Can you tally up world progress?
When the cold war ended a quarter century ago, and with it the division of the world into two “camps,” the United Nations decided to start measuring the progress of humanity as a whole. The hope behind such alternative indicators is that an attempt to measure something might help reveal what causes it or could push it along.
03/22/2017 - 05:28 PM
After ISIS: For Iraqis, reconciliation in Mosul will be challenging, and vital
The colonel is a quintessential Iraqi military man: shaved head, bushy black mustache, and very proud of how the Iraqi Army has rebuilt and “proved it is professional” in the fight to oust the Islamic State from Mosul. Like many in Iraq, the colonel is wary that the challenges of reconciliation and winning the peace in Mosul and across the complex ethnic mosaic of Nineveh Province will be harder than winning the war. Recommended: How much do you know about the Islamic State?
03/22/2017 - 05:17 PM
‘Dare to be tender’: One year after attack, Belgian king urges kindness
Brussels on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of suicide bombings that killed 32 people at the airport and subway, with ceremonies timed with the blasts and the dedication of a new memorial. Recommended: How much do you know about Islam and violence? "Above all, let us dare to be tender," he said, at the unveiling of a new monument to all the victims near the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels’ European Quarter.
03/22/2017 - 04:48 PM
What we know about Trump team Russia links – and why that matters
Paul Manafort was Donald Trump’s campaign manager for months in 2016. Mr. Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday at his daily briefing. Ditto longtime Trump associate Roger Stone and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
03/22/2017 - 04:29 PM
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort received millions to promote Putin
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned in August, amid swirling rumors of his connections to foreign governments, including Russia. A new Associated Press investigation uncovered ties between Mr. Manafort and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska dating back to 2005. In a confidential strategy plan, Manafort told Mr. Deripaska that he could influence politics, business, and media across the United States, Europe, and former Soviet states for the benefit of Russia.
03/22/2017 - 04:04 PM
In unanimous decision, Supreme Court raises bar for special education
On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of two parents of an autistic son, finding that his Colorado school district had failed to provide him with a "free and appropriate public education."
03/22/2017 - 04:03 PM
Calif. class action suit alleges 'unfair competition' with Ivanka Trump brand
A small, San Francisco boutique almost 3,000 miles away from Ivanka Trump’s office in the White House might not seem like a business that would find itself entangled with the first daughter’s multi-million dollar fashion brand. In a class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court last week, the 40-year-old, family-owned Modern Appealing Clothing argues that unethical promotion of the Ivanka Trump brand by the current administration has violated the US Constitution and a California statute protecting businesses against unfair competition.
03/22/2017 - 03:26 PM
Data didn't change tech's frat-boy culture. Will storytelling?
An engineer at Lever – a recruitment software startup in San Francisco – her role includes reaching out to co-workers about life in the tech industry. Now, firms like Lever are turning to anecdotes and personal exchanges as bases for developing empathy – and building inclusive cultures from the ground up.
03/22/2017 - 03:02 PM
Supreme Court tightens restrictions on presidential appointments
When the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that SW General, Inc. had violated federal labor law, the Scottsdale, Ariz., ambulance firm questioned whether the NLRB’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, had authority to handle the case. On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court sided with SW General, ruling 6-2 that Mr. Solomon’s 2011 nomination by then-President Barack Obama violated the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, rendering Solomon’s actions against SW General null and void. Legal analysts agree that this ruling could narrow the president’s nominating authority.
03/22/2017 - 02:53 PM
What is known so far about terrorist attack outside London's Parliament
At least 20 people were injured and at least four people killed in what officials are saying was a terrorist attack that took place near the British Parliament building in London Wednesday afternoon. Others reported that a vehicle was seen on the nearby Westminster Bridge running over several pedestrians. A woman was also reportedly taken out of the river near the Westminster bridge, injured but alive.
03/22/2017 - 02:45 PM
Germany set to deport native-born potential terrorists
In a move without precedent in German history, the country will soon deport two German-born men accused of having discussed terrorist activity. On Tuesday, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig threw out a case saying that the men, one an Algerian national and the other a Nigerian citizen, should not be deported because there was no proof they had committed a serious offense. In so doing, it cleared the way for deportations that the state government of Lower Saxony ordered last month, when it described the pair as a threat to national security.
03/22/2017 - 02:38 PM
US infant mortality rate declines, but disparities remain
The rate of infant deaths in the United States has improved, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a study released on Tuesday. The infant mortality rate dropped 15 percent over the past decade, from a record high 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 5.82 in 2014, data show. While the new report indicates a promising development in the country’s public health, commentators say the United States has a long way to go to catch up peer nations. "I think there was a public health push in the past decade to figure out ways to lower this rate, and it has made an impact," report author T.J. Mathews, a demographer at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, told CNN on Tuesday.
03/22/2017 - 01:48 PM
Gorsuch hearings: Should agencies – or courts – decide the law?
There are several elephants in the room where senators are grilling Judge Neil Gorsuch this week. One of those proverbial pachyderms was present courtesy of the aspiring Supreme Court justice. “There’s an elephant in the room with us today,” Judge Gorsuch wrote in a 2016 concurrence that featured prominently in 11 hours of questioning Tuesday from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
03/22/2017 - 12:00 PM
What is Facebook's responsibility when people broadcast crimes?
The apparent sexual assault of a Chicago teenager, broadcast on Facebook Live, has reignited debate about the feature and Facebook’s responsibility to address crimes. It was not until Monday, however, that her family learned that an apparent sexual assault on the girl had been broadcast on Facebook Live. None of the 40 viewers had reported the incident through Facebook’s content-review system, but a teenager mentioned the video to Reginald King, one of the girl’s relatives.
03/22/2017 - 11:11 AM
North Korea missile launch toward S. Korea failed. How often does that happen?
The missile, launched from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan, “[appeared] to have exploded within seconds of launch,” the US Pacific Command said in a statement. American officials had been aware of the planned launch for several days, as they observed a rocket being moved and VIP seating being assembled in Wonsan, they told the Associated Press on Tuesday. The launch failure comes as the United States and South Korea engage in their annual “Foal Eagle” joint military exercises, which typically provoke a strong response from the North.
03/22/2017 - 10:29 AM
How Washington evaluates software vulnerabilities
In August, the National Security Agency (NSA) found itself scrambling to figure out how a group dubbed the Shadow Brokers obtained the agency’s alleged hacking tools, some of which they posted online and others they offered to the highest bidder. The startling breach not only revealed that the NSA seemed to rely on previously unknown security vulnerabilities – called zero-days – in Cisco and Fortinet commercial software to carry out digital espionage campaigns, it also exposed NSA tactics to foreign adversaries. It remains unclear whether the NSA used these tools for surveillance operations, but it appears the agency kept the flaws from the software vendors, depriving them of a chance to patch their systems.
03/22/2017 - 10:07 AM
Passcode signs off
Dear Passcode readers:
03/22/2017 - 09:53 AM
Why the airline 'electronics ban' may not be discrimination
While policy's timing and targeted locations have raised eyebrows, the scholars who study terrorism aren't quite ready to equate the new policy – which bans any electronics larger than a cellphone from being carried on flights departing from 10 Middle Eastern airports – with discrimination. In their view, the "electronics ban" is consistent with how the US government has handled previous terrorist threats, and it may not stem from prejudice toward Muslims. “I think to immediately jump to the conclusion that this is connected with the travel ban is too far, too quick,” says Robert Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago who specializes in international security.
03/21/2017 - 06:15 PM
It's not just Norway – some developing countries are seeing gains in happiness index, too
The World Happiness Report, an index that rates nations based on factors such as income and life expectancy, released its 2017 list Monday at the United Nations. The list doesn’t contain any surprises among the happiest or least happy nations, where Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Finland rounded out the top and the Central African Republic, Syria, Tanzania, and Burundi came in among the bottom of the list.
03/21/2017 - 06:06 PM
With health-care vote, Republicans seek to prove they can get things done
On Tuesday morning, President Trump came to the basement conference room of House Republicans to do what he was supposedly born to do: Seal the deal. In this case, that meant lining up enough House votes to pass the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Thursday. The North Carolinian opposes the GOP health-care bill.
03/21/2017 - 05:52 PM
Biden returns: What's next in the Obamacare fight?
In the eyes of some Democrats, he might be the hero the party deserves – and the hero it needs. Joining House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats on the steps of the Capitol, an Obamacare rally will mark an unusually political start for a post-vice presidency. The Democratic leaders will gather on the front steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. Wednesday in a joint celebration of Obamacare’s 7th anniversary and in protest of its potentially imminent repeal, according to Politico.
03/21/2017 - 05:25 PM
Martin McGuinness: How being honest about his IRA ties let him become a peacemaker
This morning I awoke to the news that Martin McGuinness, the former first minister of Northern Ireland and a noted commander of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), had died. Although McGuinness nominally stood down as first minister in January of this year because a scandal had engulfed his coalition partner, the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), he stated that for health reasons he would not himself be seeking re-election. Of course, as an IRA commander, McGuinness was a man who knew a thing or two about death.
03/21/2017 - 05:17 PM
Long a way station for refugees, immigrants, Mexico now playing host
Five times over the past 14 years, Melvin, a young Honduran, attempted to cross the southern border of the United States. Five times, he was caught and deported back to Central America. Melvin and his family, who suffered death threats and extortion by local gangs in Honduras, applied for refugee status in Mexico, and are now awaiting the government’s response.
03/21/2017 - 05:13 PM
When ex-offenders deserve forgiveness on their records
Scholars who study forgiveness often say that it can benefit both the forgiver and the forgiven, assuming the forgiven has paid a price for his or her wrongdoing and shows contrition. Forgiveness, in other words, is a two-way street toward healing a relationship. The idea has now been put to the test in a research report on what is an increasingly popular type of government forgiveness: allowing many ex-offenders to control public knowledge of their past crime.
03/21/2017 - 04:49 PM
Youth opioid use has declined somewhat. What's behind the drop?
The rate of exposure to prescription opioids among children and teenagers in the United States dropped between 2009 and 2015, after a rapid increase in the early 2000s, a new study published on Monday shows. By looking at reports from the National Poison Data System over a 16-year period, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan found evidence that the US opioid epidemic has also extended to young children, as poison control centers across the country recorded an average of 32 calls a day from families for exposure incidents – which meant that, over that time period, somewhere in the US such a call was being made once approximately every 45 minutes.
03/21/2017 - 04:34 PM
Defeating ISIS: Is Trump administration ready for the long haul?
Is it possible to defeat the Islamic State in a year? President Trump has directed the Pentagon to deliver plans to achieve that goal.
03/21/2017 - 03:47 PM
The Cybersecurity Podcast
Cybersecurity is not just about computers and digital processes. The most important, and most interesting, part of the story is the people behind the keyboard.
03/21/2017 - 03:03 PM
Why were Confederate battle flags flown during March Madness?
It has nothing to do with basketball, but an incident during NCAA March Madness games served as a reminder that the south still struggles with the complicated symbol that embodies the scars of the Civil War and modern racial tensions. The Confederate battle flag flew conspicuously over the parking garage for the South Carolina stadium hosting two NCAA March Madness basketball games on Sunday. A small group hoisted the large flag to protest the NCAA’s opposition to the symbol, which had resulted in a boycott of Greenville, S.C., as a game site since 2001.
03/21/2017 - 03:03 PM
Cinco de Mayo cancelled in Philadelphia amid immigration fears
Organizers of a prominent Mexican festival in Philadelphia have cancelled this year’s parade over concerns that immigration authorities could target attendees. Edgar Ramirez, one of the six organizers who decided unanimously to cancel it, told local station WCAU-TV that the decision was a “sad but responsible” one in light of the "severe conditions affecting the immigrant community,” citing recent large-scale immigration raids that include a roundup of 248 people in Pennsylvania and neighboring states this month. "We have people who travel all the way from Chicago, Connecticut and New York," Mr. Ramirez told the station.
03/21/2017 - 03:01 PM
Ivanka Trump gets West Wing office, access to classified information
President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, will get an office in the White House’s West Wing, along with government-issued communications devices and access to classified information, giving new prominence to her background role as an advisor to the president. Ms. Trump, whose husband, Jared Kushner, also serves as a senior advisor to the president, will not be paid for her work nor will she receive an official title, according to Jamie Gorelick, an attorney and ethics adviser for Ivanka.
03/21/2017 - 02:59 PM
US Secretary of State Tillerson to skip meeting of NATO foreign ministers
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will skip a semi-annual NATO summit set for early April, in a rare no-show for the top diplomat from the country that serves as the alliance’s de facto leader. Mr. Tillerson will instead attend an overlapping two-day talk in Florida between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaving Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon to represent the United States at the NATO meeting, where European governments hold discussions on nuclear policy and strategic matters of high confidentiality. The month after the summit, Tillerson will attend a G7 meeting in Sicily, then travel to Moscow to meet with top diplomats from Russia, topping off a schedule that seems to underscore early signs of a radical shift in diplomacy under the Trump administration – one that has ruffled feathers with many old allies.
03/21/2017 - 12:48 PM
Legendary tomb of Jesus resurrected
Believed by the devout to house the final resting place of Jesus Christ, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre will open to the public on Wednesday after nearly a year of restoration. An ongoing dispute between the religious groups controlling the site had brought the burial place, known as the Edicule, to the brink of collapse. "We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule," director of the restoration Antonia Moropoulou told National Geographic.
03/21/2017 - 10:24 AM
In Gorsuch hearings, questions of religious liberty and the law
Of all the people to speak on the first day of what promises to be a grueling week of hearings, Judge Neil Gorsuch – the man whose confirmation to the US Supreme Court is being deliberated – was notably concise. “In my childhood it was God and Byron White,” he said, referencing the former Supreme Court justice whom he clerked for. Indeed, “God and Byron White” could be a succinct description for the lines of inquiry Republicans and Democrats can be expected to take when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins questioning Judge Gorsuch Tuesday. As the minority, Democrats can't boycott him the way Senate Republicans did with Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by former President Obama.
03/21/2017 - 12:09 AM
In day of testimony, 'Russia problem' deepens for Trump White House
Russia is a serious problem the White House can’t just tweet away. If nothing else, the Kremlin is probably pleased with its effort to sow discord and division in US politics, agreed FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers at the House Intelligence Committee hearing. “Absent some change in the dynamic, this is not likely to stop,” said Adm. Rogers of Russia’s multi-pronged effort to influence American elections.
03/20/2017 - 07:20 PM
Pope Francis asks forgiveness for Church's 'sins and failings' during Rwandan genocide
Pope Francis issued an apology to Rwanda on Monday for the "sins and failings of the Church" during the nation's 1994 genocide, saying he hoped the belated sentiment might help heal wounds as the country moves forward. During a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Pope Francis for the first time blatantly acknowledged that Catholic officials have "succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission" during the genocide, according to a statement from the Vatican. Recommended: Think you know Africa?
03/20/2017 - 05:07 PM
For one war-racked nation, a path to happiness
One of the world’s most fragile countries is also its least happy. Last year, with rebel groups still on the loose, the CAR accounted for nearly a third of all attacks on nongovernmental organizations in the world.
03/20/2017 - 04:24 PM
Canadians cool to migrants: Are Canuck attitudes inching closer to Americans'?
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has governed on a platform that has garnered international praise by refugee advocates for its welcoming stance. Four out of 10 respondents to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday said they believed those illegally crossing the Canadian-US border would make the country "less safe." Forty-eight percent said they supported "increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally," while 50 percent of Americans support "increasing the deportation of illegal immigrants," according to a US version of the poll conducted the same week. Legal immigration has enjoyed high bipartisan support in Canada for decades.
03/20/2017 - 03:58 PM
In this Trump enclave, a pining for Obamacare?
Just months after joining most of her neighbors in supporting President Trump at the polls, Ann Standridge finds herself in an odd position: longing for Obamacare. The 59-year-old grandmother says she has an independent streak as hard as any Georgia granite. With a deep breath, Ms. Standridge quit her job as a nurse to accept the guardianship of two young tow-headed boys, Atlaz and Anakhin.
03/20/2017 - 03:49 PM
Why Norway is the happiest nation on Earth
Move over, Disneyland: Norway has taken the crown for the happiest place on Earth, according to the United Nations. On Monday, World Happiness Day, the UN released its 2017 World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries based on the overall happiness of each nation’s citizens. The latest report, the fifth overall since the UN launched the program in 2012, lists Norway as the world’s happiest country.
03/20/2017 - 12:44 PM
Global Teacher Prize awarded to Canadian educator who works with Inuit
In the Inuit village of Salluit, far north in the Canadian Arctic, winters are so harsh and life so remote that most teachers leave midway through the school year or apply for stress leave. Ms. MacDonnell’s perseverance helped her stand out among the ten finalists for the Global Teacher Prize, which the Canadian teacher received, along with the $1 million award that comes with it, at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday, beating out thousands of applicants from around the world. MacDonnell’s story illustrates her commitment, both in time and effort, to tackling even the most pervasive issues among students from underprivileged backgrounds.
03/20/2017 - 11:35 AM
North Korea's nuclear threat: Where do the US and China go from here?
For the Chinese, their proposal perhaps seemed obvious: North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile tests in return for the United States and South Korea halting their annual joint military exercises. It became yet another wishful attempt at compromise as the two heavyweights struggle to forge a common strategy over North Korea’s expanding nuclear program. As tensions escalate on the Korean peninsula, China’s patience with the US is growing thin, says Wu Riqiang, a nuclear expert at Renmin University in Beijing.
03/20/2017 - 10:16 AM
Does Germany owe 'vast sums' to US for NATO defense? Germany says no.
Germany has flatly rejected a claim President Trump tweeted on Saturday morning, when he wrote that Germany owes “vast sums” of money to NATO and the United States for underspending. “There is no debt account at NATO,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Sunday, adding that it was wrong to link the alliance’s target for members to spend 2 percent of their economic output on defense by 2024 solely to NATO. "Defense spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism," Ms. von der Leyen said.
03/20/2017 - 09:48 AM
To boost its economy, Tennessee is creating more college grads
Amy Haddock, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom, may not seem like a mechanically minded tinkerer, but she wants a career. Haddock is in the academy’s mechatronics program – a combination of mechanical engineering and electronics. It was developed by the German automaker in partnership with Chattanooga State Community College, where the academy’s current class of 72 students is enrolled.
03/20/2017 - 09:17 AM
What Judge Gorsuch (and the rest of us) can expect at his confirmation hearing
A whole 13 months after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the Senate will hold confirmation hearings starting on Monday to probe the judge nominated to replace him. “It’s a fascinating process because clearly he has strengths in intellect and articulateness that make him an appealing candidate,” Mr. Blumenthal told The New York Times.
03/19/2017 - 05:02 PM
In conflicts, faith leaders must often stay above
If faith leaders take sides in a conflict, do they give up any possible role as a trusted mediator? The North African country, which had a budding democracy in 2011 after ousting dictator Muammar Qaddafi, is fast descending into violent chaos. Libya is no backwater country whose internal strife can be ignored.
03/19/2017 - 04:30 PM
Will Steve King’s immigrant comments keep wary tourists out of Iowa?
A travel boycott of Iowa could have serious economic impact on the state, which takes in around $8 billion a year in tourism revenue, according to state officials. Last week, staffers grappled with an unwieldy influx of correspondence following Representative King's retweet of a post endorsing Geert Wilders, a controversial, far-right candidate for Dutch prime minister who came in second place during a Wednesday election. "We’re in a politically charged environment," Shawna Lode, the tourism office’s manager, said Friday, according to The Des Moines Register.
03/19/2017 - 03:03 PM
Meals on Wheels receives massive donations following proposed budget cut. Will it matter?
Following Thursday’s White House budget proposal release, Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit organization that delivers food to elderly isolated or disabled citizens received more than $100,000 in donations over a two-day period. The surge in contributions came after last week’s release of the White House budget proposal which includes a 17.9 percent cut for in federal funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, which according to Meals on Wheels, provides most of the organization’s government support, according to Reuters. Some local branches of Meals on Wheels are also reporting increases in both financial donations and interest in volunteering.
03/19/2017 - 01:12 PM
Why Kellyanne Conway's husband has been tapped for a big post at the DOJ
The husband of Kellyanne Conway and a partner at one of New York’s most prestigious law firms may take on a major role in defending the Trump administration. George Conway is expected to be nominated to head the civil division of the Department of Justice, The Wall Street Journal first reported on Friday. Mr. Conway would be responsible for leading the defense of the administration in lawsuits.
03/19/2017 - 10:38 AM
In Iowa, more constituents flood a GOP town hall to protest Trump policies
Sen. Joni Ernst (R) of Iowa jostled with a tense crowd of constituents Friday, becoming the latest GOP leader to field criticism over what voters see as dangerous complacency under President Trump’s agenda. Speaking at a town hall at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Senator Ernst was met by angry constituents who booed her responses to questions about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, climate change, and healthcare policy.
03/19/2017 - 10:23 AM
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