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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  This was “sequester eve” in Washington, the last day before $85 billion in automatic budget cuts are due to begin. Eleventh-hour votes to prevent the cuts failed, and lawmakers left for a long weekend.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

    KWAME HOLMAN: As the Senate began work this morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid was still saying it wasn't too late.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: We believe we have a balanced plan to remove the threat of the sequester. Everybody agrees, Republicans around the country, about 80 percent of the Americans agree it's the right thing to do. Almost 60 percent of Republicans around the country agree it's the right thing to do. The only Republicans in America that don't agree are those that serve in Congress.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats offered a plan to cancel the sequester and replace it with a mix of tax increases and targeted spending cuts phased in over 10 years.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-K.y.: It isn't a plan at all. It's a gimmick.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans derided the bill, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell charged President Obama has manufactured a crisis.

    MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, our country has a spending problem, a pretty massive one. Most of us in the chamber at least acknowledge that fact. But we can either address the problem in a smart way, or we can do it in the way he's proposed.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Another Republican, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, said the smart way is to rule out tax hikes and let the president decide the best way to implement spending cuts.

    SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R-Pa.: It's not necessary if we pass this legislation because it would give the president the flexibility to cut the items that wouldn't be disruptive to our economy, would not be disruptive in any meaningful way.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The White House rejected that idea out of hand.

    Spokesman Jay Carney called it the worst of all worlds.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Spokesman: This bill is an effort to shift the focus away from the need for the Congress to work toward a bipartisan compromise that would avoid sequestration.

    KWAME HOLMAN: In the end, neither side could get the 60 votes needed to bring up its bill. The stalemate guaranteed the sequester will take effect before tomorrow ends.

    At the same time, the top House and Senate leaders are due to meet with the president at the White House. It will be their first formal discussion on the matter.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Wall Street mostly marked time today in the run-up to the federal budget cuts. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 21 points to close at 14,054 after coming close to its all-time high. And the Nasdaq fell two points to close at 3,160.

    The Obama administration moved today to intervene in a challenge to California's ban on gay marriage. It was widely reported the Justice Department is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the ban.

    We get more from Chris Geidner, senior political and legal reporter for the website BuzzFeed.

    Thanks for being with us.

    Help us understand why this is so significant that the administration is getting involved.

    CHRIS GEIDNER, BuzzFeed: Well, this is the United States Supreme Court hearing a case involving whether or not same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry.

    And this is the first time that they have heard such a case where the administration is weighing in and is saying that they think that this 2008 amendment is unconstitutional, that it violates their constitutional rights to not be allowed to marry.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, why did the administration get involved now? Was there pressure building? Because the president has said in the past that this is a states issue, right?


    Well, I mean, there was pressure building from advocates based on the statements that the president made himself, saying in his inaugural address that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be treated equally under the law. It was going to be very hard to gel that and his own personal support for marriage equality with not taking a position in this case, which is obviously going to be at the fore of the important cases that the court's going to be hearing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right, Chris Geidner from BuzzFeed, thanks so much.

    CHRIS GEIDNER: Thanks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  President Obama plans to name a former law school colleague, Edith Ramirez, to chair the Federal Trade Commission. In that role, she will confront several major merger cases and online privacy issues. Ramirez worked with Mr. Obama on The Harvard Law Review. Later, as an attorney in Los Angeles, she specialized in business litigation. She has served on the FTC since 2010. Her designation as chairwoman doesn't require Senate confirmation.

    Bomb blasts erupted across Iraq today, killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens more. In Baghdad, a pair of bombs exploded almost simultaneously outside a fast food restaurant and a soccer field. Bombers also struck in two other towns to the south of the capital. The targets were in areas that are mostly home to Shiites. The attacks came as Sunnis have been mounting weekly protests against the Shiite-led government.

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Judy.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who is charged with leaking massive amounts of classified material to the Web site WikiLeaks, entered guilty pleas today.

    He pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, admitting to violating military regulations, but not federal espionage laws. Manning spoke for more than an hour in the military courtroom, explaining his reasons for leaking classified information.

    He said -- quote -- "I believe that if the general public had access to the information, this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general." He added -- quote -- "I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience."

    Later in the day, the judge accepted Manning's pleas. He still faces trial on the remaining charges.

    For more now on Manning's statement, his pleas and what comes next, we are joined by Charlie Savage of The New York Times, who was in the courtroom today, and Arun Rath, who has been covering the Manning case for PBS' FRONTLINE.

    Welcome to both of you to the NewsHour.

    Charlie Savage, what exactly, tell us, did Private Manning plead guilty to today?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times: Pvt. Manning pled guilty to 10 charges that all -- basically, he took responsibility for being the person who indeed downloaded massive archives of military reports about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, videos of airstrikes that killed civilians, dossiers about Guantanamo detainees, and a host of other issues, and sent them to WikiLeaks.

    Indeed, he said he took responsibility; it was him who did that. And he pled guilty to 10 specifications of violating military rules and regulations in the course of doing so. What he didn't do was say that those charges amount to the ferocious charges the government had brought against him, including aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act.

    The charges that he pled guilty to could expose him to up to 20 years in prison. If the government goes forward with the larger charges that are still on the table, it could be many, many more decades on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Arun Rath, help us understand what he didn't plead guilty to today.

    ARUN RATH, FRONTLINE: Well, not pleading guilty to the main -- the biggest charge, which is aiding the enemy, that is huge. At least, that's the one that carries potentially the life sentence for him.

    And it seems like what they're trying to do is kind of peel away the leak from the criminality of it, from trying to say that he was trying to hurt the country. And that was a big part of the statement that he made today justifying what he did.

    He made a big point of saying that he didn't want to release any information that would damage the United States. He said he found information that he thought would be embarrassing, but not damaging. And they're trying to sort of play that on those terms, I think.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie Savage, what did you take away from watching from him today as he read his statements, as he gave his explanation? What did you see?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, he was sitting at a -- I was watching from the media center, which is sort of a filing center close to the courtroom. It has a closed caption circuit feed. And most of the reporters were there today.

    And he was sitting before the judge next to his lawyers. He's sort of a small person. And he was reading from the -- this prepared statement, this lengthy prepared statement that was basically his narrative, his statement at last about why he did what he did. For a few years now, ever since this book, we have about him and his mental troubles, his struggles with his sexuality, his suicidal periods and the abuse that he may have received in prison once he was locked up.

    And there's been all these surrounding conversations. And this was the moment after all these years in which he was able to say, here's what I did and here's why. And his message was squarely that he was a whistle-blower, didn't use that term, but as he marched through the narrative of how he came to download these documents just for his own work as a military analyst in Iraq, and then as he became troubled by what he was seeing, and he thought that what the American people needed to know if these documents came out would spark -- would be enlightening, would spark a massive conversation about foreign policy and about what the government is doing.

    And so he decided to find a way to bring them to light.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Arun Rath, both of you have followed this case for a long time. What -- I mean, just listening, reading what he was saying today, what did you take away from that? Were you surprised? Did it -- was it consistent with what you have been told until now?

    ARUN RATH: For me, it was remarkable actually we're now hearing Bradley Manning's voice very loudly and strongly and very articulately.

    Charlie mentioned that we had barely heard him talk. Before he testified in November for the first time, the only time I had heard Bradley Manning's voice was on -- in the background on a 911 call where he's almost hysterical, a 911 call back involving his stepmother.

    In court back in November, I have to say he was one of the most -- just in terms of a witness, one of the most appealing, articulate witnesses that took the stand. He seemed like a very appealing young man, very articulate. And from what we heard today, what Charlie described, it sounds like he gave a very methodical, thoughtful presentation, almost a manifesto about why he did what he did and why it was morally the correct thing to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie Savage, I guess I'm asking you to give us your own judgment on this, but was it an explanation that held together, that made sense to you?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, I think it was a very coherent presentation about what he was thinking and why he did it and how he sort of got deeper and deeper into sending this information into WikiLeaks, finding other information that he also wanted to send to WikiLeaks, becoming frustrated when WikiLeaks didn't publish some of the things that he was sending to them.

    I would say this, although, that was also interesting, because he was doing this in the context of a confession. He was pleading guilty. And he was saying, “I am guilty of these charges. They may not be as bad as what the government is trying to charge me with, but they are still charges that could send me away for 20 years.”

    And so there was a very interesting exchange throughout with the judge after he finished reading the statement, and there was sort of a break, and they came back, in which she was making sure that he understood what he was doing, and was sort of probing his thinking.

    And at one point -- or actually several points -- she sort of circled back to this, if you're saying that you had this motivation, you're doing for this for the greater good, how can you say that and square it with the fact that you're pleading guilty to crimes that you say you did the wrong thing?

    And he several times said back to her, well, look, I understand now that I was a specialist, now a private in the Army, that even -- whatever my own judgment was about these documents, there are procedures and processes for bringing things to light or keeping them secret. It's not up to me. I did not have the authority. It was above my pay grade to just sort of take these massive archives and fling them into the world.

    And so he was accepting responsibility and saying it was wrong. At the same time, he was saying, as Arun said, I wasn't trying to hurt the country. I did not think any of these documents would harm the United States or help a foreign power. I may have been wrong, but what I was trying to do was spark a national debate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly, Arun, finally to you, there is the trial on the remaining charges that will be coming up. Any sense from today of what we will hear from him then?

    ARUN RATH: Well, I think we definitely have seen a very real preview of what the strategy is going to be, which is, as we have said, they're admitting the crime, essentially, but are going to try to justify it on moral grounds.

    So they're going to give some amount of ground. The argument will not be whether or not Bradley Manning leaked. We know he leaked. And he's now -- the argument is going to be about whether or not he was justified in doing it. Or that's at least the argument that the defense would like to have.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Arun Rath and Charlie Savage, we thank you both.

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Thank you.

    ARUN RATH: Thank you. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Now to the conflict in Syria and a change in the United States' role.

    Ray Suarez explains.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: The United States has decided that, given the stakes, the president will now extend food and medical supplies to the opposition, including to the Syrian opposition's Supreme Military Council. So there will be direct assistance to them, though non-lethal.

    RAY SUAREZ: Word of the shift in U.S. policy came from Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome. The upshot, for the first time, humanitarian aid will be directly channeled to armed Syrian rebel groups, the initial installment, $60 million dollars.

    JOHN KERRY: This funding will allow the opposition to reach out and help the local councils to be able to rebuild in their liberated areas of Syria, so that they can provide basic services to people who often lack access today to medical care, to food, to sanitation.

    RAY SUAREZ: Additional pledges are expected from 10 other European and Arab nations attending the Rome gathering.

    But after two years of war in Syria and more than 70,000 dead, what the rebels most want are guns. So far, the United States has refused, citing fears militant Islamists would benefit. In Rome today, the head of the Syrian Opposition Council, Mouaz Al-Khatib, urged the world to focus more on the victims of Syrian President Assad, and less on bearded Islamists.

    MOUAZ AL-KHATIB, National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces: One month ago, the regime bombed 86 bakeries, where the flesh of the children was molded with the bread. Pay attention to this, instead of the fighters' beards. Those who are fighting inside are mostly peaceful people who are forced to carry arms. All the terrorists in the world do not have this brutal nature of the regime against the Syrian people.

    RAY SUAREZ: Several Persian Gulf states have long supplied arms and money to the rebels. Just this week, it was revealed Saudi Arabia has been sending them Croatian weapons.

    The shift in U.S. policy comes as the Assad regime steps up its onslaught, using Scud missiles against civilian populations. And last night, The New York Times reported Americans are now training Syrian rebels at an undisclosed base in the region.

    Meanwhile, as the battle for Damascus grows, in Syria's south, refugees are streaming into Lebanon and Jordan. U.N. officials estimate nearly a million Syrians have fled the fighting.

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    RAY SUAREZ: For more on U.S. involvement in Syria's conflict, we turn to two voices.

    Steven Heydemann is a senior adviser for Middle East Initiatives at the United States Institute of Peace. He's worked with the Syrian opposition on the challenges ahead if and when the Assad regime falls. And Steven Simon, formerly a senior director for Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Council staff, he's now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    And, Steven Simon, let me start with you.

    Does today's announcement represent a significant change from that of the first Obama administration and Secretary Clinton?

    STEVEN SIMON, International Institute for Strategic Studies: Well, I couldn't say it's a huge leap, because it's consistent with what the administration has been doing already for a year.

    The $60 million dollars that Secretary Kerry has said will be allocated to these programs builds on $50 million that was already allocated for similar programs involved in training the opposition -- that is, the political opposition -- and giving them communications equipment and so forth.

    This new step, though, is important because it will build capacity on the part of the local counsels that are now governing areas of Syria that the regime is unlikely to return to. This is in effect the beginning of the post-Assad Syria in places. And it's essential that those who are governing in those areas and are responsible for the health and welfare of the people living there have the capacity to carry out those tasks and those responsibilities.

    And this is what these programs will do.

    RAY SUAREZ: Steven Heydemann, there was a public announcement, a specific dollar figure, a widening of the categories of materiel that is being sent over. Does this look like an evolution to you?

    STEVEN HEYDEMANN, U.S. Institute of Peace: I think it looks like a somewhat more important shift than perhaps my colleague Steve Simon suggested.

    I wouldn't go overboard in assessing the scale of the shift. But to the extent that it is now possible for the U.S. to provide support not only to non-lethal actors, but to reach out and engage directly with armed groups, this is a broadening of U.S. engagement that wasn't possible before this decision was taken by the administration.

    We have never previously had the opportunity to work directly with the Supreme Military Council. Now that opportunity exists. And so we have the chance to begin to provide support to the groups that are arguably most important in determining the future of the conflict, and to do so in ways that were not possible under the previous policy.

    RAY SUAREZ: But all during the conflict, there's been worries in the United States and other Western capitals about who exactly the opposition is and what kind of hands the material falls into. Now, you heard Mouaz Al-Khatib sort of lampooning that, saying don't worry so much about whose theme people are. They're fighting for the freedom of Syria.

    Should this be an American war?

    STEVEN HEYDEMANN: Well, what he also said is that, if you look at the levels of violence and brutality being visited on the Syrian people by the regime, the notion that the groups fighting against the regime might engage in activities that we would find even more disturbing is very, very low.

    But keep in mind, we are not going to be providing weapons or other kinds of equipment to the armed opposition that will expand their military capacity. We are providing them with -- largely with humanitarian assistance, with body armor, with food supplies, with medical supplies, and with training. So the notion that this kind of support could backfire, I would find very surprising. I think...

    RAY SUAREZ: I want to get Steven Simon on that same point.

    Should there be worry in Washington about who's getting what we're sending and what use they're putting it to?

    STEVEN SIMON: I think the risk is really rather low in this case, in part because the aid is going to groups with which we have already established relationships by virtue of this program that's been going on for nearly a year and for which $50 million dollars has been spent.


    During this time, U.S. personnel in the region, not inside Syria, have gotten to know a good number of the people who are active in the local councils. And the material is going to go to these known quantities. And the risk that it will go to jihadist groups, it seems to me, to be quite limited.

    RAY SUAREZ: If, Steven Simon, the United States had intervened earlier in the conflict, would the set of choices facing American policy-makers have been broader? Would the United States have had more room for maneuver?

    STEVEN SIMON: You know, I think it's a very difficult question to answer. This is going to be and already is a long and grinding conflict.

    It's quite likely we're at the beginning of it in relative terms. So whether in that context the U.S. would have taken the step it's taken now six months ago, whether that would have had some kind of significant effect on the course of events thus far, I think is just not plausible.

    I think we're in for a really long haul, which is why the program that Secretary Kerry announced today is important, because it's building the capacity of the opposition to sustain itself and tend to the care and feeding of the Syrian people during this very long, drawn-out period, where we're going to see some pretty awful things, I would imagine.

    RAY SUAREZ: Steven Heydemann?

    STEVEN HEYDEMANN: I tend to take a somewhat different view.

    The relationships that we're so concerned about between militant Islamists inside of Syria and their equally militant sponsors outside the country originated in part because there were no alternative sources of supply for armed groups in Syria. They became important on the ground because the groups that we might have preferred to see emerge as the leading forces in the fight against the regime didn't have the kind of backing or sponsorship that went to those militant Islamist groups.

    And the possibility does exist that if we had played a more active role earlier on in providing alternative channels of support, the influence and capacity that we now see concentrated in the hands of Islamist actors could have been diluted, and some of that could have shifted to groups that we're more comfortable with.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, very briefly, before we go, given what you just said, is it too late to make much of a difference on the outcome, getting in now?

    STEVEN HEYDEMANN: If we keep in mind that for many groups, their association with radical Islamist sponsors is largely instrumental, they do it because that -- those are the people who have the funding and the weapons, being able to provide alternatives I think could still draw those groups toward more moderate perspectives and could persuade them to align themselves with different sponsors than the ones they rely on right now.

    RAY SUAREZ: Steven Heydemann, Steven Simon, thank you both. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: two stories about combating violence against women.

    In Turkey, a fast-changing society has brought new opportunities for women, but also increased domestic abuse.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro filed this story as part of our Agents for Change series.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Istanbul presents an elegant blend of history and modernity, a sprawling symbol of Turkeys growing global importance. It is the world's 16th largest economy.

    Modernization has transformed this nation of 75 million from a mostly rural, traditional society to a predominantly urban one. Three of four Turks live in a city today. But by some measures, Turkey ranks among the worst places in the world for women. Women are less educated than men. Far fewer have jobs outside the home. And in the home, half of all Turkish women report having suffered some form of domestic violence.

    Inci Kerestecioglu is a sociologist at Istanbul University.

    INCI KERESTECIOGLU, Istanbul University: Violence against women in Turkey has increased in response to the demands women are making to become freer, and men feel powerless and resort to violence.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Women have taken to the streets in recent years. This demonstration was last march. A big problem, many say, is the indifference of police and government officials, even as Turkey's government reports the number of women murdered in a year in this country went up 1400 percent between 2002 and 2009.

    GULSUN KANAT-DINC, Social Worker: They don't want to deal with this problem, because they don't see it seriously. This is a women's issue. That's why they don't see it.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Gulsun Kanat-Dinc works for a group called Mor Cati, one of few refuges for women like this 39-year-old mother of three who endured almost two decades of abuse.

    WOMAN: My head would be split and bleeding and I would go to the police. I would tell them to rescue me, and they would say, we cannot intervene between a husband and a wife. And he would come, and they would give me back to him.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Mor Cati finds what resources it can and has lobbied for more to help dozens of clients who seek help each day, like this 36-year-old mother of two.

    WOMAN: They helped me find psychological support for my children through the divorce. They directed me to a safe house, then took me to the prosecutor's office for protection under Article 4320.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That article, a 1998 law that entitles women to protection, was passed with pressure from Mor Cati. It was updated last year by Turkey's prime minister.

    Many of Turkey's statutes now conform to those of the European Union, which it has long wanted to join. But Kanat Dinc says things work differently here compared to, say, Sweden.

    GULSUN KANAT-DINC: If I go to police in Sweden, I will trust police. I wouldn't have this fear that police would send me back to my home, and they wouldn't -- they would judge me. I wouldn't have this kind of fear. But if I go to police here, I know that they can easily judge me.

    INCI KERESTECIOGLU: Turkey is a diverse country. You can find similarities to Bangladesh, and you can also find similarities to Switzerland within Turkey.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Kerestecioglu says Turkey straddles Europe and Asia not just in geography, but also a complex mix of social mores. She says, although domestic violence affects all income groups, women from migrant families, newly arrived from rural areas, face some of the most daunting strains on family life.

    Tradition confines them to the home, but financial pressures -- 20 percent in Turkey live below the poverty line -- demands they find acceptable work.

    SENGUL ACKAR, Foundation for the Support of Women's Work: They have domestic responsibilities, mainly child care. So, there is no child care services.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Sengul Ackar started the foundation for the support of women's work 25 years ago to help poor migrant women get what they need to help themselves and their families.

    The first challenge was child care. There were very few publicly run preschools, Ackar says, and daunting staffing and building regulations. She says Turkey has long had centralized planning, rigid rules laid down in this case by Education Ministry that prevented private startups, even nonprofit ones.

    Her foundation organized and trained women to negotiate with authorities to modify the rules. That's enabled new parent-managed, cooperative preschools in low-income areas of several Turkish cities.

    SENGUL ACKAR: The community, also they feel that this is ...

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They own it?

    SENGUL ACKAR: They own it. Plus, for the woman, you need legitimate reasons to go out.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It's socially acceptable.

    SENGUL ACKAR: Yes, socially acceptable.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Foundation for Women's Work provides a range of other services that are socially acceptable to the more traditional migrants. It taps into women's labor and craft skills, provides small business loans and even markets their products online and in an Istanbul boutique.

    EMINE UNAL, Turkey: The products that you see, I started making them just to pass time for my daughter. I knit shoes for babies out of wool and people like them, and I started getting orders.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: This couple is one the women's foundation helped to straddle two worlds. Emine and Ahmet Unal come from traditional family backgrounds, part of the vast migration to Istanbul for better opportunities. But they want to make a better life for their 6-year-old daughter, Zuha.

    EMINE UNAL: I really do want my daughter to have the opportunities that I never had.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ahmet completed high school, but Emine Unal only went through fifth grade. Women traditionally were less educated in Turkey, but in her case it was state-imposed modernity that kept her home.

    EMINE UNAL: I couldn't go to school because of my head scarf. Even if I would have gone to the school, I wouldn't be able to find a job because, at that time, nobody would give a job to someone like me with a head scarf.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That ban on head scarves was part of predominantly Islamic Turkey's attempt to enforce a rigid secularism, which lasted for much of the 20th century.

    But like the rest of life in Turkey, that is slowly changing says Professor Kerestecioglu. Today, Turkey has a conservative prime minister whose wife covers her hair.


    INCI KERESTECIOGLU: The main issue here was having conservatively dressed women in the public sphere. As long as these women remained in villages, in traditional roles, the educated didn't consider wearing a scarf to be an issue. However, when this group came with demands, such as attending university and participating in the public sphere, their demands made the progressive elites uncomfortable.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For their part, Ahmet and Emine Unal see much more of a blending than a clash of old and new in today's Turkey.

    EMINE UNAL: I didn't decide to cover my hair because of pressure from my family. It was my own decision, so I'm not going to pressure my daughter to cover her hair. She will make her own decision.

    AHMET UNAL, Turkey: It's her own life. I'm not going to intervene.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ahmet Unal is also grateful for his wife's income, having struggled to provide enough from his own work.

    AHMET UNAL: I run a cell phone and accessories store, and business is tough because there are a lot of large stores and you can't match their advertising and discounts.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Women's Work Foundation has made a huge difference, Emine says, providing self-confidence, as much as financial help.

    EMINE UNAL: This organization represents the soul and the energy of many women. It's wonderful to just breathe in such an environment.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The foundation Sengul Ackar began has now organized 100,000 women into cooperative enterprises of various types across Turkey.

    SENGUL ACKAR: We gave them the confidence, collective confidence that they can change something. They are using their own energies, and they're providing services for the community, for the others, not for only themselves.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There's much more to be done, she says, but the first step to closing Turkey's gender gap, to reducing problems like domestic violence is giving women a voice.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Fred's reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary's University in Minnesota.

    And you can meet other Agents for Change and learn their stories. You will find that on our website. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to the problem of domestic violence here in the United States and the end of a political battle over legislation about that issue.

    It was the subject of long-delayed debate and a vote in the House of Representatives today.

    WOMAN: The bill is passed. Without objection, a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: By 286-138, the House voted to renew the Violence Against Women Act almost a year-and-a-half after it lapsed. The bill extends the law's protections to gays and lesbians, immigrants, Native Americans on reservations and victims of sex trafficking.

    Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley:

    REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, D-Ill.: Once again, we have to stand up and fight for equal protections for all victims. We are all in this together. These victims are not nameless, faceless members of some group of others. They are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. We are a nation built on justice, fairness and equal protection.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The original 1994 law provided grants for legal aid and transitional housing for victims of domestic violence. It also created funding for law enforcement training and assistance hot lines.

    But the statute expired in 2011, as House Republicans resisted efforts to expand its scope to other groups.

    Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn argued today for a more limited alternative.

    REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, R-Tenn.: Making certain that, in a fiscally responsible, targeted and focused way, that those who need access to the help, the assistance, the funds are going to be able to receive the help, the assistance, the funds, the focus and the attention that they are going to need.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But cracks in Republican ranks appeared after President Obama's strong showing among women voters in last year's election.

    And, today, moderate Republicans joined Democrats in defeating the GOP bill and passing the Senate version. The legislation now goes to the White House for President Obama's signature.

    For more on the political back-and-forth over the legislation and what it means for women and men going forward, we are joined by Ashley Parker, who covers Congress for The New York Times, and Cindy Southworth. She's a longtime advocate and she's vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

    Welcome to you both.

    Ashley Parker, the Republicans, when they originally objected to this legislation back a year-and-a-half ago, what objections did they have and were those objections accommodated?

    ASHLEY PARKER, The New York Times: Well, the issues they had about a year-and-a-half ago were they didn't want to go as far as the Senate bill then had gone, which was extending protections to members of the LGBT community and to Native American women.

    And, interestingly, these were basically the same objections that we saw this time around, although this time they obviously managed to work them out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what happened wasn't that -- so much that the language was changed, but that a number of Republicans changed their position?

    ASHLEY PARKER: Well, what happened was Eric Cantor first started -- the Republican leadership decided that, politically, especially after the 2012 elections, where they sort of took a drubbing with female voters, that the Republican Party didn't want to be on the wrong side, so to speak, of this issue. They didn't want to be responsible or seen as responsible, fairly or unfairly, for preventing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

    So they said they were not going to pass anything in the House that didn't have bipartisan support. Obviously, the House version of the bill didn't have bipartisan support. Democrats were united in their support against it. And so that's why they allowed this Senate version to come to a vote and ultimately pass.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cindy Southworth, how much difference has the Violence Against Women Act made since it was enacted?

    CINDY SOUTHWORTH, National Network to End Domestic Violence: It's really been remarkable.

    Just since 1994, we have seen almost a 50 percent increase in reporting, when -- and that's not 50 percent increase in incidents of domestic violence. It's more victims reaching out. They're calling the police. They know there are services available and they're getting help.

    We have also seen almost a 30 percent -- or a 34 percent even decrease in homicides of women, and even more startling, almost 60 percent less homicides of men, primarily by their female partners when they felt they had no other choice.

    And now that we have shelters and resources, they're not having to resort to self-defense.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can directly connect that to this law, this act?

    CINDY SOUTHWORTH: We can look at the time period and these remarkable things happening.

    Some things, we can talk about in terms of housing units that we have created with Violence Against Women Act funds, hot lines that have opened because of Violence Against Women Act funds. So, some of it, we can directly connect to the Violence Against Women Act, and others of it is we can see what was happening before.

    I started in this work before the Violence Against Women Act passed, and we ran a shelter on a tiny shoestring budget and turned more women away than we helped.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ashley Parker, is that consistent with the debate you have been hearing in the Congress and among members about this?

    ASHLEY PARKER: Well, the debate on the floor we heard today was basically -- no one came out against preventing the reauthorization of the bill.

    It was House Republicans sort of arguing that their version of the bill went far enough. They said that their version of the bill did, in fact, protect -- the phrase they always used was all women. So they were sort of arguing the same thing, but obviously the Democrats and a lot of women's groups and human rights groups disagreed, and they felt the Senate version did a better job of actually extending protections to everyone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ashley -- I'm sorry -- Cindy Southworth, how much difference does it make to extend these protections to these groups we mentioned, LGBT, the Native Americans and so on?

    CINDY SOUTHWORTH: When it comes to victims on tribal lands, it's huge, because what's happened previously is, if you're a Native American woman injured on tribal lands by a non-Native, the tribal courts have no jurisdiction.

    And when it comes to misdemeanor domestic violence cases, the federal courts are overwhelmed. So they weren't taking these cases up, which meant you got off scot-free for harming a Native woman on tribal lands. Giving jurisdiction to the tribal courts means that we can hold them accountable. That's pretty significant in terms of extending protections to tribal -- to Native women on tribal lands.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just continuing with you on some questions about the law as it exists today and as it will exist, the new version, our staff here at the NewsHour talked today with several law professors who said, overall, the bill has had beneficial consequences, but they said there have also been some unintended consequences, namely, that it still leans in favor of having the perpetrator arrested, no matter whether the woman or the victim wants that to happen or not.

    How do you see that issue?

    CINDY SOUTHWORTH: First of all, the Violence Against Women Act doesn't require mandatory arrest.

    What it does do, though, is train police officers on how to look at what's happening in the house, because if it's mandatory arrest, you might arrest the wrong person. Sometimes, a woman has been beaten and you can't see the bruises, but you see scratch marks on the offender because of the self-defense wounds.

    So the Violence Against Women Act doesn't have a mandatory reporting focus to it, but it has got a mandatory training focus to it, which is important for police on the scene to assess. And we have done a lot of work around issues beyond law enforcement within the Violence Against Women Act. There's housing provisions. There's a transitional housing grant program. There's a sexual assault services program.

    So while we have spent a lot of time in the last 20 years working to change the justice system, we are really focusing more and more on issues beyond criminal justice. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, that was another complaint we heard from those who support the law overall, but say that it still leans too far -- it puts so much money into law enforcement and prosecution, and not nearly enough money into those other areas that you mentioned.

    CINDY SOUTHWORTH: I'm only smiling because I have yet to see the day where we have so much money in the violence against women movement. I would love that day.

    What it really means is, we would -- we would like more money in all those other service areas. We need more housing. We need more hot lines. We need more advocates. We need to beef up those services. We don't need to remove police officers from being able to respond. We have already seen that, in just one day in the United States, over 70,000 adults and children get help from local domestic violence programs.

    And on the same day, 10,581 times, a phone rang and someone asked for a bed, a shelter, an attorney, a counselor. They told a perfect stranger, and they couldn't get help.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ashley Parker, how much of this came up in the House debate?

    ASHLEY PARKER: You know, not a ton of that on the debate in the floor today.

    A lot of the debate sort of focused on Democrats stepping up time and time again and asking for members to come together to reach bipartisan compromise and get this through, and also a lot of members, both Democrats and Republicans, coming and telling personal stories of a woman in their district who was beaten or faced domestic abuse and either who met a tragic end because they couldn't get the protections necessary, or in some cases were able to use these programs to get help.

    So it was sort of a little bit more of a personal touch, as well as a plea to come together for something.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, at the end of it all, the House of Representatives voted to extend the Violence Against Women Act. And we look for the president to sign the legislation.

    Cindy Southworth and Ashley Parker, we thank you both.

    ASHLEY PARKER: Thank you.

    CINDY SOUTHWORTH: Thank you so much. 

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    The man in my audience at Ohio University this week was exasperated. Why, he wondered, can't Washington get its act together?

    Why indeed?

    I can't say I had a good answer. But it was clear that -- in Athens, Ohio, at least -- the latest budget cutting debate is going over about as well as that moment when your misbehaving children blame each other for starting it first. This is when you threaten to pull the car over.

    I am, of course, talking about the sequester debate -- the plan to slice the federal budget across the board that no one wants to own, even though all sides agreed to it.

    In the latest poll taken by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, fully half of the respondents said the sequester debate is making them less confident about the nation's economic recovery. (I would personally like to meet the 16 percent who say it makes them more confident. That would be a fascinating conversation.)

    But it's not so simple. Most of those surveyed -- 52 percent -- said the blunt budget axe is a bad idea, yet they could not agree on what they would prefer instead.

    There's more. Thirty-nine percent said the cuts should be even deeper; 37 percent said the opposite. And although 56 percent said the president and Congress should be "working together" to avoid this latest fiscal cliff, fully 46 percent declared it is time to impose even more dramatic cuts if that's what it takes to reduce the deficit.

    If you're confused by these mixed signals, you can begin to understand the magnitude of the political problem that runs up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

    The truth is, Congress is just as flummoxed about how to proceed as the people they represent. And with no sure guide -- or guarantee of political and fiscal Armageddon at hand -- government freezes.

    As the prospect of political accountability fades, this is what happens:

    Artificial deadlines - January gives way to March, which gives way to April.

    Fake fights - The Washington Post reports that education secretary Arne Duncan said teachers were already losing their jobs over the budget cuts. But he was able to cite only a single pink slip, and one that had nothing to do with sequestration.

    Fingerpointing - One of the more curious outcomes of all this has been the blame game. Republicans said the sequester was the president's idea, and cited a passage in a Bob Woodward book to prove it. Democrats said everyone's hands are dirty.

    Then in a truly strange twist, Woodward accused a White House official (later identified as economic advisor Gene Sperling) of threatening him in advance of a story he wrote that accused the president of bad faith. Sperling's words, contained in an email, read: "I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim."

    A friend? That hardly seemed threatening. But this back-and-forth managed to consume the otherwise frustrated Washington media for days.

    Consequences - Pick your poison. Will flights be less secure, the nation less safe and national parks shut down as thousands of federal employees are furloughed? The administration has suggested all of these.

    Is the president's hair on fire as he seeks to scare Americans into pressuring GOP lawmakers to cave by turning the dispute into a campaign-style debate? That's what Republicans are saying.

    With the underlying problems left unaddressed, it's unclear who wins these types of fights. But it's a pretty good bet it won't be anyone who lives and works in Washington.

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    Two competing bills aimed at averting huge spending cuts failed Thursday in the Senate, virtually assuring that the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will kick in after Friday night's deadline. Photo by Sul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    With the U.S. Capitol emptied out for the weekend, the focus of official Washington on Friday will turn to the White House, where President Obama and top congressional leaders are scheduled to sit down face-to-face and discuss the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that are set to kick-in before day's end.

    The meeting comes a day after competing Republican and Democratic proposals to address the across-the-board reductions to defense and domestic programs failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move forward in the Senate.

    The prospects for a deal at this point appear slim, so Friday's session would appear to be more about giving the appearance that leaders are trying to work out an agreement, but in all likelihood will result in both sides using the opportunity to hammer home their political points one more time.

    Following the defeat of the Senate plans on Thursday, the president released a statement saying that Friday's meeting offered a chance for members of both parties to chart "a path forward." But the president also made clear that for him, that course must include additional revenues as part of the formula to bring down the deficit.

    "We should work together to reduce our deficit in a balanced way -- by making smart spending cuts and closing special interest tax loopholes," the president said. "We can build on the over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we've already achieved, but doing so will require Republicans to compromise. That's how our democracy works, and that's what the American people deserve."

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans had already agreed to additional revenues in the fiscal cliff deal earlier this year and that now lawmakers should fulfill their promise to the American people to cut spending.

    "Look, the American people will simply not accept replacing spending cuts agreed to by both parties with tax hikes. And I plan to make all of this clear to the president when I meet with him," McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor.

    McConnell followed up with a statement Friday that said, "I'm happy to discuss other ideas to keep our commitment to reducing Washington spending at today's meeting. But there will be no last-minute, back-room deal and absolutely no agreement to increase taxes."

    The New York Times' Michael Shear details some of the steps that will be taken once the president signs the letter making sequestration official, which White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday has to be done by 11:59 p.m. Friday.

    With the sequester deadline a near-certainty to pass, the focus will quickly shift to the next fiscal fight: funding for the federal government, which is set to run out later this month. Given the tenor of the debate this week, the question is whether lawmakers can begin talking to one another rather than past each other.

    The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman report that Democrats are signaling that they won't seek to tie the sequester to the upcoming funding battle:

    Last week, in meetings with liberal activists, administration officials suggested that they hoped to persuade Republicans to cancel the sequester as part of negotiations over the funding bill needed to keep the government open past March 27.

    That now appears unlikely. House Republicans announced plans to vote next week on a measure that would keep government funding at sequester levels for the rest of the fiscal year while providing new flexibility to manage the cuts at the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Obama and Senate Democrats are angling for adjustments to that bill that would make the sequester easier for domestic agencies, as well. But neither the White House nor Senate leaders is threatening to block the House proposal.

    Unlike with the sequester, failure to reach a deal on funding the government would have immediate consequences, raising the stakes considerably for lawmakers not to miss the next deadline.


    Before leaving for the weekend the House did approve a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which had expired in 2011 and was stalled over Republican objections to protections involving gays and lesbians, Native Americans on tribal lands and victims of sex trafficking.

    The vote was 286-138, with 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans supporting the measure. Hotline On Call breaks down GOP votes on the VAWA based on who's feeling secure in their district and who's eyeing higher office in 2014.

    Judy Woodruff reported Thursday on the floor debate and then spoke with Ashley Parker of the New York Times and Cindy Southworth of National Network to End Domestic Violence.

    Parker noted that political pressure had been building on Republican leaders in Congress to allow a vote on the Senate version, "especially after the 2012 elections, where they sort of took a drubbing with female voters."

    "They didn't want to be responsible or seen as responsible, fairly or unfairly, for preventing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act," Parker added. "So they said they were not going to pass anything in the House that didn't have bipartisan support. Obviously, the House version of the bill didn't have bipartisan support. Democrats were united in their support against it. And so that's why they allowed this Senate version to come to a vote and ultimately pass."

    Southworth, meanwhile, said that the legislation, first enacted in 1994, has had "remarkable" effects:

    Just since 1994, we have seen almost a 50 percent increase in reporting ... and that's not 50 percent increase in incidents of domestic violence. It's more victims reaching out. They're calling the police. They know there are services available and they're getting help.

    We have also seen almost a 30 percent -- or a 34 percent even -- decrease in homicides of women, and even more startling, almost 60 percent less homicides of men, primarily by their female partners when they felt they had no other choice.

    Watch the segment here or below:

    Watch Video


    The Obama administration late Thursday opted to get involved in the Supreme Court case considering the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban, asking the high court to overturn it. Hari Sreenivasan talked with BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner to outline what's next. Watch that here or below. Watch Video

    Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser and David Drucker report that House immigration negotiators may be nearing some form of compromise, but as Republicans prepare for next week's listening sessions, it sounds like they would rather take a piecemeal approach instead of tackling a comprehensive plan.

    The Washington press corps weighs in on "Woodwardgate," with National Journal's Ron Fournier calling for greater civility from insider sources, while others question what was so remarkable about Gene Sperling's emails to the Washington Post reporter.

    The Hill reports that lawmakers were peeved at being left out of the loop on Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement the U.S. would provide aid to the Syrian opposition.

    Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling emailed supporters to ask for their advice about launching a bid for governor as an "Independent Republican." Bolling writes: "I need to know if you believe there is a realistic opening in this campaign for a credible independent candidate, or are you satisfied with the choice between Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. McAuliffe?"

    Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told ABC she was not privy to the cost-cutting decision to release "low-risk illegal immigrant detainees" ahead of the sequester's hit.

    Perhaps swayed by his neighbors to the east and west, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett recently requested a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss Medicaid expansion.

    Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored voting rights to George W. Bush advisor Scooter Libby, among 1,000 other felons.

    Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is urging New Yorkers not to donate to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., amid reports he's fundraising off of Wall Streeters, because of his "no" vote on Sandy aid. He also chalked up CPAC's snubbing of Chris Christie to the Sandy vote, saying of his party, "They are more and more taking on this anti-Northeast attitude. We say fine, if you want to be anti-Northeast, then the Northeast is going to be anti-them."

    Arkansas' Republican legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a measure restricting abortion.

    Today's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA examines who will be covered when states are forced to adopt health insurance exchanges by Jan. 2014.


    Jenny Marder's in-depth report on bath salts won a Gracie Award. Re-read her terrific piece here.

    Gwen Ifill gives her take on the sequester, or, as she puts it, "the plan to slice the federal budget across the board that no one wants to own, even though all sides agreed to it."

    Joshua Barajas went inside a Northern Virginia gun show and offers an interactive report.

    The NewsHour led the show with reports on the papal conclave. Watch here and here.

    Allison McCartney puts together a lesson plan based on sequestration.


    a very good point actually #GrammarNerd RT @arthurdelaneyhp: Sequester is a verb. Sequestration is a noun.

    — Dan Hirschhorn (@DanDailyNews) March 1, 2013

    Journalists please now refer to dates as Before Sequester (B.S.) or After Sequester Started (A.S.S.).

    — trifecta (@3fecta) March 1, 2013

    Big congrats to @nsmcgill and @elaheizadi, winner and first runner up at Commedia Dell Media show @thehamiltondc.

    — Matthew Cooper (@mattizcoop) March 1, 2013

    The comic stylings of @jonallendc& @meredithshiner. twitpic.com/c7mswo

    — Jeremy Art (@jeremyart) March 1, 2013

    At the airport & just saw Thomas Friedman, California Tortilla drink in hand, rolling a suitcase & checking out the snack kiosk. #dcmorning

    — Judy Kurtz (@JudyKurtz) March 1, 2013

    Thoughts & prayers are with the family of the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who will be buried today on the grounds of West Point. @usarmy

    — George Little (@PentagonPresSec) February 28, 2013

    Per pool report, at a cultural event in Rome, SoS Kerry joked that the Italians can keep the David if the US can keep George Clooney.

    — Caroline Horn (@CNHorn) February 28, 2013

    By now, you should have chosen a Sequester Buddy and be holding hands.

    — pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) February 28, 2013

    Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

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    Video footage by Eric O'Connor and Reuters. Edited by Noreen Nasir.

    It's been two years since Egyptians celebrated the downfall of their long-standing President Hosni Mubarak in the streets of Cairo.

    But after the rush of the revolution subsided and political battles between parties replaced a united call for democracy, many across Egypt are left with a sense of uncertainty for the country's economic future.

    The PBS NewsHour spoke with Waleed Saad, a cab driver in Cairo, about how the state of events in Egypt have affected him and his family.

    As he drives past the graffiti-laden buildings of the city, he talks about his frustrations with slow business and his hopes of a better Egypt for his children.

    On Friday, PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner explores the state of Egypt's economy two years after the revolution, and how it's impacted an increasingly frustrated public. View more of our World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    Until there is an obvious, sudden and perhaps cataclysmic event, such as a loss of part of the Antarctic ice sheet, the odds would seem to be stacked heavily against climate change legislation, says Harvard's Rob Stavins. But the picture is not nearly so dark as one might think. Photo by KEENPRESS/Getty Images.

    A Note from Paul Solman: A professor of envinromental economics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Rob Stavins is one of the country's leading thinkers on climate policy. Climate wonks regularly read his blog, One Economist's Perspective on Environmental and Natural Resource Policy, as do I.

    In the wake of President Obama's strong push for action on climate change during his second term, I asked Rob to comment for a broader audience here at the Business Desk. He was kind enough to do so.

    Rob Stavins: In his 2013 inaugural address, President Obama surprised many people, including me, by the intensity and the length of his comments on global climate change. Since then, there has been a great deal of discussion about what climate policy initiatives will be forthcoming from the administration in its second term.

    Although I was surprised by the strength and length of what the President said, it did not change my thinking about what we should expect from the second term. I would say the same about the President's State of the Union address.

    What are the top priorities for environmental policy during the second term?

    The Obama administration needs to find balance among four competing forces:

    Demands from some constituencies for more aggressive environmental policies, including on climate change; Demands from other constituencies -- principally in the Congress -- for progress on so called "energy security; Recognition that nothing meaningful is likely to happen if the country's economic problems are not addressed; The reality that a set of other policy initiatives outside of the environmental realm are considered to be more important than climate change both by the administration and by the population at large, including immigration reform and gun control, not to mention the dozen other areas the President highlighted in his State of the Union address.

    What are the roadblocks that would prevent the President from addressing these priorities?

    The key challenge is the unprecedented degree of political polarization that has paralyzed both houses of Congress. The numbers are dramatic. When the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that established the landmark sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowance trading system were being considered in the Congress, political support was not divided on partisan lines. Indeed, environmental and energy debates from the 1970s through much of the 1990s typically broke along geographic lines.

    The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 89-11, and the legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 401-21.

    Environmental politics had changed dramatically, with Congressional support for environmental legislation mainly reflecting partisan divisions.

    In 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, that included a nationwide cap and trade system to cut carbon dioxide emissions. That bill passed by a narrow margin of 219-212, with support from 83 percent of Democrats, but only 4 percent of Republicans.

    Can we expect political polarization to be reversed over the next four years?

    My answer is no: I predict we will continue to see partisan politics and politicians.

    First, there's the increasing importance of the primary election system, which favors those who vote in the primaries: the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats. This self-selection favors candidates from the extremes.

    Second, decades of redistricting have produced more districts that are dominated by either Republican or Democratic voters, which further increases the importance of primary elections.

    Third, geographic sorting of like-minded households has furthered this trend.

    Fourth, the increasing cost of electoral campaigns greatly favors incumbents, with the ratio of average incumbent to challenger financing now exceeding 10 to 1. This makes districts relatively safe for the party that controls the seat, thereby further increasing the importance of primary elections.

    The Great Recession of the past several years, like the Great Depression of the 1930s, has undoubtedly increased the ideological divide. We can hope that better economic times will reduce the pace of polarization. But in the face of the four structural factors, it is difficult to be optimistic about a reversal of Congressional polarization.

    Will there be openings for compromise and progress on climate change policy in President Obama's second term?

    Some policy wonks have been saying that the time for a national carbon tax is at hand. Does the defeat of cap and trade in the Congress, combined with the virtual unwillingness over the past 18 months of the White House to utter the phrase "cap and trade" in public, together presage serious political consideration of a carbon tax?

    The good news perhaps is that a carbon tax is not "cap and trade." That presumably would help with the political messaging. But if conservatives were able to tarnish cap and trade as "cap and tax," it surely will be considerably easier to label a tax as a tax.

    Also, note that President Obama's silence extends beyond disdain for cap and trade. Rather, it covers all carbon pricing regimes. In his State of the Union, the president said: "I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago."

    I am reminded of the infamous trial of Oscar Wilde more than 100 years ago when his supposed sexual sins were famously characterized as "the love that dare not speak its name." In Washington, cap-and-trade has become "the policy that dare not speak its name."

    But if Republicans and Democrats can cooperate to address the short-term and long-term budgetary deficits and decide to increase revenue as well as cut government expenditures, then there could be a political opening for new energy taxes, such as a carbon tax. Still that is a big if.

    Those who recall the 1993 failure of the Clinton administration's BTU tax proposal, with a much less polarized and much more cooperative Congress than today's, will not be sanguine.

    What's the prognosis for action on climate change?

    This may sound like an exceptionally poor prognosis for meaningful action. But in fact, I am confident that there will be climate policy action. Note that in his State of the Union Address, immediately after urging that Congress take action on a market-based solution like the one Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on a few years ago, the President stated "but if Congress won't act soon ... I will ... with executive actions."

    Despite the apparent inaction by the federal government, the official U.S. international commitment to emissions reduction -- a 17 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions below 2005 levels by 2020 -- may well be achieved!

    There are a number of carbon dioxide emissions regulations which are now nearly in place for new sources of carbon dioxide. These regulations came about after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency was free to treat carbon dioxide like localized pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

    Moreover, there are five other rules making their way through the regulatory pipeline on sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, coal fly ash, particulates and cooling water withdrawals. All these regulations will have profound effects in curbing the future use of existing coal-fired electricity.

    And Assembly Bill 32 in the state of California includes a carbon dioxide cap and trade system that is more ambitious than the Waxman-Markey Bill was at the national level.

    Finally, the development of new sources of natural gas in the United States, and impacts on the supply, price, and price trajectory of natural gas, and the consequent movement that has occurred from coal to natural gas for generating electricity

    So there is going to be action that will significantly affect U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. The big difference is that most will not be called "climate policy."

    Virtually all the changes will occur within the regulatory and executive-order domain, not new legislation.

    Will this set of actions and developments put the U.S. on a path to the long-term Waxman-Markey target of an 83 percent reduction below 2005 by 2050? Of course not. For that, a legislated, national carbon pricing regime will be necessary.

    Are there lessons from history that could inform the construction of climate policy over the next four years?

    Nearly all our major environmental laws were enacted over the past 40 years in the wake of highly publicized environmental events, including the spontaneous combustion of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland in 1969 and the discovery of toxic substances at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in the mid-1970s.

    But note that the day after the Cuyahoga River caught fire, no article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer commented that the cause was uncertain, that rivers periodically catch on fire from natural causes. On the contrary, it was immediately apparent that the cause was waste dumped into the river by adjacent industries. A direct consequence of the observed disaster was the Clean Water Act of 1972.

    Climate change is distinctly different. Unlike the environmental threats addressed successfully by past U.S. legislation, climate change is not as easily observed to the general population. As Sen. Mark Rubio stated with conviction and a smile in his response to the President's State of the Union address, "Our government can't control the weather."

    So, notwithstanding last year's experience with superstorm Sandy, and despite some minor changes in polling numbers on climate change, it remains the case that until there is an obvious, sudden, and perhaps cataclysmic event, such as a loss of part of the Antarctic ice sheet leading to a dramatic sea level rise, it is unlikely that public opinion in the United States will provide the tremendous bottom up demand that led to Congressional environmental action in the past.

    That need not mean that there can be no truly meaningful, national climate policy -- such as carbon pricing -- until disaster has struck. But it does mean that popular demand may not come in time, and that instead what will be required is inspired leadership at the highest level that can somehow begin to bridge the debilitating partisan political divide.

    Robert N. Stavins is a professor of business and government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, co-editor of the "Review of Environmental Economics and Policy," and a member of the Board of Academic Advisors of the Regulatory Markets Center.

    This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman

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    Protesters marched Feb. 6 against the government, saying it hasn't done enough to protect women from violence in Tahrir Square and Mohamed Mahmoud Street in Cairo. Photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters.

    Tahrir Square, the site known around the world for Egypt's historic revolution has another much more dubious reputation -- as a dangerous place for women.

    Many learned of this distinction when news broke about the mob sexual assault on CBS News correspondent Lara Logan in February 2011. Although the spotlight on the issue has gone away somewhat, activists say it's still very much a problem.

    The formula for the attacks on female protesters in the square, they say, has become familiar and vicious: Men will surround a woman, separating her from her companions, grope her, sometimes ripping off her clothes, and sexually assault her.

    In the ensuing chaos, the attackers sometimes will turn on the people trying to help her, or pretend they're helping the woman when they're actually continuing to sexually violate her.

    The mob violence against women has become such a problem at large-scale protests in Tahrir Square that -- in the absence of protection from the Egyptian authorities -- grassroots groups have organized to raise awareness and protect women in the crowd.

    One such group is Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, which formed in November. One of its members, Engy Ghozlan, who also co-founded HarassMap, told us by phone that during a large protest in Tahrir on Jan. 25, at least 19 gang attacks were reported nearly simultaneously in the square.

    "The violence used is becoming more and more vicious," she said, and the similar techniques make people think it's an organized method of intimidation -- though they don't know by whom. "In Egypt, we've been living with sexual harassment for so long, we can tell what is just sexual harassment and what is intended to tell you 'you're not welcome here'."

    During the previous regime of Hosni Mubarak, who resigned in 2011, female protesters who were arrested reported being stripped and forced to have virginity tests while in custody, said Ghozlan. The current ruling Muslim Brotherhood has denied being behind the more recent attacks, but it isn't doing much about the problem either, she said.

    The Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to the PBS NewsHour's requests for comment on this story.

    A view of Tahrir Square. Tahrir means "liberation" and is considered the heart of the uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters.

    Some of the women who were assaulted declined to be interviewed, but in written accounts they described people's hands reaching under their clothes to touch their breasts, genitals and buttocks, and being beaten with sticks and knives.

    When an attack is occurring, and people are trying to pull the woman to safety, sometimes nearby shopkeepers close their doors because they don't want to admit the unruly crowd, some volunteers say. So Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault has established safe houses around the square, where the assaulted women can get clothes, medical care and information about legal assistance.

    During protests, the group positions volunteers wearing identifying T-shirts around the square to be on the lookout for the mob attacks and to intervene when they occur.

    The group also has posted telephone numbers on its Facebook page for people to call when they need help or to report an assault.

    Egypt's Human Rights Committee of the Shura Council (Upper House) met Feb. 11 about the mob violence against women, where some politicians reportedly said women could protect themselves by avoiding the square.

    But the attacks appear to be having the opposite effect. Those who were assaulted often continue to protest in Tahrir, and some have joined the anti-harassment organization, Ghozlan said. "Our message is women are not scared and will continue to go there, and [this method of intimidation] isn't working."

    Related Resources:

    Amnesty International issued a Feb. 6 report: Gender-Based Violence Against Women in Tahrir Square that chronicles some of the women's experiences.

    Our partners at GlobalPost published this account of what happens to the women protesters told by Bridgette Auger, who herself was molested while reporting in Tahrir Square:

    View more of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter:

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  • 03/01/13--06:42: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    Arlo Ricketts, 17 months, sits beside a piece of work entitled "Columba" by artist Roseline de Thelin during the Kinetica Art Fair in London. The event is the U.K.'s only art fair dedicated to kinetic, robotic, sound, electric and new media-based art. Photo by Dan Kitwood/ Getty Images.

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    The ocean, by some estimates, holds enough salt to cover the entire surface of the Earth, layered to the height of a 40-story office building.

    Much of the salt in the ocean comes from rock that gets eroded by slightly-acidic rainwater. Carbon dioxide in the rainwater chemically breaks down the rocks, flushing dissolved salts -- lots of them -- into riverbeds, streams and eventually the ocean. Geothermal vents that churn water with dissolved minerals from the Earth's hot crust are another source of salt. A cubic mile of seawater contains about 120 million tons of salt, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    In June 2011, NASA launched its first satellite designed to measure ocean saltiness. From more than 400 miles above Earth, the Aquarius mission scans and maps salt in the Earth's oceans with unprecedented precision. The equipment on the satellite is sensitive enough to detect the equivalent of a pinch of salt in a one-gallon bucket of water.

    Last week, the Aquarius team released dazzling new maps that chronicle changes in sea surface saltiness. It showed wide variations in different ocean regions. In the North Pacific, for example, heavy rainfall dilutes the seawater's saltiness. And in Africa, a wonderful plume of freshwater pulses from the Amazon River and into the sea. The saltiest patch of water stretches across the North Atlantic Ocean, where little rainfall and lots of evaporation occurs.

    Freshwater is constantly getting sucked out of the ocean by evaporation and rising as water vapor into the atmosphere, where it condenses and then gets dumped back into the ocean as rainfall. And as changes in climate cause the rates of evaporation and rainfall to change and intensify, so do variations in ocean saltiness.

    Measuring how salt is distributed throughout the ocean can tell us a great deal about climate: By tracking salinity, scientists can measure changes in the freezing and melting of sea ice, rainfall, evaporation, ocean temperature and circulation -- all crucial factors for understanding the planet's water cycle.

    "When we think about ocean circulation, most people are familiar with currents that move horizontally," said Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer and project manager for the Aquarius mission. "But the oceans are over seven miles deep, and there's also a three-dimensional circulation of ocean water, which is very critical for helping regulate many things on the planet -- most importantly temperature."

    Ocean temperature is critical to understanding global temperatures. In fact, the upper three meters of ocean holds as much heat as the entire atmosphere, Feldman said.

    "The ocean is an incredibly efficient heat sink -- storing heat and moving it around the planet," he added. "That's why Sioux Falls, South Dakota is a hell of a lot colder than Seattle, Washington. The ocean waters around Seattle help moderate the temperature."

    One other thing: Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere are influenced by ocean salinity and the water cycle. Surface waters that are saltier or colder than surrounding waters are more dense and tend to sink. Elements like carbon dioxide that may be dissolved in those waters will sink into the ocean depths, sometimes staying underwater and out of the atmosphere for thousands, even tens of thousands of years, William Large, director of the climate and global dynamics division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told us in an interview shortly before the launch in 2011. Had the ocean not been been taking up tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would be much higher, he said.


    Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, though different, share several "genetic glitches that can nudge the brain along a path to mental illness," researchers -- and Gina Kolata -- report in the New York Times.

    Don't miss our report on what changes in winter climate and a lack of steady snowfall has meant for the ski industry. Watch the video report here:

    Watch Video

    With the number of antibiotic resistant infections on the rise and fewer medicines in development, drug makers are looking down -- 1,600 feet down -- for clues about resistance, Bloomberg reports.

    "The brains of two rats on different continents have been made to act in tandem," Nature's Ed Yong reports. "When the first, in Brazil, uses its whiskers to choose between two stimuli, an implant records its brain activity and signals to a similar device in the brain of a rat in the United States." It's fascinating. And you can watch how it works here:

    For the National Science Foundation's latest Science Nation, Miles O'Brien looks at the social structure and of invasive fire ants.

    Photographs of internal ocean waves -- seen here from the north coast of Trinidad -- have been captured by the International Space Station.

    Thursday was Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Here are 25 of the world's most powerful female engineers, according to Business Insider.


    Scientists subject King Richard I's heart to a battery of tests. "Scanning electron microscopy identified pollen grains from myrtle, mint and other known embalming plants, as well as poplar and bellflower, which were in bloom when the king died." From Nature.

    Rebecca Jacobson, Patti Parson and David Pelcyger contributed to this report.

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    The classroom sometimes gets a little blurry for Rosie, a fifth-grader in Colorado. And when it does -- when she starts picturing her teacher as a banana or her classmates as apples -- Rosie reads a single word that she's written on her desk: "Focus."

    "Every time I look at it, I'm like, 'Oh, I'm supposed to be focusing,'" Rosie said. "I struggle a lot. And most of the time, it's because my stomach is really hurting."

    Rosie is one of 50 million people in the U.S. today living with "food insecurity," meaning they don't always have access to enough nutritious food to live an active and healthy life. Her story is part of a "A Place at the Table," a new documentary challenging assumptions about who is hungry and why.

    Co-director Lori Silverbush stopped by the PBS NewsHour recently to talk with Ray Suarez about the film and why the United States, which produces more food per person than any other country in the world, still has a major problem with hunger.

    Watch their conversation above or read the full transcript below.

    Among the low-income parents she interviewed for the the film, Silverbush was particularly impacted by Barbara Izquierdo, a single mother in north Philadelphia. "Barbie" struggled for years to put food on the table for her two small children. The battle became even harder after she landed a low-wage job and began making just above the income level to qualify for Food Stamps.

    "She was cut off immediately," Silverbush said. "And her children, as a consequence of her working, were cut off from a state-subsidized day care, where they received healthy meals. Ironically, after going to work and fulfilling her side of the 'social contract,' as we like to think of it, her children were hungrier than before." Watch an excerpt from Barbie's portion of the film:

    While Izquierdo was outspoken about her situation, Silverbush said it was difficult to convince others to talk so freely -- especially in a documentary.

    "These are people who are quite proud, quite private and were not necessarily looking to talk about something that some of them felt some shame around. You know, this is an issue that carries a good deal of stigma," she said. "It shouldn't. But it does."

    Those who do seek help often turn to the generosity of the community. But there can be nutritional problems with charity food, too, the film points out -- especially if a family is forced to rely on it for the long-term.

    "A Place at the Table" opens nationwide March 1 in theaters, on iTunes, and on-demand through some cable providers. For more information, visit the film's website. The above photos and clips from the film were provided by Magnolia Pictures.


    RAY SUAREZ: Joining me now is the film's co-director, Lori Silverbush. You take us to visit working poor families around the country in a rural area, right in the heart of a big American city and in a small town. Were they glad to have you there?

    LORI SILVERBUSH: At times.

    RAY SUAREZ: Did they find it an intrusion?

    LORI SILVERBUSH: Well I think we worked very hard to establish trust and develop relationships. We didn't just show up with a camera and say, 'Let us in and shoot.' We cast a really wide net. We learned in our research that every single county in the United States is grappling with this issue. That meant that we wanted to represent the wide variety of people facing food insecurity.

    There were a number of groups that are very active working on this and they were able to introduce us to people that you meet in our film, like Pastor Bob, who introduced us to the community of Collbran in Colorado. He was able to show us a town where every single member of the town is impacted in one way or another by food insecurity. And these are people who are quite proud, quite private and were not necessarily looking to talk about something that some of them felt some shame around. You know, this is an issue that carries a good deal of stigma. It shouldn't. But it does. And over time, we were able to get people to understand that we were on their side and that they were not to blame -- at least we didn't think they were to blame -- for the situation they found themselves in. And they opened up quite courageously in most cases.

    RAY SUAREZ: Along with the personal, you also give us a quick schooling in politics and policy. On purpose, I'm sure, but you have to be careful, I guess.

    LORI SILVERBUSH: Well, yes, you have to be careful. But also the nice thing about being an independent filmmaker, as is my partner, Kristi Jacobson, is that our jobs don't depend on towing somebody else's line. We could tell it as we saw it. And we let the issue teach us what was going on. And what we learned, as you pointed out, is this country has more than enough food. So food insecurity in this country is not an issue of scarcity. It's an issue of, quite frankly, politics. We have policies in place that are keeping people from being able to either afford adequate food or access adequate food. And when something has a political cause, then it should have a political solution.

    RAY SUAREZ: We meet families that are working hard and working a lot and still not making ends meet. And the gruesome story of Barbara Izquierdo in Philadelphia, who, after a long spell of unemployment, gets back to work and automatically loses a lot of the programs that were helping her keep food on the table.

    LORI SILVERBUSH: Yeah, Barbie was an amazing character because she was simultaneously dramatic and interesting to watch but also super-articulate. And despite her struggles and despite how hard she was working to be a good role model to her children and to provide healthy food for them, she was also an activist on a national level around this as part of the Witnesses to Hunger, which were 40 women in the north Philly area who had documented the struggle to put food on the table. They were taking their photographs around the country and showing people.

    And through her activism, Barbie got a job after many, many months of unemployment through no fault of her own, and she ended up getting a job. It was counseling other people and helping them get food benefits. And she got so much satisfaction and so much self-worth and she was so excited. But the truth is that the salary that she got paid put her just above the level of qualification for SNAP, which is what we call Food Stamps today. And she was cut off immediately. And her children, as a consequence of her working, were cut off from a state-subsidized day care, where they received healthy meals. And ironically, after going to work and fulfilling her side of the "social contract," as we like to think of it, her children were hungrier than before.

    RAY SUAREZ: One of the toughest things to watch in the whole movie for me had to do with the little girl in Colorado.


    RAY SUAREZ: A baby can't tell you what's wrong with them. They know something's wrong but they don't know what it is. An adult can sometimes pull up their socks and do something about their predicament.

    LORI SILVERBUSH: Sometimes.

    RAY SUAREZ: Rosie was old enough to know what was wrong but too young to do much about it. And when she was talking about being hungry at school and having a note on the top of her desk that said, 'Focus,' to take her mind off the hunger pangs in her stomach, that was awful.

    LORI SILVERBUSH: It's pretty awful. And you have to ask yourself, we're in this nation where 17 million children face food insecurity, which means that at any given time, their families don't know where their next meal is coming from. We're investing all of this money and energy into teachers. And yet we're setting up our kids for failure if they show up for school too hungry or too malnourished, even if they're not feeling hunger pangs. But if all their family can afford is the empty calories from a pack of Ramen Noodles or some chips or whatever the cheapest calories are that they can give their kids to eat -- because that is sadly, what many, many millions of Americans can afford -- what are we saying about our aspirations for our nation's kids, putting them in front of teachers but unable to learn? And then, frankly, often blaming them for the situation.

    A hungry kid isn't always easy to recognize. It could be a kid who looks like everybody else but is acting out or isn't able to sit still or isn't listening or isn't absorbing. And that could even become a social and a behavioral problem and a disciplinary problem. So we're really not serving our kids well by not paying attention to this. And we're being, frankly, a little irresponsible with our taxpayers' dollars by spending money on schools but not delivering children who can learn.

    RAY SUAREZ: So you watch the movie and these beautifully drawn portraits and gorgeous photography. You sympathize, you empathize, and then what?

    LORI SILVERBUSH: Well for one thing, I think that it's going to land for people because there are stories that look like you, they look like me. We were able in our making of this movie to debunk a lot of our own stereotypes about who goes hungry. And hopefully when people see this movie, they're going to go, 'Wow, I didn't realize this. This is a cop, this is a mother, this is a rancher, this is a teacher. These are people that I know in my community. And it's much harder to ignore something when you can no longer claim it as the other.

    Fifty million Americans are suffering from this, which means every single American is impacted, whether they know it or not. And if kids are going hungry in your kids classroom, then that's resources that are being taken from your kids because of the extra demands that that places on the system. And if you're paying the health care bill for people that have diseases and illnesses related to hunger and malnutrition and obesity, that's also affecting you. So everybody has a stake in fixing this.

    And one of the great things is that at the same thing as this movie launches, on March 1, and it's coming into theaters, it'll be on iTunes the same day, it'll be on-demand the same day, so that people all over the country can see it whether they're near a movie theater playing it or not. And the same day, we're launching a national action center, the first of its kind around hunger, where all of the major national hunger groups are getting together, also with state groups and with local groups. You can plug in your zip code and find out exactly what you can do at any given moment to affect the policies that are being decided right now on the Hill, to affect what's happening in your own backyard, to engage on any level of activism that you want.

    The truth is that if we engage as citizens on this and let our representatives know that it's time to fix this, they will fix it. But we can't expect government to do the right thing unless we've told them that it matters to us. So hopefully this film is going to give people the awareness, the engagement and excitement around it, wants to activate them and then will give them very clear and accessible tools to do that.

    RAY SUAREZ: The film is "A Place at the Table." Lori Silverbush, thanks a lot.

    LORI SILVERBUSH: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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  • 03/01/13--09:28: On the PBS NewsHour Tonight
  • On Friday's NewsHour:

    The deadline to reach an alternative to mandatory budget cuts has come without a deal -- we'll look at the immediate impacts and those to come

    Unrest still seethes in Egypt, putting the economy there in peril

    A new documentary looks at "food insecurity" here in the U.S.

    Plus, Mark Shields and David Brooks

    While the above promo is written for the radio in the morning, it is a tentative snapshot of what we're covering on the show. With the ebb and flow of news headlines, chances are segments will be added, scrapped or moved to another night.

    Tune in to the broadcast at 6 p.m. ET, online and on-air.

    Follow @NewsHour

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    Mary Zimmerman, a member of Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company and a professor at Northwestern University, started working on her adaptation of "Metamorphoses" back in 1996. Based on the classical mythology by Ovid and notably set in a pool of water (a nod to the ancient maritime cultures), the play earned her a 2002 Tony Award and a claim as one of the theater world's leading directors. Zimmerman has now returned with 'Metamorphoses' in a production at Washington's Arena Stage.

    Zimmerman joined me for a conversation at our studio:

    Watch Video

    Read the transcript after the jump.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Welcome to you.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I want to take you back. Do you remember the original excitement and challenge of doing this?

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: I do, absolutely. I had this idea of doing myths in water. You know it's such a maritime culture and story, these Greek and Roman myths, and in this case with "Metamorphoses," it's so much about transformation and change and water.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you thought about the water early on?

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Oh, yes. It was sort of myths and water. Actually, originally it was "The Odyssey" in water, but I went on to do that on dry land. And then I ended up doing this, at the time, little school show at Northwestern called "Six Myths" in a way to just test out that water. But I do remember the first time the students got in the water, going home that night and just being sort of vibrating with excitement about it. And also feeling like I might be in trouble because it was so sexy. They were my students, and it was just so very sensual and sexy and beautiful. And I remember when we first professionally produced it with Lookingglass Theater, during what are called technical rehearsals, when we add the lights and costumes and stuff like that -- a whole night during that that I didn't sleep, with the excitement of like, I cannot wait for people to see this. There is a moment where a woman's lying asleep on the shore. She's in very shallow water and her reflection is mirror-like and perfect. And I just remember I couldn't sleep with the kind of overwhelming beauty of it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really, so the sort of ah-ha moment came fairly early that this could work.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes. I mean the water is so real. And it helps the actors a great deal, it stands in for very literal things: They row in it and when the oars hit the water, that's not something that's a recorded sound or manufactured. It's like actually happening. But then the water is also very metaphorical. So it stands in for grief -- when they grief-stricken, they take handfuls of water and put it on their face and they look tear-stained. Or its very, very sensual. Or they dissolve into it. And then sometimes it's just like a swimming pool, and then it's very funny when it's suddenly used literally. The audience really likes that late in the show.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What is it is about the myths themselves? And you've gone to other classical texts in the past.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: You know all of-- most of what I spent my career, as it is, doing is stories that were oral to begin with. And I believe that they belong in the air, they belong as told events.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not the way that most of us experience them

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes. And it's not just a conspiracy of classicism, English professors, that they've remained with us. It's because they speak to something fundamental about being a person. And these myths are sort of impenetrable. There is something that always remains mysterious. You sense a symbolic and psychological content, but what that is is shifty and unknown a little bit. They pull me in very deeply that way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When you are doing something else -- and I'm thinking back, I saw a production you did of "Pericles" at Shakespeare Theater here -- so when you are doing something else that isn't based on that myth, do you require some other challenge or some other way into those?

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Well, that's Shakespeare. And I love-- you know, "Pericles" is a very epic tale, it's up my alley. It involves sea voyages, which I always like.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The water.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: And mistaken identity and lost children and found-- you know all of that. It has an epic quality.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But it has a text and it has--

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes, it's a text.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's Shakespeare.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: And it's an entirely different approach. I mean the way I do my shows is unusual. I start with no script and I write just a day ahead of the actors and I bring it in every morning, every morning a little bit more, a little bit more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes. I do that in the same timeframe that most just normal plays rehearse in, so it's a very pressured situation. So I feel like when I'm directing something that's already achieved, such as "Pericles" by William Shakespeare, in the evening I can go to a movie or go out to eat or actually have a thought about something else. But when I'm in this process, there is no other thing but figuring out what I'm going to do the next day and how to get the story told. It's not a complete leap in the dark, because I have a text it's based on. In this case though, I had my choice of all, all of the myths of Greece of Rome. So I'm trying to structure an evening. And it's not like I've done the Odyssey, which has a beautiful structure that's given already. I'm trying to find the structure, as well as just the individual incidents -- how am I going to stage them? Because these were not conceived conveniently to be staged. You know, how are you going to do sea battles, and so forth?

    JEFFREY BROWN: But if you are doing it this, I don't know, frantically down to the wire, so you literally come in the next day and here is what you are going to do, and then if that doesn't work you've got to redo it quickly, down to a deadline.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes, yes, I do. Down to a deadline. And it's-- I've done it so often and for so long that I'm pretty confident on it and I work a lot of the time with the same people, and like I say, there is a text that we're working from something that's being adapted, so it's not a total leap. The set is also already designed because just in the way practically how it works it has to be being built by the time we're in rehearsal. And so the set actually helps me make the script. In this case, I chose myths that lean into the water, that benefit from the water, that can use it symbolically, that are amplified by the water, that have something to do with the water. And that helps me, that helps me shape the show actually.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So here you are back with "Metamorphoses," and you did it in Chicago, and you are doing it here in Washington. Is it like remaking it again, or what happens?

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: You know, it's undergoing its most radical change in a way here in D.C., because we're at the Arena and it's in the round -- or in the rectangle -- and that has been really, really challenging because some of our little tricks are more difficult to--

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, because people can see them.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes. There is nowhere to hide. I keep saying it's like being in the Roman coliseum, but less lions. You know, but we are sort of exposed. And they are all around. And the pool imposes certain constraints. And wanting to share equally, side to side, imposes other constraints. So it's been challenging but that's but I wanted to do it. Like I don't need to go around the country and keep doing Metamorphoses the rest of my life. But this was a unique, the space seemed to invite it. Everyone's looking down on the water, it's intimate and it just felt like a great welcoming space for it. So we wanted to bring it here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And in fact I want to ask you about the new thing you are working on.


    JEFFREY BROWN: "Jungle Book."

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes, I am.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A new challenge. One that people have in their heads, again.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes, they do. It's a double-edged sword. I haven't met a human being that doesn't say, "oh, I'm coming to see that," which they don't say when you say I'm doing the myths of Greece and Rome or "The Notebooks of the Leonardo Da Vinci," or "In Search of Lost Time." They actually don't say that believe it or not? But when you say ,I'm doing Disney's "Jungle Book" or Kipling's "Jungle Book," everyone is "I'm there, I'm there." Which is great. You feel like the production is born on third base in a way, but also terribly frightening because it can't be the film and it can't be the books. It's something in between.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Alright, that's "Jungle Book" in Chicago in June.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Yes, it's the summer show at the Goodman Theater.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And right now at Arena is "Metamorphoses." Mary Zimmerman thanks so much.

    MARY ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

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    President Barack Obama addressed sequestration in a press conference from the White House today. "This is not going to be an apocalypse. ... It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt," he said, referring to the $85 billion in cuts to government programs set to kick in Friday evening.

    There was much discussion in Washington this week on whether the impending failure to avert $85 billion in cuts to government programs -- the sequester -- resulted from a failure to communicate.

    Did the White House and congressional Republicans not fully understand each other's bottom lines in the negotiations leading to the impasse that became official Friday?

    The sequester took effect because Democrats called for new tax revenues and Republicans demanded there be none.

    The debate over when those positions became clear was fueled by a report from the Washington Post's Bob Woodward saying the White House did not tell Republicans early on it would insist the $85 billion in sequester cuts be replaced partially by new tax revenues.

    Woodward's report said the call for revenues not been the original White House position and amounted to "moving the goalposts."

    That sparked a well-publicized flurry of heated emails between Woodward and the head of the White House National Economic Council, Gene Sperling. (If you haven't been watching cable news, the Post's Paul Farhi has a nice wrap of these odd developments here.)

    But some Republicans maintain it was not always clear that President Obama's call for a "balanced approach" to replacing the sequester was a non-negotiable demand for revenues from closing tax loopholes.

    They say it was at least unexpected given that Republicans had agreed in January to a $600 billion, 10-year income tax hike on the wealthiest Americans.

    "They never said [tax demands would end there] but the expectation was you got what you asked for, you got 'millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share,' as you always wanted," Don Stewart, Deputy Chief of Staff for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, told me this week.

    Stewart says when the sequester was negotiated in 2011, "they asked for part of the [make-up] to be spending cuts and [part] tax hikes. We said no." Republicans wanted all spending cuts.

    That negotiation was aimed at removing the recurring fight over raising the federal debt limit from broader deficit reduction talks.

    "So [Republicans] said, in exchange for a larger debt ceiling [agreement], the sequester would be made up only of cuts," Stewart said.

    That's not the way principal deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest recalls those early negotiations with Republicans.

    "Remember, the sequester also was supposed to kick in on Jan. 1, as part of the 'fiscal cliff.' They don't [have an argument] simply because on Jan. 1 we bought down the sequester for a few weeks in a balanced way -- half revenues, half spending. It was balanced and split and that's the approach we've taken all along," Earnest told me Friday. "We never said [sequester could be eliminated] with only spending cuts. Unless they never read the newspaper, used the Internet, or listened to the radio. I'm not sure why they're saying that."

    No matter what was said -- or understood -- in the past, the across-the-board sequester cuts now are law.

    Earnest says the White House expects that ultimately enough congressional Republicans will agree to an arrangement on revenue from closing tax loopholes that will restore the government-wide spending cuts.

    But he says he also expects that won't happen until after some government workers and contractors lose days of work and some people who rely on government services don't get them because of the sequester.

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    Add the nation's research community to those joining the chorus of upset voices decrying automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that will begin going into effect Friday.

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is calling on Congress to develop a bipartisan solution, saying in a petition that sequestration is a threat to national competitiveness.

    "Today, AAAS is asking for your help in urging federal policymakers to protect R&D funding from these potentially devastating cuts...That is not good for science, but it is also bad for an economy whose growth is driven by advances in science and technology," AAAS chief executive Alan Leshner said in a letter on the 'Speak up for Science' petition that features comments and videos from researchers, scientists and students. Implementing the sequestration cuts would mean a loss through 2017 of $57 billion to research and development, AAAS says.

    KETC's Jim Kirchherr

    Jim Kirchherr of PBS NewsHour public media partner KETC in St Louis, Mo., says that based on conversations with his sources, the cuts would make a big impact on a major research university in his community.

    "Washington University, which gets hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research grants, has put out a statement that says how specifically it would impact in particular areas of research," Kirchherr said.

    Some of the research the university conducts includes studies on Alzheimer's disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. "They told me that last fiscal year they were doing $452 billion of federally funded scientific research in fiscal year 2012. Their message has been that it's a lost opportunity to the nation's global competitiveness."

    Based on his reporting, Kirchherr says that the impact of the cuts may mean less money for a particular research project or result in a project not receiving funding.

    "I think I saw a number that for every time you get a grant to do some research, you are going to hire five or six people to work out that project and that's an employment issue, and I think that is what this is going to come down to," Kirchherr said.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The final hours ticked down today to the much-talked about sequester, $85 billion dollars in automatic across-the-board federal spending cuts. A White House meeting produced little, except a new round of political combat.

    The top two Democrats in Congress trooped to the executive mansion this morning, along with the top two Republicans. But the hour-long session with the president produced no breakthroughs. And minutes later, he appeared in the White House Briefing Room, making clear what he thinks of the sequester.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We shouldn't be making a series of dumb arbitrary cuts to things that businesses depend on and workers depend on, like education and research and infrastructure and defense.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president was also adamant on where the blame lies, with those who balked at erasing tax loopholes for the wealthy and other revenue-raisers.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: None of this is necessary. It's happening because a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They have allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Republicans were having none of it. Shortly before the president emerged, House Speaker John Boehner again rejected the demand for more taxes.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: The president got his tax hikes on January 1. This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president now has until just before midnight to issue an order that makes the cuts official. It will be weeks before many of the effects are felt. But within days, federal agencies will start sending out notices that hiring freezes and furloughs are coming.

    In addition, the Associated Press reported 2,000 illegal immigrants in detention were released in recent weeks to save money on jail costs. The administration had said the number was a few hundred. And newly installed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today the military is implementing the largest cuts in nearly 30 years.

    DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL, United States: Let me make it clear that this uncertainty puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfill all of our missions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Army has curtailed training for nearly 80 percent of combat brigades. And, in Norfolk, Va., home to the Navy's Atlantic Fleet, the aircraft carrier Harry Truman sits idle. It was to have sailed for the Persian Gulf last month.

    Back at the White House today, the president voiced frustration at suggestions he should have done more to prevent all this.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal. The fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One thing both sides did seem to agree on, the need for a stopgap bill to keep the government running past March 27, when it runs out of funds.

    JOHN BOEHNER: And I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time. The House will act next week, and I hope the Senate will follow suit. Thanks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: House members and senators are due to return to Washington Monday. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama today spoke out against California's ban on gay marriage. His statement came one day after the administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the ban as unconstitutional. The president once opposed gay marriage, but changed his stance during his reelection campaign. He said today he and the country have evolved.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When the Supreme Court essentially called the question by taking this case about California's law, I didn't feel like that was something that this administration could avoid. I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Two hundred congressional Democrats also filed a brief today urging the court to overturn the California ban. They join more than 100 prominent Republicans who voiced their support earlier in the week. The justices will hear oral arguments in late March.

    A federal judge in California has cut a $1 billion dollar damage award in the Apple-Samsung fight by nearly a half. Samsung will now have to pay Apple just under $600 million dollars for infringing on smartphone and tablet computer patents. The judge also ordered a new trial on some of Apple's allegations in the case.

    Wall Street ended the week with small gains. The Dow Jones industrial average added 35 points to close at 14,089. The Nasdaq rose nine points to close at 3,169. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq gained a fraction of a percent.

    February was a good month for most major automakers in the U.S. Ford reported today its sales rose nine percent last month, while General Motors climbed seven percent, its best showing since Feb. of 2008. Sales for both Chrysler and Toyota were up four percent.

    The prime minister of Turkey drew widespread criticism today over comments about Zionism. At a U.N. conference this week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said prejudice against Muslims is a crime against humanity, in his words -- quote -- "Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism."

    In Ankara, Turkey, today, the visiting U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, sharply criticized the statement.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: Obviously, we not only disagree with it. We found it objectionable. It is essential that both Turkey and Israel find a way to take steps in order to bring about or to rekindle their historic cooperation. I think that's possible. But, obviously, we have to get beyond the kind of rhetoric that we have just seen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned Erdogan's comment, calling it -- quote -- "a dark and mendacious statement."

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.


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