Articles on this Page
- 03/07/13--13:39: _Pakistani Man Seeks...
- 03/07/13--13:46: _Arkansas Abortion L...
- 03/07/13--14:44: _Old Fashioned Filib...
- 03/08/13--02:50: _Gwen's Take: Washin...
- 03/08/13--03:40: _Obama Steps Up Outr...
- 03/08/13--05:30: _Governance in India...
- 03/08/13--05:45: _In Democratic Repub...
- 03/08/13--06:02: _Companies Hire 236,...
- 03/08/13--06:44: _The Daily Frame
- 03/08/13--07:00: _Former GOP Senator ...
- 03/08/13--07:09: _Conversation: Glenn...
- 03/08/13--07:51: _Gretel Ehrlich Read...
- 03/08/13--08:00: _Curiosity Sleeps Th...
- 03/08/13--10:21: _This Week From the ...
- 03/08/13--10:31: _Is It Inevitable Th...
- 03/08/13--13:02: _February Brings Dro...
- 03/08/13--13:04: _How Will Employment...
- 03/08/13--13:08: _Colorado Senate Beg...
- 03/08/13--13:13: _News Wrap: North Ko...
- 03/08/13--13:17: _Son-in-Law of Bin L...
- 03/07/13--13:39: Pakistani Man Seeks Justice, Resolution for Family's Honor Killing
- 03/07/13--13:46: Arkansas Abortion Law Bans Procedures After 12 Weeks of Pregnancy
- 03/07/13--14:44: Old Fashioned Filibuster Facts
- 03/08/13--02:50: Gwen's Take: Washington at Work (No, really.)
- 03/08/13--03:40: Obama Steps Up Outreach to Republicans, But Hurdles Remain
- 03/08/13--05:30: Governance in India: Women's Rights
- 03/08/13--05:45: In Democratic Republic of Congo, Women Face Deep-Seated Bias
- 03/08/13--06:44: The Daily Frame
- 03/08/13--07:00: Former GOP Senator Reflects on Presidential Meals and Meetings
- 03/08/13--07:09: Conversation: Glenn Frankel's 'The Searchers'
- 03/08/13--07:51: Gretel Ehrlich Reads From 'Facing the Wave'
- 03/08/13--08:00: Curiosity Sleeps Through Solar Flare
- 03/08/13--10:31: Is It Inevitable That the United States Will Default?
- 03/08/13--13:02: February Brings Drop in Unemployment, Best Job Report in Four Years
- 03/08/13--13:04: How Will Employment, Earnings Change as U.S. Job Market Recovers?
- 03/08/13--13:08: Colorado Senate Begins Voting on Gun Measures
- 03/08/13--13:13: News Wrap: North Korea Cancels Non-Aggression Pact
- 03/08/13--13:17: Son-in-Law of Bin Laden Pleads Not Guilty in New York Civilian Court
JEFFREY BROWN: For those stations not taking a pledge break, we have the story of a Pakistani man seeking justice for the murder of his family. Jonathan Rudman of Independent Television News reports -- and a warning: some of the story's details may be distressing.
JONATHAN RUDMAN, Independent Television News: Atisham Ohak is going back to the home he has avoided for almost a year to the house where he lived with his wife and two children.
The walk up the stairs is agonizingly hard because inside and stacked on a single shelf is all that is left of his family.
Atisham finds his children's blankets, his wife's handbag, her pots and pans, covered in dust.
Her name was Nargis. They had fallen in love after he had given her a ride in his taxi. And they were blissfully happy until she was found dead in a field, stabbed, shot, beaten and strangled.
Their children were killed first and there's a simple dignity now in doing up their buttons, the buttons of a four-year-old boy and a baby girl, who were thrown from the roof of a building while their mother was forced to watch.
The last time he saw his children was when he took them to the shops for a packet of crisps. Then his wife received a phone call. It was urgent. Her mother was sick and dying. She had to rush to the bedside.
It was a lie. Nargis' family disapproved of her marriage to a mere driver and they were luring her into a trap. When Nargis didn't come home, her husband went back to driving a minibus to distract himself from the worry. His passengers saw photographs of his murdered family in the newspapers as he was driving. He didn't have a clue that the family they were telling him about was his.
ATISHAM OHAK: They were saying, "Look at these photos. Look at these poor people. I wonder who these unlucky people are?" I turned around and wondered who they were. I looked, but I could not recognize them, because their faces were so badly disfigured.
JONATHAN RUDMAN: Nargis was murdered near her hometown of Mardan. It looked like a so-called honor killing, and her family were the prime suspects. But instead of seeking justice, Pakistani police arrested Atisham and his two brothers, who say they were tortured for four months.
ATISHAM OHAK: The police told my brothers, "We know you didn't do the murders. Just give a statement against your brother, Atisham, saying he did it."
JONATHAN RUDMAN: Last year, this court released Atisham and his brothers after a judge agreed they had been framed. His dead wife's own mother is now on trial, along with her brother, uncle and aunt. But her husband fears the family has paid bribes so that the case will never be heard.
It's almost a year since the murders now, yet there have been no funerals. Atisham is still looking for the bodies of his family.
At the local cemetery, he can find no graves with their names on. But the gravedigger does remember a hasty burial and how he dug a hole for a mutilated woman and two small children right here.
Atisham pulls back the grass by hand. He has found his adored wife, Nargis, his baby girl, Alisha and his little boy, Shyam. He uses a simple brick to mark the spot where he says his wife's family covered up their terrible crime.
Atisham wants a moment alone. But it's too noisy here to think. This is no place to reflect on the murder of his wife or of his children, hurled from a rooftop in front of her.
Can you remember how you felt at that moment, when you were clearing the grass of this unmarked grave?
ATISHAM OHAK: I've still not built the graves properly because I still can't believe it's really them. He said it was them, that this was the woman who was slaughtered.
This was the little girl who had stab wounds her and the marks of being hit by an ax. And this was the boy with marks on his body. But I did not see them in the coffins myself. So I cannot believe these are the graves of my children and my wife.
JONATHAN RUDMAN: Atisham told me his wife had been killed because she had disgraced her rich family by marrying a poor man like him. He carries photocopies of her letters -- over 70 of them -- full of the desperation of forbidden love.
ATISHAM OHAK: I love you very, very, very, very, very, very much. I miss you. I miss you very much all the night and day. 'Bye.
JONATHAN RUDMAN: Back in his old home, this was the moment he dreaded most, sorting through his children's abandoned toys. In a neighborhood now too painful to stay long.
ATISHAM OHAK: The shop where my children used to go.
It's very difficult to walk around that area.
My children used to play in those streets a lot.
JONATHAN RUDMAN: And he's talking to me, he says, because it's his only hope of getting his family's killers jailed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 women and girls around the world are killed by family members each year.
JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, Arkansas has passed the nation's most restrictive abortion law. Passed by the Republican-controlled legislature over the Democratic governor's veto, it imposes a near-ban on the procedure from the 12th week of pregnancy.
Hari Sreenivasan has our look.
HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on what happened in Arkansas and the broader context of what's happening in other states, we turn to Suzi Parker. She is a reporter with Reuters with Little Rock.
Thanks for joining us.
SUZI PARKER, Reuters: Thanks for having me.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, it's called the Human Heartbeat Protection Act.
What are the political conditions that led to its passage?
SUZI PARKER: Well, there's been -- in November, the Republicans won the statehouse for the first time since Reconstruction. So, for the first time, they have controlled both the House and the Senate.
As a result, they have decided to enact or file many abortion bills. And the 12-week one was one of many, including a 20-week ban that passed on Feb. 28th and was enacted into law.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Sorry.
Originally, the bill would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Why are the number of weeks so crucial in these pieces of legislation?
SUZI PARKER: I think that a lot of times that we have seen across the country that statehouses are taking the abortion issue and doing these kind of bills, filing these kind of bills because they feel like the federal courts and the Supreme Court is not working fast enough on overturning Roe vs. Wade.
So that's why there's a whole slew of bills filed right now in the Arkansas legislature that addresses abortion restrictions.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this law in Arkansas is not set to take effect until this summer. What are -- what are the abortion rights groups planning to do?
SUZI PARKER: The ACLU of Arkansas, the national ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights plan to file a lawsuit, I'm told, sooner rather than later, possibly within the next two to four weeks.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And can you put this in context of legislation that is happening in other states?
SUZI PARKER: Right.
Yesterday, on the same day that the Arkansas House voted to enact the 12-week law, Idaho -- a federal court judge in Idaho struck down a 2011 law that banned abortions at the 20-week stage. And similar litigation is going on in Arizona and in Georgia.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, we have seen or at least reported that even folks who are in the anti-abortion camp see that perhaps this isn't the best strategy.
SUZI PARKER: That's right. That's right.
The Council for the National Right to Life has said that the 12-week law probably wouldn't be upheld in court, but we continue to see these kind of bills filed.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
What about these other kinds of maneuvers that are happening in other states? We have got waiting periods in some states, required ultrasounds in others, parental notification. Is this part of a larger strategy?
SUZI PARKER: It seems to be.
Arkansas also has several bills filed. I know Indiana has -- the Senate passed an ultrasound bill earlier this year. Virginia tried to do the same last year with a vaginal probe ultrasound that would happen before a woman could get an abortion. So, yes, we're seeing this all across -- all across the country.
And a bill was just filed yesterday on the heels of the 12-week law to defund Planned Parenthood here in Arkansas.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And what does Planned Parenthood have to say? There aren't too many facilities. Is it right that Arkansas has one facility that does surgical abortions and ...
SUZI PARKER: That's correct.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right?
SUZI PARKER: Mm-hmm. And the Planned Parenthood here in Little Rock only does medicinal abortions, that being like Plan B. And they feel like they're being politically targeted by these abortion -- the abortion -- the right.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And getting back to the politics of it for a second, was this possible without Democratic support?
SUZI PARKER: Well, six Democrats voted yesterday, along with Republicans, to override this, but, no, I don't think so.
I think if the House had not turned Republican in November with the 2012 elections, I don't think that they would have the votes to get this through. With the Republicans taking over, they also got seats on committee -- on committees that would have in the past stopped a bill like this from going to the floor.
HARI SREENIVASAN: What are you hearing kind of on the street, so to speak, as a reaction to what's been happening in the legislature?
SUZI PARKER: Well, a lot of people both on Democrat -- both on the Democratic and Republican side think that it's a waste of time. They think that the legislature should be focusing more on education, on the economy, on minimum wage, things that they -- that people seem to think affect their lives on a daily basis more than abortion.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And there are still exemptions in this law for rape or incest or medical need, is that right?
SUZI PARKER: Right. The 12-week one does have that. The 20-week one doesn't allow for lethal disorders.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
And so what happens here? The mother wouldn't necessarily be prosecuted, but any doctor performing these would?
SUZI PARKER: That's right. A doctor would be -- would lose their medical license.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.
SUZI PARKER: It would be revoked.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Suzi Parker joining us from Little Rock, Ark., a reporter with Reuters, thanks so much.
SUZI PARKER: Thanks for having me.
Photo By Bill Clark/ CQ Roll Call/ Getty Images.
All signs pointed to an easy confirmation of CIA director nominee John Brennan. That is until Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took the Senate floor just before noon on Wednesday to filibuster the confirmation. After nearly 13 hours, he yielded the floor and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., filed a cloture motion, which passed Thursday afternoon after Paul lift his objection to Brennan's nomination. This cleared the path for a vote on Brennan's confirmation, which passed with a 63-34 vote.
Paul's primary purpose in filibustering the nomination was to seek clarification on the White House's policy on drones; he sought an answer on whether the government has the authority to use drones to kill noncombatant American citizens on U.S. soil.
Attorney General Eric Holder responded Thursday in a 43-word letter, addressed to Paul. The short and sweet answer to Paul's concern: "No." Hearing that the administration did not have the authority to target American citizens with drones on U.S. soil, Paul lifted his objection to Brennan.
In the early years of Congress, senators and representatives were given the right to debate on issues for unlimited amounts of time, based on the principle that any member of Congress should have the right to speak as long as necessary on any issue. However, this ideal quickly proved a hindrance, slowing down the legislative process so much that many important and essential bills never saw the Senate floor.
Here are some fascinating facts and numbers on filibusters.
And they say there's no more bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.
Wednesday turned that notion on its ear. A much feared and anticipated snowstorm failed to materialize, disappointing thousands of schoolchildren, but the gray skies and empty streets forced by school and government closings may have had a mind-clearing effect.
Perhaps because the prospect of bad weather cancelled flights that made it impossible to escape the capital, lawmakers seemed motivated to behave like - lawmakers. Or to behave at all.
At the Capitol, the House rushed to pass a $982 billion budget bill designed to avoid another budget standoff at month's end. There was civil debate and a 267 to 151 vote that split largely -- but not completely -- along party lines.
When it was the Senate's turn to forge ahead, they moved just as quickly to confirm John Brennan as the new CIA chief. He sailed out of committee, and it was largely presumed he would win that confirmation without a hitch.
But then came a hitch. Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul donned his brightest red to go to the Senate floor to talk. And talk. Nearly 13 hours later, he was still talking. A filibuster was underway against Brennan's nomination.
This was not the sort of neatly pre-negotiated standoff that revolves mostly around the arcane rules governing how many votes are needed to cut off debate. This was an old-fashioned talk-till-you-drop standoff that revolved around an actual issue - in this case, what latitude the U.S. government should have to target its citizens on American soil.
"I'm here today to speak for as long as I can hold up, to try to rally support from people from both sides, to say, for goodness' sakes, why don't we use some advice and consent?" Paul said.
Paul told CNN the next day that he had no plan when he stepped onto the floor until a handful of other Senators - almost all first-term Republicans - caught wind of the filibuster and came to help him out. Florida's Marco Rubio helpfully advised him to keep some water nearby. "Trust me," said the man who flubbed the State of the Union response.
Brennan's confirmation was almost beside the point. (He was confirmed by end of business Thursday by a wide margin.) Rubio quoted Jay Z. Ted Cruz of Texas read from the letter Alamo commander William Barret Travis wrote appealing for help just before he and his forces were slaughtered by the Mexican army (not the most useful analogy).
What was remarkable about this display is that normally, few Senators have much interest in undertaking genuine filibuster, which requires them to hold the floor without interruption for as long as they can. No meal breaks. No potty breaks.
So for the first three hours, Paul soldiered on alone, railing against drone strike policy and demanding that the White House guarantee that they would never be used against Americans at home. (Brennan helped develop the targeted killing program as an advisor to President Obama.)
But then came a glimmer of bipartisanship. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, seized the moment to unburden himself of his own complaints about the administration's embrace of targeted killings. "We ought to have something we call a checks and balances caucus, you know, here in the Senate," Wyden said.
Wyden, who said he had every intention of voting for Brennan, ended up being the only Democrat to support the Rand standoff. And in the end, Paul got what he said he wanted - a clarification of U.S. policy from the Attorney General.
"It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question," Holder wrote in a one-paragraph reply to Paul's 13-hour standoff over whether the president could authorize a drone strike at home. (Holder's answer was "no.")
Paul, a favorite of Tea Party activists and the son of libertarian former Republican congressman Ron Paul, ended up annoying more Republicans than Democrats.
"I don't remember any of you fellow Republicans coming down here and saying President [George W.] Bush was going to kill anyone with a drone," said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who supports the Obama administration drone policy. "But we had a drone program back then ... so what is it that's got you so spun up now?"
Democrats who have complained about the policy of using drones to target individuals were almost entirely missing from this debate. When Paul, at one point, quoted from Alice in Wonderland as he killed time on the Senate floor, it could not have been more apt. Politically, the world was upside down.
Another sign of a temporary political apocalypse: as Paul and his few friends held forth on the Senate floor Wednesday night, President Obama was dining with a dozen conservative Republicans at a swanky hotel a few blocks up the street from the White House. Afterward, two hours at the dinner table apparently garnered what years of sparring could not - a thumbs up from John McCain.
The president presumably had breakfast with his family Thursday morning, but by lunchtime he was on the bipartisan charm offensive again, this time while eating sea bass and lentil vegetable soup at the White House with Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.
So take note. For 24 hours in Washington this week, things worked the way they were supposed to. Votes were taken. Budgets were approved. Nominees were confirmed. Previously warring parties broke bread in a civil fashion. And there was true, extended debate about checks and balances and what it takes to protect the homeland.
Everyone didn't have to agree. But they did talk, and act.
The founding fathers would have been proud. I know I was.
Sen. John McCain flashes the thumb-up following a dinner with President Obama and a group of fellow Republican senators on Wednesday in Washington. Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
The cherry blossoms are still a few weeks away from peak bloom, but olive branches are sprouting up all over Washington this week.
One week after politicians in this town abandoned any hopes of a deal to avert $85 billion in budget cuts, the mood seems to have shifted toward possible compromise.
The White House wants everyone to know that President Barack Obama is on a "charm offensive," a term that dozens of reporters used in stories describing the president's activities over the last few days. (We fess up -- we did too.)
The House and Senate won't attempt to reconcile dueling spending blueprints until later this month, and then there are the upcoming battles over the 2014 fiscal budget and raising the country's borrowing limit.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Budget ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., enjoyed lentil soup, broiled sea bass and roasted vegetables at a private lunch with the president that drew Ryan's praise. They had a "frank discussion about Washington's budget challenges," the 2012 vice presidential nominee said in a statement.
Ryan is expected to unveil his budget blueprint next week. The release of the president's plan is still unclear, but could come as late as April 8.
Still, the words "grand bargain" are starting to surface again and lawmakers are suggesting they feel more optimistic the White House is listening.
The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Rosalind Helderman report the president treated Senate Republicans to "a dinner of hamachi tartare, lamb and lobster" on Wednesday night, as well as to the details of his plan for deficit reduction:
At Wednesday's dinner, attendees said, Obama was specific about his ideas. He laid the same framework of spending cuts that he offered to Boehner in December in their negotiations to avert the year-end "fiscal cliff." Obama's offer included more than $500 billion in cuts to health programs in addition to the new revenue from capping tax deductions and eliminating loopholes.
Attendees said the president also endorsed a new way to calculating inflation that would result in reducing Social Security benefits over time -- something many Democratic lawmakers strongly oppose.
In a piece questioning whether a meal can really win over a politico foe, the New York Times' Jeremy Peters writes that the president did more listening than talking. One senator estimated he spoke just 10 percent of the meal.
And The Hill's Alexander Bolton reported that Mr. Obama set a deadline of four to five months for coming to an agreement during the dinner.
From Bolton's story:
A GOP lawmaker who met with Obama said the accelerated timeline has two advantages. Reaching a broad deficit deal by August would allow the president to avoid another messy standoff over raising the debt limit. The president, who has said he will not negotiate on the debt limit, believes it will be harder to forge a major deal in September and beyond, as both parties begin to position themselves for the 2014 mid-term election.
Next Wednesday, the president will do something he hasn't done since January 2009 -- meet with House Republicans on their turf in the basement of the Capitol. He is expected to huddle with Senate Republicans and members of his own party as well.
Still, this is Washington. So don't hold your breath for a great compromise just yet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on the NewsHour Thursday to offer a strong defense of the president on budget negotiations. She said his outreach effort to Republicans is particularly gracious. Pelosi also said Congress should have a strong oversight role in national security matters.
Watch here or below:Watch Video
Woodruff also talked with Pelosi about immigration reform efforts and gun control legislation for an extra segment online.
Watch that here or below:Watch Video
Seventeen years after signing the Defense of Marriage Act, former President Bill Clinton writes an op-ed in the Washington Post explaining why he now thinks it should be overturned.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced Thursday he would not seek a seventh term, giving Democrats a fourth open Senate seat to defend in 2014.
National Journal peeks at the Kentucky origins of Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster, noting that he first broached the idea over lasagna and red wine with the man Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have in common: Jesse Benton, who besides being married to Paul's niece, ran his 2010 campaign and worked for his dad, but is now advising McConnell's 2014 re-election.
And Politico's Lois Romano explores Paul's own presidential ambition.
Roll Call dove in to the #standwithRand effort, and found some activists think McConnell waited too long to show support for his fellow Kentuckian.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is the target of a television ad running in Iowa. The spot, which has less than $5,000 behind it, is from a Virginia-based super PAC, and slams the Republican governor for his recently-approved transportation plan that included fresh tax revenues.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is headed to the early presidential primary state of South Carolina.
So that's where their money was going. A man working at a check-processing company in Kentucky was arrested this week for embezzling $250,000 from the Democratic Governors Association. From July 2010 to September 2012, he swindled DGA checks, depositing them in his own account.
National Journal's Josh Kraushaar sees the Senate at risk for Democrats in 2014.
The Sunlight Foundation suggests the Obama campaign offshoot Organizing for Action is a "dark money" group. And in a reversal, this latest version of OFA now says it won't take corporate donations after all.
Roll Call's Jonathan Strong traces onetime National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Colorado Rep. Tom Cole's distancing from the Republican Party, beginning with his early support for extending middle class tax cuts during fiscal cliff negotiations to calling opponents of the Violence Against Women Act racist.
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg looks at Latino political fundraisers and their rising influence.
Al Kamen publishes a West Wing seating chart.
Martha's Vineyard is preparing for another presidential summer vacation.
Maybe he just really likes Thin Mints?
NEWSHOUR ROUNDUPJeffrey Brown reported on the politics behind Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster and asked Roll Call's Niels Lesniewski and the New York Times' Scott Shane to break down both the political and practical implications of the opposition to John Brennan as CIA director. Watch that here or below. Watch Video
Ellen Rolfes put together some handy filibuster facts. Did you know the term comes from a Dutch word meaning "pirate?"
The day after Arkansas passed the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, Hari Sreenivasan talked with Reuters reporter Suzi Parker about how the Republican-controlled legislature overrode the Democratic governor's veto and how the ban on abortions after 12 weeks is expected to be challenged in court. Watch their conversation here or below.Watch Video
In her blog, Gwen Ifill expands on the notion of bipartisanship in Washington -- for 24 hours, at least.
Going to South by Southwest? Check out all the cool things -- including a 4-mile fun run with Peter Sagal -- PBS is doing at the annual interactive festival in Austin. And don't miss Christina's Monday panel about partisan media.
Our Oral History Hotline has received almost 90 calls from more than 30 states. We're still showcasing the Voting Rights Act's place in history by collecting stories from our viewers and readers.
You can still share your memories. Use the button below, or call (703) 594-6PBS to tell us your story.
Sad to hear my dear friend & distinguished colleague Sen. Carl Levin will retire - Michigan & America owe him a deep debt of gratitude— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 7, 2013
Sean RT @robdelaney Which child of his do you think Ron Paul is prouder of, Rand or Ru?— Sam Knight (@samknight1) March 7, 2013
So what gives, CSPAN? I guess all mormons look alike? twitter.com/JeffFlake/stat...— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) March 7, 2013
Bill Gates talks about one-to-one learning and shows picture of Luke and Yoda.Nice touch. #SXSWedu— leah clapman (@lclap) March 7, 2013
Simone Pathe and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
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View a slideshow of fallout from the gang rape in India.
By Beina Xu, online writer/editor for the Council on Foreign Relations
The rape and subsequent death of a New Delhi university student in December 2012 sparked nationwide furor over Indian authorities' lax treatment of sexual violence. After other such incidents surfaced, including the rape and suicide of a young Punjab girl, critics began scrutinizing aspects of Indian society that many claim have perpetuated violence and discrimination against women. The high-profile cases called attention to the broader issue of women's rights in India, a nation which ranks 84th out of 113 countries on the Economist's women's economic opportunity rankings.
Women in India face myriad cultural challenges that impede social advancement, analysts say. Discriminatory family codes, lack of education, and cultural stigmas are only a few examples. Heightened media attention on such inequities has mounted pressure on the government to not just reform the institutional treatment of women, but also raise the level of dialogue on the larger issue of women's rights in a rapidly modernizing society.
The Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but the position of women remains unequal, according to a United Nations report. Women in India have long been subject to entrenched cultural biases that perpetuate the valuing of sons over daughters, who are often seen as an economic burden to families that fear high dowries and wedding costs, experts say.
Sex-selective abortions have occurred at staggering rates in India despite a 1996 ban on gender screening for such purposes: researchers say up to 600,000 female fetuses are aborted in India every year, or 2.2 percent of the annual birth rate. This has tipped the gender ratio so dramatically that in 2011, there were 914 girls for every 1,000 boys among children up to six years old--the most imbalanced gender ratio since India's 1947 independence.
Researchers point to other significant factors contributing to the normalization of sex selection, including inheritance laws. The Hindu Succession Act of 2005 granted women equal inheritance rights to ancestral and jointly owned property, but enforcement of this law is weak, say experts. Many women, particularly in northern India, are still deprived of their rightful inheritance.
India's Sexual Assault Laws
The December gang rape and subsequent death of a twenty-three-year-old student in New Delhi, ignited a national furor over India's treatment of women and the perceived culture of complicity with regards to sexual violence in India. Such cases occur on a regular basis, says CFR fellow for women and foreign policy Rachel Vogelstein, but this incident drew particular attention due to a few uncommon circumstances, including the publication of her name and her father's outspokenness of her plight. "The fact that she was a middle-class girl striving for a middle class life really rang a chord with a lot of Indians," says CFR senior fellow Isobel Coleman. "Here is a girl living a modern life and subjected to such barbaric treatment."
Rape complaints increased 25 percent between 2006 and 2011 in India, although it's unclear whether this represents a real uptick in crime or a greater willingness by victims to file charges or by the police to accept them. However, gender-based violence as a whole has worsened in India over the past several years. National Crime Record Bureau statistics show a 7.1 percent nationwide hike in crimes against women since 2010.
Under the Indian Penal Code, crimes against women include rape, kidnapping and abduction, molestation, sexual harassment, torture, homicide for dowry, and the importation of girls. But critics have voiced concern over the vagueness of their definitions, particularly that of rape. Often, perpetrators of severe sexual attacks are charged with criminal assault on a woman with "intent to outrage her modesty," an offense that carries a light penalty and is almost never enforced.
For example, "eve-teasing," a common euphemism for sexual harassment or molestation in public places, goes mostly unreported. Many analysts attribute this to a culture of complicity and the government's weak prosecution of such assault crimes. A study by the Hindustan Times found that in the last five years, fifty-one cases related to eve-teasing in the city of Jalandhar in Punjab were taken to court, and only five people were convicted, while thirty others were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Searching for Justice
India's slow, overburdened, and under-funded criminal justice system has exacerbated the plight of rape and sexual assault victims, analysts say. Most rapes go unreported, largely because of cultural stigmas surrounding such incidents that could bring shame to victims and their families. Those who do report cases often face a dehumanizing experience. A lack of specialized training for police and doctors often drives the problem, reports Human Rights Watch and other rights groups.
Furthermore, rights activists say, the lack of uniform national standards for treatment and examination of sexual assault survivors undermines the potential for a successful prosecution. Only around 26 percent of rape cases tried in court in 2011 resulted in convictions, and only four out of ten cases were reported, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, although these trends are not necessarily unique on a global scale. A study of forty acquitted rape cases in Delhi, where only seven percent of the police force is women, found that more than half of the acquittals were due to police failure to perform sufficient investigations.
Still, some sexual assault victims face even worse injustice, as in the case of a seventeen-year-old village girl who was drugged and gang raped in northern Punjab. She committed suicide in December 2012 after a police officer pressed her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers. Reports surfaced that officers had not only harassed the victim, but failed to register her case and attempted to broker an out-of-court settlement between her family and the families of her alleged attackers--a practice known locally as "compromise" that analysts say occurs often in some parts of the country.
Many rights activists have pointed to a pervasive culture of complicity when it comes to sexual violence against Indian women, where some senior political and religious leaders have routinely helped perpetuate the practice of "blaming the victim." Violence against women is so lightly condemned that over the past five years, Indian political parties have nominated 260 candidates who have outstanding charges for crimes against women, according to Coleman.
"It's really a constellation of factors hindering women's rights, including gender sex selection, literacy, child marriage, and violence," says CFR's Vogelstein. "In addition to that, there's been a culture of impunity around a lot of these issues. They have laws on the books that address all these issues, yet these problems continue to flourish part in many parts of India."
One of the major elements hampering women's rights progress in India is the chronically low level of female political representation, analysts say. While Sonia Gandhi, the widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, presides over the Indian National Congress Party, only about 10 percent of parliament members are women. Comparably, 17 percent of the U.S. Congress is women. In Pakistan, the National Assembly has 17.5 percent of its seats reserved for women.
Progress on this front has been halting; in January 2012, India's lower house delayed for at least a year a bill that would have reserved one-third of seats in Parliament and in state assemblies for women. The legislation was passed in the upper house in March 2010 after a thirteen-year debate. Even after the amendment is ratified by the lower house it still must be approved by at least half of the country's state legislatures and the president--a process that will likely drag on for years and ensure that parliament, at least in the near term, will be dominated by men.
Road to Reform
The national uproar in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape prompted the Indian government to address calls for reform of the country's judicial system. As provisional measures, Delhi ordered the use of so-called fast-track courts in several sexual assault cases in the capital, and established the first special court to handle crimes against women. The court, which opened in West Bengal in late January, is staffed and run entirely by women -- a forum which officials hope will encourage more female victims to come forward.
But perhaps the most significant sign of progress was a special committee, created by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which produced a 650-page report of suggestions on how to strengthen criminal laws dealing with sexual assault against women. In one notable outcome, India's president approved harsher punishments for rapists, including the death penalty.
Much of the work to improve conditions for women, however, is being done at the grassroots level, where some Indian and foreign NGOs are engaging with the male community in an effort to elevate women in society. For instance, in Bihar state, a village planted mango and lychee trees to celebrate the birth of a girl, with the idea that profit from the fruit would help support the family and discourage the community from marrying its daughters at young ages. Saba Ghori, a Senior South Asia women's issues adviser at the U.S. State Department, says the real gains in India have been at the local level, where women village leaders have been so effective that certain states have called for a greater percentage of women in such roles.
However, some analysts say the government's actions have merely been a knee-jerk political expedient and will not materially improve much for women in the long run. "It's a sort of Band-Aid," says Coleman. "Laws alone aren't going to change this. Not that laws aren't important -- they are -- but we're talking about social attitudes, cultural practices, and those don't change overnight." Many rights groups say the government has more work to do, particularly because it failed to outlaw marital rape and handle the legal impunity afforded to members of the military. Still, other activists say the new measures, which imposed much stricter penalties for a range of crimes, mark one of the most significant changes to India's laws protecting women.
"India is uniquely compelling because it's a BRIC economy," says Vogelstein. "India is emerging, and the degree to which women and girls are hampered in their ability to participate fully in their society and economies is going to be detrimental to the country's modernization."
The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index is a framework that captures the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracks their progress.
The Economist's Women's Economic Opportunity Index assesses the environment for female employees and entrepreneurs across 128 countries.
The U.N. Population Fund documents the current scope, prevalence and inequities associated with child marriage.
This backgrounder originally appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations' website. View all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter:
Anonciata, a 30-something mother of four, survived a brutal raid on her town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but not without injury.
In 2010, militiamen broke into her home in Rutshuru, demanding she give them her teenage daughter who had fled upon their arrival. When she refused, they beat her and cut off her lips with a machete.
NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro met Anonciata last year while profiling a group called HEAL Africa based in the eastern city of Goma. The group's mission includes training medical workers, bringing together faith leaders on issues such as HIV/AIDS, and helping women who have been raped with their physical and emotional recovery.
Anonciata wore a surgical mask to cover her scarred face in 2012.
At the time, Anonciata had missed a yearly visit by a plastic surgeon to her area because she had to leave her home when M23 rebels took over the town. (The Congolese army has since freed the town, the BBC reported.)
When she did get a chance to get evaluated for reconstructive surgery, she learned her case was too complicated for the visiting surgeon, so a doctor who had gotten medical training from HEAL Africa connected her with surgeons in Uganda. Her persistence paid off, and after having had an initial surgery, she'll undergo a final operation in Kampala on March 12.
When reached through a French translator via email, Anonciata said for the past few years she has only been able to eat porridge, but the surgeries mean she will be able to eat solid foods again.
"If I open my mouth (without pain), and I begin to eat like others, I would be happy," she said, "but I wonder where I would go after leaving the hospital, because if I go back to my village, the Interahamwe (the Hutu paramilitary organization seeking to overthrow the government) might kill me."
Thousands of women in eastern Congo face Anonciata's situation -- they've been maimed or raped in a country where discrimination is rampant, all because women seem like an easy target, said Judith Anderson, executive director of HEAL Africa/ACT for Congo, who works from the United States on locating funding sources.
"Anonciata is one of many, but she's a lucky one because she's had access to care," said Anderson.
Decades of turf wars among ethnic groups and rebel forces in eastern Congo have killed millions and displaced an estimated 1.7 million Congolese, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Rape is used by armed groups to intimidate and demoralize communities, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted, the United Nations says.
Rape victims are then often ostracized in their communities, which compounds their trauma, said Louise Bashige, the gender-based violence coordinator for IMA WorldHealth's Ushindi program. Ushindi began in 2010 as a five-year program seeking to help women with medical, legal, psychosocial and economic services. Ushindi's international partners include the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Save the Children and CARE.
Bashige, Congolese herself, works in North and South Kivu and Maniema provinces in eastern Congo. She said there is a deep-seated view that "the intellect of women is that of a child. Many people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including women, are blinded by this belief."
One of the challenges is illiteracy, particularly among women, she said. According to the CIA World Factbook, in the central African country of 73.6 million people, the literacy rate among women is 57 percent, while among men it's 77 percent.
Women involved with HEAL Africa's work in Goma. Photo by Fred de Sam Lazaro/PBS NewsHour.
To try to counter the gender bias, Ushindi provides literacy programs and parent training, and sets up youth groups that bring together boys and girls so they can learn to communicate and value each other, said Bashige.
According to the group's website, it has helped 5,200 women with literacy, economic and social reintegration activities; treated 2,400 women and children; and counseled 3,400 women and children.
There have been some improvements in the country, including enactment of a law that sets the legal age for consent to marriage at 18, which marked a shift in tribal practices that let girls as young as 12 be handed over as someone's wife, said Anderson. Now, it's just a matter of educating community leaders and residents about the changed law to make sure it's enforced, she said -- no small feat in a nation where law, order, electricity and medicine are virtually nonexistent in many parts.
The country still has a long way to go, but "what gives me hope is the general desire among women to make a change. They want to learn to read. They want to learn new skills," said Anderson. One of the side effects of people being forced to move around the country is that women can see what's happening in other areas and how they can make their lives better, she added.
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In February, 236,000 new jobs were added to the economy, which was higher than expected and the unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percent. But the 7.7 percent unemployment rate -- the official unemployment rate -- is only a small part of the picture. Our own monthly reckoning of unemployment rate -- what we call U-7 -- is a more inclusive take on the underemployment and unemployment rate in America.
U-7 includes everyone in the government's U-3: everyone who said they wanted a job and had looked for one in the past four weeks.
It also adds everyone who said they wanted one, hadn't looked in the past four weeks, but had in the past year. (These people are included in the government's most inclusive statistic, U-6).
But we also add people who hadn't looked in the past year but still said they wanted a job and would take one. Finally, we add people working part-time, but say they are looking for full-time work, like "consultants" I know for example, who may have worked only one hour during the week and are still tallied as officially "employed."
The U-7 ticked down only slightly from 16.53 percent to 16.46 percent. So it's going in the right direction.
But we still count nearly 27 million Americans as either wanting a job because they say so, or are working part-time, but looking for full-time work.
The official unemployment rate, or U-3 went down for whites (6.8 percent), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data and press release, but "the rates for adult men (7.1 percent), adult women (7.0 percent), teenagers (25.1 percent), blacks (13.8 percent) and Hispanics (9.6 percent) showed little or no change."
Furthermore, the BLS reported, "the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was about unchanged at 4.8 million. These individuals accounted for 40.2 percent of the unemployed."
Here is the bottom line: the economy is clearly improving. But today's numbers in no way resolve the larger and critical debate between the "structuralists" who say that high unemployment is here to stay as American jobs give way to technology and foreign workers, and the "cyclicalists" who say we'll return to "full-employment," or 4-5 percent unemployment rate, when the economy fully revives.
Here's how February's job numbers are being interpreted by the other news organizations:
The Wall Street Journal: "U.S. Jobless Rate Lowest in Four Years"
The New York Times: "U.S. Gains 236,000 Jobs; Unemployment at 4-Year Low"
Bloomberg.com: "Payrolls Rise as U.S. Jobless Rate Reaches Four-Year Low"
Click to enlarge.
Museum mount maker Richard West stands next to St. Oran's Cross -- the world's first Celtic cross dating to the 8th century -- in his workshop in Selkirk, Scotland. The cross is being reassembled before it is returned to Iona for the celebration of the 1450th anniversary of the arrival of St. Columba on the island. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/ Getty Images.
Former Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., walk to a budget talk meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in May 2011. Kyl doesn't envy his former colleagues who are hammering out the current budget. Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call.
Former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl spent a lot of face-to-face time with President Barack Obama during the early iterations of budget negotiations that his former colleagues are currently pursuing.
As the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Kyl participated in the first series of budget sit-downs in 2010 and 2011 involving the president and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, across the street at Blair House, and elsewhere. But unlike the GOP senators who came out of Wednesday night's dinner and informal negotiation with the president at a local hotel saying they'd enjoyed themselves, Kyl doesn't recall his encounters fondly.
"It was no fun being in that Cabinet office day after day. I came to dread having to go to those sessions," Kyl told the NewsHour in an interview Thursday.
"If [the latest round of meetings] are going to be productive, the president will have to change the way he approached those meetings at the White House that I was part of, which were not negotiating sessions but the president holding forth and denigrating the views of those who disagreed with him," Kyl said.
It was a common complaint from Republicans at the time: that the president felt he had the upper hand and could demand GOP concessions.
Asked about those charges on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney rejected that interpretation anew.
"In the president's first term, he engaged consistently with Congress, especially in the first two years ... including leaders of the Republican Party after the midterm elections through the summer of 2011," Carney said. "Again and again, this President has moved towards Republicans in trying to find common grounds in these negotiations. And I think, as you have seen him say and is evidenced by the meetings he's been having, he remains interested in that."
Kyl, who represented Arizona in the House and Senate over a 26-year career, acknowledges this time may be different: "Meetings can generally be helpful."
Kyl sees a president wary of his public approval ratings.
"The most recent flurry of activity could well be the president perceiving maybe his approach was not as effective as he thought it might be. My understanding is the president's [poll] numbers are dropping ever since the public figured out the sky wasn't going to fall as a result of the sequester. He probably over-played his hand there."
But if Mr. Obama is reacting to the public mood, Kyl said he's not alone in facing the realities of pursuing policy in this era that often requires a take-no-prisoners approach to trying to win public approval.
"The media's partially to blame for this because of the way everything is covered 24-7. There's no time-out between the last election and next seemingly, so that [means] neither side wants to give up anything. They both want to take advantage of the other if they can," said Kyl.
That applies to the central conundrum that's kept Democrats and Republicans from concluding a broad deficit reduction deal despite more than two years of trying -- the question of how to handle Democrats' calls for more tax hikes that are opposed by the Republican-controlled House.
"The only thing that will move people off those two positions is a change in the political dynamic," Kyl said. "Both sides were relatively willing to let the sequester play out to see what would happen politically and the degree to which your side will be willing to negotiate is directly proportionate to their view of the public reaction to their position. I don't think that either side will voluntarily [give in] on their position for any reason other than that they're not doing well politically."
Kyl said "there's a lot wrong" with such poll-based governing but it's the product of a partisan era he says began about the time of George W. Bush's first term.
And it's an era he may be leaving behind. Today he works with the Washington-based international law firm Covington & Burling and the conservative-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute on U.S. global leadership issues.
"The Searchers" is, of course, the name of director John Ford's famous 1956 Western starring John Wayne. But it's also part of a much bigger American story, steeped in myth, told and re-told in different forms. It's now at the heart of a new book titled "The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend."
Author Glenn Frankel was a longtime reporter and foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. He's now director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. I spoke to him by phone earlier Friday about his book and its inspiration:
A transcript will be posted soon.
Gretel Ehrlich, travel writer, poet and essayist, debuted in 1985 with "The Solace of Open Spaces," a collection of essays on rural life in the American West. Her first novel, "Heart Mountain," set in Wyoming and published in 1988, is about Japanese Americans forced into internment camps during WWII.
In the 1960s, Ehrlich, a practicing Buddhist, began visiting Japan to study and write about its culture, religions and literature. Soon after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, she returned for the first of three trips to document the physical and emotional aftermath.
The result was the new book "Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami," part reportage, part personal reflection. She recently talked to us about the book on Kent Island, Md., where she spends the winter. (We'll post that segment here later Friday evening.)
"There were moments when the grief aspect of emptiness just seemed so heavy that it was falling like rain, that it was just a deluge of sorry," she said. "I met a fireman who lost his wife, his two children, his mother and his father and was just wondering why he was alive and how he was going to begin again." Her poem "Emptiness Fall" reflects on that grief:
Beginning. Again. But how? Tonight's perfect moon-slice means we are half here half gone. Down deep sea urchins fatten on corpses and the Missing roll on amnesia's tides. All summer the body rains sweat and emptiness falls from the standing dead. Cedar. Rice field. Pine. Ehrlich said it's hard to capture the magnitude of the devastation. "The loss has been so total so in that physical sense, boundaries were erased, but then what percolates up into the psyche is that almost surreal moment of having no reference point. I walked around towns with people trying to figure out where their house had been or where their grandmother was washed away or where their fishing boat had been tied up, and they couldn't figure it out or it was just gone," she said.
Here's a prose excerpt from the section "Morning Sun":
"Then the van rolls down toward the coast. It lurches and leans. Ahead, winter sun shines on torn water; on crumpled water gates; on remnants—razed houses, grieving households, homeless dogs.
"Sun shines on the lonely.
"There's sun on red pine islets, on wrecked squid boats whose attractor lights hang like bells with no clappers. Sun on the unlit tunnels through which we hurdle, mountain after mountain, the hooded light at the end saying, 'Come, come.'
"Sun on tangled fishing gear, on the eclipsed moons of black buoys fallen upward sea to earth.
"Sun on snow on sun. On collapsed waves. On bare seafloor. On seawater warmer than air. Faint warmth.
"Limpid water-light too thin to hold anything."
This animation shows the path of the magnetic field that was discharged from the sun causing the Curiosity team to power down the rover this week. The modeling was carried out at the NASA Goddard Space Weather Research Center.
Earlier this week, when a large cloud of hot plasma erupted from the sun, and began charging across space toward Mars at speeds of 1,200 miles a second, the Curiosity team powered down the rover.
On NASA's scale of solar flares, this one was "significant," said Michael Hesse, director of the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center. And the scientists didn't want to take any chances. So for 22 hours, while the coronal mass ejection hurled through space, Curiosity slept.
And the team, on behalf of the rover, tweeted this:
Storm's a-comin'! There's a solar storm heading for Mars. I'm going back to sleep to weather it out. apne.ws/13HBAz7— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) March 6, 2013
A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is a ball of magnetic field packed with charged particles that detaches from the sun and races through space, kind of like a traveling space blob, carrying with it increased radiation.
"High energy particles can impact electronics," Hesse explained. "It can cause erroneous commands. When such an event is in progress, it's prudent to be cautious."
The rover's handlers weren't too worried though. The equipment is what's called "hardened," built to withstand high-energy particles and radioactive material.
The solar flare followed a glitch last week in the Mars rover's memory, which prompted the handlers to power down its primary computer system and switch to the backup computer.
Lacking a dense atmosphere like Earth and a strong magnetic field, the Mars surface, like space itself, has little protection from radiation. A personal laptop, if taken into space, would get immediately fried, said Richard Cook, project director for the Mars Science Laboratory, the Curiosity rover mission.
In the case of the rover, the computer is protected inside of a lead box, and the parts themselves are built out of materials designed to withstand solar events, Cook said.
"If electronics are upset, we power them off and they're fine," Cook said. "On Earth, you have a battery and you zap it with a high-energy particle, and it blows up. And you ruin it."
Radiation is even more powerful in other areas of space, like Jupiter or the Van Allen radiation belt, where a thick belt of charged particles released by the sun get trapped in the Earth's magnetic field. Engineers must go to extra lengths to armor equipment that travels to these locations. Surrounding electronics in a vault or a shield of lead is one strategy. Lead absorbs high-energy particles. NASA's Van Allen probes are shielded in thick aluminum, for example.
And if humans are ever sent to Mars, the walls of their spacecraft will have to be well armored from the sun's radiation, and any habitat will likely be built underground. One surprising proposal to protect against cosmic rays is to line the spacecraft walls with water, food and human waste, according to this New Scientist article.
"Water is a very effective shield," Cook said. "If you use water on the walls of the spacecraft, it has almost the same effect as lead."
In this gripping and fascinating story, Eliza Strickland writes of a new sequencing machine that will soon enable researchers to decode an entire human genome for a low-cost $1000. Strickland opts to sequence her own DNA in the machine and have it analyzed.
In search of what sets today's global warming apart, scientists have built a record of global temperatures that go back to the end of the last ice age -- about 11,000 years ago -- when mammoths and saber-tooth cats roamed the planet. NPR reports.
The Methuselah star, the oldest star in the galaxy, has been dated, and its older than the universe's calculated age of 13.8 billion years. Huh? From the Hubble Site. But a new study is clearing up the strange paradox, reports Space.com.
Nerds on Pinterest. Culled by the Department of Energy.
From the Nikon Small World Competition and Live Science. Stunning photos of the very small.
NOT SAFE FOR LUNCHIt is not every freshwater turtle that is able to survive days in salty water. How do Chinese soft-shelled turtles do it? They pee from their mouths. Discover magazine reports that in this hostile environment, the salt would overwhelm turtles' kidneys if not for their ability to discard toxins through their mouths.
Six inches of snow was predicted to accumulate in Washington Wednesday, but it turned out to be more drizzle than powder on the steps of the Capitol. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The political team took a look at the week that was on Capitol Hill. Got a tidbit? Email Allie Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not even an inch of snow that was expected to accumulate on Capitol Hill did on Wednesday. But beneath the dome, flames roared in the fireplaces off the Speaker's Lobby, as members of Congress made their cases on the House floor for or against a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The blaze is perhaps one reason rhetoric stayed heated as the House passed the bill 267-151 to fund the government through September and to give the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs wiggle room to manage their mandatory budget cuts. Now the legislation heads to the Senate, where Democrats are expected to add more exceptions to the mandated sequester cuts.
Democratic Process At Work
Sen. Rand Paul's nearly 13-hour filibuster stalled a vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for CIA Director John Brennan and called attention to the administration's controversial drone program. It also drew the attention of friends and foes alike to just how long the Kentucky Republican could stand without hitting the bathroom. Throughout the filibuster, the junior senator was joined by 10 of his colleagues, some of whom brought him food and drink.
"It's a question of the extent that his bladder can hold out," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. told reporters in the hallway outside the Senate Chamber during the filibuster.
"This is the part of government for someone who believes strongly, I want [them] to express their opinion, I support that right," Nelson said. "But when you have ideology that gets in the way of the functioning of government because it becomes so extreme ... you can't govern the country if you can't bring people together, and this is what we are seeing now."
The filibuster may have put a damper on the Senate's plan of action for the day, but all the while tour groups continued to filter in and out of the Senate Gallery to watch the day's proceedings.
Charlotte Thompson, a resident of Jamaica Plain, Mass., was visiting the Capitol with a group of teenagers. "I enjoyed seeing the process, but it's hard for me to listen to some of the questions that are posed because they keep repeating the same things non-stop," Thompson told PBS NewsHour. "So I think it's just stalling tactics honestly."
D.C., Puerto Rico Battle for Attention
Last fall, 51 percent of Puerto Ricans rejected their current territory status on a referendum vote and 61 percent chose statehood as an alternative.
Flash forward to Tuesday, when Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi announced at a press conference outside the Capitol that a pro-statehood advocacy group joining him at the event would visit some 150 congressional offices between Tuesday and Thursday, raising awareness of that vote in Puerto Rico. Pierluisi also said he would introduce legislation in Congress by mid-May on the issue of Puerto Rico's status. "This should be viewed as an issue of fairness, an issue of democracy. I have to believe both Republicans and Democrats believe in that principle," he said.
Pierluisi says the key to the legislation is bipartisan support. "Once you have bipartisan support it will get traction because this has no fiscal impact," he told the NewsHour. "You are talking about a vote in Puerto Rico on status options offered by Congress, it could be simply statehood, but it could also be statehood, free association and independence. The only option Congress shouldn't be offering is the current status, territorial status, because the people just rejected it in a fair and democratic vote."
At the same time, Washington, D.C., residents, tired of Congress holding power over the city's budget, are fighting for budget autonomy. The issue goes before the city's voters for the first time on April 23.
Congress has to approve D.C.'s budget, and local leaders have long argued it's not fair for Congress to call the shots on how local tax dollars are spent.
DC Vote, a local nonprofit fighting for budget autonomy, packed a local bar with supporters Wednesday for their fundraising kickoff. Group spokesman James Jones told the NewsHour Washington residents are riled up over this issue.
"A Congress that has proven itself incompetent on budget matters is telling us, a city that has balanced its budget for 12 years and is running a surplus, that we can't spend our money until they say so," he said.
Party attendee Jeremy Cullimore said he never cared about having a voice in government until he moved here three years ago. "You don't know it until it affects you. You don't know what you have until you lose it," he told the NewsHour. "I used to have a voice. I now don't have it."
Washington, D.C., residents will vote over the city's budget autonomy for the first time on April 23.
Gun Measure Advances
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent the first piece of gun control legislation since the shooting in Newtown, Conn., to the full Senate.
The anti-gun trafficking law advanced on an 11-7 vote. Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says his legislation would limit straw purchasing of firearms, or the buying of guns for another person who cannot legally buy one.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, joined Democrats supporting the anti-trafficking bill, but he spoke out forcefully against an assault weapons ban, which is up for vote before the committee next week. Grassley called it unconstitutional. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, invoked the cultural differences between those who've grown up with guns and use them safely and those who are unfamiliar and afraid, saying, "An attempt to legislate for the entire United States in a one size fits all is a mistake." He stressed that mental illness -- not availability of guns -- has been the common denominator in mass shootings.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and Sen. Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn., made emotional appeals about the need for restrictions on military-style guns, invoking shooting tragedies in their respective states. Blumenthal said that children in Newtown were able to escape because Adam Lanza had to stop to change magazines, but that even more could have been saved if high-capacity ammunition magazines were banned.
Bipartisan talks over a background check bill broke down Wednesday with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., splitting ways with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., over recording private gun sales. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., also involved in the bipartisan talks that started last month, left Schumer to introduce placeholder legislation to the Judiciary Committee alone. But they have vowed to look for more conservative support for background legislation, in part to give cover to reluctant Republicans.
Minimum Wage on the Rise?
$10.10 is the new $7.25. At least that's what Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., are hoping. At a packed press conference in the Dirksen Senate offices Tuesday, the pair proposed legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage up to $10.10 an hour, from the current minimum of $7.25, in three 95-cent increments.That's even more than the $9 per hour Mr. Obama proposed in his State of the Union address.
Harkin said that a higher minimum wage will benefit the economy by putting more money in consumers' pockets. "With an increase in the minimum wage, workers have more money to spend, and guess what, they spend it locally not overseas. This is just basic economics, increased demand means increased economic activity," he said. "They will spend their money in their local economies giving a boost to main street."
Some 30 million workers in the United States would see their paychecks increase if the legislation passes, according to the Democrats' numbers, and more than half of those would be women.
Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, praised the legislation at the press conference saying it would help small businesses, not hurt them. "Raising the minimum wage boosts the economy from the bottom up," said Dorfman.
Not all agree with that logic. The conservative Employment Policies Institute criticized the Harkin/Miller proposal saying the minimum wage hike would cost the country jobs. "Dramatically raising the cost to hire and train entry-level employees will reduce job opportunities from coast to coast -- it's simple economics," the group's research director, Michael Saltsman, said in a statement. "Proposals to raise the minimum wage might be well-intentioned, but the economic record is unquestionable: Minimum wage hikes hurt the very people they're intended to help." The NewsHour tackled this topic during a recent segment. Watch that here.
"It needs to be increased," said Michael Jeffries, a resident of D.C. and one of handful from the group Our D.C. who came to support the legislation. "When I was working, supporting my family, I had a full time job and two part time jobs, just to keep the family going."
The last time Congress voted to raise the minimum wage was in 2007. The legislation raised the hourly minimum wage to $7.25 over a period of 26 months.
Photo above: A press conference on Puerto Rico's status takes place outside the Capitol. Photo by Allie Morris/NewsHour.
Photo above: Sen. Harkin announces new legislation to raise the minimum wage. Photo by Allie Morris/NewsHour.
Cindy Huang contributed to this report.
By Paul Solman
With all the talk of the fiscal cliff and the sequester, I respond to a reader who wants to know if the economic dominoes are likely to fall, causing a government default, and I weigh in on why the NewsHour rarely reports on other stock indexes besides the Dow Jones.
Paul Solman frequently answers questions from the NewsHour audience on business and economic news on his Making Sen$e page. Here are Friday's responses:
Todd Lofton -- Lincoln, Neb.: If we must never default, why must we have a president or Congress put our country into a position in which default is a possibility? What will stop them from forcing it? I have seen nothing to convince me it will not occur.
Paul Solman: Nothing to convince you? See if this will this do it: The current price of a bet will pay you $10,000 in the next year if the U.S. does default is $39. On the open market. It's called a "credit default swap," which I tried to explain on the NewsHour a few years ago, much to John Stewart's subsequent merriment on The Daily Show.
In other words, investors who put their money where their mouths are think there's less than a half-percent chance, Todd, that your country will default in the next 12 months. If you think strongly otherwise, you might ask a broker how to take the other side of this bet. Me, I think the odds are a little higher -- that the bet ought to cost even less.
We do not need to default to get out of our debt hole. Various benefit and tax changes could fix the problem. To the extent they're not made, we can inflate by creating more money, and pay back our loans in devalued dollars.
Hey, come to think of it, isn't that what we're doing already?
Ron Campise -- South San Gabriel, Calif.: Do you personally believe that this theory is valid: that an individual investor can, utilizing the rational 90 percent of trading patterns, mass emotions, tempered with general chaos and hysteria, filter out the remaining 10 percent of the bulls, and make money in the stock market?
I keep reading and hearing from established stock firm experts that short-term investors are idiots, lucky or a combination of both; and if they come ahead a dime, in the end they always lose their shirts.
If so, I must be one of the idiot savants who have been very lucky in the last four years, taking small returns, which when combined, have netted a 29.9 percent return last year, and a 14 percent return so far this year. I expect a return this year of at least 50 percent, regardless the market is up or down.
I've learned to thrive on the chaos, and temper my stock trades with a determination to profit, in small steps or bites, compared with the established pro trading firms. Maybe I'm not such an idiot after all. I can now buy all the shirts I want, and shorts too if the need arises. I have all the monthly figures, supplied by my partner in insanity, my broker Charles Schwab, in neat, yearly profit and loss statements.
Paul Solman: Heartiest congratulations, Ron. You are either a very astute investor -- a true savant, perhaps, and a cool-headed one at that, or ... very lucky. The problem with analyzing successes like yours -- and many failures, for that matter, is that in investing, as in all of life -- skeptics like me will never to able to know who is astute and who is lucky. I don't doubt, for example, that Warren Buffett has a sixth sense about investing, but how can I ever be sure?
It's not that I doubt you, Ron, but have you read Nassim Taleb's book "Fooled by Randomness," the predecessor to his bestselling "Black Swan"? My only advice is that when you start your own investing firm and trumpet your track record, just don't forget to add the disclaimer about past performance being no guarantee of future results.
Chris Budesa -- West Orange, N.J.: The cent coin issued by the U.S. Mint has changed several times since it was first struck at the end of the 1700s. Typically, the change was brought about due to the increasing price of the metal used to make the coin. The same can be done now; our cent coin can be made using a copper-coated steel blank. Steel is significantly cheaper that zinc.
Paul Solman: You're referring, of course, Chris, to this post from Feb. 8 in which I join former George W. Bush chief economist Greg Mankiw and graphic genius C.G.P. Grey in urging the death of the U.S. penny.
But none of us thinks the reason to kill the coin is because copper is so expensive. It's because this near-valueless and thus specious form of specie is a pain in the pocket -- a great time-waster. And time, as Ben Franklin reminded us, is money. For those more worried about out-of-pocket expenses, even steel pennies will cost plenty to mint.
Reid Paxton -- Mayfield, Ky.: Why doesn't the PBS Newshour report the "Wilshire 5000" stock index? To me, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is not very meaningful as it only represents 30 stocks.
Paul Solman: Parsimony. You could ask the same question about the S&P 500 or the Russell 2000. And why not a global stock index that includes the U.S.? Might not that be even more meaningful?
I think the answer is that the Dow has become a common point of reference. We can gauge how stocks are doing because we've heard the Dow number again and again.
It's like unemployment. The official monthly unemployment rate, which the government calls U-3, is far more misleading than the Dow, since it excludes millions of Americans who say they want a job but haven't looked for one in the past week. It also excludes anyone who worked at all in the past week, even if only for one hour. That's why I initiated what I titled U-7 or the "Solman Scale" here on the Business Desk last year.
Maybe U-7 will be reported by others some day. Maybe even by the NewsHour. But right now, the benchmark is U-3, even though at 7.7 percent, the U-3 is less than half what I consider to be the more meaningful measure of the job market.
Top photo by Martin Barraud/Getty Images.
RAY SUAREZ: More jobs, less unemployment, those were the headlines from the government's latest report on the economy, released this morning.
It's been a tough climb for job-seekers, but things seemed to be looking up last month. Today's Labor Department data showed 236,000 jobs were added in February. January's numbers were revised down, but the figures from December were increased. All told, monthly gains have averaged more than 200,000 jobs since November.
In February, the construction sector alone added 48,000 jobs, the most in six years, spurred by a housing rebound. Retail also saw more hiring and manufacturing ticked up as well.
White House chief economist Alan Krueger.
ALAN KRUEGER, White House Council of Economic Advisers: I think if you look at today's report and some of the other indicators that have been coming, unemployment insurance claims, the ISM numbers, auto sales, we see a picture of an economy that's continuing to recover.
RAY SUAREZ: The day's other big number was the unemployment rate, which dropped to 7.7 percent. That was the lowest in four years.
The main reason was that more people found work, but some 130,000 others stopped looking for work, so they were no longer counted. Overall, the official number of unemployed now sits at just over 12 million Americans. It hasn't been that low since December of 2008.
All of this comes despite higher payroll taxes and despite uncertainty in the run-up to those across-the-board federal spending cuts that kicked in as of March 1st.
RAY SUAREZ: Overall, it was the best jobs report since 2009.
To help us look at developments big and small behind the numbers, we turn to Diane Swonk, senior managing director and chief economist for Mesirow Financial, a diversified financial services firm based in Chicago, and Daniel Gross, global business editor and a columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
Diane Swonk, what does it tell you that even amidst all the Washington crises and the deadlines and the cliffhangers, job growth remains solid?
DIANE SWONK, Mesirow Financial Holdings, Inc.: Well, it is certainly welcome news to see, particularly the private sector generating almost 250,000 jobs during the month, and, as you noted earlier, the increase in jobs in the construction sector, some fall-over on the imprint of housing there, also on manufacturing and the manufacturing sector.
Lumber production was up, employment, along with construction materials. So you are seeing that spillover of the housing market finally showing signs of healing after being dormant so long. We're also seeing some of the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in there as well.
But I think it's important that we're seeing really more broad-based gains in the private sector than we have seen in the past. And that's encouraging. The problem is, it is amidst all this uncertainty. And we have yet to see the other shoe to drop in terms of the cuts in spending, particularly in defense and health care going forward.
RAY SUAREZ: Dan Gross, again, through all these things, even through the election, even through the aftermath, job growth has remained pretty consistent.
DANIEL GROSS, Newsweek/ The Daily Beast Yes.
Well, I think the political system in the last year-and-a-half has really vastly overstated its impact on the job market and the economy at large.
People thought when we had that debt crisis in Aug. of 2011, that we were going to go into another recession. We didn't.
A lot of pundits kept saying, oh, no one is going to hire because there is an election. No one is going to hire because there is a fiscal cliff. No one is going to hire because of Obamacare. No one is going to hire because of the sequester.
None of that turns out to be true. When you get rising demand -- we have had sustained growth in this economy going on almost four years now. So when more customers show up, you hire people to do the work. Our exports remain at quite high levels. They have bounced back very sharply.
And you add what Diane was talking about, the housing market, which is becoming a pretty substantial contributor to economic growth, not just through the hiring of people for construction jobs. But the higher volume of sales is more work for brokers and insurance agents and mortgage brokers and that whole industry.
And, of course, rising home prices, which we are getting, makes people feel better and in a better position to consume.
RAY SUAREZ: Diane Swonk, behind those two big aggregated numbers, 236,000 and 7.7 percent, the monthly report includes a lot of other data. What would you turn us to, to look at -- to get a bigger picture of the job market overall?
DIANE SWONK: Well, again, it gets us to this issue of good, but not good enough.
I do agree that the economy is in a recovery, and I think we could be at a turning point where we see more substantial job growth if we don't have some of the cuts that we have hanging out there. That said, I think it's really important to understand the sort of ongoing pain in the economy as well. The 7.7 percent, we got there in part by some -- the wrong ways to get there, not the right ways.
And that is that people weren't throwing their hat in the ring as much. Participation rates fell. You noted the number of people who gave up, who didn't look for work. The labor force actually shrunk. And what you would like to see for a more sustained recovery -- and it might have just been the weather. It could have been anything. Consumers actually said they were more hopeful and optimistic about the job market when they were asked about it in the attitude surveys in the month of February.
But they didn't actually put that perception into reality, throw their hat in the ring and actually look for a job. And that's what you really want to see for a more sustained and substantial recovery and one that really brings down the unemployment rate more fundamentally.
One of the other issues is the persistence of the long-termed unemployed. We have been sort of eroding away at that. It's been a sticking point for the last couple months, the number of people that are employed more than 27 weeks. And that's something that the Federal Reserve has brought up as a particular concern to them, because they are worried that those people have been unemployed for so long could become permanently unemployed.
RAY SUAREZ: Daniel, along with the low labor force participation rate that Diane mentioned and also the stubbornly high long-term unemployment rate, hourly wages hardly budged, four cents an hour from the previous report. And it's wages that drive more spending, that drives more employment, doesn't it?
DANIEL GROSS: Absolutely.
I think on the year wages were up by 2.1 percent. One of the big -- it's a story that has been covered, but I don't think with sufficient detail, is that, you know, companies have really distinguished themselves in this recovery since 2009 in their ability to increase profits, find new markets, boost their sales and especially boost their profits.
Corporate profits are really at a record high. They have a record amount of cash on hand. They have been able to do that in part because they're finding new markets in places like China and India. But they have also been able to do that by really sort of beating up on their workers in the sense that they're getting them to work harder, more productively, more hours, do more work without really paying them much more.
And over the long -- you know, that is a real issue in our economy, because most people, you know, they spend almost all of what they earn. Their ability to enjoy a quality of life and to invest is based on their wages. And we are going to get to a point in this recovery where companies are going to have to sort of give it up.
In other words, they're going have to voluntarily pay a little more and make a conscious effort to pay their workers a little more in order to keep giving them the tools to consume a little more.
RAY SUAREZ: Diane Swonk, do you agree?
DIANE SWONK: I do.
And, in fact, I would go a little further on that and say that unfortunately that point in time is not likely to come for some time to come. We still have a lot of excess workers out there looking for work, more workers than we have jobs to employ them. And even though it is whittling away at the unemployment rate, really not taking it to down substantially, and that is the real problem.
The wage gains that we're seeing, too, there is really unevenness within sectors. Even the health care sector, which has been the star of the labor market for some years now, you're seeing a lot of hiring by lower-wage personnel, technicians replacing higher-wage nurses in some cases.
This month, nursing employment did increase, but that wasn't where the bulk of the employment gains were in health care. A lot of it was in lesser-paid, lower-tech people. And what you are seeing is many health care providers, for justifiable reasons, because they are being squeezed as well, are trying to squeeze cost out of the system. But it is hurting some of those workers that have been doing so well, like nurses.
Some nurses are seeing as much as 20 percent in their pay cut as well, and so all of those things add up to be very uneven for the economy and leads to the sort of, you know, we are gaining jobs, which is increasing income after a big drop in the month of January. But we're not gaining wages. So for the individual, it feels like they're sort of spinning their wheels a bit.
RAY SUAREZ: You know, when we came out of the deepest part of the trough during the last four years, there would be the occasional good monthly report, and people like you, Diane, and people like you, Dan, would say we're not out of the woods yet.
Before we go tonight, what does out of the woods or at least coming out of the woods look like? What should people be looking for, Dan Gross?
DANIEL GROSS: Well, I think a few more reports like this -- 250,000 jobs is pretty good. You annualize that over the course of a year, it's three million.
Over the past 12 months, we got two million. And I would actually look, you know, drilling down, we have had the situation the last few years where the private sector adds jobs every month, but the public sector, which is federal, state and local government, cuts them, 10,000 here, 20,000 there. Over the past three years, the public sector has cut 1.1 million jobs.
So if government had managed to maintain its employment levels, we would have a much different unemployment rate and a much different jobs picture. We like to think the Europeans are doing austerity, and that's kind of self-destructive. But at the state level, at the local level, and to a lesser degree at the federal level, we have really been having austerity policies in terms of cutting spending by cutting employment.
If that finally lifts, if governments are in a position where they are not firing teachers and are hiring construction workers and cops and firefighters again, that would add to the labor growth that we're having, and it wouldn't just be the private sector doing it.
RAY SUAREZ: And, Diane, quick final thoughts.
DIANE SWONK: Final thought is, I really want to see that participation rate come back. Some of it is because people are aging, but that's not all the reason we have seen the decline in it.
You want to see a sign of hope out there. The best sign that the recovery in the labor market is sustainable is that people really believe they can put their hat in the ring and get a job when they are looking for a job.
RAY SUAREZ: Diane Swonk and Daniel Gross, thanks for joining us.
DANIEL GROSS: Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: Online, economics correspondent Paul Solman breaks down the numbers using his unique measurement of unemployment. That's on our Making Sen$e page.
The Colorado Senate began voting on seven gun control measures Friday. Final action on the bills is expected Monday. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks.
DENVER -- The Colorado Senate began voting Friday on a series of gun control measures that could serve as a barometer for the rest of the nation, as lawmakers around the country try to respond to the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Four of the bills have already passed the Democratic-controlled House. Those bills would extend background checks to personal sales, force gun buyers to pay the background check fee, limit ammunition magazine size and ban concealed weapons from being carried on college campuses.
Three additional bills being considered in the Senate would restrict firearm possession for people who have committed domestic violence, hold manufacturers liable for assault weapons deaths and mandate concealed weapons permit applicants to take some in-person gun safety training.
Follow Colorado Public Radio's Check and Balance blog for up-to-the-minute coverage of Colorado's legislature:
Although Democrats control the Senate, it was far from clear whether they would be able to hold onto enough of their members to pass the measures. If they lose just three, the bills could fail.
State Sen. Cheri Jahn is under pressure to support three gun bills she calls "unenforceable."
State Sen. Cheri Jahn, a Democrat from the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge, told the NewsHour she will vote against the magazine limit, the ban on concealed weapons and the gun liability measures because she believes they cannot be enforced and will not stop gun violence. She admitted she was under intense pressure from her party but says she cannot in good conscience support them.
Friday's debate was expected to be heated. Earlier in the week, gun rights activists launched a noisy honk-a-thon, driving their cars and trucks around the Capitol building and packing committee hearing rooms as the bills were drafted. But the tone in the chamber today was almost somber as lawmakers spoke about their own personal experiences with violence. The domestic abuse bill was the first to be considered. Democrat Edie Hudak said she was sponsoring the bill to honor a former student who had been killed by a boyfriend. She said the bill was a common sense piece of legislation that struck a reasonable balance between rights and safety.
State Sen. Bill Cadman spoke in emotional terms about his own family, but said the domestic abuse gun bill would do nothing to curb violence.
Republican Minority Leader Bill Cadman countered with his own personal story of an abusive father who used to beat his 10-year-old brother with a screwdriver. Cadman said he would support a domestic abuse gun bill if he thought it would make a difference. But he said this bill doesn't do that.
Perhaps one of the most controversial bills to be considered today was extending background checks to the private sale of guns. Majority Leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora said that 80 percent of guns found at crime scenes were purchased from private sellers. She said closing the private seller loophole would go a long way to modernize Colorado's gun laws.
Democratic State Sen. Morgan Carroll from Aurora, Colo., argues that background checks need to be extended to private sales since 80 percent of guns found at crime scenes were sold privately. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks.
But longtime gun rights supporter Greg Brophy from rural Wary says the bill "won't improve safety one iota" and that the outcomes of the bill would be absurd. He worried that he himself could be jailed for loaning a hunting rifle to a longtime friend if the bill was adopted. Carroll said that was a "legitimately absurd" argument and that the only people affected by the bill are ones who can't pass a background check.
Debate on the gun bills was expected to continue well into the night, with final consideration to take place on Monday. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called for universal background checks in his state-of-the-state speech earlier this year, but has not firmly endorsed any of the other bills.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The news of increased hiring helped Wall Street finish the week with new gains. The Dow Jones industrial average added 67 points to close at 14,397. The Nasdaq rose 12 points to close at 3,244. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq gained more than 2 percent.
The conclave to elect the next pope will begin on Tuesday. The College of Roman Catholic Cardinals reached that decision today. They have been holding meetings at the Vatican ahead of the conclave to address the church's problems. The Vatican press secretary said today the preliminary talks should help the cardinals decide who is best suited to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
FATHER THOMAS ROSICA, Vatican Press Secretary: I have every confidence that, in entering the Sistine Chapel, they are entering that Sistine Chapel next week, early next week with data, with information and with a better sense of what the church needs and who the church needs.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In all, 115 cardinals will vote in the conclave. It will continue until one man wins a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes.
There was new talk of war from North Korea today, in the face of U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program. The North canceled a nonaggression pact with South Korea, and its leader met with front-line soldiers.
We have a report from Angus Walker of Independent Television News in Beijing.
ANGUS WALKER, Independent Television News: Arriving by boat, Kim Jong-un is seen being given a rapturous welcome by troops stationed on an island close to the tense border with the South.
This was state TV showing their commander in chief on the front line, just as North Korea is threatening to launch a nuclear attack, and today scrapped a nonaggression pact. Kim Jong-un told the soldiers to be ready to go into battle, according to the official news agency.
He is seen scanning the same South Korean coastal areas where just over two years ago when his father was in power North Korea shelled a South Korean island, claiming it had been provoked. In the war of words, South Korea today fired back, warning the North would vanish from the earth if it launched a nuclear attack.
China urged all sides to keep calm and return to negotiations. The latest furious threats from North Korea come just as the South and the United States embark on large-scale military exercises and the day after the U.N. voted through fresh sanctions.
Kim Jong-un is shown leaving the island, soldiers waiting out to see him off, their families weeping and waving, as the North Korean leader heads off into increasingly dangerous waters.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Kenya, the vote count in the presidential race neared completion, amid signs there might be an outright winner.
Uhuru Kenyatta apparently had just over 50 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Raila Odinga. That margin would be enough to prevent a runoff. Kenyatta will still have to face the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. He is charged in connection with violence after the 2007 election.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: An associate and family member of Osama bin Laden appeared in a New York courtroom today.
Margaret Warner reports.
MARGARET WARNER: Outside, police vehicles with flashing lights guarded the federal court building in Lower Manhattan, while inside, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, alleged to have been a spokesman for al-Qaida, pled not guilty to a single count of conspiring to kill Americans.
The 47-year-old Kuwaiti was a Muslim preacher, al-Qaida follower and son-in-law to Osama bin Laden. He allegedly appeared with bin Laden the day after the 9/11 attacks, urging Muslims to attack Christians, Jews and Americans. And a short time later, he gave this speech.
SULAIMAN ABU GHAITH, Al-Qaida: The storm of planes will not stop. There are thousands of young Muslims who desire martyrdom in the path of Allah.
MARGARET WARNER: Federal prosecutors say, in 2002, Abu Ghaith left Afghanistan for Iran, where he's lived since. Then, last month, he traveled to Ankara, Turkey, only to be detained and deported to Kuwait.
But during a stopover in Amman, Jordan, he was nabbed by U.S. authorities and flown to New York to face charges in federal court. That move drew criticism from some Republicans, who argued that terror suspects should be tried by military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: You're putting people like this into federal court, giving them the same constitutional rights as an American citizen.
MARGARET WARNER: Similar objections in 2010 forced Attorney General Eric Holder to back down from plans to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York. But, today, a White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, defended going to civilian court.
JOSH EARNEST, White House Deputy Press Spokesman: They are a -- in many ways, a more efficient way for us to deliver justice to those who seek to harm the United States of America.
MARGARET WARNER: Abu Ghaith was returned to prison today. A trial date will be set next month.