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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, as the world’s Christians begin Lent, a six-week period of introspection in preparation for Easter, reflections from Casper ter Kuile, a researcher at Harvard University, who shares his humble opinion on the soul survival happening outside America’s churches.

    CASPER TER KUILE, Harvard University: I grew up never going to church.

    And as a 30-year-old married man, I still don’t, not because I don’t value reflection, community, even the experience of the divine. I do. But traditional religious congregations don’t appeal to me. And I’m not alone.

    Millennials are turning away from religion faster than any other age group. And according to the Pew Research Center, more than a third of Americans between 18 and 35 are now unaffiliated, meaning, when asked on a survey what religious identity they hold, they answer none of the above.

    But what’s really interesting is that the overwhelming majority of us nones aren’t necessarily atheists. Two-thirds believe in God or a universal spirit, and one in five even pray every day.

    We aren’t young people who hate religion. It’s a growing group that feel like they have been left behind by religious institutions.

    In a move that confused a lot of my friends and family, I have found countless examples of other millennials creating new forms of community that often fulfill the same functions that a traditional religious group would have.

    And they come in all shapes and sizes. It might be a regular meal with strangers to share honestly one’s experience after losing a loved one, like the organization The Dinner Party. Within a few years, The Dinner Party has spread to 116 cities across the U.S. hosted by volunteers who create sacred spaces for their guests.

    It might be lifting weights and climbing ropes five mornings a week like at CrossFit. And if you have a friend involved in a CrossFit, you will know how evangelical that community is.

    Or it might be experiencing healing and forgiveness through movement and meditation at Afro Flow Yoga.

    Each of these communities and others like them shape participants’ world views, ethics and behaviors. And in a culture where many are hungry for connection, these communities offer the experience of being part of something bigger than themselves, what some theologians might describe as experiencing the divine.

    Now, you may dismiss these communities as simple entertainment, but we’re convinced that this is the new face of religious life in America. Just as you would expect in a religious congregation, people in these communities build friendships and drive one another to the hospital when they need a ride.

    They help each other raise money to fight cancer. And some are even getting involved in struggles for more affordable housing. While a few thousand churches close every year, many fewer open. So, as you drive through your town and notice an empty house of worship, pay attention next time you see a community workspace, a climbing gym or a micro-brewery.

    They may just be the new center of soulful community that you have been looking for.

    The post Millennials haven’t forgotten spirituality, they’re just looking for new venues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: From a joint address to Congress to the recusal of the attorney general, it’s been a big week.

    To help make sense of it all, the analysis of Shields And brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    So, I thought we were going to be talking tonight, first of all, about the president’s address.

    But, David, Russia, Russia, Russia, it just doesn’t go away. We now have the attorney general of the United States having to recuse himself from any investigation into what happened with the Trump campaign.

    What do you make of all this?

    DAVID BROOKS: This is like Napoleon and the Russian winter.

    It’s just coming in droves for the past few months, just Russian issues. Now, I would draw a distinction between Sessions and a lot of the other stuff. So far, we don’t know if Sessions had any substantive contacts on the campaign stuff or anything that might be really incriminating.

    And it’s worth remembering he was asked specifically did he talk to Russians about campaign stuff. And so there are a lot of pointless meetings in Washington. And he could have just had pointless meeting to see the ambassador. If he had something nefarious, would they really have done it in the Senate office?

    So, I’m not sure the Sessions stuff will rise to scandal level. I think he was right to recuse himself.

    On the other hand, on the general Trump world, there is contact after contact with the Russians, and some of them which are fishy. And the two questions that I’m wondering about — and I’m not sure we will ever know the answer — the first is the obvious one. Did they have contact with Russians on their campaign meddling?

    But the second and the more troubling one is, who’s been investing in Donald Trump’s companies for all these years? Does he owe somebody something? Should we know about that? And why didn’t he release his taxes? Is Russia at the heart of that as well?

    And so until we get to an answer of — and this is why taxes get released, so you can know if somebody is really in debt to some other foreign power. And we don’t know the answer to that because of his secrecy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, those are questions that we’re unlikely to get the answers to any time soon.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, under the status quo, I think that is true. And I think the questions David asks are salient and important.

    As far as Senator Sessions is concerned, Judy, it follows the pattern that these come out after there’s a press report. It happened with General Flynn. And unlike General Flynn, where there really is strong, more than suspicion, that he discussed policy and actions with the Russian ambassador, I don’t think anybody who knows Jeff Sessions thinks that’s the case.

    But there is one question that just demands an answer. And that is, he testifies before Al Franken. Yes, it’s a rambling question. But then Pat Leahy, the senior senator, pro tem of the Senate, writes it out in longhand, any contacts from campaign post-election?

    Now, you leave that hearing, you give that answer, you go back to your office, staff people are with you, your scheduler is with you, your press person is with you. Why not just come out and say, hey, look, this was — I did have these meetings with the ambassador?

    And the question, why? Why does it have to come out this way? And it does. It does fit a pattern. There’s no two ways about it. And I think it’s a disturbing pattern. It’s a distressing pattern.

    And whether it’s Roger Stone or Carter Page or — I mean, these are not attractive, appealing people, whether it’s Paul Manafort and his Russian contacts.

    It’s not a question simply of dealing with Russia. It’s a question that we have now 17 intelligence agencies in the United States of America unanimously agreeing that Russia meddled in this — and tried to discredit our democratic process.

    So, I mean, you know, that’s whom they were dealing with. It wasn’t a question of just making a quick buck.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, all sorts of questions come out of this. Is it enough for the attorney general to recuse himself? Do we need to think about something bigger?

    There is a lot of conversation now about whether there should be an outside, independent investigation. I mean, what needs to happen right now?

    DAVID BROOKS: I think the recusal is right. The calls for resignation strike me as completely over the top.

    I think we need to know, why Russia? There are 200-odd countries in the world. Why has so much of this administration focused on Russia? Now, is it because Donald Trump is very sensitive to the charge that he was handed the election by Russia and he is sort of Russia-focused?

    But the Russian obsession predates that, which is why I think, after he declared bankruptcy, a lot of Americans actually wanted to invest in Donald Trump. So who was doing all the investing? He has got all these luxury properties around the world. Who was buying?

    And, so to me, it’s, why the Russia focus? Is it some ideological thing he has for Russia? Is it some man crush on Vladimir Putin? I don’t know. But, somehow, that’s the part that needs to be investigated.

    I don’t — I’m not — I’m generally not for special prosecutors and things, because they tend to run out of control. But getting to the core of that issue, I don’t know how you do it, but that is how you — I think we need to do it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that’s the only way you could get to some of this.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Judy, first of all, I think David raises the questions that do demand an answer, and how are we going to get that answer?

    The recusal, he had no choice but to recuse himself. The red Republican wall was breaking. When Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader, calls for his recusal, when Jason Chaffetz, one of the last defenders of Donald Trump, having said, after the “Hollywood Access” tape that he couldn’t face his 14-year-old daughter and then still support Donald Trump, then two weeks later endorsed again Donald Trump for president, he said he had to recuse — Jeff Sessions had to.

    And so did Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio. So, I think this was what he had to do.

    And the problem with the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee is that the White House felt comfortable enough to call them and ask them to be their character witness with the press, Richard Burr, the senator from North Carolina, and Devin Nunes, the congressman from California.

    So, the question is, the only time you move to an independent, if you had an ideal Baker-Hamilton, 9/11-type group, is, quite honestly, when there is a lack of faith and a lack of faith and confidence in the existing process.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, this is why institutions matter so much.

    In Watergate, you had — sure, it was partisan, but you still could go to a congressional hearing and there would be some sense there would a Howard Baker, who would be an honest broker, or Hamilton, Lee Hamilton.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s exactly right.

    DAVID BROOKS: Or you had people like that.

    And maybe there are people like that floating around in Washington who you could appoint, like a 9/11 Commission. But the official institutions of Congress, not a lot of credibility there right now, and not a lot of expectation they would act in any way, other than as partisan bodies.

    And so this is what we see when we get the breakdown of institutions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile …

    MARK SHIELDS: Angus King — Angus King from Maine and John McCain from Arizona.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: An independent and a Republican.

    MARK SHIELDS: An independent. Both established independents and respected, you’re going to go that direction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But I was just going to say, the way the president is responding today is by tweeting pictures of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer meeting with the Russian ambassador a few years ago.

    Let’s talk about the speech Tuesday night. It feels longer ago than that, Mark. Do we know now more about what Donald Trump’s, President Trump’s priorities are after that speech?

    MARK SHIELDS: Not really.

    I mean, we have absolutely — we know general objectives, but we have no idea how we’re going to get from here to there. And he got an enormous amount of praise, and which basically lasted until the stories about Russia and Attorney General Sessions came out.

    But there is a low bar, Judy. This is somebody who has called other politicians, other Republicans, dopey, hypocrite, stupid, lying, weak, loser, choker.

    I mean, and so he comes in, and he doesn’t do this, and, all of a sudden, my goodness gracious, you know, it is. It’s the Gettysburg Address. It’s the — FDR’s Four Freedom speech. What he did was, he was controlled for an hour. There was no invective. There was no vitriol, or very little.

    But, as far as specifics, we know health care is going to be bigger, and better, and cheaper, and more access. And now you can’t even get ahold of the plan. It’s like the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. They keep it in a locked room.

    Maybe David has seen it, but I don’t know anybody else who has.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s in my dry cleaner.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: I thought the speech was Shakespearian, Lincolnesque.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: I would say I think we do have a — I got a better sense of him — or I got a lesser sense of him, because, usually, it’s all about him. And it’s about the clown behavior or the things Mark is talking about.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: But, here, you have got a little idea of the project.

    And, frankly, I got a little sense of why the guy got elected, because we were all having debates about big government vs. small government, our normal debates. And Republicans were standing for certain sort of things, eliminate the national debt, be global policemen, restore the right to life.

    He ignores all that. He’s just not doing any of that stuff. He’s saying, you, Americans, you feel endangered, and I’m going to protect you.

    And so the line I had was that he’s privatized compassion and nationalized intimidation. And what I meant by that — probably too proud of that line.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: What I meant by that …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re allowed to repeat your good lines on the program any time.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: What I meant, that all the compassionate parts of government, giving people a hand up or a safety net, he wants to cut all that. And that’s just not part of the emotional repertoire.

    But being tough on our enemies, whether foreign or domestic, that, he’s doing in magnitudes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if that is what he is doing, if we know a little more, Mark…

    MARK SHIELDS: Privatize profit and socialize loss.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: That was the Republican economic mandate for a long time.

    DAVID BROOKS: Updating it.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is he in any better shape, Mark, in terms of getting his programs through? I realize we don’t know a lot of detail right now. But is…

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, they have made a calculation, a political calculation. It’s hard to argue with it.

    It’s a Republican Congress. He’s playing very much to his base. He’s not expanding his base. He’s not reaching across the divide, except by not insulting. But he is catering to and holding and speaking to and speaking for his base, those who supported him.

    So, he’s 85 or 87 to nine among Republicans. As long as he’s there, OK, as long as his numbers are that high, Republicans are going to fall in line. They’re going to support him, or they’re going to at least think two or three times before breaking with him.

    But, Judy, there is no sense of how he’s going to pay for any of this. And there’s no sense of the specifics. We have no more specific idea on what he wants to do on tax cuts and tax reform than we had before the speech.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    If they can find the health care plan under the magic sofa cushion in the Capitol, wherever it’s hiding, they’re going to find a lot of opposition on the right. And this is actually going to be a trope of the Trump administration.

    If they ever actually come up with an agenda, there is going to be a lot of people on his right who are Republicans who are going to be very unhappy with the levels of spending or even the levels of tax cuts — or tax credits in the health care plan.

    So, I think, on substantive matters on a lot of these issues, they’re going to have a big issue, big problem. And, secondly, a lot of these programs, like the health care, it shifts risk down to the individuals.

    MARK SHIELDS: It does.

    DAVID BROOKS: And I happen to think it could create good markets and reduce costs. But you’re definitely shifting risk.

    And a lot of Americans are like, I have got enough risk in life. No thank you.

    And I think that is going to come back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re eight going to be looking at the sofa on the Hill or at David’s dry cleaner.

    MARK SHIELDS: David’s dry cleaner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Russia investigation questions, Trump’s joint address appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A body is taken out of a house where two men were killed during a drugs related police operation in Manila, Philippines October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj - RTX2PI14

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s fair to say a reign of terror grips the Philippines, as its president, Rodrigo Duterte, wages a brutal war on drug dealers and users.

    According to Human Rights Watch, more than 7,000 people have been killed in just the last nine months. But who exactly is doing the killing?

    This story was reported by Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala and narrated by William Brangham.

    And a warning: There are some disturbing images.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For decades, slums here in the Philippines have been safe havens for the illegal drug trade. Crystal meth is sold in these alleys just like candy. A gram costs at least $25. That’s triple the daily minimum wage. And it’s the cheapest drug on the market.

    In this drug den, users rent space to smoke without fear of being caught. It does a brisk business. The government estimates that meth can be found in nearly every community in the capital, Manila, and, nationwide, there’s an estimated 1.3 million drug users. Even kids get in on the trade, making homemade foil pipes to sell.

    This is the crisis that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to end. One of his many outlandish solutions? Encouraging addicts to commit suicide.

    RODRIGO DUTERTE, Philippine President (through interpreter): Feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun. You have my support.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Soon after the new president took office, a wave of summary killings swept across the country. Suspected users and dealers were shot dead on the streets by unknown hit men. An estimated 40 people die everyday.

    Political analyst Ramon Casiple believes the violence is part of the president’s strategy to sow fear.

    RAMON CASIPLE, Political Analyst: If what they’re saying is that he’s developing the environment for these killings, then I think I would say yes, precisely, that’s the effect he wants, to sow fear among the criminals.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, are these killings changing anything in the Philippines, or simply a sign of nationwide lawlessness?

    We found answers from a supporter of the president. She goes by the name Zenny, and she wants to hide her identity. Zenny says Duterte’s war on drugs had a positive outcome in her neighborhood. Many users and dealers have turned themselves in, she says.

    ZENNY, Philippines (through interpreter): Our neighborhood became more orderly and peaceful because of his war on drugs. I voted for him because I want the drug crisis solved. It really worked.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: She says her own son was so scared that he stopped doing drugs, which made her happy. But this mother’s peace didn’t last long. A group of half-a-dozen gunmen shot her 34-year-old son dead.

    ZENNY (through interpreter): Six civilian men barged themselves into our home. They were carrying guns. They told me to leave, so I dashed out. They were surrounding our place. The media was there, the crime investigators, including a staff from the funeral parlor. I heard two gunshots.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: According to police and media reports, her son resisted arrest, and pulled a gun on his attackers. But Zenny doesn’t believe it.

    ZENNY (through interpreter): How can my son own a gun, for Christ’s sake? He doesn’t even have a penny to buy himself a cigarette, much more a gun. How was it possible for him to resist arrest when they had him cornered?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: She thinks it’s a cover-up by the police.

    ZENNY (through interpreter): Everything was ready. There were plenty of police, of men in uniform. It looks like they have a systematic procedure in place.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Currently, Philippine police say roughly 64 percent of these deaths are vigilante-style killings. But the government says they’re not responsible. They say only proper investigations can determine the real reasons.

    Duterte’s spokesman says the government wants these cases solved quickly.

    ERNESTO ABELLA, Presidential Spokesman (through interpreter): I don’t have the timeline, but he wants things to be done quickly and appropriately.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But nine months into Duterte’s drug war, there hasn’t been a single arrest for any of these murders. This inaction is deeply frustrating to the Philippine’s own Commission on Human Rights.

    GWEN GANA, Commission on Human Rights: The investigation must be done promptly. And not only the investigation, but it must be shown that there is resolve in really coming out with a solution, or the findings are really clear and that it must be made public right away.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So who is committing these murders? And who’s ordering them?

    Correspondent Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala talked with a self-described hit man. He uses an alias, Kevin. He says he belongs to a network of assassins who are protected by a political figure. He also says he’s killed 15 people in the last six months. Kara asked him who these killers were and why they were doing it?

    KEVIN, Philippines (through interpreter): They’re a lot, but most of them are cops, because there is money involved. They are paid about 310 U.S. dollars per person killed. In one night, you need to kill at least four, at least one drug lord and one pusher per night.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This means a night of killings can earn these men more than the average Filipino earns in a month.

    Kara asked, so where’s the money coming from?

    KEVIN (through interpreter): From our government, from Duterte’s office, from the municipal government, from the mayors.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president’s spokesman rejects these accusations and says Duterte didn’t order these executions. He says these killings are likely just fellow drug gangs targeting each other.

    ERNESTO ABELLA: References have been made that the deaths could be attributed to internecine killings, meaning to say people among their own peers doing that. Personally, the president has said that he doesn’t condone this sort of killing.

    RODRIGO DUTERTE: There will be no letup in this campaign.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But critics have reason to doubt the president. President Duterte has been linked to a secret death squad back in his hometown, Davao City.

    In the late ’90s, then Mayor Duterte launched an anti-drug campaign. And, just like today, a number of alleged drug dealers and addicts were murdered. These killings were blamed on a vigilante group called the Davao Death Squad. And many said that Mayor Duterte was behind them.

    MAN: If you’re a drug pusher, if you’re a drug lord here, do not come for (INAUDIBLE) I will not give you any. Who killed them? I don’t know. You’re asking me? I’m not the one.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But political analyst Ramon Casiple says Duterte’s seeming inaction serves his goals.

    RAMON CASIPLE: His own assessment of the situation was that he thinks there is a sense to the vigilantism, in the sense that this protects the community, this protects his people.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Father Amado Picardal, who lived in Davao, believes the president was behind the formation of the Davao Death Squad. The Philippines is a majority Catholic country, and the church is considered a supporter of the president, so Father Picardal’s accusations are not made easily.

    Picardal says former members of the Death Squad told him and his fellow priests that Duterte was directly involved.

    FATHER AMADO PICARDAL, Philippines: I believe what is happening now is a replication and multiplication of the Davao experience. Davao is the template.

    KARA MAGSANOC-ALIKPALA, Journalist: I have been around this area and seen a lot of wakes from extrajudicial killings almost every day. You also must get confessions here from policemen or just vigilantes.

    FATHER AMADO PICARDAL: You know, I heard from my fellow priests that a number of policemen coming for confession has increased. And many of them are really bothered by their conscience.

    So, what I would advise to policemen who would come for confession is, don’t follow illegal orders. Follow your conscience.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In 2009, Human Rights Watch and the Philippines’ human rights agency traced 1,000 deaths tied to the Davao Death Squad. They attempted to pursue a case against then Mayor Duterte for, at the least, tolerating these killings. But no one was willing to take the witness stand and no case was filed.

    Now, throughout the Philippines, the body count continues to grow, as murderers remain on the loose.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    The post Who’s behind brutal Philippines drug killings? A hitman speaks out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: unexpected revelations more than 60 years after one of the more seminal moments in the civil rights era.

    That’s the focus of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” the latest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    Jeffrey Brown spoke with him recently.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why retell this story? What drove you to want to take another look?

    TIMOTHY TYSON, Author, “The Blood of Emmett Till”: I was actually working on another book, and a nice woman from Raleigh called on the phone and wanted to tell me how much she liked my previous book.

    She said, well, my mother-in-law is coming next week. She’s — I gave her the book for Christmas, and she liked it very much, and we’d like to have a cup of coffee with you. She said, well, you might know my mother-in-law.

    Her name was Carolyn Bryant. And, of course, being a historian of the 20th century civil rights movement, I knew that Carolyn Bryant had not uttered a word in public about the lynching of Emmett Till since 1955.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The woman at the store who made the claims about Emmett Till.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: In whose name he was lynched.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Remind us what she had said, and what she says now.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: In court, she testified to something that was tantamount to sexual assault, to coming around the counter, grabbing her by the waist with his hands, and not letting go, and speaking to her sexually.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have broken some new ground here with having her say that the most sensational parts of her testimony were not true.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: Yes.

    In reference to the sort of physical piece, she said, that part’s not true. Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I read that in your book, when she says that, and, in one way, it’s the most obvious statement possible, right? Of course nothing that he did could justify what happened to him. But what importance do you feel, if any, of her finally saying it?

    TIMOTHY TYSON: I’m sure it’s important to the Till family and to other people who have — you know, have a kind of connection to the case.

    But, you know, I certainly never thought she was telling the truth at trial. People are really interested because it’s a mystery. She’s been in hiding almost for all these 60-some years.

    It was her husband who did the killing and her brother-in-law. It’s not clear what role she had in that. But the FBI investigated this in 2005 and said there was nothing to prosecute her on. And a grand jury that had a black majority ruled not to indict her.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you know why she finally spoke?

    TIMOTHY TYSON: I can’t say for a fact. I can’t read her mind. And she didn’t say.

    There was kind of an implication that she was in poor health and getting on in years and wanted to have her say and tell what she knew.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The real heroine of that — of the whole episode is Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: Yes, so courageous.

    She brings Emmett’s body back from Mississippi and has an open casket funeral, so everybody can see what the world did to my boy, she said.

    She also gets on the phone even before the body comes back and starts calling reporters, and just becomes a clearinghouse for this media operation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s fascinating, because she took her personal grief and made it into a kind of public awareness.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: That’s right. Yes. That’s right.

    And she knows Chicago. And she leverages the strength of black Chicago, of the institutions that had been built there over the decades, The Chicago Defender, Johnson Publishing, which is “Ebony” and “Jet,” black labor unions, and so on.

    With that, a movement emerges that becomes the infrastructure for the national civil rights movement. One of the grassroots activists in Mississippi spoke at Dexter Street Baptist Church, invited there by an unknown pastor named Martin Luther King.

    And Rosa Parks was in the congregation. And four days later, she was asked to move to the back of the bus. She later says, “I thought about Emmett Till, and I could not move.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the name Emmett Till cited to this day.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: He’s emblematic of racial injustice in America, and of violence against young black men in particular, and the ruthless indifference to the lives of young black men. So, yes, this is a story that won’t let us go.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What compels you? What pushes you personally to look at this history?

    TIMOTHY TYSON: The summer that I turned 11, a boy that I played with every day, his father and his brothers murdered this young black man in public for speaking perhaps something flirtatious to a white woman at the store counter.

    And they chased him out of the store and shot him from behind and then beat his head in with stocks of the rifles. And this wasn’t a murder mystery. And they were acquitted really in protest against school integration. It was almost an atmosphere of war.

    And I wondered, how did this all get started? Why am I in this craziness? And that began a process of discovery that led me, you know, a long way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The book is “The Blood of Emmett Till.”

    Timothy Tyson, thank you very much.

    TIMOTHY TYSON: Well, thank you, Jeffrey. Thanks for having me.

    The post ‘This is a story that won’t let us go’: New book revisits racial injustice of Emmett Till’s murder appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Riot police clear marchers from a secondary road outside a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) worker camp using rubber bullets, pepper spray, tasers and arrests in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., November 15, 2016. In other incidents they've employed militarized vehicles, water canons, tear gas and have been accused of using percussion grenades. Amber Bracken/Courtesy of World Press Photo Foundation/Handout via REUTERS   THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ON WORLD PRESS PHOTO ONLY. NO RESALES. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO CROPPING - RTSYEQ7

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: It’s a battle playing out around the country that you may not know about. Lawmakers are targeting protesters’ tactics in many state capitals, setting up debates over free speech vs. public safety.

    John Yang has the story.

    JOHN YANG: Clashes over a North Dakota oil pipeline, demonstrations after a Minnesota police shooting, the women’s march in Washington on inauguration weekend.

    Mass protests are playing out on a scale not seen since the 1960s and ’70s. Some have turned violent. Now, in state capitals across the country, Republican lawmakers are trying to rein in protests. They say it’s a matter of public safety and limiting economic damage. Protesters and civil liberties advocates say it’s an attack on free speech.

    In Minnesota, pending legislation would increase fines for blocking highways and airports.

    BILL INGEBRIGTSEN, (R), Minnesota State Senator: Not any of us, the 67 senators at least that I work with here in the Minnesota Senate, want to squelch any First Amendment rights at all. But it goes over the top when public safety, the potential of public safety is interfered with.

    JOHN THOMPSON, Community Activist: Do you honestly think that you are penalizing people? It’s already against the law. You honestly think that you raising the fine — there’s already a fine. That’s not going to stop us.

    JOHN YANG: Last week, North Dakota’s governor signed four bills aimed at making it easier to control protests like those over the Dakota Access pipeline. Legislation is pending in 17 other states.

    Among their provisions? Increasing penalties, including in some cases prison time, for blocking roadways, increasing penalties for rioting, allowing authorities to seize the assets of anyone involved in a violent protest, and relieving drivers of liability if they accidentally hit protesters blocking a street.

    For a deeper look at this, we’re joined by Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post. He’s been tracking these legislative efforts across the country, and he joins us from Fargo, North Dakota.

    Christopher, thanks for being with us.

    Christopher, we heard some of the provisions of some of this pending legislation in the piece, but how much farther? Where will this take us if some of these bills are enacted into law? How much farther will this take us than where we are now?

    CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM, The Washington Post: Well, that’s the question.

    And I think that’s what a lot of civil liberties advocates are worried about. They frame this essentially as an assault on free speech. And one of the things they’re worried about, the interesting thing about these bills is that they have been completely 100 percent across the board introduced by Republican lawmakers only.

    So, one of the concerns is that if these laws get enacted, they can be used as cudgels by whoever is in power at a given time. So, for instance, you look at some of these bills, including the one that was signed in North Dakota, they would do things like make it illegal to wear masks or costumes a protest.

    Now, that could apply to a guy wearing, say, a Guy Fawkes mask at the North Dakota Access pipeline protest. It could also apply to, say, a guy wearing a George Washington mask at a Tea Party process.

    So when you have these things, they could potentially be really broadly applied. And I think that’s what a lot of observers are really worried about here.

    JOHN YANG: What is driving this legislation? When you see a lot of bills introduced in state legislatures across the country like this, sometimes, there’s a group behind it are pushing it. Is there anything like that in this case?

    CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM: We’re not really seeing that.

    You’re not really seeing evidence of a group like, say, ALEC, groups who drafts model legislation. There is some evidence that in some of the Western states, you see energy and oil companies lobbying legislatures to pass these bills, because, say, you know, they’re worried about the coming Keystone Access pipeline. They don’t want another North Dakota pipeline situation unfolding.

    So, there is some interest from energy groups to do this. But in a lot of cases, it’s just legislators, it seems, taking initiative to do it themselves in response to protests they see, like protests for Donald Trump, protests for black men who have been shot by police officers. There’s really just a lot of different things all kind of converging on this.

    JOHN YANG: I know in your reporting, you have talked to civil liberties advocates. How do they think these laws would stand up to court challenges?

    CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM: That’s really an interesting question.

    One thing that multiple people — and these are people in the university, as well as people as the ACLU. One thing that they have said is that the Supreme Court and the federal courts have been really clear in the past 10 years or so, specifically calling out public places like streets as places that are protected, where protest is protected.

    They have some real doubts about whether or not these would pass constitutional muster. One thing they say is that, look, you look all across the country, there is basically not a single jurisdiction that doesn’t already have some sort of law on the books making it a crime to obstruct traffic.

    I think where they might get into trouble legally — and we will have to see how this plays out — is where you try to make it a crime to specifically protest in a public street.

    I think that might be a dividing line that some of the courts might be interested in exploring.

    JOHN YANG: How much public support are there for bills like these? What is the public sentiment, from what you can tell?

    CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM: It’s all over the place.

    I haven’t found any good polling on this. I look at the responses to the article that I wrote, and they’re really cleaved down partisan lines. You have half the folks saying, I was driving home the other night and I was stopped by a protest on the highway and it took me six hours to get home, and it was a huge headache, and I think we really need this legislation.

    And then I hear from people who say, look, I have been to some of these protests. I’m infuriated that lawmakers are trying to crack down on this, and this only strengthens my resolve. It makes me more likely to go out there and protest some more.

    And I think, on that measure, you can kind of look at these bills as kind of an indicator of the success that these protesters have had at bringing these issues up to a national level, to the extent that lawmakers feel they have to respond to them.

    JOHN YANG: Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post, thanks for joining us.

    CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM: Thanks for having me.

    The post GOP lawmakers try to rein in mass protests with new state laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives approved the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, but a similar measure struggled to get enough support in the Senate and President Barack Obama indicated he might use his veto if the bill does get through Congress. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen   (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS) - RTR4E83W

    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, on Nov. 14, 2014. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Keystone XL oil pipeline won’t use American steel in its construction, despite what President Donald Trump says.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that’s due to language in a presidential directive Trump issued in January. The directive applies to new pipelines or those under repair. Sanders said it would be hard to do an about-face on Keystone because it’s already under construction and the steel has been acquired.

    Trump said as recently as last week that Keystone and the Dakota Access pipeline must use American steel “or we’re not building one.”

    Trump used his executive powers shortly after taking office to greenlight the two pipeline projects that had been blocked by President Barack Obama.

    The Keystone pipeline would run from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. The Dakota Access line would move North Dakota oil to Illinois, and that project is nearly complete.

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    FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump is seen during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S. on February 8, 2017.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo - RTX30DHC

    U.S. President Donald Trump is seen during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 8, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/File Photo Reuters

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump is accusing former President Barack Obama of having Trump’s telephones “wire tapped” during last year’s election, but Trump isn’t offering any evidence or saying what prompted the allegation.

    Trump says in a series of tweets that he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”

    There’s no immediate White House comment, and an Obama spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Trump’s tweets could be in response to Democrats’ outcry following revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions — in his confirmation hearings — didn’t disclose his contacts with Russia’s American ambassador during the campaign. Sessions — a senator at that time — was Trump’s earliest Senate supporter.

    U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russia influenced the election to help Trump win.

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    U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein talks about the sentencing of Thomas Bromwell Sr. and Mary Patricia Bromwell following their appearance in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland, Friday, November 16, 2007.  (Photo by Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)

    Rod Rosenstein, whose confirmation hearing for deputy attorney general i snext week, talks about the sentencing of Thomas Bromwell Sr. and Mary Patricia Bromwell following their appearance in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland, Friday, November 16, 2007. Photo by Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Some Democrats worry the appointment of a Jeff Sessions subordinate to oversee an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election won’t be a clean enough break from the embattled attorney general.

    But the veteran prosecutor in line for the job may be uniquely politically palatable.

    Rod Rosenstein, who faces his confirmation hearing next week for the role of deputy attorney general, was appointed top federal prosecutor in Maryland by George W. Bush and remained in the post for the entire Obama administration. That staying power, extraordinary for a position that routinely turns over with changes in the White House, lends weight to the reputation he’s cultivated as an apolitical law enforcement official.

    “He is so well-respected. He cannot be influenced, he cannot be bought, he cannot be pressured because of outside political forces,” said Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven Silverman, who has known Rosenstein for years.

    Sessions recused himself from any Trump-Russia investigation Thursday after the Justice Department acknowledged he had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador last year and had failed to disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation process. Sessions said he had not tried to mislead anyone but could have been more careful in his answers. He planned to file amended testimony on Monday, a Justice Department spokesman said.

    [Watch Video]

    The new attorney general’s recusal handed authority for an investigation — for now — to his deputy, Dana Boente, another longtime federal prosecutor who has the post in an acting capacity. Boente was appointed U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2015 by Barack Obama and was elevated to acting attorney general in January after Trump fired Obama holdover Sally Yates. When Sessions won confirmation, Boente stepped to the No. 2 position.

    Once Rosenstein is confirmed, he’ll take over responsibility for any probes touching the Trump campaign and Russian meddling.

    He arrives at the Justice Department with experience in politically freighted investigations, having earlier in his career been part of the Clinton-era Whitewater independent investigation.

    When he was a U.S. attorney, his office also led the leak prosecution of Thomas Drake, the former National Security Agency official who pleaded guilty to a minor misdemeanor after more serious charges of mishandling documents were dropped. He more recently oversaw the probe of James Cartwright, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman who admitted making false statements during a separate leak investigation and was ultimately pardoned by Obama.

    “It’s hard to imagine a more challenging environment in which to come in as the deputy attorney general than what we have now,” said Jason Weinstein, who served under Rosenstein in the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland. “Having said that, I can’t imagine a better person for the job right now than Rod.”

    Regardless, the Sessions recusal did little to assuage demands from some Democrats that the investigation be placed in the hands of a special prosecutor.

    READ NEXT: How Washington is reacting to Jeff Sessions’ Russia revelation

    Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the Sessions recusal “deeply inadequate” and said he was troubled by the number of Trump associates who he contended have either made misleading statements or concealed communications with Russia.

    “I also think for the public to have confidence that any prosecutorial decision is made truly independent of the administration, that the extra remedy of a special counsel is really warranted here,” Schiff said in an interview.

    There is precedent for the selection of a special counsel by the Justice Department for especially sensitive investigations, though there’s no indication yet that federal officials are planning to seek such an appointment.

    One prominent example was in 2003, when the Bush Justice Department turned to Patrick Fitzgerald, then the top federal prosecutor in Chicago, to investigate who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA officer. That appointment was made by James Comey, who at the time was deputy attorney general and now is director of the FBI.

    “I think if the decision is made to bring someone in from the outside, it’s not because the department can’t do it and can’t do it well,” said Weinstein, now a Washington lawyer. “It’s because in this politicized environment, the public’s faith in the integrity of the investigation is so important and the department will want to bend over backward to put in place measures to ensure that the results of the investigation weren’t questioned.”

    The post Veteran prosecutor in line to oversee Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Women carry jerry cans of water from shallow wells dug from the sand along the Shabelle River bed, which is dry due to drought in Somalia's Shabelle region, March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar/File Photo - RTSJKYO

    Women carry jerry cans of water from shallow wells dug from the sand along the Shabelle River bed, which is dry due to drought in Somalia’s Shabelle region, March 19, 2016. Photo by Feisal Omar/File Photo/Reuters

    MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia’s prime minister announced Saturday that 110 people have died from hunger in the past 48 hours in a single region as a severe drought threatens millions of people across the country.

    It was the first death toll announced by Somalia’s government since it declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine.

    Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is from the Bay region in the southwest part of the country alone.

    Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the U.N. secretary-general last month in a $4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the U.N. chief said.

    The U.N. humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, was expected to visit Somalia in the next few days.

    Thousands have been streaming into Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. Over 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently.

    The drought is the first crisis for Somalia’s newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Previous droughts and a quarter-century of conflict, including ongoing attacks by extremist group al-Shabab, have left the country fragile. Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia’s diaspora of 2 million people for help.

    About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned.

    Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, U.N. experts say. Some deaths from cholera already have been reported.

    The government has said the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.”

    The U.N. humanitarian appeal for 2017 for Somalia is $864 million to provide assistance to 3.9 million people. But the U.N. World Food Program recently requested an additional $26 million plan to respond to the drought.

    The post Somalia: 110 dead from hunger in past 48 hours in drought appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An aerial view of the Prairie Pothole Region, near Wing, North Dakota. Photo by Jim Ringelman/Ducks Unlimited/U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

    An aerial view of the Prairie Pothole Region, near Wing, North Dakota. Photo by Jim Ringelman/Ducks Unlimited/U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

    President Trump issued an executive order Feb. 28 directing federal agencies to revise the Clean Water Rule, a major regulation published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015. The rule’s purpose is to clarify which water bodies and wetlands are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt led a multi-state lawsuit against the rule as Oklahoma attorney general, and has called it “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.”

    At the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, we work in partnership with the farm and ranch community to find solutions to difficult western water problems. Farmers and ranchers often express frustration with one-size-fits-all worker protection, food safety, animal welfare, immigration, endangered species and environmental regulations. So we understand their concern that this rule may further constrain agricultural activities on their land.

    In particular, they fear the Clean Water Rule could expand federal regulations that impact their private property rights. However, regulatory agencies and the regulated community need to know the limits of the Clean Water Act’s reach so they can take appropriate measures to protect water resources. If the rule is scrapped, we still will need to know which water bodies require protection under the law.

    Which waters?

    The Clean Water Act of 1972 protects the “waters of the United States” from unpermitted discharges that may harm water quality for humans and aquatic life. However, it leaves it up to EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to define which waters the law covers.

    Agencies and the courts agree that this term includes “navigable waters,” such as rivers and lakes. It also covers waterways connected to them, such as marshes and wetlands. The central question is how closely connected a water body must be to navigable waters to fall under federal jurisdiction.

    In 2001 and 2006, the Supreme Court handed down rulings that narrowed the definition of protected waters, but used confusing language. These opinions created regulatory uncertainty for farmers, ranchers and developers.

    The Supreme Court wrote in the 2006 case, Rapanos v. United States, that if a water body had a “significant nexus” to a federally protected waterway – for example, if a wetland was some distance from a navigable stream but produced a relatively permanent flow to the stream – then it was connected and fell under federal jurisdiction. But it failed to clearly define the significant nexus test for other situations.

    The Clean Water Rule seeks to clarify which types of waters are 1) protected categorically, 2) protected on a case-by-case basis or 3) not covered. Here are some of the key categories:

    Tributaries formerly were evaluated case by case. Now they are automatically covered if they have features of flowing water – a bed, a bank and a high water mark. Other types, such as open waters without beds and banks, will be evaluated case by case.

    “Adjacent waters,” such as wetlands and ponds that are near covered waters, are protected if they lie within physical and measurable boundaries set out in the rule.

    “Isolated waters” are not connected to navigable waters but still can be ecologically important. The rule identifies specific types that are protected, such as prairie potholes and California vernal pools.

    EPA estimated that the final Clean Water Rule expanded the types of water subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction by about 3 percent, or 1,500 acres nationwide. Opponents clearly think it could be much broader – and until they see the rule implemented on the landscape, their fears may have some basis in fact.

    Protecting drainage ditches?

    Industry and agriculture groups believe the new rule defines tributaries more broadly. They see this change as unnecessary overreach that makes it difficult to know what is regulated on their lands.

    Western farms are laced with canals that provide critical irrigation water during the growing season. These canals and ditches divert water from streams and return the excess through a downstream return loop, which is fed by gravity. Because they are open and unlined, they also serve as water sources for wildlife, ecosystems and underground aquifers. And because they are connected to other water bodies, farmers fear they could be subject to federal regulation.

    The only way to surface-irrigate in western valleys without affecting local water systems would be to lay thousands of miles of pressurized pipes, like those that carry water in cities. This approach would be impractical in many situations and incredibly expensive.

    More generally, farmers and ranchers want to be able to make decisions about managing their land and water resources without ambiguity or time-consuming and expensive red tape. In spite of EPA assurances, they worry the Clean Water Rule could include agricultural ditches, canals and drainages in the definition of “tributary.”

    They fear EPA will use vague language in the rule to expand its power to regulate these features and change the way they are currently operated. They also fear becoming targets for citizen-initiated lawsuits, which are allowed under the Clean Water Act. Moreover, they are skeptical the outcomes will significantly benefit the environment.

    Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy argued that the rule would not unduly burden farmers. “We will protect clean water without getting in the way of farming and ranching,” McCarthy told the National Farmers Union in 2015. “Normal agriculture practices like plowing, planting, and harvesting a field have always been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation; this rule won’t change that at all.”

    All waters eventually connect

    Farmers and ranchers are independent by nature and believe they know what is best for the stewardship of their own land. They tend to be regulation-averse and believe voluntary approaches to water quality provide the flexibility needed to account for site-specific variations across the landscape. However, science shows that relatively minor effects at the edge of one field can aggregate across a watershed in cumulative impacts that are significant and sometimes serious.

    From an ecological perspective, scientists have long understood that surface water bodies and tributary groundwater within a watershed are connected over time. Even if it takes years, water will move across and through the landscape. Determining which tributaries have a “significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters depends on how you define “significant.”

    Even small wetlands and intermittent ponds provide ecosystem services that benefit the larger watershed. Wetlands and small water bodies that are geographically isolated from the floodplain may still impact navigable waters as either groundwater flows or surface runoff during heavy or prolonged precipitation events.

    In that sense, all water runs downhill to the stream eventually. As a dozen prominent wetland scientists wrote last month in an amicus brief to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is reviewing the Clean Water Rule, “the best available science overwhelmingly demonstrates that the waters [protected] categorically in the Clean Water Rule have significant chemical, physical, and biological connections to primary waters.”

    Scientists and ecologists agree interpreting the degree and frequency of this kind of connectivity requires site-by-site analysis. We now understand more clearly how isolated water bodies function on the landscape as part of a larger complex, and our knowledge can help clarify how directly water bodies are connected. But deciding where to draw the bright line of regulatory certainty may lie beyond the realm of science.

    If the Trump administration withdraws or weakens the Clean Water Rule, it is likely to leave regulators interpreting case by case whether tributaries and adjacent waters are covered, as they have been doing since 2006, and land and water owners guessing about what they can do with their resources. So in the end, repealing the rule won’t answer the underlying question: how far upstream federal protection extends.

    David J. Cooper is a Senior Research Scientist and Scholar Professor at Colorado State University. He receives funding from a contractor working for EPA and served as an external peer reviewer on an EPA report, “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters,” published in 2015. Reagan Waskom is the Director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. Waskom does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The Conversation

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    Photo by Scott Morgan/REUTERS

    Mike Pence’s emails from him time as Indiana governor have been turned over to the state government. Photo by Scott Morgan/Reuters

    INDIANAPOLIS — Thirteen boxes of emails from Vice President Mike Pence’s term as Indiana governor have been turned over to state government, about two months after an earlier attempt didn’t work, a spokesman said.

    The emails were delivered Thursday to be archived for public review as required under Indiana law, the Indianapolis Star reported.

    The emails are from government accounts as well as Pence’s private email account used for government business, spokesman Marc Lotter said. That AOL account was disclosed Thursday.

    “It’s been expressed to us that a lot of what’s in those boxes, if not everything, we already have. But we haven’t verified that,” said Stephanie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the new governor, Eric Holcomb.

    READ NEXT: Chaffetz seeks charge of ex-Clinton aide in email inquiry

    Lotter said attorneys for Pence tried to deliver boxes of emails on Jan. 9, his last day as governor, but they returned to the law firm with them due to a “lack of clarity (about) what to do” with the emails.

    Pence said Friday that he has “fully complied” with Indiana law. Critics, however, say emails from Pence’s private account should have been disclosed earlier.

    “We shouldn’t be accidentally discovering that officials from the governor down to school board members are conducting public business on private communication channels,” said Gerry Lanosga, an Indiana University professor and past president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government.

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    A SmartOne infant sleep monitor is shown on a doll at the Sensible Baby booth during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2014. The wearable device, fits into a chest pocket, and sends information and active alerts on temperature, baby orientation and breathing to a parent's mobile device. The device will retail for $149.00 and be available online in the second quarter of 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - RTX176LI

    A SmartOne infant sleep monitor is shown on a doll at the Sensible Baby booth during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2014. The wearable device, fits into a chest pocket, and sends information and active alerts on temperature, baby orientation and breathing to a parent’s mobile device. Photo by Steve Marcus/Reuters

    Welcome to the modern nursery, where every wiggle, snore, and diaper change is tracked — and the data is synced to your smartphone.

    A flurry of high-tech baby products has hit the market in recent months. Major retailers are getting in on the action, too: Target launched a “connected nursery” section in stores last fall. But experts say there hasn’t been thorough research on many of those products and warn that they can sometimes do more harm than good.

    “It takes time to do a careful study that compares the validity and reliability of these devices,” said Dr. Judith Owens, the director of the pediatric sleep center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “In the meantime, the horse is out of the barn.”

    If a baby’s healthy, she said, the devices can backfire as parents poring over the data may seek unnecessary medical attention. “Parents see these numbers and they get so focused on it, they create a problem when there isn’t one,” Owens said.

    Here’s a look at the high-tech gear that’s hitting the nursery market.

    Smart changing pads

    Babies seem to grow in the blink of an eye; smart changing pads aim to document that process, one ounce at a time. One such product, Grow, uses a wireless smart scale built into the changing pad. The manufacturer, baby tech company Hatch, encourages breastfeeding moms to weigh their babies before and after each feeding to double check just how much milk the little one has consumed.

    The data is sent — where else? — to your smartphone, where an app charts a baby’s growth week by week. It also tracks every diaper change to make sure digestion is moving as it should, and allows parents to compare their baby’s development to global averages. The new model, which ships in May, sells for $129.

    Fitbit, but for babies

    For parents who want to keep an eye on their baby’s every snooze, a company called Mimo offers cotton kimonos or bodysuits — a trendier name for a onesie — armed with activity trackers. The outfits can keep tabs on a baby’s temperature, body position, and wriggling during sleep, and provide parents a readout every morning. The tracker itself sticks onto compatible clothes and costs $199, with the accompanying onesies running $29 a pair.

    Mimo also offers a baby activity tracker that’s threaded into $179 crib sheets.

    “These [types of] devices can tell parents very early on the quality of the baby’s sleep,” said Tam Vu, an engineering professor at the University of Colorado, Denver, who has worked on sleep sensor technology. Vu said the monitors can signal to parents that they might need to change a baby’s sleeping environment to encourage a more restful night.

    Fitbit, but for parents

    Data collection isn’t just about babies. There’s a Fitbit-style tracker for busy parents, too. The Project Nursery Parent + Baby SmartBand, priced at $149, is a wearable that’s designed to keep a running record of every feeding, diaper change, and nap time. The wearer can simply hit the bottle logo on the tracker, for example, and type in how much milk a baby drank. The band will record that information with a time stamp and send it right to a smartphone app. It can ping parents, too, when it’s time for a scheduled nap or feeding.

    A crib that knows how to rock your baby back to sleep

    And for bleary-eyed parents with some extra pennies in their piggy banks, there’s the $1,160 self-rocking sleeper SNOO. The “smart sleeper” starts by swaddling a baby in a wrap that then gets firmly clipped to the sides of the bed. It then gently rocks the infant. SNOO’s makers claim it’s smart enough to detect patterns in your baby’s sleep and predict the tempo that will soothe them best — so when they’re particularly agitated, the bed might rock more quickly than when they’re just a bit fussy.

    But is it a sound idea to rely on a crib to decipher your baby’s cries? Owens isn’t so sure.

    “Those kinds of devices really remove parents from being able to interpret and make appropriate decisions,” she said.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on July 20, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Step inside a wired nursery: Lots of tech — and not much evidence it’s helpful appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A highway traffic sign on the U.S side of the border pointing to the direction of Canada, at Emerson, Manitoba, Canada February 25, 2017. Picture taken February 25, 2017.  REUTERS/Lyle Stafford - RTS10RK7

    A highway traffic sign on the U.S side of the border pointing to the direction of Canada, at Emerson, Manitoba, Canada, on Feb. 25, 2017. Photo by Lyle Stafford/Reuters

    EMERSON, Manitoba — Canada is enforcing border laws and is willing to put more resources in place to deal with the influx of asylum-seekers from the United States, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Saturday.

    Goodale visited Emerson, Manitoba, a small border town that has seen some 200 illicit crossings so far this year.

    “We all need to work together. We have to have good communication with one another. This is a set of issues that span national, provincial and local responsibilities,” Goodale told reporters at a conference Saturday.

    Goodale announced US$22,000 (CA$30,000) to cover extra costs borne by Emerson-Franklin’s volunteer fire department and other agencies in the community, saying more resources will become available.

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency have shifted some resources in southern Manitoba to the Emerson area. The border services agency recently set up a trailer to help process the border-crossers.

    READ NEXT: Refugees already settled in U.S. concerned over Trump order

    The number of illicit border-crossings has jumped in recent months, following the U.S. government’s plans to limit immigration and step up deportations. The Manitoba government has said the influx has created more demand for housing and other support services.

    Migrants have been crossing through fields and ditches because, under the Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, they are turned back at official border crossings if they have already made refugee claims in the U.S.

    If they get onto Canadian soil before being apprehended, they are allowed to stay in Canada and go through the normal refugee-claim process.

    Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel has called on the government to ensure migrants who sneak across the border are charged with crossing illegally, but Goodale said they cannot be charged if they make a refugee claim, at least until the claim is dealt with.

    “Charges in relation to the crossing of the border cannot be laid until after the case of the particular individual under immigration rules has been finally disposed of,” Goodale said.

    He also said the government is examining requests for more aid from refugee support agencies, but did not provide specifics.

    The post Canada minister addresses influx of asylum-seekers from U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    By Ivette Feliciano and Zachary Green

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Fifty percent of the world’s population live in urban areas, but that will grow to 70 percent by the year 2050, according to the United Nations. Today, there are 31 mega-cities..metropolitan areas with more than 10 million people: Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Cairo  By 2030, the UN predicts, there will be 41.

    As the number of city dwellers rises, so do problems like overcrowding, pollution, housing shortages, and aging infrastructure like mass transit and highways

    OSCAR BOYSON: So is future urbanization going to be a good thing or a bad thing? If you care about people, this is the defining question of our time.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: In his new mini-documentary, “The Future of Cities,” New York-based director Oscar Boyson stepped out of the commercial film and TV world to explore what governments, communities, and everyday people around the globe are doing to make increasing density in their cities sustainable for the future.

    What were the central problems that you were trying to address?

    OSCAR BOYSON: Cities can get a bad name as far as being dirty or contributing to congestion, carbon output, etc. But what people often don’t think about is that when we all are packed in living in dense quarters, there’s so much to gain, we’re using that as an opportunity to innovate more, exchange more ideas, use energy more efficiently, use water more efficiently, right? And let’s look at examples of how we’re using density and doing it right, and how that’s actually the best, if not the only way to save the planet.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: In partnership with the Nantucket Project — an ideas incubator that hosts a TED talk-like yearly conference focused on innovations — and a private investor, Boyson set out to show sustainability projects, in transportation, energy, and water-use, that can be replicated all over the world…from countries as varied as Iceland…

    WOMAN IN REYKJAVIK: Geothermal energy power plant! And Peru…

    MAN IN LIMA PERU:  This is a fog catcher and it can catch up to 500 L of water a day.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Boyson put out a global call for ideas on YouTube

    MAN: Hi, Oscar. Nice meeting you over the Internet.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: And received more than 1300 responses from 75 countries. Many who sent Boyson ideas agreed to serve as tour guides and videographers during his 3-week-long shoot in 16 cities. Other participants sent him video they’d filmed on their own.

    This man in Santiago, Chile introduced Boyson to an electric rickshaw that residents can ride for free.

    OSCAR BOYSON: This is Lucas. We met on YouTube

    IVETTE FELICIANO: How did you go about meeting these people?

    OSCAR BOYSON: I’d never met a stranger on the internet. I’d never done anything like that.

    MAN: You’re very trusting to just hop in my car and I’m going to take you somewhere in a country you’ve never been.

    OSCAR BOYSON: I would show up, and somebody who’d emailed me would meet me at the airport. I would say hi, and sometimes they were a professional camera operator or someone who works in media, and other times they were just somebody who wanted to hang out and talk or show me parts of the city that they find interesting.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Over the course of two weeks, Boyson traveled all over the world to places like Chile, New Zealand, Mumbai and Copenhagen.

    OSCAR BOYSON: And I think part of the deal was, hey, if you help me with this video while I’m in your city, I’m going to really take the time with the incredible editing team that helped me to make something you’re going to be proud of.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: In South Korea, Boyson visited what urban planners call the world’s first “smart-city,” Songdo. This high-tech real estate has been built during the past 15 years on mud flats filled with sand..at the edge of the Yellow Sea. Sensors monitor the city’s energy use, traffic flow, and waste management system that sends trash and recycling through underground tunnels to waste processing centers.

    And he also went to smaller projects in the developing world — like the cities in Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines embracing homegrown solutions to its climate change-related problems.

    OSCAR BOYSON: Flooding is an issue in Makoko, so they built a school that floats by using cheap and available materials. This woman turns discarded plastic into bricks in Karachi.  In Manila they turn water bottles into solar light bulbs.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Boyson also studied American cities. He met resident Abess Makki in Detroit, where the city’s debt crisis caused water shutoffs in 2014. Makki created City Water, a phone app that allows residents to monitor their water usage in real time…or report leaks.

    ABESS MAKKI: We’re no Silicon Valley, but we’re trying to become a city that brings tools and brings solutions and brings jobs back.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: In Los Angeles, Boyson found one man using his solar panels and atmospheric generators to extract clean drinking water from humid air.

    DAVE HERTZ: Every building ideally can make it’s own water and be water self-reliant.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Then there is the problem traffic and the air pollution it causes. Instead of building larger highways to accommodate more cars, Boyson found Seoul, South Korea, and Shenzhen, China, have replaced old highways with public thoroughfares that have bike paths and greenways. In Singapore, where 80 percent of the population lives in subsidized high-rise housing, the government charges citizens higher taxes for the social costs of car ownership, caps car leases to 10 years and also plans to build car-less city.

    OSCAR BOYSON: Obviously so much of 20 century, megacities were built around the car, to service the car, which we’re learning is not necessarily the best thing for people, whether that’s air pollution or people getting hit by cars or running large highways through neighborhoods.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Boyson wasn’t able to include all of the innovative projects into his initial mini-documentary, like one of his favorite submissions from Medellin Colombia, which built a greenbelt that surrounds the city to benefit residents who have been pushed to the outskirts of the city by gentrification.

    OSCAR BOYSON: And it’s giving the people the furthest away from the center of the city this place that will produce jobs, but also shared public space, shared green space. So I love that idea.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Since posting the “Future of Cities” to the Internet in December, Boyson continues to receive unsolicited videos, and he aims to produce a series of small films.

    And you say in the film that the people that you met are the ones that gave you the most hope for the future. Why is that?

    OSCAR BOYSON: I’d get off a plane and I’m with somebody who’s donating their time and their energy to show me around their city. Their perspective, their energy, their effort is informed just by love and interest, right. So the point of view that they’re sharing with me is totally about a citizen. If I hire a production services company in one of these cities, they’re going to show me what they think I want to see, right.  (37:16) So to have this very pure relationship with the city that I was seeing was really inspiring and a real reminder that cities are about people. They’re not about buildings, they’re not about cars. People have always made the difference. And feeling that again and again, whether it was someone I met in person or just corresponded with over the internet, was very inspiring.

    The post In ‘The Future of Cities,’ innovative responses to urban issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An army vehicle patrols in al-Mahfad of the southern Yemeni province of Abyan May 23, 2014. Yemeni forces have faced a wave of hit-and-run attacks by al Qaeda insurgents since the army captured their strongholds in al-Mahfad in Abyan province and in Mayfa'a, Azzan and Gol al-Rayda in Shabwa province earlier this month. Picture taken May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3QMO6

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The American military is ramping up operations in the war-torn country of Yemen, where a Saudi- led coalition of mostly Sunni countries supports Yemen’s president against Shiite Houthi rebels. The U.S. is also allied with the Saudis and Yemen’s president. Since Thursday, U.S. warplanes have carried out more than 30 air strikes in Yemen using aircraft and drones to target the Islamic militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

    This follows the January 29 Special Forces raid on the group in Yemen that killed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and several dozen Yemenis.

    For more analysis of the U.S. role in Yemen, I am joined from Washington by Gordon Lubold, a reporter for “The Wall Street Journal”.

    So, why this sudden interest in Yemen?

    GORDON LUBOLD, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think the interest actually began certainly within the U.S. military prior to President Trump taking office in January. The proposal had been kind of in the works, but the Obama administration had decided to allow Mr. Trump to make the decisions about how to proceed in Yemen. As you know, AQAP is seen really — and the Pentagon would tell you — is potentially even more of a threat to the U.S. homeland than Islamic State is.

    But — so these proposals were kind of under way, and then Mr. Trump acted on them, essentially granting the Pentagon broader authority to go after AQAP in Yemen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It seems like there are almost two wars going on — the Saudis and Iranians fighting each other as the proxy war, there’s the Houthi rebels and so forth. And then there’s this fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

    GORDON LUBOLD: Yes, there’s kind of as a defense official was explaining yesterday, kind of a civil war within a civil war. But what the U.S. is really concerned with primarily is fighting AQAP in central Yemen and along the coastal Yemen. That includes the area where the January 29th raid was.

    There’s about maybe upwards of 3,000 known al Qaeda fighters in this area. So, the idea is to kind of — somebody in the Pentagon said kind of get after it, but use indigenous forces and Emiratis and Saudis to do it.

    U.S. forces are kind of — they’re involved on the ground. The Pentagon’s loathe to kind of acknowledge that, but there is some presence there. But they don’t appear to be doing a lot of ground combat right now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Did anybody from the Pentagon say that the intelligence gathered from the raid on January 29th is contributing to any of these airstrikes?

    GORDON LUBOLD: Right, they’ve actually made a point of saying that the intelligence from that raid did not drive these strikes over the last few days. They’re kind of separate and distinct. That intelligence gathered there is really — they’re still assessing it, and these targets that have been hit the last couple, few days, were also entrained prior to the 29th raid. So, really not.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Basically, the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has flourished in the middle of this active war.

    GORDON LUBOLD: The chaos in that country, you know, kind of breeds the terrorism that U.S. and allies are concerned about, and it’s, you know, obviously a very poor country, large youth bulge, as they say, not a lot of water, resources. It’s kind of ripe for growing terrorism, and I think that what we’re seeing and why we’re seeing this now is, you know, the Trump administration has a desire to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State, but really also other militant groups. And this one, as I say, is seen as potentially more of a threat to the American homeland.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Gordon Lubold of “The Wall Street Journal,” joining us from Washington — thanks so much.

    GORDON LUBOLD: Thank you.

    The post U.S. warplanes bombard al-Qaida in Yemen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Then-FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (L) testifies at a House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: This week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outlined a list of proposals on the table for consideration at the agency’s meeting later this month, including: blocking of robocalls, which are the number one complaint from consumers; ending the use of cell phones in prisons; reforming cell service to give providers more flexibility and providing broadband to customers; and improving the video relay service, a tool used by the deaf to communicate using sign language.

    Joining me from Washington to discuss the FCC agenda and possible policy changes is “Washington Post” reporter Brian Fung.

    Brian, so, let’s start with the positive. The level of transparency and exactly what’s going to be coming up at the meeting, that’s kind of good news for all the people who are affected by it to kind of line up and speak their mines.

    BRIAN FUNG, WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. The FCC previously didn’t have to release the full text of any decision it made before it actually made it. Now, under Ajit Pai, that policy has changed so that now, the public can actually see what the commission is going to vote on before that actually happens.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s also been a lot of talk about how many steps Ajit Pai is going to be taking to roll back some of the things that his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, put in place, especially when it comes to net neutrality. Give us the background.

    BRIAN FUNG: You know, all of these items that are taking place on this month’s agenda are kind of coming under the shadow of this big effort that many people in Washington expect to happen surrounded net neutrality and broadband privacy, these rules that the FCC under Pai’s predecessor, Tom Wheeler, passed in order to impose new rules on Internet providers.

    Now, these rules that were passed were pretty controversial at the time. Although, many consumer advocates say that they were necessary to preserve a free and open Internet. But Republicans, such as Pai, have criticized the rule, saying this is an example of governor overreach and will depress Internet provider investments in their networks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, some of the concerns that consumer groups have is whether or not there will be a fast lane and a slow lane. That was the fear, right? If telecom companies are able to strike different partnerships, they can provide certain pieces of content better, which means other pieces of content might not come up so fast when you search for them.

    BRIAN FUNG: That’s right. Now, in some cases, some Internet providers have committed not to doing that, but the fear among consumer advocates is that, you know, some Internet providers may not be disclosing certain new business models that cold potentially harm consumers. And the rules are generally attempt to address those potential harms by giving the government the power to investigate and go after companies that are thinking about or introducing some of these programs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And then there was also some concern about the privacy rules that went into place about, you know, right now, my cell phone provider pretty much knows exactly where I am. They know lots and lots of things about me, whether or not they should be able to sell some of that data, even if it’s anonymized, to make a profit.

    BRIAN FUNG: Exactly. So, some of the rules that were passed under the Wheeler tenure involved these privacy rules that are basically designed to prevent Internet providers from abusing the data that they collect on customers like you and me. And so, all of the rules that were built by the FCC to address privacy are aimed at preventing Internet providers from abusing that level of information that they have on you.

    But under Ajit Pai, some of those rules are likely to be rolled back. In fact, the FCC has already issued a partial stay of a certain slice of the rules that govern how Internet providers must protect the data that they have on you to prevent that from falling into the hands of hackers, for instance.

    Now, the rules more broadly have been subject to a petition by industry to have — to be rolled back. But the FCC has still yet to vote on that overall petition.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Brian Fung of the “Washington Post” — thanks so much.

    BRIAN FUNG: My pleasure.

    The post FCC may scale back net neutrality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Eleece Wilbon, 20, from Bakersfield, Calif., on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Wilbon said she knew about STDs but it wasn’t until she started hearing about the crisis in Kern County that she truly realized the dangers.  (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Eleece Wilbon, 20, from Bakersfield, Calif., on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Wilbon said she knew about STDs but it wasn’t until she started hearing about the crisis in Kern County that she truly realized the dangers. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Neonatologist Gurvir Khurana had only read about it in textbooks. Seeing it in real life has been a shock: baby after baby born severely anemic, lungs filled with fluid, bodies covered with rashes. Some only lived minutes; others died within days or weeks.

    The cause: congenital syphilis.

    They are all born to mothers with syphilis. Many of the mothers arrive at the hospital to give birth never having had prenatal care, unaware they have the disease — let alone that they could pass it along to their unborn babies. The infants who survive carry an elevated risk of long-term health problems.

    “It’s been an absolute explosion,” said Khurana, who works at four hospitals in California’s Central Valley. “It’s just spreading very, very quickly. Kern County has a huge public health problem on its hands.”

    The Central Valley — a vast agricultural and mostly low-income swath of California — has seen an unprecedented spike in congenital syphilis over the last few years. It’s part of an overall rise in syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases across California and the nation.

    Health professionals fear rates could rise even further if President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act and people lose access to reproductive health care.

    “STD rates aren’t going to just stop,” said Natasha Felkins, a health educator for Planned Parenthood in Bakersfield, the main city in Kern County. “When health coverage goes away or when things are cut, we are going to see numbers increase and that’s going to affect all of us.”

    Across the U.S., sexually transmitted diseases are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of syphilis among women increased 27 percent from 2014 to 2015, and congenital syphilis increased by 6 percent. Preliminary data show the trend continued into 2016, with syphilis among women rising another 21 percent and congenital syphilis 4 percent.

    The rise is worrisome, especially given that syphilis had almost disappeared by about 2000, said Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s division of sexually transmitted disease prevention.

    “There was great hope for syphilis elimination in the United States,” Bolan said. “Unfortunately, our national data now show that syphilis is thriving.”

    Bolan said CDC officials are closely monitoring the epidemic of syphilis around the nation, urging states to explore the roles of poverty, limited health care access, drugs and incarceration and to address those factors. They are watching with particular concern the spike in cases among women, and encouraging more testing, treatment and education.

    “Rises in women, especially women of reproductive age … are a bellwether for when we are going to start seeing more congenital syphilis,” Bolan said.

    In California, about two-thirds of syphilis cases are still among men who sleep with men, but the number of cases among women between the ages of 15 and 44 quadrupled from 2011 to 2015, according to the state Department of Public Health. And cases of congenital syphilis increased threefold over that same time period.

    In 2015, nearly half of them were in Fresno and Kern counties. Kern County had 28 cases of congenital syphilis in 2015, up from one in 2011. Nearby Fresno County had 40 in 2015, up from two four years earlier. The rates in both counties dwarf others around the state.

    California’s rate of syphilis among newborns is the second highest in the U.S. after Louisiana, and the state ranks third after Louisiana and Georgia for syphilis among women, according to the CDC.

    Louisiana stepped up its response to the increase about four years ago, working with the CDC to expand testing sites, raise public awareness and increase education for OB-GYNs. Over the past year, the state also started nine regional STD task forces to address the problem. And the state passed legislation mandating syphilis testing twice during pregnancy.

    Congenital syphilis cases now are starting to decline, said DeAnn Gruber, director of the infectious diseases bureau for the Louisiana Department of Health.

    “We needed to do something,” she said. “And this wasn’t just a health department issue. It was something that everybody needed to work on.” The department is collaborating with local politicians, health providers and community groups to combat the problem, she added.

    Georgia, too, is working to reduce its syphilis rates. Its health officials are encouraging people to “know their sexual health status” by getting tested for other STDs at the same time they are tested for HIV. The state health department is working with night clubs and with health providers around the state to increase testing.

    Vyn Wayne, a nurse practitioner at Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, Calif., examines patient Serenity Thomason on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Due to the increase in congenital syphilis diagnoses in Kern County, Wayne informs all her pregnant patients about the sexually transmitted disease during their prenatal appointments. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Vyn Wayne, a nurse practitioner at Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, Calif., examines patient Serenity Thomason on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Due to the increase in congenital syphilis diagnoses in Kern County, Wayne informs all her pregnant patients about the sexually transmitted disease during their prenatal appointments. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    State and local health officials and medical providers around the U.S. are uncertain of the precise reason for the sharp rise in such cases, but they believe one contributing factor is that many women get prenatal care too late, or not at all.

    They also attribute the problem to poverty, drug use that leads to risky sexual behavior, and lack of awareness of the risks of syphilis and other STDs. Also to blame, they say, are changes in sexual behavior, including reduced condom use and a tendency to have more partners.

    At the federal level, CDC officials say the rise in syphilis and other STD cases is due in part to budget cuts in state and local STD programs that have resulted in diminished access to care.

    Steven Amador, 18, waits in the exam room with fiancé Serenity Thomason on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Amador said he feels lucky he hasn’t contracted an STD. “I feel like I got through a land mine in Bakersfield.” (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Steven Amador, 18, waits in the exam room with fiancé Serenity Thomason on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Amador said he feels lucky he hasn’t contracted an STD. “I feel like I got through a land mine in Bakersfield.” Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Many sexually transmitted infections are asymptomatic and go undiagnosed until they really start to cause damage. Untreated, they can lead to serious health problems, including blindness and infertility.

    “We see very, very severe complications,” said Heidi Bauer, chief of the STD control branch at the California Department of Public Health. “And as we see these rates increase, we are inevitably going to see … these complications increase and have devastating health consequences.”

    California recently awarded $5 million to counties around the state in an effort to reduce STD rates.

    In Bakersfield, as many as 40 people a day now visit the county-run health clinic for STD testing and treatment, said Denise Smith, the county’s director of disease control. For those who are at high risk, the clinic sometimes doesn’t wait for the test results and just treats the patients as if they were infected. When people test positive, clinic staffers send home medication for their partners, too.

    The Kern County Public Health Services Department has embarked on an information campaign with the slogan “Know Your Risk.” Staff members have posted billboards around the county, distributed fliers and produced public service announcements. Many feature an image of a pregnant woman with the words: Syphilis. A Silent Killer.

    “Babies were dying,” said Michelle Corson, spokeswoman for the department who helped design the campaign. “That was the heart of the crisis.”

    An electronic billboard near downtown Bakersfield, Calif., displays a public service announcement about sexually transmitted diseases on February 2, 2017. The Kern County public health department has embarked on a massive information campaign with the slogan, “Know Your Risk.”   (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    An electronic billboard near downtown Bakersfield, Calif., displays a public service announcement about sexually transmitted diseases on February 2, 2017. The Kern County public health department has embarked on a massive information campaign with the slogan, “Know Your Risk.” Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    The department is also working with health clinics and others to get the word out about the risks, she said. “This is something that public health cannot do alone.”

    Renee Nichols, 22, said she regularly comes to Planned Parenthood for birth control and STD testing. About four years ago, Nichols was treated for syphilis, which she contracted while she was addicted to methamphetamine. Nichols, who is now clean and studying to be a physical therapist, said that at the time, STDs were the last thing on her mind.

    “You’re just busy thinking about drugs,” said Nichols, who lives in Bakersfield. “You’re not thinking about if I have sex with this person that I might get a disease.”

    All states require pregnant women to be tested once for syphilis during pregnancy, but CDC officials say that to minimize the risk, they should be tested a second time in the third trimester. The best way to prevent congenital syphilis is to prevent the women from getting the disease — and to treat them quickly if they do, Bolan said. The problem is that some women are not in prenatal care, and some doctors don’t recognize the risks.

    Serenity Thomason, 18, waits for blood test for congenital syphilis during her prenatal visit at Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, Calif., on on Thursday, February 2, 2017. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Serenity Thomason, 18, waits for blood test for congenital syphilis during her prenatal visit at Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, Calif., on on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Vyn Wayne, a nurse practitioner at the Bakersfield site of Clinica Sierra Vista, a community health center, has seven pregnant patients with syphilis. Girls as young as 16 or 17 are showing up pregnant and with syphilis, Wayne said. “We’ve just been floored. It’s terrifying.”

    One afternoon in February, Wayne saw 18-year-old Serenity Thomason, who wore slippers with hearts on them. Wayne ordered a syphilis test for Thomason, who was six months pregnant.

    She explained to Thomason that syphilis is contracted through sex and can be treated. But people often don’t know they have it, and it can be “deadly to babies,” she said.

    “That’s scary,” said Thomason as she rubbed her stomach. “I never heard about syphilis.”

    KHN’s coverage in California is funded in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation. 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 Spike in syphilis among newborns driven by broader epidemic appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    After risking her life to free slaves in the south, Harriet Tubman lived the last 50 years of her life in Auburn, N.Y. Shown here is the two-story brick house where she lived. The home is part of several buildings inside the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, created in January. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    After risking her life to free slaves in the south, Harriet Tubman lived the last 50 years of her life in Auburn, N.Y. Shown here is the two-story brick house where she resided. She often took in those in need. The home is part of several buildings inside the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, created in January. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    On a recent Friday, a sizable crowd of students and parents gathered for tours at the newly-formed Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, devoted to preserving the memory of the iconic abolitionist in the central New York city of Auburn.

    Sitting in the visitor’s center was a recently-found image of a young Harriet Tubman, an enlarged print of a rare photo that the nonprofit group behind the park is attempting to acquire.

    It will be no easy task — the photo is expected to go at auction for upwards of $30,000, one of the many challenges the organization has faced over decades as it sought to safeguard Tubman’s life in Auburn after slavery ended in the United States.

    “We need to bring her home,” said Karen Hill, director of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. “She belongs here.”

    Members of the nonprofit Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. are attempting to purchase a rare photo  of a young Tubman in her 40s that will be going up for auction this month. Shown here center is a reproduction of the photo inside the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park's visitor's center. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Members of the nonprofit Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. are attempting to purchase a rare photo of a young Tubman in her 40s that will be going up for auction this month. Shown here center is a reproduction of the photo inside the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park’s visitor’s center. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Tubman, a famed conductor of the Underground Railroad, is revered for risking her life to free dozens of slaves from the South, guiding them to freedom in the North through a clandestine web of safe houses and trails.

    But after her courageous missions, and service as a spy and a nurse with the Union Army during the Civil War, Tubman settled down to life in central New York, where her goodwill carried on in the small city of Auburn outside Syracuse. “She gave everything she had away to somebody who needed it more than she did.” — Judith Bryant, Harriet Tubman’s great-great grandniece

    There, Tubman took in the sick, needy, hungry and homeless. She established a home on her land for elderly African-Americans, many of whom escaped slavery, and devoted her life to her family and the local church, which she helped establish.

    In January, the National Park Service named the property — and the remaining buildings where she lived, worshiped and worked — the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, ensuring the few personal items and structures linked to the abolitionist and women’s rights activist would be maintained and preserved.

    “This is where Harriet came after completing her campaigns, it’s where she brought her family and friends,” Hill said. “This is the crown jewel of the Underground Railroad movement.”

    Hill said Tubman took in men, women and children, creating a safe haven in her home; she fired bricks in a kiln on her property, selling them to fund her philanthropic endeavors, and raised livestock and grew vegetables to feed the hungry and indigent.

    A visitor’s center was already constructed on the property and opened in 2006 by Harriet Tubman Home Inc., which was started by members of the A.M.E. Zion Church, whose goal was to save those vestiges of Tubman’s life after the Underground Railroad.

    Judith Bryant is Harriet Tubman's great-great grandniece. She holds a trove of photos and documents related to her aunt, including family photos shown here. Michael D. Regan

    Judith Bryant is Harriet Tubman’s great-great grandniece. She holds a trove of photos and documents related to her aunt, including family photos shown here. Photo by Michael D. Regan

    Tubman, who was born into slavery around 1820 in Maryland before escaping at the age of 27, lived many of the last 50 years of her life in a two-story brick home before she died in 1913 in her 90s. She was buried in a local Auburn cemetery.

    Now, 104 years after her death, relatives and supporters say Tubman’s lessons of serving others have carried on through the generations.

    “That is a big part of her legacy, to me, is just help whoever you can whenever you can and that her 50 years here had an impact in the community,” said Judith Bryant, Tubman’s great-great grandniece, who lives in Auburn. “That’s why she didn’t have anything, she didn’t keep anything. She gave everything she had away to somebody who needed it more than she did.”

    The campaign to make Tubman’s property a historic park began years ago, according to Frank Barrows, a National Park Service representative and a project lead for the site. Tubman deeded her property to her church before she died, and her family took care of her house and began a booster club to preserve her memory.

    After her death, the house was sold to a private buyer and fell into disrepair. But in the late-1990s, the A.M.E. Zion Church bought the house and formed the nonprofit Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. to restore the home and the rest of the property.

    “The establishment of Harriet Tubman National Historical Park was a long road for this community,” Barrows said, noting that it began in 2000 when a special resource study was conducted. “The results of that study concluded that the site here in Auburn, and the related historic resources, were significant enough to explore having a national park established here. And in 2014, Congress authorized the national park.”

    [Watch Video]

    One of the individuals responsible for preserving interest in the property during the last several decades was Rev. Paul Gordon Carter. He said in 1990 he and his wife gave up their careers in Washington, D.C., to move to Auburn and preserve Tubman’s legacy.

    “We wanted to make sure that we did all that we could to keep this legacy of Harriet Tubman alive because of what she has done with her life,” he said. “She was willing to take people from the jaws of slavery and bring them all the way until they were truly free.”

    Carter eventually became the pastor of A.M.E. Zion Church, where Tubman once worshipped, the last pastor to do so before the congregation moved to a new location in 1993. The original church structure, located a few miles from Tubman’s property, is now be a part of the national park and will undergo extensive renovations.

    Rev. Paul Gordon Carter stands in front of the A.M.E. Zion Church, where Harriet Tubman once worshiped. The church is now a part of the national park, and will be refurbished in the coming years. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Rev. Paul Gordon Carter stands in front of the A.M.E. Zion Church, where Harriet Tubman once worshiped. The church is now a part of the national park, and will be refurbished in the coming years. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    In his early days in Auburn, Carter said he also helped maintain Tubman’s property. He now gives tours and historical recaps of Tubman’s life in the visitor’s center. That job will be easier with the resources and funding that come with the backing of the National Park Service.

    “When you invested 25 years, 27 years into something it becomes a career,” he said. “And now to see that somebody else will come and do something, that takes a lot of pressure off of me and I can do what I like to do best, which is to give the tours and to give the story of Harriet Tubman’s life and her legacy.”

    NPS plans to refurbish the interior of Tubman’s home over the next several years in partnership with the nonprofit. One of nine cottages used to house elderly African-Americans still stands, and is open for tours.

    Hill said for now, the grassroots group is focused on acquiring the newly-discovered photo of Tubman.

    Last year, the photo of Tubman when she was in her 40s was found by Swann Galleries in New York City and will be auctioned on March 30. Only a few photos of Tubman exist, and most of them show her when she was older.

    It was taken in Auburn between 1866 and 1868, underscoring the importance the city held in her life post-Underground Railroad, Barrows said.

    “She continued to fight for equal rights, she continued to help others,” he said of her later life. “She was driven by a deep faith, and I think that faith drove her to make her mark on the world.”

    See more photos below of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and surrounding area. 

    Famed Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman is best known for ushering slaves to freedom in the north. But she lived the last 50 years of her life in central New York Shown here is some of her personally belongings inside the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which Tubman created for elderly African-Americans. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Famed Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman is best known for ushering slaves to freedom in the north. But she lived the last 50 years of her life in central New York Shown here is some of her personally belongings inside the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which Tubman created for elderly African-Americans. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Harriet Tubman attended the A.M.E. Zion Church in Auburn, New York. The structure is a part of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Harriet Tubman attended the A.M.E. Zion Church in Auburn, New York. The structure is a part of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    A historic marker rests in front of Harriet Tubman's property, which was made a National Historical Park in January. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    A historic marker rests in front of Harriet Tubman’s property, which was made a National Historical Park in January. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Harriet Tubman was buried at the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Harriet Tubman was buried at the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y. Photo by Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    The post At new national park, a window into Harriet Tubman’s life after the Underground Railroad appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to workers tell their stories about erratic workplace schedules at the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts in 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to workers tell their stories about erratic workplace schedules at the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts in 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    BOSTON — At the core of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s appeal is a critique of an economic system she says is rigged against the little guy.

    Helping fuel that message is a voracious fundraising machine that has turned the Massachusetts Democrat into a powerhouse in her party as she looks ahead to a 2018 re-election campaign and what supporters hope is a 2020 presidential bid.

    Warren started 2017 with $4.8 million in her campaign account, the biggest piggybank of any Senate Democrat facing voters next year, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance records.

    That’s also $1 million more than any Democratic member of the Senate except for Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, with $10.7 million. Schumer won re-election last year.

    Warren is also ahead of eight of the nine Senate Republicans running for re-election next year. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, of Tennessee, ended 2016 with $5.9 million. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, trailed Warren with $3.8 million. Sanders also had $5.5 million in his presidential campaign account.

    Key to Warren’s fundraising muscle is a wide base of supporters. Warren raked in donations from virtually every state in the past two years. Nearly all her contributions came from individual supporters, with just $34,000 from political action committees and other groups.

    Even in states where President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by double digit margins, Warren found tiny pockets of support.

    In Kentucky, the former Harvard University law professor pulled in $5,200. In Alabama, she collected $3,200. And in Tennessee, she raised $9,600 — all states where the vote exceeded 60 percent for Trump.

    [Watch Video]

    The totals count only contributions above $200 during the election cycle. Just 36 percent of the $5.8 million Warren raised in 2015 and 2016 crossed that threshold.

    The low average donation means Warren can return to those supporters again and again before they hit the maximum of $2,700 per election cycle.

    Warren also raised about $1.2 million for her PAC for a Level Playing Field during the past two years. She donated $390,000 of that to Democratic candidates and committees.

    Warren’s success at cultivating small donors will be crucial to the Democratic Party’s White House hopes in 2020 whether Warren runs or not, according to Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College.

    “Her people have really figured out the secret sauce,” Ubertaccio said. “Anyone who wants to be the Democratic nominee in 2020 is going to have to spend a lot of time cultivating Elizabeth Warren’s supporters and donors, and ultimately her.”

    Warren is also adept at targeted fundraising appeals.

    After Senate Republicans rebuked her for reading from a letter by Coretta Scott King during last months’ debate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Warren sent an email to outraged backers.

    The liberal group MoveOn.org said it quickly raised more than $250,000 for Warren.

    Warren also started selling “Nevertheless, She Persisted” T-shirts, echoing Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell who said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” before silencing Warren.

    Contributions to Warren also spiked in the final three months of last year, when she took in $1 million, a period that included Trump’s election.

    Warren may also be hoping to discourage GOP challengers.

    State Rep. Geoff Diehl, one of a handful of Massachusetts Republicans considering a Senate run, said Warren’s cash isn’t an obstacle.

    “When you do the work and represent the interests of the people in the state, you can overcome whatever financial difference there may be,” said Diehl, who served as the Trump campaign’s Massachusetts co-chairman.

    Warren has also become a fertile campaign tool for Republicans, much like the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose seat Warren now holds.

    The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already released a series of paid digital ads linking 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election next year to Warren, highlighting how often they’ve voted with her.

    The post Sen. Warren turns fundraising powerhouse for Democrats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Syrian Democrhttps://www.pbs.org/newshour/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=videosatic Forces (SDF) fighter stands near a flag in northern Raqqa province, Syria February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTX2ZWAO

    A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands near a flag in northern Raqqa province, Syria February 6, 2017. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    BEIRUT — Five months of multi-sided clashes in Syria’s crowded northern battlefield have displaced some 66,000 people, a U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday, a day after the U.S. bolstered Kurdish-led forces with a deployment of armored vehicles amid preparations for a push toward the Islamic State group’s de facto capital.

    Besides the autonomous Kurdish-led forces, Turkish, Syrian government and Syrian opposition fighters have all been jostling for territory formerly held by the Islamic State group near the Turkish-Syrian frontier.

    The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Syrian Kurdish PKK party, are the current front runners in the race to Raqqa, the IS capital. They are now stationed eight kilometers (five miles) north of the Euphrates River city and supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and a deployment of some 500 U.S. special forces operators. The Pentagon has said they are working in an advisory capacity.

    But Turkey, a U.S. ally through NATO, says the PKK is an extension of the Kurdish insurgency inside its own borders and has classified the party as a terror organization. It has objected strongly over the SDF offensive and vowed, too, to throw the Kurdish-led forces in Manbij — the SDF’s westernmost flank — back over the banks of the Euphrates. This would disrupt the Raqqa campaign.

    There are Turkish forces stationed in al-Bab, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Manbij. The threats prompted the SDF to ask Russia and the Syrian army to establish a buffer between Manbij and al-Bab.

    With uncertainty building, the U.S. deployed a number of armored vehicles to its allies in Manbij, the Syrian Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported Saturday.

    [Watch Video]

    Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. John Dorrian confirmed the deployment on Twitter. He said it was mean to “deter aggression and keep focus on defeating ISIS,” another acronym for the Islamic State group.

    Dorrian added the deployment was there to guarantee that the Kurdish elements of the SDF have left Manbij. Turkey says they have not.

    The Syrian military, meanwhile, has driven east of Aleppo to draw a front with the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces south of al-Bab, blocking their route to Raqqa. Government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants and Russian airpower, have moved quickly in the direction of IS-held al-Khafseh, on the banks of the Euphrates.

    Al-Khafseh is home to the main water station for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Government forces are 13 kilometers (8 miles) away, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

    The U.N.’s OCHA agency said that the Turkish and Syrian opposition campaign to capture al-Bab from IS militants displaced 40,000 residents. They captured the town on Feb. 23, after starting operations in November.

    The office said another 26,000 residents have been displaced in fighting around Manbij, held by Kurdish-led forces, and al-Khafseh, held by IS militants. Al-Khafseh is home to the main water station for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

    In other news, a Syrian search-and-rescue group reported a bomb blast in the opposition-held town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, killing at least eight people. Azaz is 50 kilometers (31 miles) from al-Bab.

    The Observatory said an IS sleeper cell was responsible for the blast.

    The militants carried out a suicide car bomb attack in the nearby town of Sousian on Feb 24, killing at least 60 people. Most of the victims were civilians who had gathered seeking permits to return to al-Bab, a day after it was liberated from the extremist group.

    The post UN says 66,000 displaced in 5 months of north Syria fighting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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