Monday, December 26, 2016

MOVIE HISTORY - America's First Black Filmmakers

"Preserving the history of America's first black filmmakers" PBS NewsHour 12/25/2016


SUMMARY:  In the early part of the 20th century, black filmmakers were forced to work outside the white Hollywood mainstream -- and produced around 500 films, mainly for black audiences.  To preserve this history, the company Kino Lorber released a five-disc collection this year containing 20 hours of these films.  Executive producer Paul Miller joins NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Karla Murthy.

KARLA MURTHY, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND:  In the early part of 20th century, with racial segregation still in place in much of the U.S., black filmmakers made movies for black audiences, outside the white Hollywood mainstream.  They produced around 500 so-called “race films,” but most are lost to history.

To preserve America's first “independent” cinema, this year, the company Kino Lorber released a five disc collection combining 20 hours of these films called The Pioneers of African-American Cinema.

The collection of 16 feature films and shorts — mainly from the 1920s and 30s — includes comedies, dramas, and documentaries.  They not only starred black actors, the films were often written, directed, and produced by [black]-Americans.

Executive Producer Paul Miller, a musician also known as DJ Spooky, raised money for the project initially through a Kickstarter campaign.

PAUL MILLER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF THE PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA:  We helped them raise a little bit under maybe $100,000 just, (snaps) you know, in like a week and some change.  And I love to think of it as a festival in a box.

KARLA MURTHY:  So the New York Times called this project– this is what it said about it, “From the perspective of cinema history, and American history for that matter, there has never been a more significant video release than Pioneers of African American Cinema."  So why is this collection so significant?

PAUL MILLER:  Well, the interesting thing about American history is we have what I call selective amnesia.  And Americans love to forget.  Like, people, what Korean War?  Did we ever occupy the Philippines?  So putting the box set together was kind of a situation of reclaiming these hidden histories of very positive, and pro what I call multicultural visions of this history of American cinema, which is usually again very white white-washed.

KARLA MURTHY:  How revolutionary was it at that time that these films were actually able to get made and seen?

PAUL MILLER:  You've got to remember it was incredible that African-Americans saw themselves on the screen.  Usually most portrayals of African-Americans in the larger white culture were meant to be very derogatory.  So by reclaiming that space in the culture you could show positive images of black people outside of the white context.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 12/23/2016

"Shields and Brooks on Trump's unprecedented transition" PBS NewsHour 12/23/2016


SUMMARY:  President-elect Donald Trump made headlines this week for his reference to a possible arms race and his involvement in U.S.  foreign policy prior to taking office.  Judy Woodruff speaks with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks about whether Mr.  Trump's strategy is to keep people “off balance,” as well as potential conflicts of interest within his Cabinet.

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

Gentlemen, welcome.

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

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

And he has shifted — President Obama has shifted American policy in a much more critical way in Israel with the settlements than the previous Presidents.  But we're about to get a head-snapping shift the other way.  President-elect Trump's Ambassador to Israel is further to the right than almost anyone in Israel, further to the right than Bibi Netanyahu on the settlements, and almost opposes the two-state solution, does in fact.

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

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

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

And the President (Obama) said this week, he's (Trump) entitled to his own policies and but just hope that it's deliberate and thoughtful.  And this strikes me as anything but.

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

So, what does this say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEVER ENDING WAR - Israel vs Palestine

As I have said many, many times before.  The Palestine/Israel conflict will, and cannot, be solved by outsiders.  It can hopefully be solved when the citizens of Palestine AND the citizens of Israel tell their respective governments to STOP.  Issues like Palestine support of Gaza Strip and Israel settlements in Palestine, are just two problems that must be solved.

Also, to paraphrase, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" even when they are 'drunk' on ideology.  Israel is drunk on their religious ideology.

"Why didn't the U.S. veto the UN's rebuke of Israel?" PBS NewsHour 12/23/2016


SUMMARY:  The United States has broken with decades of diplomacy by abstaining on a U.N. rebuke of Israel, rather than vetoing it in support of its longtime ally.  The Security Council voted 14 to 0 that Israel is committing a “flagrant violation” of international law by building settlements on land Palestinians want.  Judy Woodruff speaks with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, about the decision.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  So, why did the Obama administration today abstain from voting on the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem?

We ask Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications to the President.

Ben Rhodes, welcome.

It is the case that the U.S. has long opposed these Israeli settlements but, at the same time, it has protected Israel in the U.N. against these condemning resolutions.  Why the shift?

BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser:  Well, look, first of all, it's bipartisan tradition to opposed settlements, as you mentioned.  There have been many resolutions in the past under bipartisan administrations that address the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The fact of the matter is, we vetoed a resolution that addressed settlements in 2011, and look what's happened since.  We've had failed peace processes after failed peace process, and the pace of settlement construction has accelerated significantly.  And just recently, you had the Israeli prime minister saying that this is the most pro-settlement in administration in Israeli history, the Israeli government that is currently in place.

We believe that at this pace, a two-state solution could be put at risk.  We believe that would be profoundly bad for Israel and its security.  And so, that's why the president took the position that he did.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It comes across, though, Ben Rhodes, though, as a parting shot at Israel on the part of President Obama.

BEN RHODES:  Well, look, we have a record that we'll put up next to anybody in terms of support for Israel.  In fact, we just concluded a $38 billion ten year MOU with respect to their security assistance from the United States.

The fact of the matter is, though, I think if you look at the map of the West Bank, if you look at the future of the two-state solution, these settlements are encroaching further and further beyond the separation barrier that the Israelis themselves built, thousands of new settlements are being constructed and, frankly, if these trends continue, it will be impossible to realize a two-state solution.

And the fact of the matter is, we can't just have a peace process or a two-state solution as an empty talking point.  If we really want to be able to have a prospect for peace, we have to be clear about what we're against and that includes the type of settlements and I'd say as the resolution points out, the type of incitement to violence on the Palestinian side that have been obstacles to peace.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, let me just read you what — among other things the comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu after this happened.  He said, “The National Security Council has disgracefully ganged up on the one democracy in the Middle East.”  The Israeli government is saying this was a shameful resolution, they're not going to abide by it.

I mean, is the President — are you comfortable with what is now a really raw opening, a sore spot in the relationship with Israel as this President leaves office?

BEN RHODES:  Look, we've taken a lot of criticism from the Israeli government over the years.  If you look at our record, unprecedented military intelligence cooperation, a significant security assistance upgrades.

But again, let's talk about what the resolution addressed — the settlement construction.  That's the conversation that the Israeli government is not having.  And, in fact, you had this prime minister say this is the most pro-settlement Israeli government in history.  Frankly, that statement is entirely inconsistent with the two-state solution that the Israeli government in the past has said they supported, that many members of Congress support.

At a certain point, we all just have to stop and look at the map and look at the facts and say, if these settlements continue, is the two-state solution impossible?  And that clearly is the trend line.  It's evident for everybody to see, and that's what we should be talking about.

TRUMP NOT FILES - The Bulling Attitude, With Nukes!

This is further prof that Trump IS a bully.  He bullies women, the press, and anyone who questions his motives.

And now he attempts to bully the world WITH NUKES!

"Donald Trump's fighting words are worrying to some" PBS NewsHour 12/23/2016


SUMMARY:  President-elect Trump tweeted this week that the U.S.  needs to build up its nuclear arsenal.  He also declared that should an arms race occur, the U.S.  would triumph over any adversary.  John Yang talks to Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund and Matthew Kroenig of Georgetown University about the reaction to Mr. Trump's words and the status of American weaponry.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return now to President-elect Trump's comments about the need to build up the United States' nuclear arsenal — and to John Yang for that.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Are the president-elect's tweets and comments signaling a change in U.S.  nuclear weapons policy?  And should the nation beef up its nuclear arsenal?

For that, we turn to Matthew Kroenig, an associate professor at Georgetown University who's written extensively about nuclear weapons; and Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshares Fund, a non-profit organization that advocates for disarmament.  He, too, has written widely on the subject.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Mr. Cirincione, let me start with you, when you hear or read the president-elect saying that the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability and then tell Mika Brzezinski this morning, “Let it be an arms race,” what's your reaction?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, Ploughshares Fund:  Stunned.  An ill-considered, disrespectful and dangerous series of statements.  This would upend decades of Republican and Democratic policy that ever since Ronald Reagan has been reducing nuclear arsenals, both in the United States and Russia and around the world, stopping other countries from getting nuclear weapons.

By using that word “expand”, he says he wants to grow the arsenal or grow the capabilities.  Look, nobody is against keeping a strong nuclear deterrent.  If that's all he said, we wouldn't be having this debate.

President Obama has put in train a trillion-dollar program to replace every single nuclear weapon we have over the next 25 years.  Donald Trump seems to be saying he wants to go ahead with this.  His advisors tried to walk it back, but he himself said this morning, let it be an arms race.  That is an extremely dangerous posture, that's why people all over the globe are worried and talking about this today.

JOHN YANG:  Matthew Kroenig, what's your take?

MATTHEW KROENIG, Georgetown University:  Well, the statement is certainly controversial but I think Trump is basically right.  U.S. nuclear policy in the U.S. can't be static, it has to respond to international politics and all America's nuclear armed rivals, Russia, China, North Korea, are expanding and modernizing their arsenals.  So, it doesn't make sense for the United States to continue reducing its arsenal as our adversaries are going in the other directions.  And moreover, many of these countries, especially Russia, are relying more not less on nuclear weapons in their strategy.

So, again, the United States needs to take that into account as it formulates its own nuclear posture.  And so, I think some strengthening of U.S. nuclear strategy and U.S. nuclear posture has been long overdue.

JOHN YANG:  Matthew Kroenig, when you say the United States shouldn't be reducing its arsenal, but isn't that what's called for under an existing treaty with Russia?

MATTHEW KROENIG:  Well, the existing treaty with Russia, the new START treaty was signed in 2011.  According to the treaty, both countries can have 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons.  Right now, the United States is actually well under 200 or so warheads under.  The Russians are 250 warheads above.

So, there is a gap of about 400 warheads that's worrying in and of itself, and it raises questions about Russia — whether Russia actually intends to follow through on this agreement or not.  So, this is one of the measures that a new President can take to strengthen America's nuclear arsenal to increase the size of the arsenal, at least to the limits allowed for under new START.

MUSIC - From U.S. Military Worldwide

"Holiday music from U.S. military around the world" PBS NewsHour 12/23/2016


SUMMARY:  From around the world, members of the United States military sing the classic Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  The segment was done in collaboration with the Pentagon.

TRUMP NOT FILES - Trump vs Press

"Will the Trump administration keep its promises to the press?" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2016

ANSWER:  Of course NOT.  He's hasn't kept any of his campaign pommies yet, why would he start now?  I would not be surprised that Trumps 'press' will mostly be Tweets and the rest will be handled by his Propaganda Team (aka Department of Lies).  Trump believes ANYONE, especially the "extremely dishonest press," are liers (even when there is video evidence).

"There's a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you, we're looking at that." code for censorship, and no question asked.  Whitehouse press briefings will become campaign speeches.


SUMMARY:  During the campaign and after, President-elect Donald Trump voiced his distrust of the media and held the press at arms-length.  On Thursday, he announced his communications team, including RNC strategist Sean Spicer as press secretary.  Brian Stelter of CNN and Jeff Mason of Reuters join Judy Woodruff to discuss what to expect about press relations once the president-elect takes office.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - Graphic Novelist Gene Luen Yang

"This graphic novelist and reading ambassador tells kids to reach beyond their comfort zone" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang wrestled with his identity growing up, but he's made the Chinese-American experience one of the main subjects of his critically acclaimed work.  One of this year's MacArthur Fellowship winners and the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Yang sits down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss his childhood, his love of coding and the feeling of being an outsider.

GENE LUEN YANG, Ambassador for Young People's Literature (at lecture):  I'm super excited to be here with you.  My name is Gene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELATED:  "This Chinese-American cartoonist forces us to face racist stereotypes" by Joshua Barajas, PBS NewsHour 9/30/2016

RUSSIA - New Evidence of Russian Hacking

Which Trump continues to deny his best friend and mentor Putin did.  Of course all he cares about is 'I WON' regardless that he lied and cheated.

"Security company releases new evidence of Russian role in DNC hack" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2016


SUMMARY:  U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russia was behind the hack of the DNC and others, but haven't made the evidence public.  The private cyber security company that uncovered the hack has unveiled new details it says confirms Russian military intelligence service was behind the breach.  Judy Woodruff speaks with Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike and Thomas Rid of King's College, London.

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

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

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

And we welcome both of you to the NewsHour.

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

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

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

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

PRISONS - Attica, Attica, ATTICA!

"Unveiling the long-hidden story of the Attica prison takeover" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2016


SUMMARY:  In September 1971, Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York became the site of a bloody uprising that would shock the nation.  Over several days, some 1,300 inmates seized parts of the prison, demanding better living conditions.  Heather Ann Thompson documents the untold story in her new book, “Blood in the Water,” and joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss the truth about the riot's violent end.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  September, 1971, Attica Prison in Upstate New York became the site of a bloody prison clash that would shock the nation.  Over several chaotic days, some 1,300 inmates seized parts of the prison and demanded better living conditions.

ELLIOT ‘L.D.' BARKLEY (prisoner):  We are men!  We are not beasts and we do not intend to be driven or beaten as such!

JEFFREY BROWN:  In the initial takeover a guard was killed.  Inmates held about 40 prison employees as hostages, negotiating with the state of New York, and bringing in outside counsel including Attorney William Kunstler.  Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused a face to face visit, talks soon disintegrated.  And on September 13th, hundreds of armed troopers stormed the prison to retake control.

MAN:  The instructions is your weapon is not to be taken or you to be taken.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Twenty-nine inmates and ten hostages were killed in the takeover, scores more injured.

The story, much of it long kept hidden from view, is told in the new book “Blood in the Water:  The Attica Prison Uprising o f 1971 and Its Legacy.”

Author Heather Ann Thompson is a historian at the University of Michigan.

Now, you argue there are two stories to tell.  One is the “what happened”, one is the aftermath.  Start with the “what happened.”  What did the period leading up to the riot, what led to it?

HEATHER ANN THOMPSON, Author, “Blood in the Water”:  Well, prisons in 1971, much like today, were these out of sight, out of mind places where people were treated very badly, and the guys inside worked through the system first to try get their conditions improved — again, very basic things, enough food to eat, sufficient sanitary supplies — and when that really fails, frustration mounts.

Ultimately, they erupt in a protest, and the book tells that story.  It's a remarkable story of men from very different backgrounds who stand together, negotiate with the state of New York, with the help of observers.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The riots were not planned.

HEATHER ANN THOMPSON:  No, not at all.  It actually begins in a quite unexpected clash between prisoners and guards that morphed into something much more organized.  The guys elect representatives from the cell block to speak for them, they begin negotiating to the state for better conditions and, for four days, the world watches as the media is there to see how this thing is going to unfold.

GERMANY - Berlin Truck Attack

"Is Berlin truck attack a turning point for Germany?" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2016


SUMMARY:  Berlin's normally bustling Christmas market was quiet Tuesday, as investigators searched for clues into a truck attack that killed a dozen people and injured 50.  A suspect who was detained after the attack was released due to insufficient evidence, and the Islamic State later claimed responsibility.  From Berlin, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility tonight for the Berlin truck attack that killed a dozen people and injured 50.

That word came hours after German police let their main suspect go.

Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Berlin.

MALCOLM BRABANT, Special correspondent:  This normally bustling Christmas market was eerily quiet today, as investigators searched for clues.

Swathed in fog, and with armed guards sealing off the area, Berlin was coming to terms with its new status as a victim of terrorism, after Paris, Brussels, and Nice.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at a morning news conference.

ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through translator):  There is still a lot that we don't know about this act with sufficient certainty, but we must, as things stand, assume it was a terrorist attack.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Police detained a Pakistani asylum-seeker shortly after the truck rammed into a crowd of people on Monday.  But, today, he was released, due to insufficient evidence.  Prosecutors said he matched a description of the suspected attacker, but he denied any involvement.

The truck, which had been carrying steel beams, was towed away earlier this morning.  The body of a Polish truck driver was found inside the cabin.  He had been stabbed and shot after being hijacked.  The gun used to kill him has yet to be found.

PROF.  PETER NEUMANN, King's College, London:  It was waiting to happen, no?  I'm not, like, totally surprised.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Berlin is the hometown of terrorism expert Peter Neumann.  He believes German authorities were too complacent about the possibility of an attack and didn't offer sufficient protection to the Christmas markets.

PROF.  PETER NEUMANN:  I think, in Germany, people have been very blessed with the idea that they would be spared this kind of attack.  And so I don't think that German authorities were thinking as systematically about the threat from terrorism as authorities in Britain have or authorities in other countries.

This will have to change.  And there will be a very uncomfortable discussion in Germany about anti-terrorism measures, but also, of course, about the relationship with Muslim communities and with refugees.

"Berlin attack suspect is a ‘nightmare' for authorities" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2016


SUMMARY:  The manhunt stemming from Monday's Christmas market massacre in Berlin has spread across Europe, and there's a new suspect.  His name is Anis Amri, and he is a 24-year-old asylum seeker from Tunisia.  Judy Woodruff speaks with special correspondent Malcolm Brabant, who is in Berlin, about the suspect's criminal history, the reward for information about him and increased surveillance in Germany.

"Why German surveillance failed to stop the Berlin attack suspect" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2016


SUMMARY:  The man suspected of carrying out an attack on a Christmas market was well known to German authorities.  Anis Amri was under surveillance for six months and slated for deportation, but his home country refused to accept him.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Peter Neumann of King's College about how German authorities could have missed the signals.

HEALTH - Toxic Waters

"Investigations reveal startling scope of lead in drinking water" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2016


SUMMARY:  On Tuesday, Michigan's attorney general filed new criminal charges in Flint's lead contamination case.  But Flint is not alone.  Reports from both USA Today and Reuters find that lead contamination is widespread, affecting some millions of Americans, usually in rural communities with small water systems.  Judy Woodruff speaks with Laura Ungar, the lead reporter on the USA Today investigation.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  As we reported earlier, Michigan's attorney general filed criminal charges against city officials in Flint for operating that city's water systems in an unsafe manner.

Well, it turns out Flint is not alone in having a lead contamination problem.  Two recent news investigation find two startling numbers.

A Reuters investigation of lead levels in blood found nearly 3,000 areas in the country with contamination levels higher than those in Flint.

And a USA Today report found that some four million Americans get water from utilities that do not meet federal safe drinking water standards.

Laura Ungar was a lead reporter on the USA Today investigation.  And she joins me now.

Laura Ungar, welcome to the program.

You and your colleagues focused on smaller communities around the country.  Why?

LAURA UNGAR, USA Today:  Well, we wanted to look at the problem beyond Flint and look to see just how big the scope was.

And so, basically, we looked at where the problem was the worst, and we found that, in these small water systems, which are generally located in rural areas, small, remote communities, the problem was worse in those communities.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And give us an example of what you found.  You got a number of families you write about in this series.


For example, one family in Ranger, Texas, they have a situation where their 2-year-old son has high levels of lead in his blood.  And they lived there for about a year, almost a year, before finding out from a citywide letter that they had high lead in their city, in their city's water supply.

And then they — actually, their tap was tested, and they didn't find out the results of that from the city.  They found it out from me, actually.  I told them the levels that were found in their own tap.

So — and they were very upset about that situation, because, you know, their son is 2, and he's facing high lead, which, as you know, just causes all sorts of problems with children.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, again, it wasn't just this one small community.  You found something like four million Americans affected.

LAURA UNGAR:  Yes, it's more than four million.

That four million is places where — or people affected by places that either tested improperly or skipped tests.  There are even more than that when you talk about where high lead has been found and, in some cases, has not been fixed.

"After Flint's lead crisis, the ‘most important medication' for kids is education" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2016


SUMMARY:  There is a well-established link between lead exposure and learning disabilities, but early childhood education has been shown to counteract the effects.  In Flint, Michigan, where the youngest residents have been the most vulnerable to lead poisoning, the city has opened a free child care center in an attempt to counteract the harmful effects on developing brains.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

MUSIC - The BOSS, in Two Parts

"Part 1 — How Bruce Springsteen tackles truth, in song and memoir" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2016


SUMMARY:  Bruce Springsteen has been an American icon for decades, a working-class rock ‘n' roll hero whose songs speak to millions of devoted fans.  Now he's telling his own story, looking back at his young, struggling and once little-known self.  Springsteen sits down with Jeffrey Brown in a special two-part interview to discuss his new memoir, “Born to Run,” and more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  He was proclaimed rock's next big thing in 1975, and he became the real thing with albums like “Born to Run,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Born in the USA,” and many more.

Now Bruce Springsteen tells his own story in a memoir.

Jeffrey Brown paid him a visit to hear first-hand.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  In his new memoir, Bruce Springsteen looks back at his young, struggling and then little known self and writes:  “I wasn't modest in the assessment of my abilities.  Of course, I thought I was a phony.  That is the way of the artist.  But I also thought I was the realest thing you had ever seen.”

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:  That's right.  Most artists I know consider themselves to be phonies, along with the feeling that there's something that you're doing is essential, essential to communicate, and deeply, deeply real.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Springsteen has been rocking his way through marathon, arena-sized concerts for decades, a kind of working-class rock ‘n' roll hero to millions of devoted fans.

In the recording studio he built at this rural New Jersey home, we talked about becoming Bruce Springsteen, the story he tells in his book, “Born to Run.”

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:  It was a very different type of writing from songwriting.

JEFFREY BROWN:  In what way?

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:  A pop song is a condensed version of a life in three minutes, whereas, when you go to write your prose, you have to find the rhythm in your words, and you have to find the rhythm in the voice that you have found and the way you're speaking.

JEFFREY BROWN:  What about that voice, though?  Because in songs — I think of writers I have talked to, or poets, and there's always the question of, how much of that is you?

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:  I would say, in your memoir, it's you.

I think that, when you're writing your songs, there's always a debate about whether, is that you in the song?  Is it not you in the song?

"Part 2 — The music is medicine for Bruce Springsteen" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2016


SUMMARY:  Bruce Springsteen finds a calm, safe place when he’s on stage.  In the second part of our special interview with the legendary rock ‘n’ roller, Jeffrey Brown sits down with Springsteen to discuss the books that shaped him, how he’s coped with depression and how Americans can start to heal political divides.

NEWSHOUR SHARES - A Christmas Concert

"The Christmas concert where tuba players don’t take a back seat" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2016


SUMMARY:  In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a Christmas tradition shines a spotlight on an instrument usually relegated to the back of the orchestra, the tuba.

Friday, December 23, 2016

THE RESISTANCE - Nationwide Anti-LGBT Federal Law!

An attempt to make America a theocracy.

"Government-protected religious belief" is EXACTLY what the First Amendment prohibits.  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." which what this proposed law would do.  Establish a Christian belief as law.

"Ted Cruz to introduce bill allowing discrimination against LGBT Americans nationwide" by Hunter, Daily KOS 12/21/2016

Led by Sen. Ted Cruz, Republicans will be wasting no time in their efforts to roll back civil rights for LGBT Americans.

[The First Amendment Defense Act] would prohibit the federal government from taking "discriminatory action" against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people.  The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: "(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

The intentionally broadly-written law would, in other words, enshrine the "right" of any private business to deny service to gay Americans outright if they are personally opposed to marriage equality.  It would not merely allow businesses to deny their services in same-sex marriage ceremonies themselves: it would allow any business to discriminate against any customer, gay or straight, for any service, whether it be selling them gasoline or a hamburger, if a pseudo-religious reason can be attached to it.

The customer likely doesn't even have to be gay.  The business can simply declare that they believe that customer might be an unmarried fornicator or a single parent, or perhaps declare that serving a particular customer might nebulously benefit some gay American later on.  The law makes no mention of religious beliefs that are not hostile to LGBT Americans or equality; the religious belief declaring LGBT equality to be sinful is elevated as the only government-protected religious belief on the subject that will be tolerated.

It is an un-American and deeply anti-First-Amendment bill, which is of course why Sen. Ted Cruz and team are quite certain they will be able to gain the support of their Republican colleagues and their new anti-civil rights President.

It is roughly equivalent to efforts sponsored in Republican-led states like North Carolina and Mike Pence's Indiana, all of which have been tied up in courts or resulted in gargantuan corporate and private boycotts of those states.

It's stupid as hell, and a reminder that Ted Freaking Cruz is a rancid little un-American grub of a man who was foisted onto the nation by a Republican base so riddled with paranoia that they are willing to support any malevolent act or actor if they think doing so will cause harm to Americans they don't like.

As usual.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

FACTCHECK - Trump Dominates 2016 Whoppers

"The Whoppers of 2016" by Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, and Robert Farley; 12/19/2016


Donald Trump again dominates our annual review of political falsehoods.


A year ago, we broke with past practice and named Donald Trump our first ever “King of Whoppers.”  This year, the reigning champ defended his title well – once again dominating our annual review of political whoppers.

At his campaign rallies, Trump regularly disparaged the media as “dishonest,” referring at one point to fact-checkers as “dishonest scum.”  Yet, he peddled conspiracy theories from a supermarket tabloid and a website that serves as a platform for the alt-right.

The Republican president-elect used a thinly sourced story from the National Enquirer to make the baseless claim that Sen. Ted Cruz's father “was with Lee Harvey Oswald” prior to John F. Kennedy's assassination — a claim he doubled down on after Cruz already had dropped out of the presidential primary.  Trump also cited Breitbart as evidence that he was “right” when he suggested that President Obama supported terrorists.  No, Trump wasn't right.

During the campaign, Trump also made the wild accusation that Obama “is the founder of ISIS,” the terrorist group based in Syria and Iraq, and retweeted a fake image of Fox News host Megyn Kelly that purported to show her posing with Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

Of course, we wrote about plenty of others who distorted the facts and made false claims in 2016.  After all, it was the year when the facts caught up with Hillary Clinton's numerous false and distorted claims regarding her use of a private email server while secretary of state.  Contrary to what she said, Clinton did have classified material on her server and did not have government approval to use a private server because she never requested it.

Even so, Trump is in a league of his own.

Here we present — as we do every year — a wrap-up of the biggest whoppers in an election year that stunned the political experts, shook up the party establishment and kept fact-checkers very busy.

The Analysis sections contain details of Trump, Clinton, fake news, and other Whoppers.

Highly suggested reading.

Monday, December 19, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Ponnuru 12/16/2016

"Shields and Ponnuru on the ‘dark cloud' of Russian cyberattacks" PBS NewsHour 12/16/2016


SUMMARY:  Reports emerged this week that the CIA is confident Russia attempted to sway election results through cyberattacks.  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of the The National Review join Judy Woodruff to discuss what Russia's interference suggests about the future of our democracy, the president-elect's Cabinet picks of Rex Tillerson and Rick Perry and President Obama's legacy on Syria.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And now to the analysis of Shields and Ponnuru.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review.  David Brooks is away.

Welcome to both of you.

Let's start out, Mark, by talking about this back and forth.  Every day, there's a new piece of information about it did between what Donald Trump is saying about whether the Russians were involved in this hacking of the Democratic National Committee and what the CIA and now the FBI, President Obama weighed in today on this.  What are we to make of all this?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  I think what we're to make of it is, to me what's fascinating is not what Donald Trump is in no particular position to know, but what's most alarming to me is Donald Trump will become President of the United States, he won the election.  This is not about who won the election.  He will become the 45th President the 20th of January.

It is about whether the sovereignty and self-determination of the United States was compromised by an organized at the highest Russian levels, which means the imprimatur of Mr. Putin, espionage, sabotage of the American democratic system.  And there is an office in this country that's higher than that of President and it's [a] 'patriot,' and John McCain is filling that right now, and John McCain is saying, these are questions that must be answered, that these are questions that demand an answer.

And the idea, as Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, says, sending it to the Intelligence Committee is a way of sending it to limbo because we had — we spent $40 million in five years in the Intelligence Committee investigating torture at Abu Ghraib, we have yet to get a report about it.  That's a nice way of saying, oh, it's national security, we can' t talk about it.  We will not get a 9/11 Commission.  But I think John McCain and the Armed Services Committee with Jack Reed, the Democrat, with Lindsey Graham and others, and Tim Kaine in a pretty damn good committee, I think you will get an honest hearing and we need it.

The idea people are so concerned about a $500,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation changing and influencing American policy somehow indirectly, and incurious about Russia's involvement and sabotaging an American election is unforgivable to me and irrational.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Ramesh, do you think this will be investigated thoroughly?

RAMESH PONNURU, The National Review:  I think this controversy is expanding in all directions.  You're going to have an investigation.  You're going to have a report from the administration.

During the a press conference, President Obama said there would be a report tying loose ends, tying it all together before he leaves office.  And then you're going to have the hearings over the configuration of Trump Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, where I believe the number one topic and probably number two topic as well is going to be the administration's intentions toward Russia.

Trump is going to be our third President in a row coming into office wanting friendly relations with Russia.  But, of course, this incredible backdrop now is going to color everything.

DEADLY WORK - Coal Miners

"Rate of black lung disease among miners may be 10 times higher than reported" PBS NewsHour 12/16/2016


SUMMARY:  Lung disease is a well-known deadly consequence of working in the coal industry.  But a new NPR study finds miners are suffering from the most advanced form of the disease at a rate ten times higher than the government has reported.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with NPR's Howard Berkes about the causes of this late-stage lung disease, possibilities for treatment and why it's been direly underestimated.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  For the past five years, the government has reported just under 100 cases of complicated black lung disease, which is also called progressive massive fibrosis.  But a new NPR investigation found nearly 1,000 cases in nearly the same time from clinic reports in four states — Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

The extent of the problem has stunned a number of researchers and experts who work with miners as well.  One of the miners diagnosed with black lung and profiled in the NPR stories — Mackie Branham — spoke of just how difficult it is for him to breathe and his ill health.  But he said mining was in his blood.

MACKIE BRANHAM, Diagnosed With Black Lung:  Takes a lot of pressure in my chest at all times.  I've never been scared to death.  It don't bother me a bit.  It's just I won't see my kids grow up.  But if I had it to do over, I would do it again.  If that's what it took to provide for my family.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Howard Berkes has been uncovering this in a two- part series that concludes tonight on “All Things Considered” (NPR show) and he joins me now from Salt Lake City.

Howard, it is so difficult to hear that man struggling to breathe, and it's also hard to reconcile how he says he would do this again because this is what he would do for his family, even though the health challenges that he and so many people in this community are facing.

HOWARD BERKES, NPR:  It's so common to hear that.  Miners want to go back to work.  Mackie Branham told me if he could get a lung transplant tomorrow, he hopes he could go back to work, which is not going to happen.  But mining, as he said, is in his blood.  It's part of the local culture, local history.  Generations of families mine and it really is about the only decent job in most parts of Appalachia.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Let's talk about the gap between the numbers here, the numbers the government documented, and the numbers you're able to uncover in your investigation.  What accounts for this?

HOWARD BERKES:  Well, first of all, it's the limitations on government researchers.  This is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and they track black lung disease by bringing in miners for x-rays.  But they're limited by law to only testing working miners (number one) and the x-rays are voluntary (number two).

So, they miss non-working miners, people who've retired, and they're also missing a huge segment, most miners, really, who avoid getting tested because they fear if there's a positive test for black lung, somehow their mining company will figure out and they will lose their jobs.


"The one place people 'like' the TSA" PBS NewsHour 12/16/2016


SUMMARY:  In our 'NewsHour Shares' moment of the day: A surprisingly popular Instagram account.  The Transportation Security Agency is not typically considered a source of entertainment.  But TSA's social-media feed of photographs is attracting a huge following of people entranced by the mix of confiscated contraband and explosive-detecting dogs.

BRIEF BUT SPECTACULAR - Investing in Others

"How this CEO invests in the dignity of others" PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016


SUMMARY:  From a young age, Jacqueline Novogratz wanted to be a force for good in the world.  Now she is combating poverty by bringing business to communities that haven't had access to banking.  Instead of just giving away money or resources, Novogratz's nonprofit invests in entrepreneurs with the goal of bettering people's lives.  This is Novogratz's Brief But Spectacular take on the moral imagination.


"How safe is super-concentrated marijuana?" PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016


SUMMARY:  Now legal in eight states, there are unanswered questions about the impact of recreational marijuana on public health.  To maximize potency, pot can be purified for maximum THC, its psychoactive ingredient.  But a lack of research and restrictions on these very high concentrations is raising concerns.  Special correspondent John Ferrugia of Rocky Mountain PBS reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  With recreational marijuana now legal in eight states, a serious health and safety question about the potency of the psychoactive drug in cannabis, known as THC, are emerging.  In Colorado, some marijuana products contain 90 percent pure THC, with little research documenting the physical and mental effects on consumers.

This week, the state's health department announced more than $2 million in grants to study the impacts on driving and cognitive functioning.

As John Ferrugia of Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver reports, there are concerns that the effects on some users could be deadly.

MARC BULLARD (user):  2016 is a year of something new.

JOHN FERRUGIA, Rocky Mountain PBS:  In December 2015, Marc Bullard felt on top of the world.  He had landed a good job in Denver after graduating magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University.

MARC BULLARD:  It's been a good year.

JOHN FERRUGIA:  He made video diaries to keep his family and friends updated on his life, looking forward to the New Year.

MARC BULLARD:  It's time to start planning projects.

JOHN FERRUGIA:  But just four months later, in April 2016, Marc Bullard took his own life.  His written diary shows severe depression seems to have taken a quick hold on him.

MIKE BULLARD, Marc Bullard's Father:  You know, December, he's fine, he comes home for the Christmas holiday.

JOHN FERRUGIA:  And Mike and Ginny Bullard say he spent time with family and friends and showed no sign of being down.

MIKE BULLARD:  And what we saw in the in the diary later, was by January the 16th, I guess, he's talking about suicide.

JOHN FERRUGIA:  It was only after his death that his parents began reading his written diaries.

When did you first see the first entry about dabbing?

MIKE BULLARD:  That was in the March the 5th.  And that's where he talks about you know, I think I've been dabbing too much.

MEDIA - Facebook vs Fake News

"Will new tools help Facebook users get the facts on fake news?" PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016


SUMMARY:  During the last three months of the campaign, fake news headlines drew more engagement than real reporting, and social media platforms were criticized for not doing enough to dispute false information.  Now Facebook is launching new tools to help identify dubious or made-up stories.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Slate's Will Oremus about weeding out fake news.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  It was a stunning finding, even in a digital age where stories of all kind go viral.  During the last three months of the presidential campaign, fake or false news headlines actually generated more engagement on Facebook than true ones.  Facebook and other social media platforms were criticized for not doing enough to flag or dispute these posts.

Today, Facebook launched several new tools to flag and dispute what it calls the “worst of the worst” when it comes to clear lies.  Those tools are essentially embedded in your individual feed.

Here's a bit of a video the company posted about how it will work.

NARRATOR:  You may see an alert before you share some links that have been disputed by third-party fact checkers.  You can then cancel or continue with the post.  If you suspect a news story is fake, you can report it.  It just takes a few taps.  Your report helps us track and prevent fake news from spreading.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Let's learn more about this effort to detect and slow the spread of fake news, part of our occasional series on the subject.  Will Oremus has been writing about this extensively for Slate and working on that site's own new tool for identifying false stories.

First, Will, let's talk a little bit about what Facebook announce today.  How is it going to work?

WILL OREMUS, Slate:  So, Facebook's approach to fake news has several components.  One thing it's going to try to do is make it easier for users to report it when they see fake news in their feeds.  The next thing they're going to do is they're going to take that information about stories that are being reported as fake, and they're going to use some software, run some algorithms and create a dashboard of stories that might be fake and give access to that dashboard to third-party checking organizations.  So, these are like Snopes or PolitiFact,

Those fact checkers are going to have their human editors evaluate some of the most viral of the stories that have been flagged as fake, and if they determine it is in fact a fake news story, Facebook is going to treat it differently.  It's going to show it to fewer people in its feeds.  It's going to make it go less viral and it's also going to give people a warning before they try to share that story, saying this story has been disputed.  It will still let you share it.  It's not censoring or filtering out anything.  But it is downgrading it in the ranking algorithm and it is letting people know that this has been disputed.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, Facebook is not the arbiter of the truth.  There are third parties checking this for them, right?

WILL OREMUS:  Yes, and Facebook has been incredibly reluctant to become the arbiter of what's true for good reason.  Facebook, the value of its business, depends on appealing to people on both sides, all across the political spectrum.

So, it doesn't want to be a media company.  It has said this many times.  What it is doing here is shrewd, I think.  It is delegating the responsibility to respected, non-profit, third-party organizations whose whole job is to figure out what's true and what's not.

RELATED:  "Facebook unveils plan to flag fake news stories" by Courtney Norris, PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016

RANKING AMERICAN SCHOOLS - International Teens' Opinion

"What international teens think about school in America" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2016


SUMMARY:  International education tests offer one measure for how countries around the world compare academically.  But test scores aside, how do academic approaches differ in America compared to the rest of the world?  Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week speaks with foreign students now living in the U.S. about how they see the differences.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  International tests are one way of gauging how American kids are doing in school compared with other countries.

Traditionally, the U.S. performance has been described as mediocre, and this year was no different.  The most recent test scores show the U.S. is stagnant in reading and science.  In math, our country ranks toward the bottom of developed nations.

What these results tell us about educational priorities around the world is a bit more nuanced.

Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza with our partner Education Week met with international students to ask them first-hand about the differences.

It's part of our weekly series 'Making the Grade.'

KAVITHA CARDOZA, Special correspondent:  Calvin Leung loves soccer.

CALVIN LEUNG, Junior, Walt Whitman High School:  I started soccer really young.  And I just can't stop playing soccer because it's really fun.

KAVITHA CARDOZA:  Two years ago, Calvin and his family moved to the U.S. because of his father's work.  His mother Margaret, says if he was still living in his home country, Hong Kong, just like his former classmates, Calvin would have had to give up soccer.

MARGARET TSANG, Parent from Hong Kong:  Calvin's friends in Hong Kong have to give up playing soccer because they have to focus and concentrate in their studying.

KAVITHA CARDOZA:  She says there are only a few universities in Hong Kong, so competition is fierce.

MARGARET TSANG:  That's why parents (in Hong Kong) would like them to have extra lessons, even after school for almost six hours.  So, I think they can balance studying and extracurricular activities here.

KAVITHA CARDOZA:  Other countries have, at times, wrestled with that lack of balance, and some have even turned to high-performing U.S. schools for lessons in building student skills, such as creativity and collaboration.

But, academically, when Calvin moved here, he found general classes much easier in the U.S.

CALVIN LEUNG:  In Hong Kong, math-wise, it's definitely super competitive and everyone, like, move in the same pace.  So it's pretty hard to catch up if you fall behind.  But, in America, you can choose your own pace.

MENTAL HEALTH - The New Biomedical Bill

"How the big biomedical bill advances U.S. mental health care" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2016


SUMMARY:  Most of the attention around the biomedical bill President Obama signed on Tuesday has focused on faster drug approval and new money for research.  But included within the massive piece of legislation are measures for mental health care.  William Brangham speaks with Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., about the state of mental health care in the U.S. and what this law attempts to accomplish.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Most of the attention around the big biomedical bill signed by President Obama today has focused on faster drug approval and new money for research, but it's a huge piece of legislation.

And one key part that's received less attention is the attempt to improve mental health care in the U.S.

William Brangham has a look.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Advocates say this part of the legislation is the most significant step forward for mental health care in nearly a decade.

The law promotes a range of mental health initiatives, including more evidence-based early intervention for young people.  It expands outpatient mental health care.  And to coordinate it all, it creates a new assistant secretary position.

For more on this, I'm joined now by the lead author of the legislation, Congressman Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania.  He's also a practicing psychologist.


REP. TIM MURPHY (R-Pa.):  Great to be with you.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Before we get into the specifics of the legislation, I wonder if you could just give me an overview of what you see where we are failing in our treatment of mental health care in this country.

REP. TIM MURPHY:  Well, in any given year, 60 million Americans are affected by some level of mental illness, from the very mild to the very serious, 10 million with very serious mental illness.  Four million get no treatment at all.

States spend an enormous amount of money, in the federal government about $130 billion spread across 112 agencies, although most of that is just disability payments.  And we're not doing a good job, because what has happened is, over the years, when we have seen a dropping of death rates for cancer, it's gone down, diabetes, infectious disease, lung disease, AIDS, all declined, increasing for suicide, increasing for substance abuse.

And when we closed all those big asylums, those big hospitals that were out there for a century or so — we needed to close them down — but we didn't provide outpatient care.  So what do we do?  We have filled our jails with them.

The majority of people in jails, the state and local jails, are people with a mental illness disorder, too.  Eight out of 10 people in an emergency room have some related mental health disorder.  Five percent of the people on Medicaid are responsible for 50 percent of all Medicaid spending.

And those are people with a concurrent mental illness.  So, you see, in terms of costs, in terms of the costs of lives, 959 a day, 350,000 in this country last year, related to mental illness, primary, secondary, that's more deaths in one year than the entire combat deaths of World War I — of the United States in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq, in one year.  It's a serious problem.

RUSSIA - The Hack Attack on U.S. Elections

IMHO:  With the complicity of WikiLeaks (International Anti-U.S. Spy Agency).

"In debate on Russian interference and disinformation, there's a lot we still don't know" PBS NewsHour 12/12/2016


SUMMARY:  The CIA has concluded that pre-election Russian hacking was aimed to sway the vote in President-elect Donald Trump's favor.  What could we learn from serious investigations?  Hari Sreenivasan gets reactions from two men who have extensive experience in intelligence and diplomacy: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, and former CIA director James Woolsey.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  And we're joined by two men with extensive experience with intelligence and diplomacy.

James Woolsey was CIA director during the Clinton administration.  He's now with Booz Allen, one of the largest defense and intelligence contractors.  He also serves as a senior adviser to President-elect Trump on issues of national security and intelligence.  And Michael McFaul was U.S. Ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration.  He's now a professor of political science at Stanford University.

Mike McFaul, let me start with you first.

Your reaction to the news that Russia may have played an active role in helping President-elect Trump?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia:  Well, for some of us, it's not news.  Some of us have been talking and writing about this for many months now, especially after the hacking of the DNC computers and the data dump from WikiLeaks.

I think the two pieces of news that are new is that the intelligence community is now claiming that they have evidence to show that the Russians gave it to WikiLeaks.  That was uncertain.  Now we know that.

And the second piece is about the Republican — the hacking into the Republican side.  They now have evidence to show that.

And what it all means to me, to be clear, my bottom line is, we need an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate this.  It's not enough for the Obama administration to do their review.  And, frankly, it's not enough to have hearings on it at the U.S. Congress.

This is way too big to be handled in those places.  We need to know the facts.

And, here, I agree with President-elect Trump in the piece you played with him.  He said several times, we don't know.

Well, as an academic, I want to know the facts.  And I think the only way you're going to get it is if you set up that commission.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  James Woolsey, do you agree; is that the right course?

JAMES WOOLSEY, Former CIA Director:  I don't see anything wrong with a well-assembled commission going into an important issue.

I think what needs to be focused on here, though, from the beginning is that we have got a couple of different things going on.  And conflating them causes a lot of confusion.

One is what the Soviets and then now the Russians call disinformation, dezinformatsiya, otherwise known as lying.  And they propagate disinformation throughout the world on all sorts of subjects.

But they particularly focus on organizations and groups that embody values that they find abhorrent, such as the Catholic Church and Judaism.

They are apparently moving into disseminating disinformation about Western political parties.  It's not any different in principle from what they have been doing for decades.

I think that's one set of things that's going on.  Another set of things that conceivably could go on is hacking into the records of the voting in order to change those votes.  I don't know that there is any indication that we have that this latter is taking place, counting people who are dead as voters and the sort of things that you read about in the American system.

So, I think, insofar as someone says that the Russians were not participating in anything may not be correct, because they may have been participating in disseminating disinformation, but not participating in what most of us think of as voting fraud, namely, counting people who vote who are dead and so forth.

"Reconstructing the Russian hacks leading up to the election" PBS NewsHour 12/14/2016


SUMMARY:  Reports that the CIA believes Russia sought to help the president-elect win the election by hacking Democratic political organizations has rocked the nation.  Mr. Trump dismisses claims that Russia had any influence in the process or that it wanted him in office.  Hari Sreenivasan examines what investigations have revealed with Dmitri Alperovitch of Crowdstrike, and Eric Lipton of The New York Times.

"How Putin could have been involved in U.S. election disruption" PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016


SUMMARY:  A CIA investigation reportedly found that Russia tried to sway U.S. election results in President-elect Donald Trump's favor.  On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in efforts to disrupt the election.  Judy Woodruff talks to Angela Stent of Georgetown University about Putin and the U.S. options for response.

CULTURE AT RISK - Nashville's Music Spaces

"Nashville's storied music spaces threatened with silence" PBS NewsHour 12/12/2016

aka "Greed Assaults Culture"


SUMMARY:  Downtown Nashville has been a backbone of the nation's music industry for more than six decades, giving the nation stars such as Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.  But the increasing demand for new apartments and office buildings is threatening its historic music spaces.  Jeffrey Brown reports on the city's struggle to find a balance between preserving history and making room for the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Nashville often likes to refer to itself as Music City.  And given its history and heritage, that seems just right.

But as real estate development explodes in one of the nation's fastest growing cities, some of the very studios, locations and neighborhoods that were so important to country music, and the industry as a whole, are now threatened.

Jeffrey Brown reports.  It's part of his ongoing series on Culture at Risk.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Inside an unassuming house on Nashville's 16th Avenue South, guitarist Philip Shouse is laying down a track at the recording studio 'House of David.'  Meanwhile, just up the road, the punk rock group Paramore is recording percussion in 'RCA Studio A' for the group's forthcoming album.

It's just another day on Music Row, the collection of recording studios, publishing houses and offices two miles southwest of downtown Nashville and its famous honky-tonks, and the place collectively responsible for an important part of the nation's music industry.

TAYLOR YORK, Paramore:  From, like, the early days even to present, there's been such an amazing group of people that have recorded here, you know, and when you walk into a room, you really can feel an energy and an inspiration.

JEFFREY BROWN:  It all began in the 1950s, with Owen and Harold Bradley, brothers who opened a recording studio in a converted home in this part of town.

Other studios, like Capitol, Decca, and RCA Victor followed; and in 1957, RCA victor's Nashville division, headed by Chet Atkins, opened 'Studio B,' where Elvis Presley would record many of his most famous hits.

A few years later, in 1963, 'Studio A' was built next door.  And between the two, the likes of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, and many more recorded hit records.

With the studios came the musicians, the publishers, the lawyers and others, a clustering that created a music industry.

CAROLYN BRACKETT, National Trust for Historic Preservation:  All of those are still here.  And so you still have that sense of community.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Carolyn Bracket is a Nashville native with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

CAROLYN BRACKETT:  It's something that we have maybe taken for granted, because you can walk by these buildings or drive by a lot of them and not realize that this incredible music was made in that old house or in this small building.

And so a lot of the work that we have done in the last couple of years has been to document the history of Music Row all the way up to the present, what's happening here today.