Foreign-born workers in the UK share their fears for the future

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on June 26, 2016.

 
Uncertainty prevails in Britain after Brexit has left immigrants feeling vulnerable. The service sector, a large part of the British economy, is also a big employer of foreigners, which means these workers may be hit hard.
Producer: Saskia de Melker
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
Editor: Michael Pilgrim
Correspondent: Hari Sreenivasan

The case for starting sex ed in kindergarten

This story was published on PBS NewsHour on May 27, 2015.

Spring Fever class discussion
Teacher Janneke van den Heuvel leads her 8-year old students in a group discussion during Spring Fever week in the Netherlands. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker

“Who here has been in love?” Anniek Pheifer asks a crowd of Dutch elementary school students.

It’s a Spring morning in Utrecht, and the St. Jan de Doper elementary school gym is decked in heart-shaped balloons and streamers. Pheifer and Pepijn Gunneweg are hosts of a kids television program in the Netherlands, and they’re performing a song about having a crush.

Kids giggle at the question. Hands — little and bigger — shoot up.

Welcome to “Spring Fever” week in primary schools across the Netherlands, the week of focused sex ed classes… for 4-year olds.

Of course, it’s not just for 4-year-olds. Eight-year-olds learn about self-image and gender stereotypes. 11-year-olds discuss sexual orientation and contraceptive options. But in the Netherlands, the approach, known as “comprehensive sex education,” starts as early as age 4….read the full story at PBS NewsHour

 

A tale of two grid defectors: Why some are quitting electric companies in Hawaii

This story was published on PBS NewsHour on April 11, 2015.

Dave Greene, who is living off the grid in Hawaii, stands in front of his house. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker Dave Greene, who is living off the grid in Hawaii, stands in front of his house. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker

In Hawaii, the combination of sky-high electricity prices and abundant sunshine have made installing solar panels enormously popular. In fact, the state has the highest percentage of rooftop solar users in the country.

And while most of those who have installed panels still remain tied to the local electrical grid in order to store the energy they produce and get energy when there’s no sunshine, some residents have also installed their own battery storage system to move off the grid completely.

In the video above, learn more about how two men in Hawaii have cut manged to cut ties with local utility providers and live off the grid.

Whether as a hobby or as an experiment in energy independence, both agree it’s only a matter of time before more people make the switch to also become grid defectors.

Video by Saskia de Melker

Four wrongfully convicted men, four very different outcomes

This story was published on PBS NewsHour on November 9, 2014.

Alan Newton, Jeffrey Deskovic, Drew Whitley, and Johnny Pinchback were all exonerated in the past decade. Credit: NewsHour
Alan Newton, Jeffrey Deskovic, Drew Whitley, and Johnny Pinchback were all exonerated in the past decade. Credit: NewsHour

When a wrongfully convicted person gets released from prison, it is a major news event: Local television crews capture the first moments of freedom and the speeches on the steps of the state capital, audiences empathize as they grapple with gratitude and rage, and the exonerees take their first steps into an uncertain future.

Jeffrey Deskovic, who was in prison for 16 years after being wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of his high school classmate, said it was the most surreal moment of his life: “It felt like a dream,” he said. “When I stepped up to the microphones at the press conference, I asked ‘Is this really happening?’”

But when the limelight fades, the wrongfully convicted face the reality of navigating the world they were yanked from, often with limited financial and social support.

According to the Innocence Project, it takes exonerees three years on average to receive any compensation after their release. More than a quarter get nothing. Among those who are paid, 81 percent get less than $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment.

NewsHour spoke to a number of exonerated men from different states about their experiences reintegrating post-release. All of them, regardless of compensation, say they would pay anything to have the years they lost in prison back…..read more at PBS NewsHour.

New Jersey court strikes down murder conviction based on violent rap lyrics

Updated Story — published on PBS NewsHour on August 4, 2014

The New Jersey State Supreme Court on Monday overturned, by a vote of 6-0, the attempted murder conviction of an aspiring rapper and small-time drug dealer Vonte Skinner, arguing that the extensive reading of Skinner’s violent rap lyrics during his trial unfairly prejudiced the jury.

As the PBS NewsHour reported last month, rap lyrics are increasingly being used by prosecutors nationwide as evidence of motive or intent, or in some cases, treated as confessions to specific crimes. Some legal scholars alarmed by this trend argue that rap lyrics are largely fictional, artistic works, and introducing their sometimes violent and graphic content at trial unfairly taints juries….read more at PBS NewsHour.

Rappers respond: ‘This is how we express ourselves’

This story was published on PBS NewsHour on July 2, 2014.

Rappers Respond

A man shoots his foe in the head over and over again, leaving him to bleed out on the street. The man has no remorse. He even brags about it.

Only this man isn’t real. He’s a character in a rap song written by Vonte Skinner, who was sentenced to 30 years in a New Jersey state penitentiary for the attempted murder of Lamont Peterson.

In Skinner’s case, prosecutors relied on two eyewitnesses who claimed he was the shooter, though their stories had changed several times. They also read 13 pages of violent rap lyrics to the jury, taken straight from Skinner’s own notebooks, to show his violent intentions and aspirations.

Across the country, police and prosecutors are increasingly using a suspect’s own rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases. Law enforcement argues that they help establish motive or intent and in some cases even contain confessions. But critics argue that rap music is just that: music. It’s not a diary.

NewsHour recently reported on this growing trend and the issues of relevance, prejudice and first amendment protections that are being weighed when the criminal justice system probes lyrics.

We wanted to know more about what artists and others in the hip hop industry think about this trend and the various arguments about why it does or does not make good evidence…read more at PBS NewsHour.