are in place so they can make more money. Otherwise, they won’t work as fast.”

    It seemed as if the bead workers were treated as mules, with the forces of the market their masters.

    Hidden dangers

    In America, the necklaces appear innocent enough, and Mardi Gras revelers seem to love them; in fact, 25 million pounds get distributed each year. Yet they pose a danger to people and the environment.

    In the 1970s, an environmental scientist named Dr. Howard Mielke was directly involved in the legal efforts to phase out lead in gasoline. Today, at Tulane University’s Department of Pharmacology, he researches the links between lead, the environment and skin absorption in New Orleans.

    25 million pounds get distributed each year. Photo by Sean Gardner/REUTERS

    25 million pounds get distributed each year. Photo by Sean Gardner/REUTERS

    Howard mapped the levels of lead in various parts of the city, and discovered that the majority of lead in the soil is located directly alongside the Mardi Gras parade routes, where krewes (the revelers who ride on the floats) toss plastic beads into the crowds.

    Howard’s concern is the collective impact of the beads thrown each carnival season, which translates to almost 4,000 pounds of lead hitting the streets.

    “If children pick up the beads, they will become exposed to a fine dusting of lead,” Howard told me. “Beads obviously attract people, and they’re designed to be touched, coveted.”

    And then there are the beads that don’t get taken home. By the time Mardi Gras is over, thousands of shiny necklaces litter the streets, and partiers have collectively produced roughly 150 tons of waste – a concoction of puke, toxins and trash.

    Independent research on beads collected from New Orleans parades has found toxic levels of lead, bromine, arsenic, phthalate plasticizers, halogens, cadmium, chromium, mercury and chlorine on and inside the beads. It’s estimated that up to 920,000 pounds of mixed chlorinated and brominated flame retardants were in the beads.

    A thriving waste culture

    How did we get to the point where 25 million pounds of toxic beads get dumped on a city’s streets every year? Sure, Mardi Gras is a celebration ingrained in New Orleans’ culture. But plastic beads weren’t always a part of Mardi Gras; they were introduced only in the late 1970s.

    From a sociological perspective, leisure, consumption and desire all interact to create a complex ecology of social behavior. During the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, self-expression became the rage, with more and more people using their bodies to experience or communicate pleasure. Revelers in New Orleans started flashing each other in return for Mardi Gras beads at the same time the free love movement became popular in the U.S.

    A bulldog stands by discarded beads during Mardi Gras festivities February 8, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

    A bulldog stands by discarded beads during Mardi Gras festivities February 8, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

    The culture of consumption and ethos of self-expression merged perfectly with the production of cheap plastic in China, which was used to manufacture disposable commodities. Americans could now instantly (and cheaply) express themselves, discard the objects and later replace them with new ones.

    When looking at the entire story – from the Middle East, to China, to New Orleans – a new picture comes into focus: a cycle of environmental degradation, worker exploitation and irreparable health consequences. No one is spared; the child on the streets of New Orleans innocently sucking on his new necklace and young factory workers like Qui Bia are both exposed to the same neurotoxic chemicals.

    How can this cycle be broken? Is there any way out?

    In recent years, a company called Zombeads have created throws with organic, biodegradable ingredients – some of which are designed and manufactured locally in Louisiana. That’s one step in the right direction.

    What about going a step further and rewarding the factories that make these beads with tax breaks and federal and state subsidies, which would give them incentives to sustain operations, hire more people, pay them fair living wages, all while limiting environmental degradation? A scenario like this could reduce the rates of cancers caused by styrene, significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and help create local manufacturing jobs in Louisiana.

    Unfortunately, as Dr. Mielke explained to me, many are either unaware – or refuse to admit – that there’s a problem that needs to be dealt with.

    “It’s part of the waste culture we have where materials pass briefly through our lives and then are dumped some place,” he said. In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

    So why do so many of us eagerly participate in waste culture without care or concern? Dr. Mielke sees a parallel in the fantasy told to the Chinese factory worker and the fantasy of the American consumer:

    “The people in China are told these beads are valuable and given to important Americans, that beads are given to royalty. And of course [this narrative] all evaporates when you realize, ‘Oh yes, there’s royalty in Mardi Gras parades, there’s kings and queens, but it’s made up and it’s fictitious.’ Yet we carry on with these crazy events that we know are harmful.”

    In other words, most people, it seems, would rather retreat into the power of myth and fantasy than confront the consequences of hard truth.

    The Conversation

    David Redmon is a lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

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    Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr

    The presence of police in schools, advocates say, makes arrests and referrals more likely, with results that can derail students’ lives. Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr

    In 43 states and the District of Columbia, black students are arrested at school at disproportionately high levels, an analysis of federal data by the Education Week Research Center finds.

    And one reason may be that black students are more likely than students in any other racial or ethnic group to attend schools with police, according to the analysis of 2013-14 civil rights data, the most recent collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

    In most of the jurisdictions with disproportionate arrests of black students, the disparities are significant. In 28 states, the share of arrested students who are black is at least 10 percentage points higher than their share of enrollment in schools with at least one arrest. In 10 of those states, that gap is at least 20 percentage points.

    No other student racial or ethnic groups face such disparities in as many states.

    In Virginia, black students make up 39 percent of the enrollment in public schools with at least one arrest but 75 percent of school-based arrests. In Louisiana, black students comprise 40 percent of enrollment in schools with at least one arrest but 69 percent of students arrested at school.

    Students from other racial and ethnic groups are also arrested at disproportionate rates in a smaller number of states. In Connecticut, for example, Hispanic students make up 25 percent of enrollment in schools with arrests but represent 35 percent of students arrested at school. And in Arizona, Native Americans comprise 8 percent of enrollment in schools with arrests, but 23 percent of students arrested.

    Nationwide, black boys are at the highest risk, three times as likely to be arrested at school as their white male peers. And African-American girls fare little better: They are more than 1.5 times as likely as white boys to be arrested, the analysis shows.

    In four states with disproportionately high arrest rates for black students, the gap between their representation in overall enrollment and in the share of students arrested is quite narrow—within 3 percentage points. In these states, black students make up a relatively low share of overall enrollment.

    Nationwide, about 8,000 schools reported a total of nearly 70,000 arrests in the 2013-14 school year. Black students were more likely than their white peers to attend a school where arrests occurred. When black students’ share of arrests is compared to their overall enrollment in all schools, the disparities are even more severe.

    And rates of student referrals to law enforcement show similar patterns of racial disparities at the state and national levels. Nationwide, black students made up 17 percent of enrollment in schools that referred students to law enforcement, but were 26 percent of students who were referred, the analysis found. Referrals, which are more common than arrests, are broadly defined as any time a student is reported to any law enforcement agency or official “regardless of whether official action is taken,” according to the federal data set. Referrals can include citations, court referrals, and, in some cases, arrests.

    All of these findings mirror a host of persistent disparities for students of color, including higher rates of school suspensions, less exposure to experienced educators, and lower likelihood of access to rigorous coursework.

    There is disagreement in the research and policy worlds about why certain groups of students are arrested at higher rates. Differences in local approaches to school safety and in exposure to out-of-school factors such as poverty and crime are among the reasons cited.

    But civil rights advocates say students of color often bear the brunt of overly punitive zero-tolerance policies and state laws that can lead to arrests for relatively minor misbehavior, such as vandalism or classroom arguments.

    And the presence of police in schools, such advocates say, makes arrests and referrals more likely, with results that can derail students’ lives.

    “Far too often when police are consistently present in black and brown communities, they criminalize behavior they wouldn’t in other places,” said Allison Brown, the executive director of the Communities for Just Schools Fund and a former lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice.

    “Especially for young people, that is just devastating to their chances for success,” she said.

    A new era for school policing

    Overall, student arrest and referral rates are relatively low compared to other forms of school discipline. Education Week’s analysis found that the arrests documented in 2013-14 represent less than one-tenth of a percent of students nationwide. In the same year, schools reported 223,000 referrals. The federal data do not specify why students were arrested or referred to law enforcement.

    The findings come as debates about the role of police in schools—and communities—enter a new era.

    While some civil rights and student groups argue that police don’t belong in schools at all, some school leaders, parents and police groups say they are necessary for security. Problems, they argue, can be avoided through proper hiring and training practices for school-based officers.

    In the 2013-14 school year, schools reported 44,000 part-time and full-time onsite law enforcement officers, according to federal data. Researchers say the presence of officers in schools has increased in the wake of high-profile shootings—such as those at Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut—that stoked widespread public fears.

    Among 90,000 public schools, 29 percent reported at least one law-enforcement officer in 2013-14, Education Week’s analysis showed. That includes 46 percent of high schools, 42 percent of middle schools, and 18 percent of elementary schools.

    Very little is known about school resource officers, typically the label given to police who work in schools—such as their backgrounds, their training, and the policies that govern their interactions with students. Only 12 states require specialized training for officers who work the school beat, according to a 2015 study by the American Institutes for Research.

    Against that backdrop, President Barack Obama’s administration used its megaphone to draw attention to concerns that had guided the work of advocates at the state and local levels for years. The Obama administration attached new strings to federal grants used to hire school police—requiring schools to clearly define when officers should intervene with students and to set training requirements.

    The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice delivered in 2014 their strongest message about what activists call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The agencies put schools on notice that their discipline policies and practices may violate federal civil rights laws if they lead to disproportionately high rates of arrests or suspensions for some racial groups, even if those policies weren’t written with discriminatory intent.

    And districts must ensure that school-based officers don’t violate students’ civil rights—whether they are employed directly by the district or contracted through local police, the agencies said.

    “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” then-Attorney General Eric Holder said.

    Conservative federal lawmakers pushed back against those warnings, however, saying that stance would force schools to avoid disciplining some students.

    Before the public has had the chance to see whether those efforts—and parallel efforts in states and districts—have eased disproportionate discipline rates, President Donald Trump’s administration will begin implementing policies of its own. Trump’s team of advisers and Cabinet nominees have signaled plans to roll back the aggressive civil rights stance of the Obama years.

    On the campaign trail, Trump, who pledged to be a “law and order president,” singled out largely black communities as dysfunctional and unsafe and cited school shootings as a reason to ease gun restrictions and increase security in schools. And in his first week in office, he seems intent on carrying out that pledge. The White House website includes an issue page on “standing up for our law enforcement community” that says: “The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.”

    Trump’s education advisers have suggested the new administration will scale back the Education Department’s office for civil rights, which led much of the Obama administration’s work on intervening in districts with uneven discipline rates.

    Debates over police in schools have run parallel to those about police on the street: In both settings, cellphone videos of violent encounters have spread quickly on the internet and fueled controversy.

    Police shooting deaths of African-Americans, most of them unarmed, in communities across the country set off national protests and spawned a new movement of civil rights activism calling for dramatic changes to law enforcement and criminal justice. That movement helped accelerate momentum for changes to school discipline and safety.

    But since Trump was elected, advocates have grown concerned about other issues, like climate change, said Phillip Goff, the president of the Center for Policing Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    “On Nov. 9, policing in general went from the number-one domestic policy issue in the United States to the number-five issue overnight,” he said.

    The federal data used in Education Week’s analysis was collected from nearly every public school in the country a few months before Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.

    That encounter thrust into the broader public consciousness long-held concerns and anger in black communities about racial bias and inequities in policing and other institutions.

    Similarly, scrutiny of the role of police in schools has accelerated since the public watched bystander videos that showed a South Carolina school resource officer dragging a girl from her desk after she refused to surrender a cellphone; a Baltimore officer who kicked and slapped a student accused of trespassing; and other hastily captured images of black and Hispanic students who were tackled, pinned down and arrested at school, sometimes for minor offenses.

    Black students more likely to be in schools with police

    Other high-profile incidents that weren’t caught on video have also heightened concerns about unjust or overzealous policing of students.

    In Prince William County, Virginia, a 14-year-old boy was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and petty larceny last fall after a school-based officer accused him of stealing a carton of milk. The boy, who qualified for free lunches, said he had gone back to the cafeteria cooler to get the milk after he forgot to pick one up when he first went through the serving line.

    In Kansas City, Mo., the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of a 7-year-old boy who was handcuffed by a school resource officer for disrupting his elementary school. The boy was crying loudly in response to a bullying incident, the lawsuit said, and an officer handcuffed the boy when he refused to follow directions.

    In Alabama, a federal judge said Birmingham school officers used unconstitutionally excessive force when they sprayed students who were not resisting arrest or posing a threat to others with a mix of pepper spray and tear gas at school. In one of those instances, an officer sprayed a pregnant student who was already restrained with handcuffs. The judge ruled that in some other incidents the pepper-spraying was justified.

    While violent interactions draw the most attention, advocates say their concerns about police in schools extend beyond those incidents and arrest rates, and into areas that data can’t quantify.

    Measures like security cameras and police presence in schools have effects on students’ experiences that haven’t been fully documented, they say.

    And what federal data don’t show are the daily, incidental interactions between officers and students in hallways, at metal detectors at school entrances, and in searches of students’ bags and lockers, those groups say.

    The data also don’t show what schools lose out on when they channel funds toward law enforcement that could be spent on school counselors, social workers, and other student-support measures, those groups say. For example, an analysis of the 2013-14 civil rights data by the Education Department found that 1.6 million students attended schools with police but no school counselors and that those students were more likely to be Hispanic or black.

    And, because students of color are more likely than their white peers to attend schools with on-site officers, policies related to those officers have become an equity issue, said Brown, of the Communities for Just Schools Fund.

    Education Week’s data analysis found that 74 percent of black high school students attend a school with at least one on-site law enforcement officer, compared with 71 percent of both Hispanic and multiracial high school students, and 65 percent of both Asian and white high school students.

    The disparity is more pronounced at the middle school level, where 59 percent of black students attend schools with law enforcement, compared with 49 percent of both Hispanic and multiracial students, 47 percent of white students, and 40 percent of Asian students.

    A 2016 study published in the Washington University Law Review found that students were more likely to be referred to law enforcement for offenses like threats, fights, vandalism and theft at schools with law-enforcement officers who were on site at least weekly. That remained true even after authors controlled for factors like state laws that require schools to report certain issues to law enforcement, levels of criminal activity and disorder, neighborhood crime, and demographic variables.

    School police need proper training

    Supporters of school police say the incidents documented in viral videos are outliers and don’t represent the behaviors of most school resource officers. They argue that proper training and better vetting of officers in the hiring process can prevent such incidents from occurring.

    Schools also need to set clear limits for officers on what types of incidents they can and can’t get involved with, said Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, which provides officer training.

    NASRO has repeatedly taken the public position that officers should not be involved in school discipline. And racial and ethnic disparities in school arrest rates mirror disparities in law enforcement as a whole, the organization has said.

    Law-enforcement agencies shouldn’t treat schools as a regular beat rotation without considering whether officers have the desire and knowledge to work in such a distinct setting, Canady said.

    “I don’t care where the officer is coming from,” he said. “They shouldn’t be placed in there just for the sake of having someone there. That’s a mistake.”

    There’s a difference between a general law-enforcement officer who works in a school and a school resource officer who has received additional training to work with students, even though the term is often used colloquially to refer to all school-based officers, Canady said.

    NASRO’s training follows the “triad model,” which teaches officers how to serve in three roles in schools: as law-enforcement officials, as educators who teach students about subjects like the criminal-justice system or drug prevention, and as informal counselors and mentors for students. Such training is necessary, Canady said, to understand how students with disabilities interact with law enforcement, how to de-escalate conflict, and how teenagers’ brain development influences their behavior and impulse control.

    In 2013, when Canady testified before a congressional committee after the Sandy Hook shootings, a lawmaker asked him if more schools should have school resource officers.

    “We’re not calling for more police in schools,” Canady said. “What we’re asking for are the ones who go into schools to be properly trained.”

    Education Week Research Center intern Coral Flanagan contributed to this report.

    This story was produced by Education Week, a nonprofit, independent news organization with comprehensive pre-K-12 news and analysis. Read the original post here.

    The post Analysis reveals racial disparities in school arrests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

    It is currently unknown who has purchased this launch contract from SpaceX, but they may become the first people to visit the moon in more than 45 years. Photo by NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

    SpaceX announced Monday that two private citizens have booked a trip around the moon for late 2018.

    It is currently unknown who has purchased this launch contract, but SpaceX’s press release stated these individuals paid a “significant deposit” to be the first people to visit the moon in more than 45 years. The passengers will circumnavigate the moon and return to Earth. No landing is planned.

    SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and Dragon V2 capsule will be employed for the journey to the moon. Both pieces of equipment are set to undergo major testing this year. Two launches are scheduled for the Falcon Heavy this summer and autumn. If successful, the Falcon Heavy will become the second most powerful rocket ever made after NASA’s Saturn V, which ferried the last voyagers to the lunar surface. Meanwhile, the Dragon V2 is set to fly an unmanned demonstration to the International Space Station this autumn.

    “Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage.” SpaceX stated. “These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.”

    Last week, following a Trump administration request, NASA announced a plan to study the feasibility of putting astronauts on the first deployment of the new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket in November 2018. The maneuver would send humans around the moon before the end of Trump’s first term.

    The post SpaceX charters human mission to the moon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Last year's poetic address, in Philadelphia, PA. Credit: The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.

    Last year’s ‘Poetic Address to the Nation,’ which took place Feb. 20, 2106 in Philadelphia, PA. Credit: The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

    A week after President Donald Trump took office, hundreds of people gathered in their homes, schools and places across the country to share stories about how they saw the state of the nation.

    “Very sad,” some said. “Becoming aware.” “We can get along.”

    The story circles were organized by the U.S. Department of Art and Culture, which is not actually a government agency, but a grassroots group of artists and activists whose mission is to fill program gaps they feel the government is missing. The annual story event predates Trump. It began in 2015, as a way of responding to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address with stories of how ordinary people felt about the state of the country. That year, race dominated the conversation as the Black Lives Matter movement took hold. This year, Adam Horowitz, who calls himself the department’s “chief instigator,” said the recurring theme was “belonging and disbelonging.”

    “The question of belonging hit me very hard today,” began one story from “Shelle” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who said her children were biracial. “My seventeen-year-old son got up after a long night of election results … and he says to all of us …‘Let’s all share our biggest fears this morning after this election!’ He says he’ll go first. ‘I’m most afraid of national Stop and Frisk,’ [he said]. No one said anything for a full minute – what could we say?”

    Another story, from “Hakim,” also in New Mexico, began differently: “On belonging … I’m a black male in NM. As of 2010 Census NM had a 2 percent black population. And I feel like I belong here.”

    While many of this year’s stories seem critical of President Trump and the country’s general political climate, Horowitz said they also reflected different perspectives. “When we got notes back, we heard from a number of people that this was the first time they had a bipartisan conversation that they didn’t think would be possible,” he said.

    As Trump prepares to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, a group of poets are turning these varied stories into songs, sonnets and poems. That work will be read in a “Poetic Address to the Nation” on March 11 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, California. It will also streamed online.

    Among the participating poets are Chinaka Hodge, whose withering poem “What will you tell your daughters about 2016?” was an October Ted Talk, Luis Javier Rodriguez, a Chicano poet who previously served as the Los Angeles Poet Laureate, and Bob Holman, a spoken word poet who has promoted poetry so thoroughly throughout his career that public intellectual Henry Louis Gates Jr. once described him as having done “more to bring poetry to cafes and bars than anyone since [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti.”

    Holman said to him, a poet is a “civic worker” — and long has been. He cites the passing of the 1973 Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, which put unemployed workers — many of them artists — to work in public service. Holman was one of those artists. “It was there that I discovered that at every community site that I worked for, whether it was a veterans’ center, nonprofit, or senior center, there was a use for poetry,” he said.

    And he believes that using everyday people’s stories to create a “Poetic Address to the Nation” is a natural extension of that idea. “This [event] wants to be the pure poetry of the people, from the grassroots up,” he said, instead of being “words being delivered on high,” as in a president’s State of the Union or address to a joint session of Congress.

    “It’s time to listen to what the people are saying,” he said.

    Holman is writing two poems for the event. He will deliver both in his trademark spoken word style, which he helped bring to the masses through the Bowery Poetry Club, Nuyorican Poets Cafe and St. Mark’s Poetry Project, all in New York City.

    One of his poems is a sonnet written from the stories told in the story circles, while the second, “FREEDOM,” is a poem based on his own feelings about the election.

    That poem’s first line: “FREEDOM to put lima beans and black-eyed peas together,” reveals the humor, imagination and metaphor with which Holman often writes. Its second line: “FREEDOM to take off BB King’s watch,” is a reference to the way the legendary blues musician used to play: When King looked at his watch, said Holman, who is a big fan of King’s, it meant he’d only play for 45 minutes; if he didn’t, he could go on for hours.

    “When you really think of what freedom means, it is to be able to enjoy life without an arbitrary time system to tell you it’s time to wake up in the morning, or that it’s time for your brilliant [Fender] Stratocaster blues to be finished, because you’ve got to make an appointment some place,” Holman said. “It’s this kind of thinking that can lift you.”

    Read “FREEDOM,” or listen to Holman read it, below:


    Bob Holman. Courtesy of Bob Holman

    Bob Holman. Credit: Language Matters with Bob Holman, PBS, a David Grubin Production

    FREEDOM
    Thanks to Darryl Alladice

    FREEDOM to put lima beans and black-eyed peas together
    FREEDOM to take off BB King’s watch
    FREEDOM to shout “Let’s hit it” on every Other beat
    FREEDOM to look at everybody whenever you want with a nod and a tie-yr-shoes
    FREEDOM to not shut up, Ever
    FREEDOM of press-ure points
    FREEDOM of speech-ifyng poetics tralalalalalolotratralalalala
    FREEDOM of lemonade
    FREEDOM to remember what you are doing in Montana
    FREEDOM to adjust the height of the floor
    FREEDOM to eat an all-poetry diet
    FREEDOM to not write the poem, write the Other poem
    FREEDOM to the second guy from the left
    FREEDOM of the f-bomb when appropriate and when inappropriate, well,
    that’s up to you
    FREEDOM for a march to be omnidirectional and you might not even be able to move
    FREEDOM to turn off reality, and it ain’t on TV, bud
    FREEDOM of Neanderthal, we all are
    FREEDOM of rulers to measure backwards
    FREEDOM of antique roadshow blowback
    FREEDOM to sneeze with no “bless you”’s
    FREEDOM to scratch somebody else’s itch
    FREEDOM to go home again, again
    FREEDOM to land a helicopter in the yard at Angola Prison and just see what happens
    FREEDOM to knit some pink pussy ears on Trump Tower (with a mighty roar)
    FREEDOM to love everybody’s body simultaneously
    FREEDOM for the Freedom Riders to finally be able to get off the damn bus
    FREEDOM to shout stop at the top of your lungs in the stock market: “STOP!”
    FREEDOM to take a cellphone to court
    FREEDOM to get back on the horse, knowing you are also the horse
    FREEDOM of Omnis Animus Unam: All One Animal
    FREEDOM of thoughtless behavior to reanimate itself as a suspension bridge leading to
    a new consciousness that continues to invent itself until everyone crosses
    over and no tolls either



    Bob Holman is the Minister of Poetry and Endangered Language Protection at the United States Department of Arts and Culture (not a government agency! but should be a cabinet position). He became a public poet in 1977 when he was employed by the CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) Artists Project, the largest federally-funded artists’ job program since the WPA. Since then, he has published sixteen books, co-created “The United States of Poetry” and “Language Matters” for PBS, taught at NYU, Columbia and Princeton, and founded the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC.

    The post As Trump addresses Congress, poets pen a people’s view appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The word "Disagree" is seen on the hand of Julia Grabowski during a town hall meeting for Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy in Metairie, Louisiana. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    The word “Disagree” is seen on the hand of Julia Grabowski during a town hall meeting for Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy in Metairie, Louisiana. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.

    News about President Donald Trump — including an apparently neglected vegetable garden that once belonged to former first lady Michelle Obama — is inescapable.

    As The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo wrote, “he is no longer just the message. In many cases, he has become the medium.”

    Mental health professionals in the U.S. have reported that the all-encompassing coverage of the president has induced anxiety and depression, or post-election stress, in many of their patients.

    Here are five important stories, then, that (largely) sidestep news of the president’s every move.

    1. The deafening silence over the killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla.

    Organizers light the first candle during a Feb. 26 vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed, at a conference center in Olathe, Kansas. Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters

    Organizers light the first candle during a Feb. 26 vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed, at a conference center in Olathe, Kansas. Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters.

    Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian immigrant, died last week shortly after being shot by a white Kansas man who reportedly yelled “Get out of my country” before opening fire at a bar.

    Two others were injured in Wednesday’s attack at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. Kuchibhotla’s colleague Alok Madasani, also from India, and Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene in the shooting, sustained injuries when 51-year-old Adam Purinton used slurs against the two Indian men he allegedly thought were from the Middle East.

    Purinton, a U.S. Navy veteran, was charged with first-degree murder and another two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The FBI is investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime.

    Why it’s important

    Organizer Venkat Manda and Kyla Ryan, 4, start a march before a vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed in Olathe, Kansas. Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters

    Organizer Venkat Manda and Kyla Ryan, 4, start a march before a vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed in Olathe, Kansas. Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters.

    Media outlets in India have been reeling from the attack, with many calling the shooting a hate crime and linking Trump’s rhetoric to an atmosphere of fear, BBC’s Brajesh Upadhyay reported. One headline read: “The president now has blood on his hands.”

    Madasani’s father also cited Trump’s election victory as contributing to a climate that wasn’t welcoming to minorities, including Indians.

    “I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the US in the present circumstances,” he told Hindustan Times.

    As Quartz noted, Trump has yet to address the shooting.

    Last week, press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the link between the president’s rhetoric and the rise of reported hate crimes in the U.S. He said “any loss of life is tragic,” adding that “to suggest that there’s any correlation, I think, is a bit absurd.”

    Slate’s Jamelle Bouie said the president’s silence could be read as “simple insensitivity” until you think of other scenarios.

    “If the situation in Kansas were reversed, if two Indian immigrants attacked a group of white patrons to intimidate the larger community, there’s little question that Trump would respond with anger and condemnation,” he wrote.

    “[The president has] sent a clear signal to the country about who is worthy of empathy and concern — and protection — and who is not,” Bouie added.

    The media weren’t immune from the criticism, either. The Indian community has questioned why the shooting hasn’t received more news coverage in the U.S.

    “It should be much more covered,” Pawan Dhingra of Tufts University told the Hindustan Times. “The shootings and killing would be getting much more attention if the shooter was a self-described Muslim or if it happened in midtown Manhattan.”

    “The lack of coverage suggests the normalization of such terror and distrust of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans,” he added.

    2. What happened in the years before the “underwear bomber” failed to blow up a U.S.-bound plane.

    This courtroom drawing shows accused Christmas Day Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in federal court in Detroit, Michigan in 2010. Image by Kabrin via Reuters

    This courtroom drawing shows accused Christmas Day Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in federal court in Detroit, Michigan in 2010. Image by Kabrin via Reuters.

    Last week, the Times published more details behind a failed 2009 al-Qaeda terrorist plot when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled explosives in his underwear on board a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

    The device failed to detonate, but it did emit fire that spread to parts of the plane internally and severely burned the young Nigerian. Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison in 2012, after pleading guilty to the would-be suicide mission.

    Less known, however, was how Abdulmutallab was recruited to carry out the “martyrdom mission.”

    After a two-year battle in the courts, the Times was given access, under the Freedom of Information Act, to 200 pages of documents that describe how Abdulmutallab’s actions were inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric and al-Qaeda propagandist.

    Why it’s important

    Arab-Americans Haider Koussan (L) and Ali Sayed hold signs as they join a demonstration against terrorism in front of the federal court building in Detroit, Michigan in 2010. Then, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was accused of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    Arab-Americans Haider Koussan (L) and Ali Sayed hold signs as they join a demonstration against terrorism in front of the federal court building in Detroit, Michigan in 2010. Then, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was accused of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters.

    The Times gleaned a couple of points as to why this underwear plot has implications today.

    In 2011, Awlaki was assassinated in a drone strike in Yemen. The drone strike is known as the first time an American citizen was deliberately targeted by a presidential order — sans a trial — since the Civil War.

    At the time, the decision courted questions from the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics who said the public has a right to understand the “breadth of the authority the government is claiming as well as the legal basis for it.”

    Years later, a memo was released showed that the Obama administration cited a 2001 law that allowed lethal force abroad against any U.S. citizen that posed a “continued and imminent threat” to the U.S. The Obama administration had fought lawsuits that sought to reveal the motivations behind the order to kill Awlaki.

    In the new documents the Times obtained, Awlaki is shown advising Abdulmutallab, including introducing him to other bomb makers and helping him make his martyrdom video.

    This also could have implications for President Donald Trump’s reported desire to bring back torture. The Times said most interrogators would say torture wasn’t necessary to get good intel from suspects, and in Abdulmutallab’s case, he was largely forthcoming in his interviews with the FBI about his involvement with al-Qaeda.

    3. An Amazon Echo device could be a witness in a murder trial. 

    The Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled virtual assistant, is seen at its product launch for Britain and Germany in London, Britain, September 14, 2016. REUTER/Peter Hobson - RTSNQKM

    The Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled virtual assistant, is seen at its product launch for Britain and Germany in London, Britain. Photo by REUTERS/Peter Hobson.

    “Alexa,” Amazon’s hands-free digital assistant device, is both a digital no-hands secretary and entertainment provider, responding to human directives such as “Alexa, how’s the weather?” or “Alex, did ‘La La Land’ or ‘Moonlight’ win Best Picture? I’m confused.”

    But prosecutors in Arkansas say it could also have recorded crucial information from a murder two years ago. They’re trying to call the device, also known as the Amazon Echo, as a witness in court. But Amazon is fighting that request — because Alexa has first amendment rights, the company says.

    It all started when James Bates, 31, of Bentonville, Arkansas, was arrested in February 2016 and charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after a man was found dead in his hot tub, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

    Police seized the Echo device and also requested Amazon release a history of voice recordings from the device during the time in which authorities believe the murder took place, according to The Information, a technologically-based publication. Police also believe the device could have been inadvertently activated on the night of the murder, which could potentially provide recordings that offer insight into what happened that night. Another smart device is also under authorities’ radar — Bates’ water heater, which flagged investigators to exorbitant amounts of water used during the early-morning hours that day.

    Last week, Amazon filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the warrant for Alexa’s information.

    “Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course,” wrote Kinley Pearsall, an Amazon spokesperson, in an email to Fortune.

    Why it’s important

    The case could be the first time a home speaker device is called for assistance in court. But as a whole, the Arkansas murder trial is yet another legal battle over the use of technology-based evidence and privacy laws.

    It takes up issues that arose in 2015 after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. FBI officials solicited Apple to help hack shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. Apple refused to deliver the software necessary in order to perform the hack. But the FBI announced in March of last year it had managed to unlock Farook’s phone without Apple’s help, a move some experts said could jeopardize the tech giant’s security software or affect future devices.

    We don’t know how the government unlocked the phone. Attorneys for Apple attempted to research legal tactics in order to compel the government to reveal the specific tactics used, but weren’t successful.

    “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought,” read a statement by Apple reproduced in the tech publication known as The Verge.

    Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Amazon says the court needs to show a “compelling need” for the data that may or may not be stored on Alexa. Bates is free on a $350,000 bond while awaiting a discovery hearing for his case, which is scheduled for March, according to CNN. The Benton County prosecutor plans to file a response to Amazon’s request in the next few weeks, he told the Democrat-Gazette.

    Until then, as the Internet of Things continues to grow, how and when our devices could be used to testify against us is still a question mark.

    4. Why are so many people illegally crossing the border into Canada?

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers assist a child from a family that claimed to be from Sudan as they walk across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Canada, from Champlain in New York. Photo by REUTERS/Christinne Muschi.

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers assist a child from a family that claimed to be from Sudan as they walk across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Canada, from Champlain in New York. Photo by REUTERS/Christinne Muschi.

    In his first weeks in office, President Donald Trump has focused a lot of his time on securing America’s borders, whether by trying to keep certain people from entering the country or more aggressively deporting those living here illegally.

    Now, some of those people who sought asylum in the U.S. are fleeing the country on their own.

    In all of the recent debates over immigration in the U.S., little time has been spent looking to the north, where refugees and immigrants — many of them from Africa — have tried to dodge security officials so they can claim asylum in Canada.

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

    Minnesota Public Radio has chronicled many of those journeys — some through snowy fields by foot and and others in the cabs of drivers paid to smuggle refugees over the border — from North Dakota and Minnesota into Emerson, Manitoba.

    Refugees are also illegally crossing the border from other states, officials say.

    It’s not yet clear how many people are heading for our northern neighbors. But there’s a noticeable increase. The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council told the CBC it was offering assistance to about six times the number of people it usually serves this time of year. And the Canada Border Services Agency told Buzzfeed that while refugee claims have increased each year since 2014, there were “937 refugee claims in January alone.”

    Why it’s important

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, greets U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, greets U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of President Donald Trump’s first official visitors to the White House. Among the leaders’ largest differences were their positions on immigrants and refugees.

    As Trump has pursued stricter policies for U.S. borders, Trudeau has continued to defend Canada’s status as an “open country.”

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

    “We will continue to accept refugees,” Trudeau said this week. “One of the reasons why Canada remains an open country is Canadians trust our immigration system and the integrity of our borders and the help we provide people who are looking for safety.”

    The CBC reported Trump and Trudeau spoke by phone last week. It’s unclear if this issue arose.

    When Trump issued his since-suspended ban on immigration last month, Trudeau said he would take refugees banned by the U.S. What isn’t clear, though, is whether that same welcome applies to refugees already on American soil. In 2004, Canada and the U.S. signed the Safe Third Country agreement, which says refugees who claim asylum in one country can’t turn around and try to claim it in another. That agreement is only enforced at official border crossings, though – if refugees find another way into Canada, they are protected by the country’s refugee policies.

    Some people are calling for that agreement to be canceled because they believe it would encourage more people to cross the border legally. Others say the U.S. can no longer be considered a “safe country” because of Trump’s tightened policies on immigration.

    And so Canada is now dealing with a small refugee crisis of its own. Conservatives want Trudeau to hand those crossing illegally back to the U.S. Canadian border patrol offices are starting to feel the strain of the small influx of refugees, a point they said they’re planning to raise with U.S. officials in the coming days.

    In the meantime, while some refugees are successfully crossing into Canada, others haven’t been so lucky. Some don’t make it over the border. Others are sent back into the U.S. In some cases, they could also be deported from Canada back to their countries of origin.

    Of course, everything could change later this week, when Trump is expected to release another version of his immigration ban.

    5. What’s the buzz over bees and their small brains?

    Photo by PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier via Getty Images

    Photo by PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier via Getty Images.

    Bees may have small brains, but they’re not pea-brained, scientists recently found.

    Bumblebees, studied by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, are very smart, despite their tiny brains.

    Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that the bees not only mimicked others bees’ behaviors, but, most notably, improved on what they learned, Olli Loukola, co-author of the study told the NewsHour.

    “This is of course amazing for small-brained insects — even for us, it’s difficult to improve on something when we are copying others,” Loukola said.

    Why it’s important

    Photo by Flickr user Andreas

    Photo by Flickr user Andreas.

    In science, a larger brain reasonably meant more intelligence, like the swollen cranium of a human.

    But Loukola said such conclusions are now “old-fashioned.”

    It would appear this study, along with further investigations into the brains of fruit flies, ants and other insects, demonstrate how much a complex system of neurons, even when this small, can result in highly intelligent creatures.

    Now, buzz me when the stegosaurus and their lime-sized brains are given a second look.

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

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    The wing of the bird-like feathered dinosaur Anchiornis under laser-stimulated fluorescence. The folds of skin in front of the elbow and behind the wrist (called patagia) were covered in feathers, just like in modern living birds. Credit: Wang XL, Pittman M et al. 2017.

    The wing of the bird-like feathered Anchiornis dinosaur under laser-stimulated fluorescence. The folds of skin in front of the elbow and behind the wrist (called patagia) were covered in feathers, just like in modern living birds. Photo by Wang XL, Pittman M et al., Nature Communications, 2017.

    Many dinosaur fossils contain hidden information that people can’t see with the naked eye. So, time to grab some lasers!

    In a new study, researchers have used lasers and simple cameras to uncover the body shape and texture of 200 fossils of a small, feathered dinosaur found in China named Anchiornis huxleyi.

    The technique — called laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) — involves sweeping non-destructive laser light across a specimen while taking long-exposure photos with a common DSLR camera. The process highlights otherwise invisible details on objects.

    “The laser ‘excites’ the few skin atoms left in the matrix, making them glow, to reveal what the shape of the dinosaur actually looked like,” Michael Pittman, a paleontologist at the University of Hong Kong and one of the study’s lead authors, stated in an email interview.

    Anchiornis dinosaurs are key to our understanding of the origins of birds, Pittman continued. It’s a remarkably well-understood dinosaur, with hundreds of well-preserved specimens to date. Scientists know when Anchiornis roamed the Earth, it was nearly completely covered in feathers and had four wings — one on each limb. Prior research had even determined Anchiornis’ color pattern–black and white with a red tuft on its head.

    Top: An Anchiornis foot fossil under normal light. Bottom: Same foot under laser light. Inset: The scaly details of a single footpad are shown. The footpad scales are preserved, but only visible under laser-stimulated fluorescence. Photo by Wang XL, Pittman M et al., Nature Communications, 2017

    Top: An Anchiornis foot fossil under normal light. Bottom: Same foot under laser light. Inset: The scaly details of a single footpad are shown. The footpad scales are preserved, but only visible under laser-stimulated fluorescence. Photo by Wang XL, Pittman M et al., Nature Communications, 2017

    Yet Pittman and his colleagues spotted parts of the dinosaur’s physical appearance that would be not be apparent through the animal’s bones. The researchers saw, for instance, that A. huxleyi possessed a thick propatagium — a stretch of skin in the crook of the elbow. They noted also that it had drumstick-shaped legs and a thin tail. The skin at the elbow helps modern birds get off the ground, so it’s likely (but not certain) that Anchiornis could fly upward.

    Pittman and LSF creator Thomas Kaye have used the technique on hundreds of well-preserved fossilized bones and imprints of soft tissue pressed into the stone. Their work on Psittacosaurus— a bizarre-looking, smaller relative of Triceratops — showed that the animals sported dark colors on their backs and light colors on their bellies. The team has also scanned a variety of other specimens, including a mid-Holocene era hippo tooth bracelet, ancient feathers and bone fragments.

    This technique, however, does not work on all remains. Loose bones or fossils without imprintation would not yield as much information with LSF.

    Laser scans reveal a detailed outline of Anchiornis huxleyi, which paleoartists can use to reconstruct the dinosaur in a more accurate way. Photo by Wang XL, Pittman M et al., Nature Communications, 2017.

    Laser scans reveal a detailed outline of Anchiornis huxleyi, which paleoartists can use to reconstruct the dinosaur in a more accurate way. Photo by Wang XL, Pittman M et al., Nature Communications, 2017.

    Pittman stated that dinosaur artists could use this study as “a gold standard” of reconstructing bird-like dinosaurs because of the unmatched anatomical detail achieved with LSF. Many modern paleoartists — or people who create illustrations, sculpture and animations of extinct animals — go to great lengths to improve the accuracy of their craft. They read studies on dinosaur physiology, observe live animals, discuss and critique each others’ work and still find that they have to occasionally update their art.

    “I’d say I’d spend at least half the time researching and half the time painting,” dinosaur illustrator John Conway told NewsHour. “For a long time, lots of artists got away with constructions that were virtually unrelated to what we know about appearance. In the last 30 years people have been putting more of an emphasis on science.”

    The new findings were published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

    The post Laser light uncovers hidden secrets of feathered dinosaur fossils appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nearly 40 days into his first term, President Donald Trump will lay out his agenda in an address to the nation and a joint session of Congress tonight on Capitol Hill.

    The speech, his first to both houses of Congress, will focus on the renewal of the American spirit, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during his news briefing Monday. Trump “will invite Americans of all backgrounds to come together in the service of a stronger and brighter future for our nation,” Spicer told reporters.

    Why is this speech important for Trump, and will he earn some political capital to steer his agenda through Congress? Can his address help unify the country after a deeply divisive election? Or, will he use the speech to remind voters of his election victory and continue to criticize his detractors and the news media?

    For a preview of Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress, PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) will host a Twitter Chat with Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid), a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, April Ponnuru (@AprilPonnuru), a senior adviser at the Conservative Reform Network, Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey), managing editor of the blog Lawfare and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Republican strategist Barry Bennett (@GOPBarryBennett). Join us at 8 p.m. ET—just before the president’s speech—on Twitter, and follow the conversation using the hashtag #NewsHourChats.

    After our Twitter chat, join NewsHour for live coverage of President Trump’s address to Congress:

    The president will address several policy areas that he says need attention, including tax and regulatory reform, health care and bolstering the military. On all of these, Trump “wants to work with Congress,” Spicer said.

    But how will Congress react to the president’s first-ever speech in the House chamber?

    “We’re looking forward to a positive, upbeat presentation tomorrow night and proceeding with our agenda,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Monday after leaving a Trump meeting at the White House with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)

    However, during the Presidents Day recess, some Republican members of Congress went home to angry constituents at town halls across the country. Meanwhile, Democrats have invited immigrants to join them as their guests in the chamber during Trump’s address.

    The post Twitter chat: Previewing Trump’s first address to Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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