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

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    The Austrian parliament is seen in Vienna, Austria, November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader - RTX2RUT1

    The Austrian parliament is seen in Vienna, Austria, November 4, 2016. Photo by Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters

    VIENNA — Austria was among the first countries in Europe to put out the welcome mat when waves of people fleeing war and poverty reached the continent. Now, its focus is showing them the door.

    Parliament is set to pass a law stripping pocket money, food and shelter from those denied asylum, potentially leaving them on the street. The interior minister proudly touts figures showing Austria as the European Union’s per-capita leader in expelling those rejected.

    Austrian courts are toughening up too. On Thursday, eight Iraqi men were sent to prison for up to 13 years for the gang rape of a German woman on New Year’s Eve more than a year ago.

    Lawyer Andreas Reichenbach, who defended one of the men, said the stiff sentences were a signal to migrants that “when they come to Austria, that such behavior won’t be tolerated.”

    In Germany, where during the height of the influx Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted “we will manage,” the government now considers some areas of Afghanistan “safe,” and has started returning failed asylum-seekers to those regions. Additional tough measures have followed Berlin’s deadly Christmas market attack by rejected Tunisian asylum-seeker Anis Amri and gains by the nationalist Alternative for Germany party.

    The pro-migrant attitudes that once led thousands of Austrian volunteers to turn out with food, shelter and advice to the first asylum-seekers are still heard some places, but they appear outnumbered.

    “We have to keep welcoming those who have nowhere else to go,” said Marlis Bosch. “We in Austria have more than enough to share.”

    [Watch Video]

    A survey of 10 EU member countries last month showed 65 percent of the 1,000 Austrian respondents favored stopping all immigration from Muslim nations. Only Poles scored higher — at 71 percent — on Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs survey. But anti-migrant sentiment in Poland has been fueled by the government. Not so in Austria.

    Former Chancellor Werner Faymann urged Austrians to deal generously with migrants as late as fall 2015, even as his government worked to secure its borders. But he was forced out last year after migrant policies threatened to tear apart his government coalition after he took a harder line.

    His successor, Christian Kern, has found little choice but to stay tough — or risk boosting the right-wing Freedom Party and its message that migrants are overwhelmingly behind the kind of crimes the eight Iraqis were convicted of Thursday.

    Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer, who advocates a tough line on migrants, was narrowly defeated in December in Austria’s presidential election. Polls continue to show his populist party with the most voter support.

    But Kern’s Social Democrats have almost caught up since he took office less than nine months ago and continued hardening the country’s migrant policies.

    Also gaining support on a tougher migrant stance is the centrist People’s Party, the Social Democrats’ coalition partner. Party member Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, is advocating setting up North African holding camps for would-be emigres from there.

    The Austrian government plans to stop all support for those whose asylum requests have been rejected — including meals, shelter and a monthly allowance of 40 euros (about $40). If Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has his way, those refusing to leave will also pay high fines and end up in compounds until they are forcibly deported.

    The coalition’s majority in parliament means that approval of the draft law is virtually certain.

    Still, some members of Kern’s Social Democratic party have joined with human rights advocates who say its passage could lead to increased misery for thousands and a possible rise in crime.

    “Families with children, or the sick, all could end up on the street from one day or the other,” warns Christoph Pinter of the U.N. refugee organization UNHCR.

    Sobotka shrugs, reflecting Austria’s sharp about-turn on migrants.

    “Who is contravening the law — me or those who do not leave the country?” he asked reporters. “My responsibility is enforcing the law.”

    Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and AP video journalist Philipp Moritz Jenne in Vienna contributed to this story.

    The post Europe’s trend: Austria, once open, now shows migrants door appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of Cajamarca, Peru. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A view of Cajamarca, Peru. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    In a typical day as the “Agoraphobic Traveller,” Jacqui Kenny may see Mongolian mountains, brightly-colored houses in Arizona and a plain in Kyrgyzstan — all from the safety of her home.

    Eight years ago, Kenny was diagnosed with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of situations where escape might be difficult. Approximately 1.8 million adults in the U.S. have agoraphobia, which may lead them to avoid public or open spaces. In Kenny’s case, it has hindered her ability to travel to places far away from her home in London — but she has recently expanded her horizons with a project to “photograph” locations using Google Street View, a tool that allows users to place themselves at street level in various locations.

    A house in Arizona City, Arizona. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A house in Arizona City, Arizona. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    Kenny, who co-founded the marketing and advertising company The Rumpus Room and worked as its creative director until it shut down in 2015, began exploring on Google Street View a year ago and took screenshots of the places she saw. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I just took a few pictures, and didn’t think much of it,” she said.

    But she showed them to her sister, who loved the shots and encouraged her to continue. Now, she’s taken more than 25,000 screenshots, Kenny said.

    To create the compositions, Kenny may spend hours on Google Street View searching for a compelling subject. Once she’s found it, she’ll experiment with screenshots from a number of angles. “It’s very hard to get a clean shot because of the nature of Google Street View, you’ve usually got cars or something in the way,” she said.

    The Baganuur district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    The Baganuur district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    When the shot is composed, she’ll post it to Instagram, where thousands of people follow her page “Agoraphobic Traveller.” She usually keeps color-correcting and filters to a minimum.

    In the caption of each photo, Kenny will describe the location, sometimes providing additional links to other Google Street View scenes in the area.

    A view from the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A view from the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    At first, she was “just looking at places randomly” to find subjects, she said. But after experimenting with a number of landscapes, Kenny found herself drawn to desert settlements in the U.S. and South America, along with central Asian countries like Mongolia, which she said was her favorite place to view.

    “After a while, I worked out what kind of places I love to go to, and they were places that are very remote, especially desert towns and mining towns,” she said.

    Often those are also places where she would not be able to travel in person. “With agoraphobia, travel is very difficult for me. I get quite anxious being too far away from my comfort zone,” she said. With Google Street View, “I was just amazed that I could not only go and look at these places, I could actually use my love of photography and curating. I suddenly kind of found a creative outlet to kind of express my creativity and how I see the world.”

    The Quilmaná District of the province Cañete in Peru. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    The Quilmaná District of the province Cañete in Peru. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    Other people who have agoraphobia and related anxiety disorders have sent her messages to express support for the project. Kenny said she wants to use the platform to correct misconceptions about agoraphobic people, such as the idea that they are house-bound. “There’s quite a misunderstanding” about how the disorder affects people, she said.

    And, in the process, she can “do things I don’t think I normally would have been able to do,” she said. “This way, I get to see remote places, amazing places.”

    See more photos from the project below.

    A house in Arizona City, Arizona. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A house in Arizona City, Arizona. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A view from the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A view from the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A view of a street in the Antofagasta Region in Chile.  Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    A view of a street in the Antofagasta Region in Chile. Photo by Jacqui Kenny/Google Street View

    The post With agoraphobia as a lens, woman ‘photographs’ the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential election candidate of the French centre-right, and his wife Penelope attend a meeting at the Trocadero square across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, March 5, 2017.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer - RTS11JF9

    Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential election candidate of the French centre-right, and his wife Penelope attend a meeting at the Trocadero square across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, March 5, 2017. Photo by Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

    PARIS — With the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, French conservative Francois Fillon clung tenaciously to his presidential candidacy Sunday, urging thousands of supporters at a high-stakes rally not to flee his ship despite escalating pressure to step aside because of impending corruption charges.

    Fillon’s low-profile Welsh wife Penelope — accused of earning a generous taxpayer-funded salary for years for jobs she never performed — took an unusually public place at his side at Sunday’s rally. She waved a tricolor flag as crowds chanted “Fillon, President!” and “We will win!”

    The presidential candidate for the Republicans party acknowledged errors in judgment but insisted he was being unfairly targeted in an election season. He also assailed conservative allies who have abandoned his campaign in recent days, throwing his candidacy into doubt.

    The scandal has highlighted entrenched corruption in French politics. Those former conservative allies are disillusioned by how Fillon has handled the investigation into allegations he arranged fake parliamentary assistant jobs for his wife and two of his children.

    READ NEXT: France, Germany unite in face of Trump refugee ban

    If Fillon quits or is forced out by his party, that would plunge France’s already unpredictable presidential campaign into unprecedented disarray, with just seven weeks before the first round of France’s two-round April-May presidential vote. Fillon was once the front-runner in the race, but his ratings have fallen since the jobs allegations were revealed by weekly Le Canard Enchaine in January.

    Fillon showed no sign of backing down Sunday, however.

    “You should not surrender to worry or anger,” he told the rally on Place de Trocadero, buffeted by rain and wind. He thanked “those of you who will never give up the fight, you who always refuse to listen to the siren calls of discouragement.”

    Fillon is expected to speak on national television Sunday night, although he has canceled a radio interview for Monday morning. Fillon’s party, the Republicans, is holding a meeting of its political committee on Monday evening to evaluate the situation after Sunday’s rally.

    The crowd was large but not enormous. Older people, Fillon’s most loyal voter base, constituted a large part of the rally, along with some parents of young children attracted by Fillon’s support for traditional Catholic family values.

    Dozens of buses brought supporters in from around France, while riot police stood guard. Puzzled tourists took selfies of the crowd and the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop.

    Hundreds of left-wing protesters held a counter-demonstration across town to denounce widespread political corruption among France’s political elite. Fillon had been a former prime minister.

    Many conservatives want Alain Juppe, the runner-up to Fillon in the conservative primary, to run in Fillon’s place. Officially, however, the party has no “Plan B.” Juppe, another former prime minister, campaigned on a more moderate platform than the tough-on-security, pro-free market Fillon. Juppe has said he won’t run as a replacement but French media is recent days have reported he is warming to the possibility.

    Polls now suggest far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist independent candidate Emmanuel Macron would come out on top in first vote on April 23. The top two vote-getters in that go on to compete in the May 7 presidential runoff.

    Le Pen is riding high even thought she is at the center of several judicial inquiries along with her anti-immigration National Front party.

    Fillon apologized Sunday to his supporters for having to concentrate on defending his family’s honor “while the most essential thing for you, as for me, is to defend our country.”

    “I committed the first error in the past, in asking my wife to work for me. … I shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “And I committed the second in hesitating about the way to talk about it.”

    In a speech littered with historical and literary references, he hailed “the France of the farmers, the France of cathedrals, chateaus … the France whose moral and military force stands up to terrorists and tyrants.”

    Retirees Luc and Marie Houllier braved the blustery weather to denounce what they see as a politically-driven investigation.

    “He is the only one who can raise France up again,” Luc said.

    In her first interview since the scandal broke, Penelope Fillon urged her husband to stay in the race.

    “Unlike the others, I will not abandon him,” Penelope Fillon was quoted as saying in the Journal du dimanche newspaper. “I told him to continue to the end.”

    Financial prosecutors are investigating reports that she and two of their five children earned a total of more than 1 million euros in taxpayer-funded jobs as parliamentary aides that they never carried out. It’s legal in France to hire relatives for public jobs, but they must actually do the work.

    The Fillons insist they did.

    Fillon initially said he would step down if charged, but decided Wednesday to maintain his candidacy even though he’s been summoned to face charges on March 15.

    French officials over the years have faced scores of corruption allegations. Even Juppe, the potential savior of conservative chances, was convicted in 2004 for an illegal party funding scheme and barred from elected office for a year.

    Elaine Ganley contributed to this report.

    The post France’s Fillon clings to presidential race, admits errors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LUCASVILLE,- APRIL 13:  Prison officers enter the Southern Ohio Correctional Institute 13 April 1993 in front of Cellblock L as prisoners inside continue to hold eight guards hostage. Another inmate was found dead 13 April by prison authorities, to bring the total of slain inmates to seven. Banners with lists of demands hang from two windows at rear.  (Photo credit should read EUGENE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

    Prison officers entered the Southern Ohio Correctional Institute on April 13, 1993, in front of Cellblock L as prisoners inside held eight guards hostage. Banners with lists of demands hang from two windows at rear. Photo by Eugene Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

    Soon after Netflix aired a documentary about one of the country’s deadliest prison uprisings, Ohio corrections revoked the email and phone privileges of a man on death row for appearing in it.

    The documentary disclosed that it did not have permission to record Siddique Abdullah Hasan at the state penitentiary in Youngstown for its first episode of “Captive,” which reenacts the 1993 Lucasville uprising — but Hasan is the one being punished. The episode aired in December and shows him talking about some of the issues leading up to the uprising. Then in February, correctional officers handed him a conduct report that said he had been in an unauthorized video.

    “You’re telling me I’m not allowed to talk about my case?” Hasan said in a phone interview with the NewsHour in February. “You got to be 14-karat crazy.”

    About a week later and after a formal hearing, the facility decided to suspend his phone and email privileges, according to his case lawyer Rick Kerger.

    A federal lawsuit claims that the incident is illustrative of the discrimination that Hasan and others have faced since they were accused by the government and convicted of being the organizers of the uprising more than 20 years ago. On Friday, lawyer Raymond Vasvari filed further details in his case at the Southern District of Ohio court about the state’s alleged attempt to silence inmates affiliated with the uprising by prohibiting on-camera and face-to-face interviews.

    READ NEXT: Resistance builds against social media ban in Texas prisons

    Hasan and others have consistently been denied requests for visits from the media, the lawsuit claims, while other inmates who are unaffiliated with Lucasville but have the same security clearance have not. Even though they are allowed to write and talk on the phone to media, prohibiting video and in-person interviews is a tool to block investigations into what exactly happened during the uprising, Vasvari wrote in the filing.

    “Permitting face-to-face media access,” Vasvari wrote in Friday’s response to the defendants, “would facilitate the search for truth, in the best traditions of the First Amendment.”

    The Ohio attorney general’s office maintains that it restricts Hasan because he “uses media access to encourage support, both internally and externally, for organized group disturbances,” and to “justify his own actions.”

    “Not surprisingly, [corrections] policies prevent inmates intent on disrupting orderly operations from obtaining on-camera interviews,” the defense contests.

    It also claims that allowing Hasan and others to appear on TV could exacerbate trauma felt by the 19 state-registered victims – those who were harmed as well as their friends and relatives.

    Vasvari says both those arguments support his: that Hasan and others are being denied media access based on what they might say, which constitutes discrimination.

    “It’s content-based,” he said. “You can’t moderate among potential speakers based on the content or the expected content of what they’re going to say.”

    Why was there an uprising?

    Like many other rebellions, it’s hard to decipher one single cause of the uprising in Lucasville, Ohio. Instead, author Staughton Lynd, a lawyer and historian who taught at Yale University and spent years investigating Lucasville, relies on history.

    The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville opened in 1972 to replace an old penitentiary that also experienced uprisings and it quickly established a reputation for being rife with violence and abuses.

    By 1978, at least two inmates were so aggrieved about the conditions that they cut off their fingertips and sent them to President Jimmy Carter, with a plea to give up their citizenship and emigrate. It didn’t work.

    Another inmate helped write a petition to send to Amnesty International, describing “instances in which prisoners were chained to cell fixtures, subjected to chemical mace and tear gas, forced to sleep on cell floors and brutally beaten.”

    “The petition was confiscated as contraband and its authors were charged with ‘unauthorized group activity’,” Lynd wrote in his book, “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising.”

    By 1989 the state’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee was asked to prepare a summary of concerns. Having interviewed more than 100 people, the committee warned of the potential for major disturbances “unlike any ever seen in Ohio prison history.”

    Meanwhile, the inmates continued to pour in. By April 11, Easter Sunday of 1993, a facility that was built to house 1,540 prisoners had a population of more than 1,800, and 75 percent of the prisoners at the highest security level were double-celled.

    Front page of "Buckeye Guard," the Ohio National Guard's publication, on the summer of 1993 after the Lucasville uprising.

    Front page of “Buckeye Guard,” the Ohio National Guard’s publication, on the summer of 1993 after the Lucasville uprising.

    That afternoon, while some of them were on their way back from the yard, they overthrew officers on duty. During the initial chaos, six prisoners were killed and eight correctional officers were taken hostage.

    More than 800 Ohio law enforcement agents – from the State Highway Patrol, army and air National Guard, and corrections – joined the effort to shut it down. By Wednesday, the inmates had warned of murder by hanging sheets with messages out the window if the water and electricity was not restored among other demands.

    A spokesperson for corrections dismissed the threat to media, saying that, “It’s a standard threat. It’s nothing new…some of them will get on and make a threat, some of them will get off and make a concession. That’s just how it goes,” as the inmates listened with battery-powered radios.

    Then on Thursday, they brought the body of Officer Robert Vallandingham to the yard.

    It was on the 11th day that a lawyer the inmates had asked to represent them facilitated a compromise. There were more than 400 people inside, and they surrendered under the condition the whole thing would be monitored, among other concerns. By then, nine inmates had died in addition to Vallandingham amid millions of dollars worth of damage.

    Hasan, who had about a year left of his sentence for a carjacking, was one of five named in the tangled aftermath as the masterminds, known as the “Lucasville Five.” His punishment: death.

    While he says in the documentary that part of what led to the rebellion was a new warden’s policy to test everyone for tuberculosis, which was against the Muslim religion, Lynd refers to a more complex anecdote.

    “The words, ‘a long train of abuses,’ come from the Declaration of Independence,” Lynd wrote. “In writing about the Lucasville uprising, I have viewed it as a rebellion like the American Revolution.”

    A screengrab of Siddique Abdullah Hasan from the first episode of Netflix documentary “Captive,” an interaction that correction facilities say was unauthorized.

    A screengrab of Siddique Abdullah Hasan from the first episode of Netflix documentary “Captive,” an interaction that correction facilities say was unauthorized.

    ‘Democracies die behind closed doors’

    There is no law that requires prisons to allow journalists or inmates in-face interviews. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that media has no greater right to access prisons than the general population.

    And since there isn’t a strong precedent, every correctional department can make its own, often more restrictive rules about freedom of information and speech if it successfully argues that the rules preserve security. Virginia and Michigan bar prisoners from making freedom of information requests. Texas was the latest to prohibit inmates from having social media accounts.

    Such laws can be antithetical to the whole democratic system – the free press is supposed to investigate how government agencies work, said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.

    “When you have prisons walled off or the media walled off from prisons, you’re going to have bad things happen,” Fathi said.

    Fathi quoted federal Judge Damon Keith, who ruled in 2002 that the Bush administration acted unlawfully in holding deportation hearings in secret whenever the government thought the people involved might be linked to terrorism.

    “Democracies die behind closed doors,” he said.

    Still, even when prisons might make it more difficult for journalists and prisoners to interact, the rules have to be even-handed. Preventing outlets from interviewing inmates based on the expected content is unconstitutional, he said.

    “You can’t only allow in the reporters you like, who will write fawning, admiring pieces and keep out those who you think will be critical,” he said. “That, as I understand it, was basically the claim in the Ohio case.”

    A scanned copy of a picture in Staughton Lynd's book, "Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising."

    A scanned copy of a picture in Staughton Lynd’s book, “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising.”

    Hasan said the woman who taped him was approved for his visitation list by corrections. They talked through the prison’s video messaging system. She made it clear to him that she was interviewing him about the uprising for a documentary, but he did not see a camera or know the conversation was filmed, he said.

    “You can’t hold me responsible for something I didn’t do myself,” he said. “Y’all trying to excommunicate me.”

    About 10 minutes into the episode, right before it introduces Hasan and he starts talking about the tuberculosis test, an on-screen disclaimer reads, “Permission to film them was denied.”

    The woman who taped it deferred the NewsHour to a “Captive” spokesperson, who wrote in an email, “the commentary makes clear that the prison authorities did not authorise interviews.”

    An Ohio corrections spokesperson echoed the sentiment in an email saying that, “This interview was conducted unofficially using the prison video-visitation system. Recording the video visit is a violation of the visitation policy.”

    Neither provided further comment or responded to questions about whether the producers of the documentary had been contacted by corrections.

    Vasvario said the state has two weeks to respond to his filing.

    The post Man on death row punished after appearing in Netflix show ‘Captive’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    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

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Megan Thompson and Mori Rothman

    KAREN HILL: If you step onto these grounds, you know that you’re in a hallowed place.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: This property on the edge of Auburn, a small city in central New York, is the place where Harriet Tubman spent the last 50 years of her life.

    Karen Hill is President and CEO of the non-profit organization that has preserved the property and fought for it to become one of America’s national parks.

    KAREN HILL: Her legacy is embodied in her core values and how we lift them up. Freedom, faith, family, community, justice, self-determination. These are the things that every day of her life, she tried to advance.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Tubman secured her place in history as one of the conductors on the Underground Railroad- a network of paths and safe houses that brought thousands slaves from the South to freedom in the North before the Civil War. Tubman risked her life again and again by returning to the South to rescue her siblings, her elderly parents, and other slaves. She is credited with personally leading some 70 slaves to freedom.

    Tubman was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation. But around age 27, she ran away and escaped to a free state, Pennsylvania, where she started a new life in Philadelphia.

    During the Civil War, she served as a nurse and spy for the North, and became the first woman to lead an armed raid, which rescued some 700 slaves in South Carolina.

    After the war, she settled in Auburn, a free, land-owning black woman. The area was progressive, central to both the abolitionist and suffrage movements.

    KAREN HILL: This is the crown jewel of the Underground Railroad movement. This is the touchstone. This is where Harriet came after completing her campaigns.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: This brick house was Tubman’s base when she wasn’t traveling around the country…giving speeches, fighting for the women’s right to vote, and raising money to support freed slaves. She eked out a living on proceeds from a book, a small pension, her farm and a brick-making business. The property was home not just her extended family, but to the less-fortunate who needed a place to stay. Tubman even built an infirmary.

    KAREN HILL: She provided free healthcare to everybody. Not just to African Americans, but to anybody who needed it. This is the remaining home for the aged

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Tubman started a home for the elderly, funded by donations. This is the only one of the original nine cottages that remains.

    KAREN HILL: In town, there was a home for the aged, but it was segregated, it was for Whites only, and so she provided this home so that the former slave could age in dignity and in grace.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Tubman lived into her 90’s and died in 1913. She was buried in a cemetery nearby. Her home fell out of the family’s possession and into disrepair. In the 1990’s, the AME Zion church- the church Tubman belonged to- bought the home and started a nonprofit to restore the property. In 2006, it opened the visitor’s center, and started giving regular tours. With the national park service now involved, they’re hoping to do even more. Frank Barrows supervises the new Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

    FRANK BARROWS: Bringing a national park to a community does a few things. It certainly raises the visibility of the site. National parks are also an economic driver, because of the tourism dollars that are spent. For every dollar spent in federal funds on national parks, $10 is put back into local economies.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The park has opened at a time of renewed interest in Tubman’s life. Two feature films about her are in the works, and in 2020, the Treasury Department is due to unveil a design for a new twenty dollar bill with Tubman on the front. There’s also a second national park dedicated to the Underground Railroad chapter of her life opening this month in Maryland.

    FRANK BARROWS: National parks are a great source of community identity and pride. It means something to say that, “I’m from the town where Harriet Tubman lived. I’m from the town where Harriet Tubman continued her legacy, and where she’s buried.”

    JUDITH BRYANT: This is my great grandfather, this is Harriet’s nephew.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Judith Bryant is the great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman. The great-great granddaughter of a brother Tubman rescued in 1854.

    JUDITH BRYANT: I wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t done what she did,

    MEGAN THOMPSON: She lives in a nearby house built by Tubman’s nephew in 1901. Bryant says Tubman’s extended family in Auburn was very close knit.

    JUDITH BRYANT: That was her motivating factor, and so she rescued her family first.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Bryant’s mother knew the elderly Tubman when she was a child.

    JUDITH BRYANT: My mother said Harriet would come and sit in the corner by the door, she would appear to doze off until somebody said something that she was either maybe a little off-color or then she would sit up and-

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Perk up.

    JUDITH BRYANT: Sit up and, yes, perk up, open her eyes and this was sort of make it understood that she didn’t quite approve of it.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Bryant and her family donated Tubman’s bed to the park, and a sewing machine. Bryant also has a large collection of family memorabilia.

    JUDITH BRYANT: This is a 1911 bill.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: …For a hospital stay at the end of Tubman’s life.

    JUDITH BRYANT: This is a pamphlet…

    MEGAN THOMPSON: A pamphlet featuring Tubman and other local dignitaries.

    JUDITH BRYANT: This is a picture that is not often seen…

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Bryant is proud to preserve the legacy of her great-great-great aunt. And she’s thrilled the new national park will now do the same.

    JUDITH BRYANT: It’s a wonderful thing not just for Auburn but for the country. And people need to see this story and see what went on here.

    The post New national park celebrates Harriet Tubman’s legacy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media as retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn stands next to him at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo - RTSYJB6

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media as retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn stands next to him at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 21, 2016. Photo by Carlos Barria/File Photo/Reuters

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump turned to Congress on Sunday for help finding evidence to support his unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama had Trump’s telephones tapped during the election. Obama’s intelligence chief said no such action was ever carried out.

    Republican leaders of Congress appeared willing to honor the president’s request, but the move has potential risks for the president, particularly if the House and Senate intelligence committees unearth damaging information about Trump, his aides or his associates.

    Trump claimed in a series of tweets without evidence Saturday that his predecessor had tried to undermine him by tapping the telephones at Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where Trump based his campaign and transition operations, and maintains a home.

    Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said nothing matching Trump’s claims had taken place.

    “Absolutely, I can deny it,” said Clapper, who left government when Trump took office in January. Other representatives for the former president also denied Trump’s allegation.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer said without elaborating Sunday that Trump’s instruction to Congress was based on “very troubling” reports “concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election.” Spicer did not respond to inquiries about the reports he cited in announcing the request.

    Spicer said the White House wants the congressional committees to “exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.” He said there would be no further comment until the investigations are completed, a statement that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi took offense to and likened to autocratic behavior.

    “It’s called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge. It’s a tool of an authoritarian,” Pelosi said.

    Spicer’s chief deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said she thinks Trump is “going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.”

    Josh Earnest, who was Obama’s press secretary, said presidents do not have authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of American citizens, as Trump has alleged was done to him. FBI investigators and Justice Department officials must seek a federal judge’s approval for such a step.

    Earnest accused Trump of leveling the allegations to distract from the attention being given to campaign-season contacts by Trump aides with a Russian official, including campaign adviser Jeff Sessions before he resigned from the Senate to become attorney general. The FBI is investigating those contacts, as is Congress.

    Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement that the panel “will follow the evidence where it leads, and we will continue to be guided by the intelligence and facts as we compile our findings.”

    Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the committee “will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates.”

    The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said Trump was following “a deeply disturbing pattern of distraction, distortion and downright fabrication.”

    The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., referred questions to Nunes, while a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McConnell would not tell the Senate committee how to do its work.

    Trump said in the tweets that he had “just found out” about being wiretapped, though it was unclear whether he was referring to having found out through a briefing, a conversation or a media report. The president in the past has tweeted about unsubstantiated and provocative reports he reads on blogs or conservative websites.

    The tweets stood out, given the gravity of the charge and the strikingly personal attack on the former president. Trump spoke as recently as last month about how much he likes Obama and how much they get along, despite their differences.

    “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” he tweeted, misspelling ‘tap.’

    Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said Saturday that a “cardinal rule” of the Obama administration was not to interfere in Justice Department investigations, which are supposed to be conducted free of outside or political influence.

    Lewis said neither Obama nor any White House official had ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” Lewis said.

    Trump has been trailed for months by questions about his campaign’s ties to Russia. Compounding the situation is the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered with the election to help Trump triumph over Hillary Clinton, along with disclosures about his aides’ contacts with a Russian official.

    Clapper appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders and Earnest were on ABC’s “This Week,” Pelosi commented on CNN’s “State of the Union” and Cotton was on “Fox News Sunday.”

    The post Trump enlists Congress, ex-intel chief denies wiretapping appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump walks from Marine One on Sunday as he returns to the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    President Donald Trump walks from Marine One on Sunday as he returns to the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    Key members of Congress say they will honor President Donald Trump’s request to investigate his unsubstantiated claim that Barack Obama overstepped his authority as president and had Trump’s telephones tapped during the election campaign.

    Trump made his startling claim of presidential abuse of power in a series of tweets early Saturday. They capped a week in which the positive reaction to his address to Congress quickly evaporated amid the swirl of allegations and revelations about contacts between Trump aides and a Russian official, both during and after the presidential election that Russia is believed to have meddled in.

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

    The House and Senate intelligence committees, and the FBI, are investigating contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, as well as whether Moscow tried to influence the 2016 election. On Sunday, Trump demanded that they broaden the scope of their inquiries to include Obama’s potential abuse of his executive powers.

    Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the committee “will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates.”

    The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said Trump was following “a deeply disturbing pattern of distraction, distortion and downright fabrication.”

    The New York Times reported that senior American officials say FBI Director James Comey has argued that the claim must be corrected by the Justice Department because it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law. No such statement has been issued. Obama’s intelligence director also said no such action was taken.

    READ MORE: Without citing evidence, Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping during race

    On Monday morning, White House advisers weren’t backing away from President Donald Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped his campaign.

    They insisted that Trump believes the explosive allegations he made over the weekend, for which he provided no evidence. The allegations were swiftly denied by an Obama spokesman and by Obama’s intelligence chief.

    Kellyanne Conway told “Fox & Friends” Monday that “credible news sources” suggested there was politically motivated activity during the campaign. She added that as president, Trump “has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not.”

    READ MORE: Trump enlists Congress, ex-intel chief denies wiretapping

    Likewise, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House press secretary, told NBC’s “Today” show that the president “firmly believes that the Obama administration may have tapped into the phones at Trump Tower.”

    When asked whether Trump’s assertions were based on media reports or U.S. intelligence, Sanders said “he may have access to documents that I don’t know about.”

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin is distancing the Kremlin from Trump’s claim. The claim comes amid the swirl of revelations about contacts between Trump aides and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., both during and after a presidential election Russia is believed to have meddled in.

    READ MORE: What we know about U.S. investigations into Russia and possible ties to Trump’s campaign

    When asked about the allegation, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that the Kremlin “should not be in any way linked to U.S. domestic issues” and “doesn’t have the slightest inclination or intention to be associated with these affairs.”

    Trump is said to be frustrated by his senior advisers’ inability to tamp down allegations about contacts between his campaign aides and the Russian government. Disclosures about his aides’ contacts with the Russian ambassador cost Michael Flynn his job as national security adviser. Compounding the situation was the revelation last week that former U.S. senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an early Trump campaign supporter, had met twice with the Russian ambassador but didn’t disclose that to lawmakers when he was asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing.

    Separately, an Indiana newspaper reported that Vice President Mike Pence used personal email to conduct state business when he was governor of Indiana. The revelation recalled the use of personal email by Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state. The issue dogged Clinton for most of the presidential campaign.

    The post Congress to investigate Trump’s wiretapping claim appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New American citizens wave American flags Mar. 1 after taking the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in Newark, New Jersey. Photo by  REUTERS/Mike Segar.

    New American citizens wave American flags Mar. 1 after taking the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in Newark, New Jersey. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Segar.

    NEW YORK — Add one more to the list of things dividing left and right in this country: We can’t even agree what it means to be an American.

    A new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds Republicans are far more likely to cite a culture grounded in Christian beliefs and the traditions of early European immigrants as essential to U.S. identity.

    Democrats are more apt to point to the country’s history of mixing of people from around the globe and a tradition of offering refuge to the persecuted.

    While there’s disagreement on what makes up the American identity, 7 in 10 people — regardless of party — say the country is losing that identity.

    “It’s such stark divisions,” said Lynele Jones, a 65-year-old accountant in Boulder, Colorado. Like many Democrats, Jones pointed to diversity and openness to refugees and other immigrants as central components of being American.

    “There’s so much turmoil in the American political situation right now. People’s ideas of what is America’s place in the world are so different from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Jones said.

    READ MORE: Immigration ban reveals a nation divided |

    There are some points of resounding agreement among Democrats, Republicans and independents about what makes up the country’s identity. Among them: a fair judicial system and rule of law, the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, and the ability to get good jobs and achieve the American dream.

    Big gulfs emerged between the left and right on other characteristics seen as inherent to America.

    About 65 percent of Democrats said a mix of global cultures was extremely or very important to American identity, compared with 35 percent of Republicans. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats saw Christianity as that important, compared with 57 percent of Republicans.

    Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say that the ability of people to come to escape violence and persecution is very important, 74 percent to 55 percent. Also, 25 percent of Democrats said the culture of the country’s early European immigrants very important, versus 46 percent of Republicans.

    Reggie Lawrence, a 44-year-old Republican in Midland, Texas, who runs a business servicing oil fields, said the country and the Constitution were shaped by Christian values. As those slip away, he said, so does the structure of families and, ultimately, the country’s identity.

    “If you lose your identity,” Lawrence said, “What are we? We’re not a country anymore.”

    Patrick Miller, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who studies partisanship and polling, said the results reflect long-standing differences in the U.S. between one camp’s desire for openness and diversity and another’s vision of the country grounded in the white, English-speaking, Protestant traditions of its early settlers.

    Those factions have seen their competing visions of American identity brought to a boil at points throughout history, such as when lawmakers barred Chinese immigration beginning in the 1880s or when bias against Catholic immigrants and their descendants bubbled up through a long stretch of the 20th century.

    READ MORE: Why ‘negative partisanship’ is flipping politics on its head

    The starkness of the divide and the continuing questions over what it means to be American are a natural byproduct, Miller said, not just of U.S. history, but the current political climate and the rancor of today’s debates over immigration and the welcoming of refugees.

    “Our sense of identity is almost inseparable from the subject of immigration because it’s how we were built,” he said. “Given what we are and how we’ve come about, it’s a very natural debate.”

    The poll found Democrats were nearly three times as likely as Republicans to say that the U.S. should be a country made up of many cultures and values that change as new people arrive, with far more Republicans saying there should be an essential American culture that immigrants adopt.

    Republicans overwhelmingly viewed immigrants who arrived in the past decade as having retained their own cultures and values rather than adopting American ones.

    Among the areas seen as the greatest threats to the American way of life, Democrats coalesce around a fear of the country’s political leaders, political polarization and economic inequality. Most Republicans point instead to illegal immigration as a top concern.

    Perhaps surprisingly, fear of influence from foreign governments was roughly the same on the left and right at a time when calls for an investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia have largely come from Democrats. About 4 in 10 Democrats and Republicans alike viewed the issue as extremely or very threatening.

    Two questions, also posed during the presidential campaign, offered insight into how Trump’s election may have changed partisans’ views. The poll found about 52 percent of Republicans now regard the U.S. as the single greatest country in the world, up significantly from 35 percent when the question was asked last June.

    Some 22 percent of Democrats expressed that view, essentially unchanged from the earlier poll.

    Democrats appear to be reinforcing their belief that the country’s range of races, religions and backgrounds make the country stronger. About 80 percent made that assessment in the new poll, compared with 68 percent eight months earlier.

    About 51 percent of Republicans held that view, similar to the percentage who said so in the previous poll.


    The AP-NORC poll of 1,004 adults was conducted Feb. 16-20, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

    Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.

    AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post What does it mean to be American? The answer depends on your politics, study says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California. Photo by Reuters.

    A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California. Photo by Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is returning a transgender teen’s case to a lower court without reaching a decision.

    The justices said Monday they have opted not to decide whether federal anti-discrimination law gives high school senior Gavin Grimm the right to use the boys’ bathroom in his Virginia school.

    The case had been scheduled for argument in late March. Instead, a lower court in Virginia will be tasked with evaluating the federal law known as title IX and the extent to which it applies to transgender students.

    The high court action follows the Trump administration’s recent decision to withdraw a directive issued during Barack Obama’s presidency that advised schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their chosen gender, not biological birth.

    The administration action triggered legal wrangling that ended with Monday’s order. In essence, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, had relied on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX to side with Grimm. The appeals court accepted the administration’s reading of the law without deciding for itself what the law and a related regulation on same-sex bathrooms and locker rooms mean.

    No appeals court has yet undertaken that more independent analysis, and the Supreme Court typically is reluctant to do so without at least one appellate opinion to review, and usually more than one.

    READ MORE: Trump administration lifts transgender bathroom guidance

    For Grimm, the order means that he probably will graduate with the issue unresolved and his ability to use the boys’ bathroom blocked by a policy of the Gloucester County school board. Although he won a court order allowing him to use the boys’ bathroom, the Supreme Court put it on hold last August, before the school year began.

    Similar cases are pending in other parts of the country so it is likely that other appeals courts also will weigh in about the reach of anti-discrimination protections for transgender students.

    Both sides in Grimm’s case had asked for the high court to go ahead with the case, even after the administration withdrew the Obama-era directive, although the school board said the case should be delayed.

    The justices did not comment on the case beyond their one-sentence order returning it to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The post Supreme Court says it won’t hear case on transgender bathroom rights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Charles Murray speaks at an event in Las Vegas. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

    Charles Murray speaks at an event in Las Vegas. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

    Update: Read ‘The Aftermath at Middlebury’ from Inside Higher Ed, which includes updates about the Middlebury professor attacked after the event, the non-students who were among those involved and how the college’s president has vowed to promote values of free expression.

    Hundreds of students at Middlebury College last Thursday chanted and shouted at Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college.

    Murray had been invited by Middlebury’s student group affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank at which Murray is a scholar. Many of his writings are controversial, but perhaps none more than The Bell Curve, a book that linked intelligence and race and that has been widely condemned by many social scientists (even as Murray has been supported by others).

    Prior to the point when Murray was introduced, several Middlebury officials reminded students that they were allowed to protest but not to disrupt the talk. The students ignored those reminders and faced no visible consequences for doing so.

    READ MORE from Inside Higher Education: Is heckling a right?

    As soon as Murray took the stage, students stood up, turned their backs to him and started various chants that were loud enough and in unison such that he could not talk over them. Chants included:

    • “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away.”
    • “Your message is hatred. We cannot tolerate it.”
    • “Charles Murray, go away. Middlebury says no way.”
    • “Who is the enemy? White supremacy.”
    • “Hey hey, ho ho. Charles Murray has got to go.”
    • The scene was recorded and posted to YouTube. Murray appears around minute 19.

    After the students chanted for about 20 minutes, college officials announced that the lecture would not take place but that Murray would go to another location, which the college didn’t name, and have a discussion with a Middlebury faculty member — livestreamed back to the original lecture site.

    According to Middlebury officials, after Murray and the professor who interviewed him for the livestream attempted to leave the location in a car, some protesters surrounded the car, jumped on it, pounded on it and tried to prevent the car from leaving campus.

    Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury, attended the attempted lecture and spoke before Murray took the stage. She received some boos from the crowd, although she was applauded when she said she disagreed with Murray’s views. Patton said she attended because students invited her, and she tries to attend events when invited — regardless of her views of a speaker. She said that “the very premise of free speech on this campus is that a speaker has a right to be heard.”

    In a statement Friday morning, Middlebury said, “We’re deeply disappointed that Charles Murray was not permitted to give his talk in the way it was intended. A large group of students took it upon themselves to disrupt the event, which forced us to move Mr. Murray and Professor Allison Stanger, the moderator of the Q&A, to another location. Thanks to some advance planning, we were able to livestream Mr. Murray’s talk and his conversation with Professor Stanger. We will make a recording of that available as soon as possible so the members of our community who came to the event wanting to hear Mr. Murray will be able to do so.”

    Middlebury officials said that while they expected a protest and possible disruption, the size of the protest was unexpected, making it impossible to clear the hall.
    College officials framed the decision to allow the event to take place as being about free speech.

    But critics said that Murray shouldn’t be treated simply a person with whom they had differing political views. Many noted that he is classified as a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sums him up this way: “Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women, and the poor.”

    An open letter by hundreds of Middlebury alumni says in part, “This is not an issue of freedom of speech. We think it is necessary to allow a diverse range of perspectives to be voiced at Middlebury …. However, in this case we find the principle does not apply, due to not only the nature, but also the quality, of Dr. Murray’s scholarship. He paints arguments for the biological and intellectual superiority of white men with a thin veneer of quantitative rhetoric and academic authority. His work, including 1984’s Losing Ground and 1994’s The Bell Curve … misinterprets selective, uncorrected statistics and other faulty data to argue for the genetic inferiority of people of color, women, people with disabilities and the poor. This is the same thinking that motivates eugenics and the genocidal white supremacist ideologies which are enjoying a popular resurgence under the new presidential administration.”

    Murray has said that critiques of The Bell Curve are incorrect. He issued a letter defending the book last year — at a time when some wanted Virginia Tech to call off an appearance there (it did not).

    Via email Friday morning, Murray declined to comment on what took place at Middlebury, but he posted several comments on Twitter, including this one.

    Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education. Read the original story here

    The post Middlebury students shout down controversial writer Charles Murray appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban will temporarily halt entry to the U.S. for people from six Muslim-majority nations who are seeking new visas, though allowing those with current visas to travel freely, according to a fact sheet obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

    Trump was to sign the new executive order later in the day. The directive aims to address legal issues with the original order, which caused confusion at airports, sparked protests around the country and was ultimately blocked by federal courts.

    Watch Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions speak about the new travel ban in the player above.

    The revised order is narrower and specifies that a 90-day ban on people from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen does not apply to those who already have valid visas. The White House also dropped Iraq from the list of targeted countries, following pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider, given Iraq’s role in fighting the Islamic State group.

    The fact sheet cites negotiations that resulted in Iraq agreeing to “increase cooperation with the U.S. government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States.” An Iraqi spokesman said the change marks a “positive step” and shows the countries have a “real partnership.”

    A fact sheet detailing the order was distributed to lawmakers and obtained by the AP.

    The mere existence of a fact sheet signaled that the White House was taking steps to improve the rollout of the reworked directive. The initial measure was hastily signed at the end of Trump’s first week in office, and the White House was roundly criticized for not providing lawmakers, Cabinet officials and others with information ahead of the signing.

    Notably, Trump was not expected to hold a public signing ceremony for the new measure. Instead, several Cabinet secretaries — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — planned to discuss the order at an event late Monday morning.

    Press Secretary Sean Spicer is not scheduled to hold an on-camera briefing Monday either, leading to the appearance that the president was distancing himself from the order, which was a signature issue during his campaign and the first days of his presidency. The order also risks being overshadowed by unsubstantiated accusations the president made over the weekend that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of his phone during the campaign.

    Trump administration officials say that even with the changes, the goal of the new order is the same as the first: keeping would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

    According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the U.S. for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with U.S. government requests to update or improve that information.

    Additionally, Trump’s order suspends the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

    Other changes are also expected, including no longer singling out Syrian refugees for an indefinite ban. Syrian refugees will now be treated like other refugees and be subjected to the 120-day suspension of the refugee program.

    READ MORE: Immigration ban reveals a nation divided

    The new version is also expected to remove language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics had accused the administration of adding such language to help Christians get into the United States while excluding Muslims.

    “I think people will see six or seven major points about this executive order that do clarify who was covered,” said presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

    She said the new order will not go into effect until March 16, despite earlier warnings from the president and his team that any delay in implementation would pose a national security risk, allowing dangerous people to flow into the country.

    Legal experts say the new order addresses some of the constitutional concerns raised by a federal appeals court about the initial ban, but leaves room for more legal challenges.

    “It’s much clearer about how it doesn’t apply to groups of immigrants with more clearly established constitutional rights,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck. “That’s a really important step.”

    Removing language that would give priority to religious minorities helps address concerns that the initial ban was discriminatory, but its continued focus on Muslim-majority countries leaves the appearance that the order is a “Muslim ban,” Vladeck said.

    “There’s still going to be plenty of work for the courts to do,” he said.

    The post WATCH: New travel ban targets those seeking new visas from six Muslim-majority countries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that racial bias in the jury room can be a reason for breaching the centuries-old legal principle of secrecy in jury deliberations. File photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron.

    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that racial bias in the jury room can be a reason for breaching the centuries-old legal principle of secrecy in jury deliberations. File photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron.

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that racial bias in the jury room can be a reason for breaching the centuries-old legal principle of secrecy in jury deliberations.

    The court ruled 5-3 in a Colorado case in which a juror reportedly tied defendant Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez’s guilt to his Hispanic heritage.

    The juror’s statements came to light after Pena Rodriguez was convicted. Two jurors reported that a third juror colleague determined that he was guilty because Pena Rodriguez is “Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want.”

    Pena Rodriguez said the juror’s views, expressed behind the closed doors of the jury room, deprived him of a fair trial.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority “that blatant racial prejudice is antithetical to the functioning of the jury system and must be confronted in egregious cases like this one despite the general bar of the no-impeachment rule.” The court’s four liberal justices joined with Kennedy to form a majority.

    But the court stopped short of ordering a new trial or even laying out procedures for lower courts to follow. Instead, Kennedy said, trial courts could “consider the evidence of the juror’s statement and any resulting denial of the jury trial guarantees.”

    Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

    “Today, with the admirable intention of providing justice for one criminal defendant, the court not only pries open the door; it rules that respecting the privacy of the jury room, as our legal system has done for centuries, violates the Constitution,” Alito wrote.

    The Supreme Court had resisted the call in earlier cases to examine what was said in the jury room. But several justices indicated during argument in the case in October that the allegations raised by Pena Rodriguez made for an extraordinary case.

    The dispute arose after a jury convicted Pena Rodriguez of inappropriately touching teenage girls.

    No other juror was alleged to have said anything improper and all 12 jurors, including the two who reported the inappropriate comments, voted to convict him.

    Lawyers for Colorado and the Obama administration, which urged the court to leave jury secrecy undisturbed, acknowledged that the statements attributed to the juror identified only as H.C. were indefensible. But they said there are better ways to address racial bias on juries, including closer screening of potential jurors.

    The post Supreme Court says jury’s racial bias can be investigated after trial appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a December 2016 presentation in Moscow, Russia. Photo by REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin.

    One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a December 2016 presentation in Moscow, Russia. Photo by REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin.

    WASHINGTON — A former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign says he has been contacted by the Senate intelligence Committee about its investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

    In response to the committee, Carter Page said he will “provide any information” that may be of assistance to the committee.

    “I will do everything in my power to reasonably ensure that all information concerning my activities related to Russia last year is preserved,” Page said in a letter addressed to North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the committee chairman, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman.

    READ MORE: What we know about U.S. investigations into Russia and possible ties to Trump’s campaign

    The Senate panel will review Russia’s interference in the presidential race, which intelligence agencies have concluded was carried out on Trump’s behalf, and potential links between Russia and Trump’s campaign advisers and associates. The lawmakers have asked about a dozen individuals and organizations, including the White House, to preserve relevant materials.

    The FBI has also been investigating ties between Russia and Trump advisers and associates during the campaign.

    Trump has denied having any knowledge of such contacts. He’s grown increasingly angry over a stream of stories suggesting otherwise, including revelations last week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the campaign. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions said he did not have contact with Russian officials.

    READ MORE: In a reversal, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page now says he did have contact with Russia

    In February, former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour that he had “no meetings” with Russian officials last year. But on Thursday — the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from federal probes into Russia after reports revealed he met twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016 — Page told Chris Hayes of MSNBC that “I do not deny” meeting with the ambassador last summer in Cleveland, in an apparent contradiction.

    Page, who briefly served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, also met Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a July event on the sidelines of the Republican National Committee. Trump’s team has tried to distance the president from Page, saying he never had significant contact with him.

    In his letter to the Senate committee, Page blamed Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign for spreading false information about his connections to Russia.


    PBS NewsHour’s Josh Barajas reported for this story.

    The post Senate committee calls on former Trump adviser Carter Page in Russia investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump on Monday signed a reworked version of his controversial travel ban Monday, aiming to withstand court challenges while still barring new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily shutting down America’s refugee program.

    The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects would-be visitors and immigrants from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

    Sean Spicer will hold an off-camera news conference starting at 1:30 p.m., during which he will likely take questions about the new travel ban. Listen live in the player above.

    Trump privately signed the new order Monday while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally unveiled the new edict. They did not take questions from reporters.

    The low-key rollout was in contrast to the first version of the order, which Trump signed a week after his inauguration in a high-profile ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as Secretary of Defense James Mattis stood by.

    WATCH: New travel ban targets those seeking new visas from six Muslim-majority countries

    In addition, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was not scheduled to hold an on-camera briefing Monday, leading to the appearance that the president was distancing himself from the order, which was a signature issue during his campaign and the first days of his presidency. The order also risks being overshadowed by unsubstantiated accusations Trump made over the weekend that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of his phone during the campaign.

    Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who successfully challenged Trump’s initial travel ban in court, says he’s taking a serious look at the new version issued Monday.

    In an emailed statement, Ferguson said the president “has capitulated on numerous key provisions blocked by our lawsuit.” They include banning legal permanent residents, visa holders and dual citizens from entering the country, as well as explicit preferences based on religion.

    READ MORE: Why the 9th Circuit Court rejected Trump’s immigration ban appeal

    Washington and Minnesota won legal challenges to the original travel ban last month when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the order after a lower court blocked it. The court rulings allowed refugees and people traveling from the seven countries on the list to enter the United States on previously issued visas.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan is backing the updated version of Trump’s travel ban.

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Wisconsin Republican condemned Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. But in a statement Monday, Ryan says Trump’s revised executive order advances “our shared goal” of protecting the United States.

    Ryan also commends Trump administration officials for “their hard work on this measure to improve our vetting standards.”

    Trump’s critics say the focus on predominantly Muslim countries will leave the impression the order is effectively a ban on Muslims.

    The post LISTEN LIVE: Sean Spicer expected to address new travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A group of high school drivers' education students practice their skills in model cars inside the classroom, part of the Aetna Drivotrainer system, 1950s. Modern teens aren't so eager to get behind the wheel. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    A group of high school drivers’ education students practice their skills in model cars inside the classroom, part of the Aetna Drivotrainer system, 1950s. Modern teens aren’t so eager to get behind the wheel. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    At 16, Henry Stock doesn’t see many reasons to get a driver’s license.

    He can walk to stores near his home in Hollywood, Florida. Many of his friends are fellow gamers he can talk to online. And he can use a mobile ride-sharing app to get a ride when he needs one.

    So while Stock has a learner’s permit, he hasn’t yet made much of a dent in the 50 hours of supervised driving he needs to get a full license in Florida.

    “It’s more time and effort than I want to put into something that won’t benefit me a lot right now,” Stock said.

    Other teens see things the same way. The share of high school seniors across the country who have a driver’s license dropped from 85.3 percent in 1996 to a record low 71.5 percent in 2015, according to data from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey.

    The drop has been sharpest in the South, where the share of high school seniors with a driver’s license fell from 88.6 percent in 1996 to 71.2 percent in 2015. High school seniors are most likely to have a license in the Midwest — 80.4 percent — and least likely to have one in the Northeast — 64.8 percent.

    Part of the reason is economic: fewer jobs, especially during the Great Recession, which meant teens didn’t need to get to work and had less money to bankroll their rides. But even as the economy improved, the share of high school seniors with a license has generally been on the decline. That’s partly a result of tough new rules imposed on young drivers and an explosion in ride-hailing and ride-sharing services.

    The shift appears to be having a direct impact on safety.

    Drivers aged 16 to 19 are among the most dangerous on the road. They are three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash. But even as that teenage population has increased from 14.9 million in 1996 to 16.9 million in 2015, the number of drivers in that age group involved in fatal crashes fell by more than half, from 6,021 to 2,898, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry-funded nonprofit.

    Matt Moore, a vice president at the Highway Loss Data Institute, a group affiliated with the insurance institute that analyzes insurance statistics, said so-called graduated licenses such as Florida’s, which require set periods of training and restrict driving privileges at certain ages, have been most responsible for the long-term reduction in the share of teen drivers. “From a safety perspective, that’s a good thing,” Moore said.

    But there are signs that the level of fatal accidents involving teens may not stay so low.

    The number of 16- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal accidents crept up in 2014, from 2,584 to 2,622, and again in 2015, to 2,898, according to statistics compiled by the insurance institute — the first increase since 2002. And the Governors Highway Safety Association noted a 10 percent rise from 2014 to 2015 in the number of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who died in crashes, the first increase for that age group since 2006.

    What could be behind the rise? Some traffic safety analysts say licensed teens are driving more as the economy improves and they get jobs. And, they say, more are getting licenses after they turn 18, when most states no longer require training for new drivers.

    sln_mar3_chart

    High Costs
    Robert Foss, director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina, said his state saw a sharp drop in the number of fully licensed 16- and 17-year-old drivers after graduated licensing took effect in 1997.

    But when the licensing rate for teenagers continued to drop, Foss said, it was “really almost exclusively about the economy. That had a big effect on teens and their ability to drive and their need to drive.”

    A 2012 survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the most common reason for teens to delay getting a license was not having a car. More than a third cited gasoline and other costs, and many, like Stock, also mentioned the ability to get around without driving.

    The recession and its aftermath deprived teens of work opportunities as many older workers were laid off and started to compete for lower-level jobs. The unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds was near 25 percent from 2009 to 2013.

    “That means one in four teenagers who wanted a job couldn’t find one,” said Moore of the data institute. “The reality is if you graduated high school at the worst of the recession, you were having a hard time supporting yourself as a teen driver.”

    High teen unemployment coincided with some of the biggest drops in license rates for high school seniors, from 82.1 percent in 2005 to 72.1 percent in 2011, Monitoring the Future data show.

    Delayed Driving
    After a few states experimented with tougher graduated licensing requirements in the early 1990s, by 2006 every state had adopted some form of requirement or restriction. The requirements and restrictions vary. But most states limit driving activity seen as high risk, such as driving at night or driving unsupervised with teen passengers.

    The insurance institute set up a calculator to estimate how many fatalities could be prevented by applying some states’ strict driving policies in other states. For instance, if Florida increased its minimum licensing age from 16 to 17 as New Jersey has, the number of fatal crashes would drop by 13 percent and collision claims would drop by 5 percent, according to the calculator.

    Some teens are putting off getting licenses until they’re old enough to avoid the graduated licensing process.

    Andrew Bennett, a regional coordinator for Nevada’s Zero Teen Fatalities program, knows firsthand how hard it was to get through the state’s graduated licensing program. He waited until he was 18, five years ago, to avoid having to document the time spent driving while his parents supervised him.

    “I was heavily involved in sports and band, and it was quite a bit of hassle just to lock down my parents’ time for 50 hours,” Bennett said.

    He now volunteers with a high school band in Henderson and sees many students arriving with parents, by bicycle or on public transportation — even though they’re old enough to get a driver’s license. “Some consider it a hassle,” Bennett said. “For others it’s that they can’t afford insurance, so they just wait until they go to college or get a job.”

    That teens can wait out the graduated licensing provisions, which generally expire at 18, is a potential safety problem that could undo some of the reductions in fatalities achieved so far, said Ruth Shults, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who specializes in preventing motor vehicle crashes.

    Once teens or young adults leave the nest, they’ve usually lost the easy ability to get help from parents or older siblings who can introduce them to the rules of the road gradually, she said.

    In New Jersey, the law requires new drivers as old as 20 to complete a period of supervised driving. The age requirement was based on a 2008 study that showed that giving older new drivers more experience on the road could help lower crash rates.

    That’s one reason the governors’ association recommended last year that states extend graduated licensing requirements to age 21, and require driver education and training for all new drivers regardless of age.

    “If you don’t learn to drive when you live at home, your chances of benefiting from the experience of a really expert driver has probably really diminished,” Shults said.


    This story originally appeared on Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    The post Why many teens don’t want to get a driver’s license appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An Iraqi special forces soldier fires at a drone operated by Islamic State militants Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS11IKF

    Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters.

    An Iraqi special forces soldier fires at a drone operated by Islamic State militants on March 4, 2017, in Mosul, Iraq.

    The post Photo: Firing at an Islamic State drone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Two Adelie penguins stand atop a block of melting ice on a rocky shoreline at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in East Antarctica in this Jan. 1, 2010 file photo. Photo by Pauline Askin/Reuters

    Two Adelie penguins stand atop a block of melting ice on a rocky shoreline at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in East Antarctica in this Jan. 1, 2010 file photo. Photo by Pauline Askin/Reuters

    We’re about the halfway through President Donald Trump’s first 100 days, a completely arbitrary goal post in his young presidency. From Trump, there’s a new travel ban — adding to his list of about two dozen other executive orders — a first address to a joint session of Congress, and this weekend, an as-of-yet unsubstantiated string of tweets about wiretaps orchestrated by his predecessor.

    Journalists, pundits and experts will sort through these developments, hoping at the end they’re not circling a dead cat.

    In the meantime, here are five important stories that warrant a second glance amid a continuing onslaught of news.

    1. Who is the Russian ambassador at the center of last week’s political drama?

    Russia's Sergei Kislyak speaks during a news conference in Moscow in December 2017. Photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

    Russia’s Sergei Kislyak speaks during a news conference in Moscow in December 2017. Photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

    Last week, there were calls — mainly from Democrats — for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign following the revelation that he failed to disclose meetings with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., to Congress. Sessions recused himself instead.

    News reports have largely focused on the unfolding drama over the accumulating ties between Russia and Trump’s past and current associates. This has welcomed a hearty dose of skepticism because of Trump’s repeated claim that “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

    But, in the background, is Kislyak. Michael Flynn didn’t remember him when recounting pre-White House conversations with Vice President leading to his eventual resignation. Sessions didn’t recall him either. And even when a couple of Democrats said they haven’t met with the Russian ambassador, they, in fact, had.

    When questioned why a 2010 photo showed both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Kislyak in the same group meeting, a spokesman said she meant she didn’t have a private one-on-one meeting with him. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s own tweets showed she had had communications with Kislyak.

    Taking all of this into account, the Washington Post cheekily dubbed the Russian ambassador the Most Forgettable Man in the World.

    Why it’s important

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington last week. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington last week. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    A former U.S. ambassador told NPR that Kislyak, an arms control expert, is a “quiet, behind-the-scenes type.” Another former U.S. official told The Guardian that he didn’t detect a “visceral dislike of the U.S.” in Kislyak.

    CNN called him a “diplomat’s diplomat,” who has experience stretching back to 1985, during the late Soviet period.

    Kislyak has been in Washington since 2008, installed as Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during former President Barack Obama’s two terms. The 66-year-old ambassador was in attendance for Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress last week.

    To date, as The New York Times pointed out, “nothing has emerged publicly indicating anything more sinister” amid all the reports on contacts between Trump associates and Russia.

    John R. Beyrle, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, told the Times he worried that “we’re beginning to out-Russian the Russians” if all contacts were viewed as being suspicious.

    “That’s the last behavior we should model — that simply meeting with a Russian official is wrong, without any knowledge of what was said,” he added.

    2. Blue Lives Matter bills sweep state legislatures

    A woman holds a sign reading "Blue Lives Matter" at a rally for  President Donald  Trump on Sept. 22 in Aston, Pennsylvania. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    A woman holds a sign reading “Blue Lives Matter” at a rally for President Donald Trump on Sept. 22 in Aston, Pennsylvania. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    Most people have been consumed by what the new president is doing in Washington. But there’s a lot happening in state legislatures, too. Since the beginning of the year, 14 states have introduced 32 “Blue Lives Matter” bills, according to the Huffington Post, an effort to include police and other law enforcement in the groups protected by hate crime laws.

    Louisiana was the first state to successfully introduce “Blue Lives Matter” legislation last year. It gave prosecutors the power to seek harsher sentences for those who specifically targeted law enforcement in crimes.

    Since then, a number of other states — including Mississippi, Kentucky and New York — have followed suit. House Republicans introduced a federal bill in 2016, but it died in committee.

    Twenty-two bills are currently stuck in state committees, according to the Huffington Post analysis.

    Why it matters

    The Blue Lives Matter movement gained traction after NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot in December 2014 by a man seeking justice for Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest that August.

    The Fraternal Order of Police have since called for police to be included as a protected class under hate crime laws, as tensions flared over police use of deadly force in cases like Garner’s and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014.

    As the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction, some law enforcement advocates have also pointed to a “war on cops,” though several news organizations have used statistics to call that perception false.

    Still, those tensions — along with some high-profile attacks, including a spree by a lone gunman that killed five Dallas police officers in July — have made police uneasy. These bills are a way to address that fear, something President Donald Trump addressed several times on the campaign trail as part of his law and order platform.

    The statistics here are complicated. Overall, the number of officers killed on the job has been on the decline. It’s important, too, to distinguish between overall deaths and those by “felonious gun fire” — cases in which a police officer was shot intentionally by a suspect, experts say. In 2015, 41 police officers were intentionally killed in the line of duty, according to the FBI, down from 51 in 2014. That’s a sharp decrease from the 1970s, when the death rate was six times higher than it is today, as noted by the Huffington Post. But an early NPR analysis of numbers from 2016 show 64 deaths by gunfire last year, the highest number since 2011, it reports. The Officer Down Memorial Page counts six fatal shooting deaths of officers so far in 2017.

    Craig Floyd, president and chief executive of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, told the Associated Press that “we’ve never seen a year in my memory when we’ve had an increase of this magnitude in officer shooting deaths.”

    There isn’t a good accounting of the number of citizens killed by police officer each year. An informal tracker by the Washington Post showed 963 people were fatally shot by police in 2016. So far in 2017, that number is 191.

    Former President Barack Obama signed a bill in Liu and Ramos’ names in 2015, creating a “blue alert” similar to an Amber Alert that would notify the public when an officer has been attacked and provide more information about the suspect.

    As a whole, “Blue Lives Matter” bills don’t have a great track record: At least 20 of the bills introduced in the past year were killed, the Huffington Post says. Critics of the bill argue that police in all 50 states are already protected by separate statutes that increase penalties for those that attack law enforcement officials. The Anti-Defamation League’s Michael Lieberman told Stateline that those statues are actually a better way to protect police, because they don’t require the same kind of evidence as a hate crime conviction.

    Last year, D.C. Police Union Secretary Jimmy White told Politico that both the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter movements were divisive and further damaging the fragile relationships between many police departments and their communities:

    “There is a balance between giving the public what they want and keeping our police officers safe,” he said. “We are hurting as an agency and as a union and we just wish that the events of yesterday did not happen and never happen again. We will grow, we will heal from this, and we will watch each other’s backs.”

    It’s unclear how this year’s bills will fare. They’re among a number of other public safety bills introduced by Republican lawmakers. Legislatures in 17 states are considering measures intended to better control large-scale protests like those against the Dakota Access Pipeline project and Trump’s inauguration.

    “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,” Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham told the PBS NewsHour. The success of “Blue Lives Matter” bills, similarly, could be a reflection of law enforcement’s success in capturing the attention of lawmakers and holding Trump accountable for the law and order platform that helped propel him to the presidency.

    3. Antarctica’s sea ice is at its lowest level ever

    Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

    Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

    Sea ice in Antarctica has fallen to the lowest values ever recorded, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    As of March 1, only 820,000 square miles of the ocean around Antarctica was covered in ice — an all-time low for Antarctica since satellite monitoring began in 1979, according to InsideClimate News.

    Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, told Reuters there’s still a wait time of a few days for measurements to be confirmed.

    This is confusing because the current low point comes less than three years after Antarctic sea ice set a record high in October 2014, as reported by NASA. And in 2012, Antarctic sea ice hit yet another decline, causing scientists to theorize melting ice shelves as part of the cause of the melting, according to National Geographic.

    Meanwhile, Antarctica has seen a striking rise in temperature. In 2015, the area reached a new record high of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the World Meteorological Organization. At the same time, the Larsen C Ice Shelf, a massive piece of glacial ice the size of Delaware, is also tearing away from the Antarctic Peninsula, BuzzFeed reported.

    Why it matters

    A look at ice levels over the previous decades. Credit Snow and Ice Data Center.

    A look at ice levels over the previous decades. Credit Snow and Ice Data Center.

    So what’s the cause of Antarctica’s wonky climate conditions? Overall, there’s not a clear consensus.

    Some experts say the instability is what we should expected from one of Earth’s most diverse environments.

    “The planet as a whole is doing what was expected in terms of warming. Sea ice as a whole is decreasing as expected, but just like with global warming, not every location with sea ice will have a downward trend in ice extent,” Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, wrote in an article published by NASA in 2014.

    This isn’t the first time Antarctica has experienced bizarre weather patterns. In fact, it’s been happening for decades.

    Some attribute fluctuations in the Antarctic sea ice as evidence against global warming — the periodic gains in ice are counter the melting happening in the arctic, climate change deniers say — while other scientists linked the changes to shifts in wind and ocean currents.

    A 2016 study published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment found that the topography of the area creates icy winds within Antarctica and powerful ocean currents that circle the continent, which appear to play a more prominent role in sea ice fluctuations than changes in temperature.

    Scientists have often said the Antarctic has been spared many of the effects of climate change. If this decline continues, it could be a sign that manmade climate change is finally starting to break the weather patterns there, Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC, told BuzzFeed News.

    4. Uncertainty for cities and states trying to fight opioid addiction

    Baltimore public health outreach worker John Harris, right, stands at a Penn-North neighborhood bus stop in Baltimore and trains a man to use Narcan, also called naloxone, an antidote that can reverse an overdose within minutes. Photo by Matt Ehrichs/NewsHour

    Baltimore public health outreach worker John Harris, right, stands at a Penn-North neighborhood bus stop in Baltimore and trains a man to use Narcan, also called naloxone, an antidote that can reverse an overdose within minutes. Photo by Matt Ehrichs/NewsHour

    A year and a half ago, Baltimore’s Health Commissioner Leana Wen wrote the city’s 620,000 residents a standing prescription for naloxone, also called Narcan, an opioid antidote that stops a potentially fatal overdose in moments.

    It was one of the strategies policymakers have used to target opioid deaths in recent years. Others: All states except Missouri now use real-time electronic records to monitor how often doctors prescribe and pharmacists dispense drugs. And states secured $1 billion to fund substance abuse treatment targeting heroin and opioid users through the 21st Century Cures Act last year.

    Now, as the nation sees a historic rise in fatal drug overdoses, and a new president steps into the White House, the future of those programs are unclear.

    The New York Times reported last month that the Trump administration planned to ax the national drug control policy office. Trump has also not yet nominated someone to be the nation’s drug czar. A White House spokesperson told NewsHour in a written statement that it’s “premature to comment,” adding: “The President and his cabinet are working collaboratively to create a leaner, more efficient government that does more with less of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”

    Why it matters

    Over the last five years, the nation’s opioid crisis has gained momentum, despite federal, state and local officials’ attempts to control it. The most recent government data shows more than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2015 alone. Those deaths have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The national drug control policy office, created by President Ronald Reagan nearly three decades ago, has faced political threats before. While advocates have praised the office’s ability to coordinate anti-addiction efforts across federal, state and local offices, critics say billions in spending hasn’t stopped drug use from rising.

    In Maryland, which ranked 14th in drug overdose death rate nationwide in 2015, that opioid death rate rose 20 percent over the previous year. By September 2016, 70 percent of the state’s 918 fatal heroin overdoses happened in and around Baltimore, state records show.

    PBS NewsHour traveled to take a closer look at Baltimore, which the Obama administration held up as an example of how a cash-strapped city can forge partnerships at all levels of government and develop new ways to prevent drug overdose deaths, expand treatment access and nurture greater recovery. Since January 2015, the Baltimore Health Department says over 20,000 residents have completed naloxone training; at least 800 lives have been saved. That kind of progress might be lost if the future of funding and the policy office are still uncertain, advocates there say. What Trump’s administration decides to do about those issues could indicate whether he will prioritize drug policies while in the Oval Office.

    READ MORE: How will the Trump administration change the war on opioids?

    5. Are you there, Richard?

    Fitness guru Richard Simmons (R) appears with host Larry King in 2005. Photo by Reuters

    Fitness guru Richard Simmons (R) appears with host Larry King in 2005. Photo by Reuters

    Richard Simmons disappeared from the public around three years ago.

    The fitness guru, often seen sparkling in tank tops and short shorts, stopped showing up to his weekly classes at his Los Angeles exercise studio Slimmons on Feb. 15, 2014. He didn’t return emails and phone calls.

    Since then, friends and the many folks he helped on their weight loss journey are wondering what happened to Simmons.

    Filmmaker and former “Daily Show” producer Dan Taberski, who was also a regular at the Slimmons class, produced a six-part podcast called “Missing Richard Simmons,” documenting his efforts to reconnect with his frizzy-haired friend.

    “The goal isn’t to drag him back,” Taberski says in the first episode of the podcast. “It’s to find out why someone like him would ditch the world,” he said.

    Why it’s important

    Video by collagevideo

    Simmons, as documented in the podcast, was an extremely accessible celebrity. A Hollywood tour guide, a once-morbidly obese hairdresser in Nebraska, and many others all attest to this, saying how odd it would be for Simmons to go cold turkey from communication from his vast network of confidants.

    After a New York Daily News story in 2016 pushed the idea that Simmons was being held against his will by a live-in housekeeper, the celebrity phoned in to the NBC’s “Today” show shortly after for a quick interview.

    “No one is holding me in my house as a hostage,” he told the Savannah Guthrie of “Today,” attempting to quell those concerns. “All the people that are worrying about me, I want to tell them that I love them with my whole heart and soul, and not to worry, Richard’s fine. You haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll come back and I’ll come back strong.”

    Simmons has yet to return.

    Wired has called the podcast “kinda icky” and “has the potential to be invasive.” Vulture also aired similar concerns, saying that a moral quandary is apparent as we listen to Taberski Nancy Drew his way through the podcast.

    “What right does a documentarian, or even a friend, have to waive a person’s right to himself?” Nicholas Quah wrote.

    For what it’s worth, the podcast does address this. Or, rather, one of Simmons’ friends metaphorically shakes Taberski from his tunnel vision.

    “He’s allowed to go away. He wants to go away. He wants to live his Marlene Dietrich fantasy and want to be alone? Goodbye, girl,” Willam Belli tells Taberski.

    “How can you lose what you never owned?” he adds.

    5 stories from last week that deserve a second look

    The post 5 important stories you shouldn’t miss appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Syrian children, who fled the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa, play near their tent in a camp for those displaced by the fighting. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Syrian children, who fled the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa, play near their tent in a camp for those displaced by the fighting. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    One in four children in Syria are at risk of developing mental health disorders, according to a new report released by the nonprofit group Save the Children on Monday.

    Save the Children staff and their local partners interviewed 458 children and adults, and consulted mental health specialists, on the toll Syria’s six-year war is having on children.

    The report, titled “Invisible Wounds,” chronicles the day-to-day traumas children there face, including:

    • About 3 million Syrian children are under the age of 6 and know nothing but war. One in four children is at risk of developing mental health disorders, the report said.
    • Children are demonstrating symptoms of constant stress, including bedwetting, self-inflicted harm and suicide attempts, along with aggressive and withdrawn behavior. They are having “difficulty speaking and are stuttering, and some of them suffer from partial amnesia,” said an aid worker in the northwestern city of Idlib.
    • More than half of those interviewed said adolescents are using drugs and alcohol to “escape” their situation.

    Access to school is also an issue because:

    • Schools are no longer running or the buildings are used for other purposes, the report said. Children are working to support the family; boys are recruited as fighters; and girls are married off at an extremely young age to ease the financial burden on their parents.
    • And about half of children polled, who were able to attend school, said they didn’t feel safe there.

    Syrians lack access to mental health professionals:

    • In some regions of more than 1 million people, those interviewed said there was only one professional psychiatrist, according to the report.
    • Two-thirds of children said they lost a relative, had their house bombed, or were injured in the war.
    • One-quarter of the children said they rarely or never had someone to talk to about their fears, the report said.
    Children play on a swing in the rebel held city of Douma, north-east of Damascus, on March 1. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

    Children play on a swing in the rebel held city of Douma, north-east of Damascus, on March 1. Photo by Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

    Why it matters

    Aid groups are concerned that because of the prolonged fighting disrupting children’s lives, there will be a “lost generation” of uneducated youth with psychological scars. More than 2 million children in Syria, along with 700,000 children in refugee camps in neighboring countries, don’t have access to an education, according to the United Nations.

    A “cessation of hostilities” announced in December did little to protect all children in Syria because there were still pockets of fighting in areas that humanitarian organizations couldn’t reach, said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, in Geneva last month.

    “The immeasurable cost in lives and suffering should shame the world into taking immediate action in finding a political solution to the war,” he said. “What if these were your children?”

    What can be done?

    Groups such as Save the Children offer programs that help children express their worries through art, and establish community activity centers where children can talk to counselors about their anger and fears. One child in the “Invisible Wounds” report drew her mother much smaller than the rest of the family. The art teacher later learned that her mother had died although the child wasn’t able to say it.

    Even though adversity early in childhood can have lingering effects, all hope is not lost, according to the report.

    “What came through clearly in the research is that despite all they are going through, many children still dream of a better future, of becoming doctors and teachers who can contribute to building a peaceful, prosperous Syria. All they want is the opportunity to do so,” it said.

    The interviews took place between December 2016 and February 2017 in Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, al-Hasakah, Homs, Idlib and Rif Damascus in areas held by the opposition. Interviewers were unable to access government- and Islamic State-held areas.

    Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, we’re interviewing Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria director. What should we ask her? Put your suggested questions in the comments section below.

    The post 1 in 4 Syrian children at risk of mental health disorders, new report says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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