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

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    MARGARET WARNER: For more on today's hearing and the decision to try Abu Ghaith in federal court, I'm joined by Jess Bravin, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal and author of the book "The Terror Courts," and New York Times reporter William Rashbaum, who was in the courtroom today.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    William Rashbaum, beginning with you, tell us what it was like in court today. How did it unfold?

    WILLIAM RASHBAUM, The New York Times: Well, Mr. Abu Ghaith was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs. Security was pretty heavy.

    There were probably about a dozen marshals in there. He was uncuffed, sat down. He looks quite different than he did when he appeared with Osama bin Laden. His beard is trimmed. It's gray. His -- most of his hair is gone. And the proceeding was brief. And they took care of some limited business. His lawyer entered a not-guilty plea for him.

    And they set a conference date about a month out.

    MARGARET WARNER: Did the defendant say anything? How did he act?

    WILLIAM RASHBAUM: He was -- appeared calm. He responded yes two or three times to questions put to him by the judge, who summarized the charges, explained his rights to him, appointed three lawyers to represent him.


    WILLIAM RASHBAUM: But he -- he seemed calm.

    MARGARET WARNER: ... on what basis, from what you could tell from what unfolded in court, is he being charged with conspiracy to kill Americans? I mean, he's not alleged, or is he alleged to have taken part in any specific attacks?

    WILLIAM RASHBAUM: No, he's not.

    The indictment is relatively brief, and in large measure focuses on statements that he made. He essentially made threatening statements about the United States, said that there would be additional attacks. I think the indictment cites statements he made on Sept. 12th and some subsequent statements he made as well.

    MARGARET WARNER: Jess Bravin, you cover the Supreme Court. You have written a lot about courts. How would you explain the basis on which they're finding conspiracy here, or they're alleging conspiracy?

    JESS BRAVIN, The Wall Street Journal: Well, they're alleging conspiracies because he was very close to Osama bin Laden.

    Osama bin Laden was the organizer, the patron of the 9/11 attacks. He's with bin Laden when those attacks take place. He's making statements for bin Laden afterwards. And conspiracy is a way that the government that the government can impute to one defendant the offenses of another. So, this crime basically says he was in on the plot and he is therefore responsible for many of the outcomes, even if he didn't pull the trigger himself.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, this is the same federal courthouse that originally the Justice Department wanted to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in, but backed down.

    What you can tell us about why the Justice Department, nonetheless, despite the outcry last time, has gone forward to try Abu Ghaith here?

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, I think there are a number of reasons.

    One is practical. They sort of learned their lesson that -- a lesson they might have picked up from the Bush administration, which was it's a lot easier to just do it and then announce it, instead of announce it in advance, and wait for the political blowback. During the Bush administration, they would take controversial actions and then announce them.

    That is what has happened here. They brought him to New York and then they said, he's in New York and we are going to bring him to his arraignment tomorrow. So that is one reason. Another reason, though, is that there would be some problems, at least potential problems, if he was sent to a military court at Guantanamo or anywhere.

    Military commissions have jurisdiction over crimes of war and military offenses. And there are a couple things here that lawyers may have thought would have been problematic, one even being, is he a combatant if he's been on the run for 10 years?

    MARGARET WARNER: William Rashbaum, back to you.

    The prosecutor, I gather, had something to say about what Mr. Abu Ghaith has told them, has told investigators, that he has given quite an extensive statement. What you can tell us about that?

    WILLIAM RASHBAUM: Well, the -- one of the prosecutors said that he had talked extensively after he was arrested. We understand that he spoke both before he had a lawyer. Then he requested a lawyer and continued to make statements after he was represented by a lawyer.

    The statements are detailed in a 22-page document that the prosecutor referred to when he talked about the information, evidence that was going to be turned over to the defense lawyers.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, Jess, back to you.

    You heard -- well, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today, other Republicans, that the government was forfeiting a great opportunity to really interrogate him at length for intelligence information. What's the government's response for that? Are they saying, well, he's already talked; he's given his 22 pages worth of info?

    JESS BRAVIN: They certainly pointed that out.

    And also, though, there are questions about how -- how deeply the government could continue to interrogate him anyway. If they took him to Guantanamo Bay, we wouldn't be lawyerless there. He does have a right to a lawyer under a Supreme Court decision issued in 2004. So there would immediately be some contest over whether or not he could even be held there and whether or not the government could make him talk.

    And President Obama has forsworn the coercive interrogation methods that the last interrogation used, so the chances of all the kinds of enhanced or coercive things, that might be lessened.

    MARGARET WARNER: The White House deputy spokesman said today that the civilian courts are, I think it was, efficient way for us to deliver justice, as he put it, to terrorists.

    What is the record on that between military tribunals and civilian courts?

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, there have been since President Bush first authorized the use of military commissions seven convictions. Most of those were plea bargains. Two of them were recently vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. So there are now five.

    It has been a very slow process and it's been encumbered by a lot of internal disarray and political intervention and what has gone on in the Office of Military Commissions. At the same time, the Justice Department has racked up a fairly consistent record of getting convictions. They have had dozens and dozens of terror suspects convicted in the same period.

    And the advantage, I guess the advocates would say, of using federal court is that there won't be any battles about the legitimacy of the courthouse itself. At Guantanamo Bay, almost all the proceedings are heavily affected by challenges to whether or not the trial itself is a lawful exercise of government power.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal, William Rashbaum of The New York Times, thank you both.

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    The call itself took seven minutes, 16 seconds to unfold and not much longer than that to spark outrage throughout the nation.

    The scene is now familiar to many: Lorraine Bayless, 87, was barely breathing at Glenwood Gardens independent living facility in Bakersfield, Calif. A nurse looked on, refusing a 911 dispatcher's pleas to perform CPR because doing so would have violated company policy to wait for emergency responders, she said.

    A week later, as the recording continues to echo from television and computer monitors around the world, some are pointing out that nothing about the 911 call is as black-and-white as it first appeared -- including the institution's policy, the nature of the facility or even whether immediate CPR was the best course of action in the first place.


    It was Feb. 26 and the frustration in 911 operator Tracey Halvorson's voice bordered on panic.

    "I understand if your boss is telling you you can't do it," she said. "But ... as a human being ... you know ... is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

    "Not at this time," the nurse said.

    "Is there a gardener? Any staff, anyone who doesn't work for you? Anywhere?" the dispatcher asked later in the call. "Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady? Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her."

    No one did, and Bayless was pronounced dead at the hospital.

    The event triggered a police investigation -- which later concluded that "no criminal statutes had been violated -- and calls nationwide for regulation to prevent similar deaths in the future.

    "This is a wake-up call," said Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, chair of the California Assembly Aging and Long-term Care Committee. "I'm sorry it took a tragedy like this to bring it to our attention."

    Officials with the Tennessee-based company that owns Glendale Gardens initially stood behind the nurse and said she was simply following standard procedure by dialing 911 and waiting for first responders to arrive. Then, on Tuesday, they released a statement declaring that the nurse had been confused and was on voluntary leave pending an investigation.

    "The incident resulted from a complete misunderstanding of our practice with regards to emergency medical care for our residents," the Tennessee-based company said.

    But according to the Assisted Living Federation of America, a trade association that manages senior living communities throughout the U.S., the basic protocol the nurse followed was nothing short of routine.

    This was an independent living facility as opposed to personal care homes or assisted living facilities. Before even signing a lease, residents fill out paperwork acknowledging that they understand that meals, activities and housekeeping will be provided. Medical care will not.

    "What that means is there's not going to be staff in the building trained in administering CPR," said Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of public policy for the group.

    Having a trained nurse in the building was extremely unusual, she said, and the woman wasn't even acting as a nurse -- she was 'resident services coordinator,' meaning she arranged the social activities and additional care upon request.

    Therefore, "emergency protocol would be to call 911 and wait for medical personnel to administer CPR," Bersani said. "But no company has any policy that prohibits her from doing what the 911 operator was asking her to do."

    "Immoral and Unethical"

    And that's the part Susan Geffen, an elder law attorney and gerontologist based in Redondo Beach, Calif., doesn't understand.

    "I think it's immoral and unethical -- and in this particular case, since this woman is a trained nurse -- it's unconscionable," she said.

    If something had gone wrong, the federal Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act and California's Good Samaritan Law -- which protect individuals assisting a victim during a medical emergency -- would have shielded the nurse from civil damages.

    But whether or not she could have been terminated is another question, Geffen said, especially if the CPR had cracked a rib that in turn punctured a lung, led to death and opened the company to a lawsuit.

    "So in cases like this, I think it's a combination of fear of litigation, an overzealousness to please authority and fear of losing your job," she said.

    The way Geffen sees it, the entire industry needs more regulation so that policies are in place for someone at all elder-care facilities to assist more swiftly before medical personnel arrive.

    "The good thing that comes out of all of this is that maybe we'll have better regulations and various facilities that house older adults won't be operated like the Wild Wild West," she said.


    It now appears that Bayless had a stroke, not cardiac arrest. CPR may not have even helped her.

    But when an adult collapses, the vast majority of the time -- 75 to 80 percent, in fact -- cardiac troubles are to blame, said Dr. Michael Sayre, an emergency physician at the University of Washington.

    "There's no way to know which is which at the time, so we have to jump in and try our best," he said "And the earlier you start, the bigger the effects."

    The takeaway, even if Bayless was in that 25 percent minority, is that "people need to be prepared," Sayre said. "And if you do see an adult collapse, you need to call 911 and start chest compression immediately."

    But others say that's another gray point.

    Richard Grimes, president and CEO of the Assisted Living Federation of America, points out that the population living in these facilities tend to be frail. After all, this was not a situation where a 50-year-old man collapsed in a restaurant and immediate CPR is automatically the best option.

    "If you perform CPR on an 87-year-old woman who had osteoporosis, in order to do it right you would have to crush her rib cage like a bag of potato chips and that's torture," said Richard Grimes. "In most cases like this, it's probably best for people to wait for professionals with the equipment they need and can use."

    Bayless knew the risks of living in an independent living facility, the family said in a statement. She wanted to "die naturally and without any kind of life-prolonging intervention."

    "We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern," they wrote, "but our family knows that mom had full knowledge of the limitations of Glenwood Gardens and is at peace."

    So in the end, Bayless died the way she wanted: without intervention. But even if she discussed her preferences with family, friends or doctors, there appears to have been no documentation.

    Bayless could have made her wishes official with a do-not-resuscitate order -- a document signed by a doctor making clear that she wanted forgo life-saving efforts. Or she could have asked for a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which states what kind of medical treatment patients would like to receive.

    "But because it wasn't documented, it created a lot of confusion and emotional distress for the health care providers who responded," said Judy Citko, executive director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care in Sacramento.

    To that end, the family said it will not try to profit from the death with a lawsuit. They described the situation as "a lesson we can all learn from."

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    RAY SUAREZ: Next to Venezuela.

    Crowds spread out over a mile today in Caracas, as the country said goodbye to President Hugo Chavez.

    Matt Frei of Independent Television News reports.

    MATT FREI, Independent Television News: This feels less like a funeral and more like a celebration of immortality. And every time the camera passes, the exhausted faithful, who have been waiting on their feet for 24 hours, play their part, all this despite the soaring heat.

    Chavez may be dead, but they all behave as if he's still alive, highlights of a life cut short at only 58 years are played on giant screens on a loop. Given perhaps his posthumous appeal, the government has taken the decision not to bury him, but to embalm Chavez and keep him lying in state forever.

    Immortality is the rarest of compliments, and for this crowd, Chavez has joined the top three.

    What they are saying is that the three most important people in their lives, all dead, are Jesus Christ, Simon Bolivar, and now Hugo Chavez.

    For the country and the government, this was an opportunity to do many things, not just pay respects to the man who dominated Venezuela for the last 40 years -- first up, the symbolic passing the torch, or, in this case, the sword of power. The sword is in fact a replica of the one that had once belonged to Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Latin American from colonial rule and Chavez's main inspiration.

    Today, it was held aloft by the man who inherited Chavez's mantle, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, former bus driver and union boss, who will be sworn in as interim president later today and hopes to get re-anointed in fresh elections. The sword was his personal gift to his dead patron.

    Then this was an opportunity for Venezuela to show off its friends to the world, after the Latin American leaders pried a place in their very own guard of honor, President Ahmadinejad of Iran and President Lukashenko of Belarus. Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, also had a front-row seat.

    To Washington, this may look like a class reunion of the axis of evil, but to the guests here, this is the club of countries that pride themselves on defying America. Many of those in the audience lacked most of the things that Chavez possessed, charisma, a popular mandate, plenty of oil, and a good friend from Hollywood. The actor Sean Penn was also in attendance.

    Hugo Chavez reveled being a divisive figure, and he will continue to divide opinions at home and abroad, even from the grave.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And that brings us to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is off today.

    Welcome to you.

    So, go back to the top of the show. Good news, David, on the jobs front, good news for the economy, even as Washington dysfunction continues.

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes.

    We overestimate how much effect Washington has. It's sort of like you're so vain, you really think this economy is about you. I have asked a bunch of business leaders ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: You don't want to sing that for us?

    DAVID BROOKS: I don't, not with my voice today.


    DAVID BROOKS: I have asked a bunch of business leaders, you know, how much -- over the past five years, what government actions have really affected a concrete decision you have made?

    And you get answers all over the lot. There is no consensus at all on this question. The number one answer I get is uncertainty. I can't plan because health care costs, because financial regulations. The number two answer I get is nothing. I can't think of any way the government, even the big stimulus -- the third answer I get is, the stimulus helped us. And the fourth answer I get is some other thing.

    And so it has had -- I think what we do here in Washington has an effect on the macroeconomy. But the idea that the fiscal cliff or the little things we're doing here and now, even the sequester, which is all bad government, the idea that it has a huge effect on hiring decisions, I remain dubious.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the -- the sequester, of course, in the run-up to all that, many economists said that is bad. The president, of course, was saying it could be very bad.

    RUTH MARCUS, The Washington Post: Sky is falling.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    RUTH MARCUS: I would disagree with David, because I do think that what happens in Washington does matter. It just doesn't simply matter instantly.

    So we haven't seen built into these job numbers any of the impact of the sequester. And I think it's important to remember we avoided the fiscal cliff, but there still was, with the expiration of that payroll tax holiday, a drag on the economy.

    There is definitely going to be a drag on the economy with the impact of the sequester when it starts to be felt. That's going to be in a month or two and in a rolling way. So, this is a terrific jobs number. That is good. But this has been a slow and fragile recovery.

    And nobody should celebrate too much just yet or discount, sorry, David, the impact of Washington.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    Well, I mean, obviously, there are drags. And I agree. Things are drags. But there are also pluses out there, the lowering of oil, of gas prices, that is obviously a plus. So there is a complex mixture of things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, from a political standpoint, do you take it further and say -- did the president overplay his hand to some degree, in saying -- in the sky is falling toward the sequestration?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I thought sequestration was absolutely terrible policy. So, from the point of view of are we running a decent government, it was terrible.

    From the point of view are -- do people want a sign that their government can actually function, and does that overall level of confidence affect economic performance, I think he was right about that. If he was saying, well, a 0.25 percent drop in federal spending, whatever it was going to be, is going to have an immediate economic effect on hiring decisions, that was probably oversold.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think about the politics of the sequestration right now? Because we spent so much time talking after the election about the president has the upper hand, right, and that Republicans are down. Does it -- has it flipped at all now?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, the president has the upper hand because he's the president, by definition. But he's still got a Republican House to deal with.

    I want to go back for just a second on the sequester, because we had this odd thing. During the campaign, we refuse -- when I say we, I mean President Obama and Mitt Romney refused to talk about -- declined to talk about the fiscal cliff, declined to talk about the sequester.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I didn't think she was talking about all of us.

    RUTH MARCUS: The -- even after the election, we didn't hear about the sequester for a while.

    Then, all of a sudden, the administration way overplayed its hand by making it seem as if the sky was imminently falling. We may well feel, we probably will feel the impact of these things, not just in the macroeconomy, but because it's a small part of overall government spending, but it is a large part of government spending on some particular programs.

    Wait for those airport lines. David's going be on a flight later tonight. I'm sure will be whisked right to the front.

    So, when the -- but when the president -- now the president has completely flipped again.

    He's gone from sky is falling, let's go out and trumpet to the country how terrible and irresponsible these Republicans are to cozying up with them in this mealtime diplomacy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes, so that's where I wanted to go.

    The president has dinner. He invites 12 Republicans to a hotel in Washington, neutral territory.

    What do you make of that? Is that -- is that -- is it useful? Is it helpful?


    First, I'm shocked that Ruth thinks I'm flying commercial.

    I am flying commercial. I want to make that clear. So I think ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: He's in a different economy altogether.

    RUTH MARCUS: Oh, if I only knew how the other half lived.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    So, I think it's vastly over -- overdue. Those of us who interview these people have a sense that they're -- you interview them separately. And they do a lot of time guessing about what the other party is thinking. And then a lot of times, what you hear -- and you heard this especially from Republicans -- wildly inaccurate views of what Obama was proposing, let alone what he believed in private.

    And so the idea was, why don't you guys just get together? And I remember this -- thinking this four or five years ago. Paul Ryan and Barack Obama are two wonks. If they could actually sit around a table -- and you would think he has had a lot of lunches since he's president. Just choose one and have Paul Ryan come over.

    And so it's always mystified me that it hasn't happened. But it has happened. And so far, the effect has entirely -- as far as we can tell, been entirely positive.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, I think it's great that it has happened. I question why it didn't happen sooner, either four years ago or two months ago.

    I also think that, yes, the first results are entirely positive. But it is a long way from dinner to dessert.


    RUTH MARCUS: And, yes, there may be -- there are some signs of what the president called the commonsense caucus in the Senate, some willingness from Sen. McCain, Sen. Ayotte, Sen. Graham to accept some new revenue as part of tax reform, and if you combine it with controlling entitlement spending, that is all terrific.

    And the president ought to be able to agree to that. But there is that thing I mentioned earlier, which is, even if you could get an agreement on that, in that grand bargain that we keep sitting here talking about, how do you get it past the House, where there seems to be ...


    RUTH MARCUS: I interviewed Paul Ryan the other day -- absolutely no willingness to accept new revenue, even as part of tax reform.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the president is next week continuing this. Right? He goes to Capitol Hill four times, including to talk to the House Republicans.

    DAVID BROOKS: But, obviously, the basic structural problems are not going to go away with a few meals.

    But I do think there has been sort of a lowering of the desire to ratchet every discussion up into World War III. And so I think on the budget where they -- they seem to have jointly decided, let's stop having these budget fights. And so on some of the budget -- thinking how to get past the sequester or really lock in the sequester, they seem to have said, let's have a compromise that we won't raise all the hot-button issues. We will just try just get through these things and we get on to other stuff.

    I think the meals have helped a little on that.

    RUTH MARCUS: They have decided to temporarily halt all these budget fights, so we won't ...


    RUTH MARCUS: I think it's highly unlikely we will have a government shutdown at the end of March.

    But I really would keep an eye on, yes, once again, the debt ceiling debate that we're going have come May, June, July.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I'm resisting more meal metaphors here.

    But to move on to another phenomenon this week which was -- it was the filibuster by Rand Paul.

    He had a lot of Republicans praising him, right, off the bat. And then, 24 hours later, he got hammered by John McCain, Lindsey Graham. So what do you make of the divisions there?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, it's very interesting.

    First of all, I would say it's not particularly senatorial to call your colleague a wacko bird.

    That is an interesting way to get along with everybody. That is what Senator McCain had to say about Senator Paul.

    Look, there are a bunch of divisions in the Republican Party, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, isolationists, neocon democracy promoters. And this is another one between the libertarians and those who believe in strong executive authority, and particularly during the war on terror.

    We didn't hear a lot from that group during the Bush administration. Now you have a Democratic president, that may have enhanced it a little bit. I thought the -- that Senator Paul did a good service, in the sense that he brought attention to this drone issue, which has been underattended to in terms of what are we doing, where are we doing it, what is the legal basis for it, who exactly is doing it. Those are all legitimate questions.

    The problem I had with what he did was that he was asking exactly the wrong question, which was conjuring up this fanciful notion that we could be attacked right here, right now any ...


    RUTH MARCUS: ... by some president run amok.

    That's not going to happen. The attorney general told him it wasn't going to happen. He refused to take no for an answer. But I do think that the sort of larger question of drone transparency is a valuable one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, is it -- is it a legitimate debate over national security within the party? And is it a debate that has future consequences, political consequences?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, it is an ancient debate. If you go back through Robert Taft, the Republican Party has had a reasonably strong anti-military wing -- not anti-military, but anti-interventionist wing.

    And that goes back for decades. It was sort of quieted. It tends to grow when there is a Democrat in the White House. So, when Bill Clinton was contemplating action in Kosovo, suddenly, it got very big again. When a Republican is president, it vanishes. And it will vanish again when there is any sense of a threat.

    So, for example, there were a lot of people who were cheering Ron Paul on, like Rush Limbaugh, because he was jabbing the president. But if it comes time that there is some American threat and there is a need for military intervention somewhere, they will be with John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But he's not also jabbing the Republican establishment at the same time?

    DAVID BROOKS: He is. But I think they like the fact that he is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

    And so I do think his -- what looks like his side of the debate is bigger than it was five years ago -- there's no question about that -- but looks artificially inflated compared to where it is now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, just a couple minutes. And I wanted to turn from politics to a sort of cultural marker, which is the chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, has a new book, "Lean In," prompting a discussion of whether women can have it all or whether just the best-off women can have it all.

    What do you think? Is this a -- is it a cultural moment? Is it a useful moment?

    RUTH MARCUS: It is a constant cultural moment.

    It seems like the endless debate, and I imagine some woman sitting in this chair 20, 30 years from now having exactly the same discussion, probably with a couple guys -- nothing personal.

    DAVID BROOKS: I will still be here.

    RUTH MARCUS: You and David will still be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, we will try to be here, I guess.

    RUTH MARCUS: We will wheel you in.

    Look, we had this conversation last summer when Anne-Marie Slaughter of the State Department wrote what I thought was a not-terribly well-thought-through piece called "Why Women Still Can't Have It All."

    Sheryl Sandberg's book is very interesting, because she talks from, admittedly -- she acknowledges this -- I am privileged. I -- most women who work don't have the flexibility I do. Many women who do have the flexibility I do haven't made the same choices I do. That's all fine.

    But she talks not just about bias or discrimination, conscious or unconscious, in the workplace, but about the ways in which women, consciously or unconsciously, contribute to their own inability to have it all or lack of success. And I think it's going to spark a very, very interesting debate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the man's view?

    DAVID BROOKS: You can have it all. This is the essence of conservatism. No one can have it all. There are always tradeoffs in life. The world isn't structured so you can have it all.

    I will say two things. One, why are so few women crossing the CEO ceiling? I think the evidence is, overwhelmingly, it's childbirth. There is some sexism in there, but it's primarily a lot of women do not want to commit themselves to that sort of life. And, so, it's that.

    Second, I'm just struck -- Katie Roiphe wrote a good piece about this in Slate magazine -- why so much hostility toward her, especially from feminist circles? It's as if a lot of people want to have women successful. But when they actually have a successful woman, they are extremely hostile to her, because she is out of touch and she doesn't get it. So, my sympathy is mostly with her.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, I will give you one sentence, if you can rebut whatever or respond in one sentence.

    RUTH MARCUS: I think Sheryl Sandberg's point about childbirth is, yes, and you might make different choices, but don't cut off your choices before you know that's what you want to do. Keep yourself in the mix.

    And you know what? Have the guts, as she does, to leave the -- leave the office at 5:30 and then check in at home.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. All right, a discussion we have started, and, actually, we are going to try to continue it on the program next week.

    Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, thanks very much. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight: Monday marks two years since a devastating tsunami hit Japan. We take a look back through the words of a writer.

    Gretel Ehrlich is best known for her nature and travel writing. She's authored 13 books, including three of poetry.

    It was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan, triggering a tsunami that reached over 130 feet, taking close to 16,000 lives and causing the meltdown of three nuclear reactors, a disaster of epic proportions.

    Beginning in the 1960s, Gretel Ehrlich began visiting Japan regularly to study and write about its culture, its religion -- she's a practicing Buddhist -- and its literature. Soon after the tsunami, she returned for the first of three trips to document the physical and emotional aftermath.

    GRETEL EHRLICH, Author: I felt a need to go. And it's been a lifelong thing about Japan that has called me. I wanted to hear the stories. I wanted to help people tell what had happened to them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The result was the new book, part reportage, part personal reflection, titled "Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami."

    She talked to us about it recently on Kent Island, Md., where she spends the winter.

    GRETEL EHRLICH: We came to cove after cove of villages that just didn't exist anymore.

    You would see parts of boats up in the trees and clothing and -- from rocks and -- but it was when we got to the larger towns, three of them right in a row, where you drive down a street, and the rubble on either side would maybe be two or three stories high. It became this illegible collage of a society that had been completely taken apart and left there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Ehrlich, one response was in poetry, writing verse based on what she was seeing.

    GRETEL EHRLICH: My old friend William Stafford, a poet now gone, said, a poem is an emergency of the spirit.

    And I think that's -- were the moments that I wrote a poem, when I couldn't sort of tell the news anymore.

    "Here, the earth altar breaks. We have always been on the move. Past and future, those are places I have never reached. Where the tsunami wave came and went, that's where I am."

    Everything in Japanese culture is about beauty framed by impermanence. And a poem can be very brief and, in a way, explode out like an open door. It draws the mind and the heart in, and then it lets go. It sort of steps aside. Everything is transient. Everything is in flux.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But many things in Japan, she says, also have historical resonance. One of her poems, referring to the 17th century poet Matsuo Basho, makes a comparison between the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    GRETEL EHRLICH: "At Ishinomaki, where Matsuo Basho once wrote a poem, finally, the twisted roadbed drains and the daily flood tides at Ishinomaki dry out. The sky unmists itself and loss upon loss begins to feel like company. Nothing touches. Nights are brittle and soft, ink scraped smooth. To the South, Fukushima Daiichi blazes, flames we can't see. Sixty-six years ago, two other seacoast towns vanished. I stick my forearm out in moonlight looking seaward. My skin burns."

    There was a sense of survival euphoria that came up, because it was so -- in such a field of loss, the possibility that you were still alive was kind of overwhelming.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Amid the devastation, Ehrlich says, she found a remarkable resilience. This is a country and a people with long experience of natural disasters, including tsunamis.

    GRETEL EHRLICH: "Oceans. Even underwater, I try to see, is the abyss dark or fed by fire? I hold a cracked tea bowl in my mind. It is lopsided, beautiful, spilling. The chilled depths into which I slide break open like doors. Abyss-san says, you have to be alive to die."

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ehrlich says she hopes to return to Japan soon to help with efforts to move people from temporary government housing into permanent homes.

    And there's more online, where you can watch Gretel Ehrlich read from her poetry. That's on our Art Beat page. 

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    President Obama; photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    President Obama has been reaching out to Republicans to discuss the budget. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    The next few days should give President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans a clear sense of just how far apart the two sides are when it comes to reaching a long-term deal to reduce the nation's deficit.

    The president will continue his outreach to lawmakers by visiting Capitol Hill to meet with all four caucuses, beginning with Senate Democrats on Tuesday. He will meet with House Republicans on Wednesday, and with Senate Republicans and House Democrats separately on Thursday.

    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., welcomed Mr. Obama's shift in strategy during an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

    "I think the president's tremendously sincere. I don't think this is just a political change in tactic. I think he actually would like to solve the problems of the country and it would be to his benefit and certainly every American's benefit if he did that," said Coburn, who was once one of Mr. Obama's closest friends in Washington. "So, it's time to start leading. And the way you do that is quit...poking your finger in people's eyes and start building relationships and I think he's got a great chance to accomplish a big deal."

    House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who had lunch with the president at the White House last week, was asked by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" if he thought Mr. Obama's effort was sincere.

    "I am excited that we had the conversation. We had a very frank exchange. We come from different perspectives. I ran against him in the last election," Ryan said. "So, we exchanged very different, frank, candid views with one another that were very different, but at least we had the conversation. And I think the answer to your question will be determined by how he conducts himself in the coming weeks and months."

    Ryan also was asked whether Republicans would be willing to accept the president's call for additional revenues to be part of a broader deficit-reduction agreement.

    "We do have a difference of opinion on that," Ryan acknowledged. "The other problem is this: By continuing to raise taxes to fuel more spending, you'll never get tax reform, which is critical for economic growth and job creation. And, so, yes, we have an impasse right now, which is the president wants to continue raising taxes, not for deficit reduction but to fuel more spending, and, we see tax reform as incredibly important goal, and policy, to getting pro-growth economics, to getting businesses growing again and hiring people."

    Ryan also previewed his 2014 budget plan, which is expected to be released Tuesday. As with his previous blueprints, Ryan calls for overhauling Medicare and Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act. The proposal aims to balance the budget in the next decade.

    Senate Democrats, led by budget chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., plan to introduce their 2014 spending blueprint on Wednesday.

    The National Journal's Nancy Cook and Margot Sanger-Katz report on some of the broad outlines of the Democratic proposal:

    The new Senate Budget Committee chairwoman, Patty Murray, will propose additional revenue beyond the fiscal-cliff deal, as well as more spending on education, transportation infrastructure, and job training, according to aides and Democratic members familiar with the discussions. Her budget will seek to undo nine years of sequestration, starting next fiscal year, through policy ideas that Democrats have already proposed: closing tax loopholes, for example, and saving money from the troop drawdown in Afghanistan. And it will offer targets for revenue and spending that the federal government should hit over the next 10 years--along with possible instructions for tax reform.

    (The White House announced last week the president's budget will not be delivered until April 8.)

    Senate Democrats will also move forward this week with their plan to fund the government from March 27 through the end of the fiscal year in September. Politico's David Rogers notes that the bill will have differences from the House version approved last week, but omits extra funding for some of the president's key priorities, such as healthcare and financial reform.

    Those short-term battles could derail progress toward a long-term agreement. But other potential roadblocks also remain, including divisions within the parties.

    The president has been signaling that he's open to entitlement reform, but Politico's Kate Nocera points out that he faces a major hurdle with fellow Democrats. She writes that 107 of the 200 House Democrats signed a letter to Mr. Obama threatening to vote "against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."

    With the real negotiating still a few weeks away, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told CQ Roll Call that he thinks they should all be behaving as legislators and then a larger deal could fall into place. From the Q-and-A:

    CQ Roll Call: You made a decision this year to abandon one-on-one negotiations with Obama and move legislation through regular order -- and in some cases only after the Senate has passed its own version of legislation dealing with whatever issue is at hand. What are you hoping to accomplish?

    Boehner: Well, look, I just realized that two guys behind closed doors just isn't the right way to deal with these big problems, and it hasn't produced results. You want the wisdom of all 535 Members of Congress, and all 300 million Americans brought to bear, in the light of day. Frankly, these one-on-one talks with the President took all the pressure off my friend Harry Reid and Senate Democrats to actually produce legislation. We're all supposed to be legislators. I'm really indebted to the folks in the Ohio state house back when I first got elected who taught me to be a legislator. The House should pass a bill, the Senate should pass a bill, and if we disagree, we go to Conference. That's the system our Founders gave us.


    In the Los Angeles Times, Brian Bennett takes stock of of the immigration agreement among the Gang of Eight in the Senate and found that the men "have privately agreed on the most contentious part of the draft: how to give legal status to the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants." He reports they will seek a pathway to citizenship "that would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine." Once given the probationary legal status, they could work but could not get any public benefits, including unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid.

    In a series of Sunday show appearances, former Florida GOP Gov. Jeb Bush clarified his immigration position. ""We could take either path; either a path to citizenship or a path to legalization," he said on "Meet the Press." Over at Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin plots out a timeline of Bush's evolution on immigration.

    Bush also opined on his family's political legacy and how that could shape his own future. "I don't think there's any Bush baggage at all. I love my brother. I'm proud of his accomplishments. I love my dad. I'm proud to be a Bush and if I run for president it's not because of something in my DNA that compels me to do it," Bush said on Fox News Sunday.

    Politico's Mike Allen learns that Mr. Obama will speak to top backers of his campaign spinoff, Organizing for Action, at a dinner Wednesday in Washington.

    The Washington Post's Lisa Rein details how Yellowstone National Park has been impacted by the sequester spending cuts.

    The Boston Globe's Matt Viser takes a close look at the 87 judicial vacanies festering on a federal bench of 874 seats. With only seven out of 11 judges, the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit has the worst vacancy rate of any federal circuit court, but with Republican appointees holding a 4-3 majority the Senate's inability (or unwillingness) to confirm its nominees has policy effects far beyond Washington.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., defends his filibuster in a weekend Washington Post op-ed.

    The president and first lady Michelle Obama hosted outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton for a three-hour dinner at the White House on March 1.

    Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., told the Detroit Free Press that he is "seriously considering" a 2014 bid to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin. Scott Romney, Mitt's brother, may be interested in a Republican bid.

    In case you were wondering, 72 percent of Michiganders agree with Mitt Romney that the trees in the state are just the right height, according to an automated survey released by Public Policy Polling.

    The Rothenberg Political Report has released its first 2014 House ratings.

    Kansas Gov. and former Sen. Sam Brownback has an answer to the sequester: Ted Kennedy.

    The Associated Press looks at two Illinois Republicans in trouble with their party for supporting gay marriage. A Saturday meeting of top state Republicans to discuss party chairman Pat Brady was canceled at the last minute, with sources within the GOP state central committee citing a lack of votes to dismiss him.

    Roll Call's Meredith Shiner scoops: "Staffers for Sen. Dean Heller have been bullying other senators' aides to protect the Nevada Republican's space in the Russell Senate Office Building," refusing to give tours as part of the biennial Senate office lottery. It's a larger-than-average office, she writes, adding, "Though special courtesies are usually extended to aides and members visiting offices, Heller staffers repeatedly tried to keep them from seeing the spacious member office, sources reported, saying meetings were ongoing and could not be interrupted."

    Actress Ashley Judd appears to be closer to challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

    South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley is readying her 2014 re-election bid.


    He's got more in the wheelhouse than bathtime self-portraiture! Click here to view the collection of George W. Bush's dog paintings.

    Fishbowl DC gets to the bottom of notorious meda tweeter Marty Rudolf.

    At the annual Gridiron dinner, Mr. Obama poked fun at the sequester and Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio drinking water.

    Today's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at the number of older workers remaining at their jobs beyond the retirement age.


    David Brooks and Ruth Marcus discussed the jobs figures, the president's outreach to Republicans and the role of women in the workplace. Watch the segment here or below. Watch Video

    Attending South by Southwest? Want to discuss whether partisan media contributes to a healthy democracy? Please stop by Christina's panel on Monday. It starts at 5 p.m. CT at the Austin Convention Center.

    Allie Morris, Simone Pathe and Cindy Huang summarized the week that was on Capitol Hill: fireplaces, bladders and outsiders seeking budget autonomy.

    Kwame Holman caught up with former Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl to ask about what it was like to negotiate with the president.

    Colorado lawmakers on Friday debated new gun control measures.

    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.

    Click on the image above to listen to the stories, or visit our special Voting Rights Act page here. Christina explained the project here.

    You can still share your memories. Use the button below, or call (703) 594-6PBS to tell us your story.


    D.C. issues 7.3 parking tickets every minute! wapo.st/YcsTrz

    — Andy Stone (@andymstone) March 11, 2013

    At @sxsw @npr party. As if our normal listeners sent their children.

    — Peter Sagal (@petersagal) March 11, 2013

    Our wild #SXSW week begins tonight at @thechicagohouse for the @pbs party! Hoping to have a fancy beer w/ @petersagal too. #sxswinteractive

    — MARMALAKES (@marmalakes) March 10, 2013

    traitor! "@mattbeynon: I will be 35 in 2016, I am headed to Hilton Head, SC tomorrow and Des Moines, IA in April. Begin your speculation..."

    — Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) March 8, 2013

    @governorperry meeting with business leaders in town for #SXSWInteractive to talk jobs & economy. twitter.com/TeamRickPerry/...

    — Team Rick Perry (@TeamRickPerry) March 8, 2013

    Calling all high school artists! I am now accepting submissions for the Congressional Art Competition: tiny.cc/hfumtw#MN

    — Michele Bachmann (@MicheleBachmann) March 8, 2013

    #ff my favorite @tpm lady alumni now and forever @jillrayfield @rachelslaj @cbellantoni#womensday#IWD

    — Versha Sharma (@versharma) March 8, 2013

    Matthew McConaughey opens #sxsw panel w/ "alright, alright, alright" - 1st words he ever said on film twitter.com/cbellantoni/st...

    — Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) March 10, 2013

    Katelyn Polantz and politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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  • 03/11/13--06:44: Gretel Ehrlich
  • Poet and writer Gretel Ehrlich shares her reflections on the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, where she traveled to document the physical and emotional aftermath. Best known for her nature and travel writing, Ehrlich has authored 13 books, including three of poetry.

    Watch Video

    Transcript: A Writer Reflects on the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, Two Years Later In this web exclusive clip, Ehrlich reads from "Facing the Wave":

    Watch Video

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    Larry Kotlikoff says that maximizing your Social Security benefits is more complicated than reaching retirement and receiving the "green light" to start collecting Social Security. In some cases, you could receive the highest amount of benefits with a "start-stop-start" strategy. Photo by Chris Voll/Flickr.

    Larry Kotlikoff's Social Security original 34 "secrets", his additional secrets, his Social Security "mistakes" and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature "Ask Larry" every week.

    We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Kotlikoff's state-of-the-art retirement software is available, for free, in its "basic" version. His considerable and often very useful output is available on his website.

    Before responding to emailers this week, let me first ask myself and then answer a question that our readers may find useful:

    What is the "Start-Stop-Start" Social Security benefit claiming strategy and who can it help?

    Start-Stop-Start is a term I've coined for starting your benefits prior to full retirement age, stopping them at full retirement age (this is done by filing a request with Social Security to suspend your benefits) and starting them up again at age 70 when they will be 32 percent larger due to the delayed retirement credit.

    Following this strategy may make sense for married couples in which one spouse has reached full retirement age without having applied for his/her retirement benefit.

    Let's call the younger spouse Sue and the older spouse Alex. And let's assume that Alex has just turned 66, which is his full retirement age. If Sue is 62 or older, she can let Alex collect "free" spousal benefits on her work history. But to do this, she has to apply for her retirement benefit early.

    Having done so, Alex, because he's reached full retirement age, can apply just for a spousal benefits and collect half of Sue's full retirement benefit, while waiting until 70 to collect his largest possible retirement benefit. The spousal benefit that Alex receives between 66 and 70 is, effectively, "free," since he is more than fully compensated for waiting to collect his retirement benefit at 70.

    After 70, Alex will collect both this retirement benefit plus what's called an excess spousal benefit. Unless Alex's covered earnings were a lot less than Sue's, his excess spousal benefit will be zero. The excess spousal benefit is not half of Sue's full retirement benefit -- her primary insurance amount (PIA). Rather it's this amount minus Alex's own PIA augmented by the delayed retirement credit. And if this difference is negative, it's treated as zero.

    But, let's not forget Sue, who took her own retirement benefit at 62. In so doing, she condemned her own retirement benefit to be permanently reduced by 25 percent. Or did she?

    In fact, she didn't. When Sue reaches full retirement age, 66, she can suspend her retirement benefit and start them up again at 70. Furthermore, since she has reached 66 and Alex is now collecting his own retirement benefit, Sue can apply for a spousal benefit based on Alex's work history. It will be calculated as her excess, not her full spousal benefit, but, hey, if it's positive, it's better than nothing.

    Lora -- Allen, Texas: I was married to my first husband for 23 years, and I am currently remarried. Can I draw Social Security from my first husband even if he is still living and at what age can I start drawing from him?

    Larry Kotlikoff: You cannot collect spousal benefits on your ex's earnings record since you are remarried. Nor can you collect survivor benefits, with one exception. If you remarried after age 60, you can collect survivor benefits based on your ex's work history (of course only after he passes away).

    Robert Rush -- Queens, N.Y.: We are planning for my upcoming retirement. Although we both plan to wait to collect until our full retirement age, I was wondering how my passing (before then) would effect my wife's ability to collect a survivor benefit early?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your passing would permit your wife to collect a survivor benefit starting at age 60. Your intent to both collect your retirement benefit at full retirement age (FRA) sounds like a mistake. It's probably better for one of you to start collecting a full spousal benefit when that person reaches FRA and have you both collect your retirement benefit at age 70. See my first answer, above.

    Mark M. -- South Bend, Ind.: I am going to be 63 years old this summer and currently receive a pension from the utility company at which I worked for 37 years. Presently I am working full time but plan to go part-time and take Social Security this summer. My wife also works part time and averages $12,500 a year. Can she take a spouse option at 62 and draw her full Social Security benefit when she turns 66? She plans to work at her current pace until 66.

    Larry Kotlikoff: This is probably the wrong move unless you have no other means of support. Yes, your wife can take her spousal benefit at 62, but she'll also be forced to take her retirement benefit at 62 and her retirement benefit may wipe out or mostly wipe out her spousal benefit. What you want to consider is both waiting until 70 to collect your retirement benefits and having one of you collect just a spousal benefit starting as soon as possible after full retirement age. Or look at the "Start Stop Start" strategy referenced above.

    Dennis -- Stroudsburg, Penn.: I am a postal worker under Civil Service. I do not have enough quarters to collect SS. Could I collect under my wife's working history or do I need to work for the quarters I need?

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can collect a spousal benefit but it will be reduced due to the government pension offset (GPO) by two-thirds of amount of your Civil Service pension. If you have an option to wait to collect your Civil Service pension and can collect your spousal benefit immediately, it may be best to do so. The GPO doesn't kick in until you start collecting your pension from non-covered employment.

    Cynthia Clarkson -- Petaluma, Calif.: I am 63, working, but not receiving Social Security benefits. My ex-husband of 18 years is receiving $1200 a month in Social Security benefits. At age 66, I am eligible for my own benefits of $1200 a month. Can I receive spousal benefits now and then apply for my own benefits later?

    Larry Kotlikoff: No. If you apply for spousal benefits now, you'll be forced to take your retirement benefit as well. Consider waiting until 66 to collect your spousal benefit. It won't be reduced and you'll get the full spousal benefit (half of your ex's full retirement benefit), not the excess spousal benefit (half of his full retirement benefit less your full retirement benefit), which could end be negative, in which case it will be set to zero. Under this strategy, you'd wait until 70 to collect your own retirement benefit. But this may or may not be the very best you can do depending on your earnings history and that of your spouse.

    This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions. Follow @paulsolman

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  • 03/11/13--09:18: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    Craftsman Manfred Paulus adjusts the valves of world's largest functional tuba -- exactly double the dimensions of a normal tuba -- at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum in Markneukirchen, Germany. Twenty local artisans helped craft this mega instrument in 2010 as part of celebrations around the 650th anniversary of Markneukirchen, a town with a rich tradition of brass and wood musical instrument manufacturing dating back to the 17th century. Photo by Joern Haufe/ Getty Images.

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    Watch Video PBS NewsHour spoke with Ricky Rash about his struggle to gain access to his son's online accounts after the 15-year-old's death in 2011.

    Eric Rash

    Eric Rash had a bright future, so when he committed suicide at 15 years old, his family went in search for a reason. They requested access to their son's Facebook account after his death, but Facebook refused citing issues regarding users' right to privacy. Photo courtesy of Ricky Rash.

    The era of keeping cherished letters, photos and diaries in a shoe box under the bed is rapidly coming to an end. Today, we increasingly live our lives online. From email to social media, the record of our thoughts, interactions with friends, photos and videos of the poignant to the mundane moments of our lives are now digital.

    It's clear our lives have changed as a result of this technological revolution. What's not clear is what happens to our digital lives when we die.

    "The average person has 20 to 25 different accounts," Naomi Cahn, a law professor at George Washington University, said. Cahn is working with the Uniform Law Commission to craft a nationwide, consistent legal landscape for digital assets. "Most people have not thought what happens to those accounts once they die."

    "The important thing for us to think about these memories is we want to make sure that they are able to get to the next generation," Evan Carroll said, founder of The Digital Beyond, a blog about our posthumous digital existence. "Sometimes they are behind a password or controlled by terms of service we don't understand."

    Five states currently have laws that govern digital assets, but they vary widely. Some, like Indiana, Idaho and Oklahoma cover social media and blogging accounts, while Connecticut and Rhode Island's legislation only cover email.

    The Virginia General Assembly just passed legislation that will provide a parent or guardian access to a minor's digital accounts. That law was championed by Ricky Rash, a dairy farmer, whose 15-year-old son Eric committed suicide in 2011. Eric was an accomplished honor student that had appeared to be a well-adjusted teen with a bright future ahead of him. His family wanted access to his Facebook account in order to understand what possible causes might have led to his suicide.

    But the Rash family discovered that current state and federal law made that impossible. The Stored Communications Act, the federal law that governs the protection of a person's electronic data, was crafted in 1986. The prospect for change on the law is unlikely in the near future.

    "Everybody wants to do the right thing, but the hard legal reality is the federal communications act," Jim Hawley, vice president at TechNet, an industry group that represents tech companies like Google told The Associated Press.

    Despite the emotional pleas from family members such as Ricky Rash, companies stress their commitment to the privacy of their users and the service agreements and company policies we click on when we create new accounts.

    It's estimated that three Facebook users die every minute. Those accounts used to be deleted, but now the company offers the option to memorialize those pages. That allows friends and family to use the page to share stories, photos and videos as they grieve. Even with this new option, nobody is given access to log in or edit the account.

    "I don't know what the first legal showdown of these laws will be, but it could be a huge case," said Kristina Sherry, a law student who recently published an extensive paper of the legal landscape governing our digital lives in the Pepperdine Law Review.

    NewsHour wants to hear from you:

    What do you think about your digital life after death? Should loved ones have access to your accounts? Or should your privacy remain protected?

    Please respond in the comments section below.

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    By Gretel Ehrlich

    Watch Video

    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. Gretel Ehrlich is best known for her nature and travel writing. She has authored 13 books, including three of poetry. Her most recent book is "Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami," which was written after disaster struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Watch our recent profile of Ehrlich here.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States' relationship with Afghanistan faced new strains today. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an insider attack following pointed accusations by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. is colluding with the Taliban.

    Tensions were evident everywhere today, from an American officer in Kabul yelling at troops who had mistakenly shot to death two civilians, to Wardak Province, where the Afghans had ordered all special U.S. forces to leave by yesterday. There, an Afghan policeman gunned down two American soldiers and two other police officers before being killed himself, all of this as newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel concluded his first trip to Afghanistan.

    The visit was difficult from the start, a suicide bombing outside the Afghan Defense Ministry on Saturday as he met with NATO commanders nearby.

    DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL, United States: I wasn't sure what it was. I was in a briefing. But we're in a war zone. I have been in a war. You know, so you shouldn't be surprised when a bomb goes off of there's an explosion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Then, on Sunday, a verbal broadside from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, charging the U.S. had a role in the attacks.

    PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan: The bombs which exploded yesterday were to show Taliban strength to America. It was at the service of America, at the service of America. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners were not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All outside combat forces are to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014. But Karzai claimed that, in fact, the U.S. is hunting for an excuse to stay longer.

    Hagel met later with the Afghan leader and rejected accusations of fomenting violence or of dealing with the Taliban behind his back.

    CHUCK HAGEL: I told the president it wasn't true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban in trying to negotiate anything. The fact is any prospect for peace or political settlements, that has to be led by the Afghans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Further complicating matters is Bagram prison, which was to be turned over to Afghan control on Saturday. U.S. authorities delayed the transfer again, citing problems with the transfer agreement.

    President Karzai has made regaining control of the prison a key issue as he seeks to assert greater Afghan authority. 

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on this, I'm joined by Ambassador James Dobbins, a career diplomat serving in a number of conflict zones, including Afghanistan. He's now the director of RAND's International Security and Defense Policy Center. And Said Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to Washington from 2003 to 2010, before that, he was President Karzai's chief of staff. He is now president of the non-profit Foundation for Afghanistan.

    And, gentlemen, we welcome you both to the NewsHour again.

    Said Jawad, let me begin with you.

    Why is President Karzai making these charges?

    SAID JAWAD, Former Afghan Ambassador to the United States: President Karzai is facing a transition, a political transition in Afghanistan.

    And he would like to remain relevant for this process of the transition. Many of the things that he has said publicly are not new to the Americans. In the past, privately, he has said these things. The issue of the prison, for instance, he has promised certain Afghan constituency that as soon as the inmates are transferred to the Afghans, he will release them. And this is something that the U.S. officials are concerned about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So -- but when you say he's trying to remain relevant, he's worried that he's not going to be relevant?

    SAID JAWAD: Well, his term is ending soon. We have an election scheduled for April of next year.

    He feels that he will be a lame-duck president therefore. Also, his calculations personally are that the United States has larger plans and they would like to stay in Afghanistan and the region. He would like to be seen as the man who is pushing America out or defending the Afghan interests.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador James Dobbins, this idea that the U.S. would be wanting to stay longer in Afghanistan, is there any truth to that?

    AMBASSASOR JAMES DOBBINS, International Security and Defense Policy Center Director, RAND Corporation: There is some truth, but I think Karzai exaggerates the degree to which the United States is committed and wants to stay in Afghanistan.

    I mean, clearly, if we had no role in Afghanistan, we would have no way of coping with al-Qaida either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. All of the attacks on al-Qaida in Pakistan today are conducted from Afghanistan. So we have an interest in retaining some role. We see a very modest, small role for the United States.

    Karzai, I think, has an exaggerated sense of how important this is and how large a role we have. But there's a kernel of truth there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how do you see what he's doing? Why do you see believe he's making these ...

    JAMES DOBBINS: Well, I think, Ambassador Jawad, there's two very significant transitions coming up more or less in parallel.

    One is the fact that the U.S. is drawing down from a major role to a very minor role. And our influence will diminish as the result. The second is Afghanistan is going through or toward what may be the first peaceful transition of power in its entire national history. This is unprecedented.

    Afghans have never experienced a peaceful transition from one leader to another. And Karzai, as the ambassador indicated, wants to play a role, wants to remain relevant, probably wants to have a role in picking his successor. And he's positioning himself to continue to be influential in the country even when his term is over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Said Jawad, how do you see this -- this question of whether there's any truth to what he is saying? Because some of it sounds farfetched to people who are trying to understand what's going on.

    SAID JAWAD: Well, the question is, does President Karzai believe in this or he pretends? Unfortunately, there are large audiences for conspiracy theories in all parts of the world.

    So, when -- sometimes, when the truths are twisted a little bit or presented to the people in a dramatized way, people do believe in this. As I mentioned, the biggest priority for President Karzai is the personal transition of his role post-2014. So many of the things that he says honestly has been agreed upon.

    For instance, when he asked for the transition of certain provinces or the transition of the inmates, it's just the way he's saying it that is causing a lot of trouble for him and for Afghanistan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What -- Jim Dobbins, what about the timing of it, doing it while Chuck Hagel is making his first trip to Afghanistan as secretary of defense?

    JAMES DOBBINS: Yes, I don't know how much -- I don't know how much significance to attach to that. I don't think there are any bad vibrations between the two.

    He's met Hagel before. He visited Afghanistan as a senator. But I don't think Hagel has said or done anything that would create an antagonism. So it may be that this was largely coincidental. A couple of things came together. Maybe the Hagel visit was an opportunity to make some statements.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hagel seemed to -- Sec. Hagel seemed to shrug it off, in so many words. How do you think something like this affects the relationship?

    JAMES DOBBINS: Well, I think it's a serious irritant, but I think we are going to see more of it.

    I think, as I said, we are ratcheting down. He's facing historic transition. The country is facing an historic transition. And they are entering an electoral period. And under those conditions, domestic opinion, their domestic opinion is going to be what not only Karzai, but most Afghan politicians are looking toward, where our role is diminishing and therefore concerns about our sensitivities are also diminishing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Said Jawad, do you see this continuing too?

    SAID JAWAD: Yes.

    Sec. Hagel was blunt and direct on his talk with President Karzai at the meeting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the private talks.

    SAID JAWAD: In the private talks. And the meeting was -- was a very tense meeting.

    But I think, when he came out, he was graceful and cautious. And one could understand because of the sensitivity of the transition, I think the United States is more interested in the process of the transition, would like to see this process to be -- go through and be completed. They would like to give some space to President Karzai and understand that he has a domestic audience to cater to.

    And I think this is a wise approach. But, at the same time, we, as Afghans, we appreciate what the United States is doing. We understand that some of these statements, it makes it even more difficult to sustain support for the mission in Afghanistan. And we hope that the relation of the two nations will be stronger than the political position of certain leaders because of the political situations of Afghanistan that make -- may make some statements that are not necessarily representative of the feeling of the Afghan people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do you believe what's happened today and this kind of statement coming from President Karzai represents a serious problem for the relationship going forward or something that the U.S. can just deal with, shrug off and move on?

    SAID JAWAD: The Afghan people, as a nation, have spoken actually through the parliamentary forums, through their national and local councils and jirgas that they do want long-term relations with the United States, I think.

    And the United States is making distinctions between the relations of the two nations and the statements of our leader. I think these statements does affect the sentiment of the U.S. Congress, which is key to continue to maintain the support for Afghanistan. But those who are deeply involved in Afghan issues, they will have more tolerance. They will be more composed and patient.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What -- what should Americans look for in the months to come? The troop -- every reason to believe the troop timetable, withdraw timetable will stick as it is?

    JAMES DOBBINS: I think it is.

    I mean, we're cutting the troops in half this year. We will probably take another 80 percent of them out next year. We will leave a relatively small number. They're talking about maybe 8,000, 9,000 American troops left after 2014. And those numbers will probably come down in 2016.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in the meantime, between now and then, we can expect more of what we saw today and the last few days?

    JAMES DOBBINS: I think -- I think we will see fewer casualties.

    There were casualties today, as we know, but the numbers have been coming down. U.S. -- both because we have less troops, but also because we're in longer in the lead in combat operations. We're playing a supportive role. It's the Afghans that are dying and getting killed in greater numbers than our troops now.

    And so we're going to see that continue. I think we will continue to see political tensions and flare-ups of the kind we saw over the weekend. There's a lot of transitional issues that still need to be worked out. And, frankly, we are hopeful that there can be a negotiated peace with the Taliban. We see the importance of that being led by the Afghans. And Karzai is very frustrated, because, while the Taliban are willing to talk to us, they're not willing to talk to him or his government.

    And that's a source of deep frustration, that the future of Afghanistan might be hammered out between parties that don't include the government in Kabul. Now, I don't think the U.S. administration intends to do that. But the Taliban would like to -- would like to exacerbate tensions between us and Karzai and feed his suspicions that there are secret deals being done that he's not party to.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it's a story that we must continue to watch. We will.

    Ambassador James Dobbins, Ambassador Said Jawad, we thank you both.

    SAID JAWAD: Thank you.

    JAMES DOBBINS: Thank you. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Vatican made ready today for the conclave of cardinals that will elect the next pope. It begins tomorrow.

    We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN, Independent Television News: This morning, the princes of the Catholic Church gathered for the last time before their most important task, voting in the 266th pope.

    Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, is the most talked-about for the role, though the Italian press claims his main rival is Odilo Scherer from Sao Paulo in Brazil. If that is true, this is a race between the old world and the new. Scola's Italy traditionally dominates the papacy, but Scherer's Brazil is now the biggest Catholic country in the world.

    The cardinals will vote beneath Michelangelo's frescoes. Glance upwards and there will be no shortage of celestial inspiration. The voters are all sleeping in the same Vatican hotel, where all forms of media along with telephones are banned until the new head of the world's biggest church is revealed.

    The last six popes have appeared on this famous balcony after voting lasting fewer than four days. And this week should be no exception. And when one seasoned Vatican watcher was asked to describe what the cardinals are looking for in a pope, this was how he summed it. "They're looking for Jesus Christ," he said, "but with a degree in business studies."

    AUSTEN IVEREIGH, Catholic Voices: I think they're looking for three things in the next pope. They want a great evangelizer, somebody who can make the message credible, particularly in the West. They're looking for somebody with a global vision, somebody who will speak to the global picture of the church now.

    And they're looking also for a governor, somebody who can get a grip on some of the -- some of the scandals, some of the dysfunctions that have come out in recent months from the Vatican. It's an almost impossible combination.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: The chimney has been installed atop the Sistine Chapel. Hundreds of cameras are already practicing lining up their lenses on it for news, and, inside, the stones where the ballot papers of 115 cardinals will be burned after voting up to four times a day. Only white smoke through the chimney signifies a new pontiff.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The new pontiff will succeed Benedict XVI, who resigned last month, the first pope to do so in 600 years.

    New York City's move to cut sugary drinks down to size will not take effect tomorrow after all. A state judge today rejected the regulation, saying the loopholes in it defeat the purpose. The measure limits high-calorie sodas and other drinks to no more than 16 ounces, unless they're sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. City officials said they will appeal the judge's decision.

    Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted today on 24 counts of racketeering and other federal corruption charges. Witnesses in the five-month trial said Kilpatrick steered city contracts toward a friend for a share of the spoils. He also used political donations and a nonprofit fund for personal spending. Kilpatrick could get 20 years in prison. He already served 14 months in an unrelated obstruction of justice case.

    In India, one of six men accused in the gang rape and murder of a New Delhi woman died in prison today. Police said Ram Singh hanged himself in a jail cell that he shared with three other inmates. But Singh's lawyer vehemently denied that he would have killed himself.

    V.K. ANAND, Defense Lawyer: This is not suicide. There has been foul play one way or the other, because this boy wasn't someone who would commit suicide. Everything was going in his favor. He was getting a fair trial. Family members were coming to meet him. And his children were visiting him. He was happy. Whenever we met him, he was always in a happy mood.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The case has gained worldwide attention and sparked protests across India. Four other men are still on trial and could face the death penalty. An additional suspect is being tried separately as a juvenile.

    An Islamist group in Nigeria posted an online video today apparently showing the bodies of seven foreign hostages. The victims were from Lebanon, Britain, Italy, and Greece. Gunmen from the Ansaru extremist group abducted them last month from a construction site in the northern part of the country. The kidnappers said the captives were killed to prevent a possible British rescue mission.

    State media say North Korea has made good on a vow to cancel the 60-year armistice that ended the Korean War. The announcement today followed last week's U.N. Security Council vote to impose new sanctions on the North over its latest nuclear test. North Korea also shut down a Red Cross hot line with South Korea. It is used to facilitate aid shipments and reunions of separated families.

    Japan today marked the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people. The most powerful quake ever recorded in Japan launched mountainous waves that devastated the northeastern coast and sent radiation spewing from a damaged nuclear plant. More than 300,000 people had to flee, half of them from the radiation zone. Today, hundreds sued for compensation.

    In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to speed up the recovery and the cleanup.

    PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE, Japan: Reconstruction is a battle against time. I would like to reprioritize the recovery to one where the people on the ground can actually feel the recovery, rather than following what is considered standard operating procedure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Following the disaster, Japan's 50 nuclear reactors were shut down for inspections and testing. Only two have restarted. We will have more on Japan after the tsunami later in the program.

    Wall Street managed modest gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average added 50 points to close at 14,447. The Nasdaq rose eight points to close near 3,253. And the Lundberg Survey reported gas prices have fallen six cents in the last two weeks, the first drop since late December.

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

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    GWEN IFILL: And we turn to the East African nation of Kenya, a longtime U.S. ally, where a candidate accused of crimes against humanity is now preparing to lead the country.

    Supporters cheered as Kenya's president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, arrived at Nairobi's election center over the weekend. A delayed final tally made it official. Kenyatta won a razor-thin victory over Prime Minister Raila Odinga, enough apparently to defuse the widespread fear of post-election violence.

    PRESIDENT-ELECT UHURU KENYATTA, Kenya: We dutifully turned out. We voted in peace. We upheld order and respect for the rule of law. And we maintained the fabric of our society.

    GWEN IFILL: Kenyatta is Kenya's richest man and the son of the young nation's first president, Jomo Kenyatta. But his election comes under a cloud. In 2011, he was indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges that he helped orchestrate a post-election bloodbath in 2007.

    The violence between rival tribal groups left more than 1,000 people dead. Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, face trial in July and Odinga has promised to challenge the election results.

    RAILA ODINGA, Kenyan Prime Minister: These elections unearthed serious weaknesses within our election system, weaknesses which we thought we had dealt with in the past.

    GWEN IFILL: Odinga's lieutenant said today the election commission is now hindering efforts to file an appeal. But they still asked for calm.

    MUTULA KILONZO, Kenyan Education Minister: We want to tell our country our petition is not intended to disrupt from the normal activities of a country. To the contrary, it is intended to create a precedent as to how elections ought to be done or ought not to be done.

    GWEN IFILL: Kenya has been a key U.S. ally against terrorism in East Africa. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson warned in advance of the voting that choices have consequences.

    Western nations have been muted in their response to Kenyatta's win. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the people of Kenya for voting peacefully, but he didn't mention the victor by name.

    In Washington today, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland played down that omission.

    VICTORIA NULAND, State Department Spokeswoman: I wouldn't read too much into the statement, but clearly the post-electoral process continues, including through the courts, and that's appropriate.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court dropped all charges today against one of Kenyatta's co-defendants, Francis Muthaura, a top Kenyan civil servant. Court officials said the case against Kenyatta will move forward. 

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    GWEN IFILL: Joining me now to talk about the local and the global fallout from the Kenyan election is Jendayi Frazer, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs. She's now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


    JENDAYI FRAZER, Former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: First off, why is the outcome of the presidential election in Kenya important in the U.S.?

    JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, Kenya is a strategic partner to the United States. As was stated earlier, it is a key ally in our fight against terrorism in the region.

    Many will remember that our embassies were bombed in 1998 by terrorists coming out of Somalia. And now Kenyan forces are in Somalia fighting against those very same terrorist organizations. It also is an economic hub in East Africa, so many American businesses like Ford and others are based there, General Electric.

    And so it's key to the region as a whole. And the neighboring countries like South Sudan, which we have played such an important role diplomatically in trying to bring peace there, rely on Kenya and its ports.

    GWEN IFILL: Uhuru Kenyatta, you have met him. You know something of him. What do we know about him, other than he's the son of a very famous leader of the country, a very wealthy man and now is under this cloud?

    JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, he's also very much a person who respects the West. He was educated in the United States. He's been pro-Western in his outlook.

    He's been the minister of finance before and the deputy prime minister. He's always had strong relations with the United States. Now, the case against him is problematic. And as it was stated, it's falling apart. The co-conspirators have all -- that were charged with him are charged with attending a particular meeting at statehouse and in that meeting planning reprisals against the violence that was being meted out against the Kikuyus.

    But the key eyewitness has now said that he lied and he's been changing his testimony and has -- and even said that he's taken bribes. And so the case is falling apart.

    GWEN IFILL: And yet the U.S., Britain, Canada, the E.U. all very muted, all very nervous about endorsing his election.

    JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, they're a little bit in a bad situation, because prior to the election, they all essentially threatened the Kenyan population, the Kenyan electorate by saying if you elect Uhuru Kenyatta, then we're going to -- there's going to be consequences, we may put trade sanctions, which was extraordinary, frankly, and was a bit of meddling into the domestic affairs of another country, because the case against Kenyatta isn't proven, so he's innocent until proven guilty.

    GWEN IFILL: How is this case, for instance, different from what we have seen when another African leader in Sudan has been called before the ICC?

    JENDAYI FRAZER: It was very different.

    And that person is Bashir of Sudan. And, basically, he's not cooperating with the court, whereas Uhuru Kenyatta is cooperating. There's no arrest warrant against Uhuru Kenyatta. There is an international arrest warrant against Omar Bashir of Sudan. And so the cases are extremely different. And in the case of Uhuru, he's cooperated with the court. The case is unproven. And so he's innocent until proven guilty. That's a fundamental right.

    GWEN IFILL: After all the violence in 2007 and 2008 after the last presidential election, we were all bracing to see if the same thing would happen this time. And so far it has not. Why do you think that is?


    Well, I think the Kenyans learned lessons from 2007. And the civil society very much was guarding their country and guarding against future violence.

    They also had this election under entirely new institutions. There's a brand-new constitution. There's a de-evolution of power from the center, from the presidency, to governors of 47 counties. There's county assemblies. And so I think the diffusion of power, the expectations about their new institutions and the lessons learned from 2007 account for the lack of violence this time.

    GWEN IFILL: Is it possible also that Western nations do not have the influence in these kinds of elections and these kinds of outcomes as maybe they once had?

    JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, certainly. And that's -- the geostrategic environment has changed entirely, and particularly China.

    When you go to Nairobi -- and I have been there twice this year -- you see all of this infrastructure development, new roads. You know, the refurbishment of the port is -- that they're going to bid on, I'm sure. And so the Chinese have changed the playing field.

    If the U.S. and the U.K. and the Europeans don't want to deal with Uhuru Kenyatta, he has another option. And the Chinese envoy was very much at Kenyatta's home today welcoming his election, as did the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and named him, you know, as president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta. So the United States is playing a dangerous game and putting itself in a very small diplomatic box.

    GWEN IFILL: Have all the tribal rivalries that caused -- sparked some of this violence in 2007 and 2008, have they simply gone away? Raila Odinga is a Luo and Kenyatta is Kikuyu, and never the twain shall meet?

    JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, no.

    The tribal competition is still very much there. And this election was very much based on communities voting for their boys, as they would call them. And so the one Luos probably feel very aggrieved by this election and out of power again because they haven't won, whereas one of the fault lines of the 2007 violence was between Kalenjin and Kikuyus, particularly in the Rift Valley.

    But Raila -- I'm sorry -- Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, are from those two tribes. So, the need for healing and reconciliation is still very much there in Kenya.

    GWEN IFILL: And barring any other actions or recounting, there will be a swearing-in March 26th.

    JENDAYI FRAZER: There will be a swearing-in March 26th.

    GWEN IFILL: Jendayi Frazer, former assistant secretary of state for African, thank you.

    JENDAYI FRAZER: Thank you very much. A pleasure.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: what happens to what you might call a person's digital estate, the postings, photos, and memories shared online.

    Virginia is the latest among a handful of states trying to navigate a legal and ethical thicket. And it's a growing concern in the digital age.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Billions of people around the world now live part of their lives online, sharing photographs, information on relationships and careers, tweets and more.

    But what happens when physical lives end and life in cyberspace goes on? Of the one billion people who use the social network site Facebook, for example, an estimated three die every minute. And that can lead to some painful problems. For one thing, there's no one method or law on the books for how beneficiaries gain access to a deceased person's digital records.

    Virginia dairy farmer Ricky Rash ran into that problem after his 15-year-old son Eric committed suicide in 2011.

    RICKY RASH, Father: It was a complete shock, as any suicide is. But we had absolutely no warning. Eric kissed his mom good night the night before. He did his homework. He Armor All-ed the seats in that Oldsmobile that was his. He did everything under the sun to show us it was a normal night.

    So, with no answers from home, no answers from school, we were just hoping that there may be something that would give us some insight as to why he chose to make the decision he did. And Facebook was literally the last frontier that we had to investigate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But getting that insight was harder than Rash thought it would be.

    RICKY RASH: The laws have just not kept up with technology. And what really frustrated us was when we learned that, as a minor child, his parents do not have access to his online accounts. Once he gets an electronic account that's password-protected, it's -- he's entitled to free speech. He signed -- he has entered into a legal and binding contract with the social media sites. And they told me that there's case law to show each of those.

    And I said, please, share with me the information. Show with me in the code of the United States or the state code of Virginia where it says a minor can enter into a legal and binding contract, because I don't believe it as a parent.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Rash isn't alone. On the other side of the country in Oregon, Karen Williams fought Facebook to gain access to her 22-year-old's son account after he died in a motorcycle accident in 2005.

    Her fight spurred a push for legislation in Oregon that was ultimately unsuccessful. Facebook does allow a profile to be memorialized, but certain information is removed and privacy is restricted. Current U.S. law is murky at best. A 1986 federal law prohibits companies from sharing a person's information, even if it is stipulated in their last will and testament.

    Simply handing over passwords in a will violates most social networks' terms of service. Five states have now acted to put in place some form of digital assets laws: Idaho, Oklahoma, Indiana, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. But Congress has no current plans to take up new federal legislation.


    And we get more about all this from two experts. Naomi Cahn is with the George Washington University School of Law. Evan Carroll is co-founder of the blog and website “The Digital Beyond” and co-author of "Your Digital Afterlife."

    And, for the record, Facebook and the industry trade group didn't respond to our requests for an interview.

    So, Evan Carroll, let me start -- let's start broadly to help people understand a bit more about what we mean by digital assets. What does that mean? How do you think about it?

    EVAN CARROLL, “The Digital Beyond”/ "Your Digital Afterlife": So, as we said in the tape earlier, the -- we have shifted towards living much of our lives online. And there's all sorts of information that both we create and is created about us that is stored in digital form.

    So, some simple examples are your e-mail accounts or the photos you have, the digital photos you have, the digital videos you have, things you may have stored on sites like Twitter and Facebook, all of those things that together really form a corpus data that we are referring to as visual assets.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, and, Naomi Cahn, you're coming at this from trusts and estates. And sort of how big a problem is this becoming for people who are dealing with wills or who are not dealing with wills and what they own?

    NAOMI CAHN, The George Washington University School of Law: This is becoming a huge problem, as the number of digital assets grows, and it grows exponentially each year as we come up with new and new kinds of products on the Internet.

    The real problem is that, although we know what to do with the bank account -- when you go to a bank and you open a bank account in person, we know exactly what to do if you die. But we don't know what to do if you open up a bank account online and everything is done online. There are just no -- there are few laws that have stepped in to address this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We don't know because the law is lagging behind in this digital space? Is that ...

    NAOMI CAHN: Exactly.


    NAOMI CAHN: The law is just beginning to catch up. We could say that we deal with everything online in the same way as we deal with everything that's not online. That would probably be the easiest thing to do. But we're not even sure about that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I was mentioning wills, I mean, because my understanding is very few Americans even have wills for all the normal things we call assets, never mind digital assets, right?

    NAOMI CAHN: That's entirely true. Most people don't like to think that they might die. So they don't have a will. They don't think they need a will. And they just haven't gotten around to doing anything. And that's even more true when it comes to digital assets. People have no idea how much value they have in their online accounts.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, now, Evan Carroll, of course, all of this is tied up very much in privacy law, right, something we talk a lot on this program over the last few years, because on the one hand, there's great concerns about the privacy of all of our information online.

    On the other hand, when someone dies, you want to know -- you want someone perhaps to be able to get access to it.


    And Naomi compared this to how we look at our physical assets and we compare that to our digital ones. And let's think about mail. So our physical mail, our heirs would very easily access our mailbox and any mail we had on our desk. However, with our e-mail, they might not be able to access that as easily.

    But there's a key difference. Instead of just having the ability to receive new mail and a few items that have showed up in the last week or months, we have a full archive of everything that was sent and everything that was received, provided that it's not yet been deleted. So it would be very easy for us to say, well, of course, the executor should have access to that because they would in a tangible world.

    But, unfortunately, because there's so much of that information there, it really causes a privacy concern, because you can learn things about a person that perhaps it wasn't intended for you to learn.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Naomi Cahn, we mentioned some states are starting to look at this. Some have taken action.

    What kinds of things are they doing?

    NAOMI CAHN: Five states -- in addition to what we heard about at the beginning of the segment, Virginia, five other states have passed laws that try to give a person managing someone else's estate, try to give that person some authority to access either e-mail accounts or more generally other kinds of digital assets.

    But those laws are just beginning to be used by people managing estates. And we don't yet really know how they're going to work out. The Virginia bill that we heard about that Mr. Rash was instrumental in helping to enact has still not yet gone into effect. So we have no idea what will happen when it does.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Evan Carroll, I mean, there has been pushback by companies. There's been some states where this hasn't gone through.

    What's the argument against states taking action? Is it that they need more of a federal overview on this? What is it?

    EVAN CARROLL: Well, so, each and every service -- let's use Facebook or Gmail, for example -- when someone signs up for it, they enter into a terms of service. That's the document that many of us probably don't read as we're checking the boxes trying to set up our account.

    And then there are many things specified. And sometimes it does even specify what should happen to the account once someone is gone. And these service providers, they want to make sure that they're honoring the contract they have entered into with the account holder. If they have said the account would be private, as in the case of Yahoo!'s terms, they want to honor that promise.

    And, also, there's a -- there's a certain cost to dealing with each and every one of these situations that I would imagine that many of these firms wouldn't be interested incurring without an automated way for them to know who has passed away, because, unfortunately, there is no reliable electronic record of deaths in the U.S., and certainly not in the world, at the present time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Naomi Cahn, what in the meantime do you advise people to do as we wait to watch what happens with state, federal legislation and the evolving nature of the way companies are dealing with this?

    NAOMI CAHN: Just because there's uncertainty in the law doesn't mean that you still shouldn't plan for what to do with all of your online accounts.

    So the first thing to do -- and everybody should do this -- is to make a list of all of your accounts. The average person has 20 to 25 digital accounts, and each of them...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Twenty to twenty-five?

    NAOMI CAHN: Twenty to twenty-five?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Scary to think about.

    NAOMI CAHN: Scary to think about, and many of us have more, if we actually sit down to count.

    And each of those accounts has a password. Well, so, the first thing to do is to list the accounts and to list the passwords and figure out how you want to keep track of all of that information. If you put it in a will, well, a will becomes a public document. So you certainly don't want all of those assets listed in a will, along with your password, because then anybody can access them.

    So, first of all, keep track. Make a list. Figure out. Give access to that list to somebody else. Next thing to do is to write down what you want to have happen. You can't be certain that if you write something down that the courts will enforce it. But it's the best way to make sure everybody knows what you want.

    And then hope that whatever you want to have happen will, in fact, happen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will leave it with hope.

    Naomi Cahn and Evan Carroll, thank you both very much.

    NAOMI CAHN: Thank you very much.

    EVAN CARROLL: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, online, you can read more about Ricky Rash, the Virginia farmer trying to gain access to his son's online accounts.

    And while you're there, we want to know, what do you think should happen to your digital assets after you die? Join the conversation, which you can find on our home page.

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    RAY SUAREZ: At BroadmoorMiddle School in Baton Rouge, La., early mornings have the feel of a pep rally. All 525 students are greeted every school day by a team of young adults from the national service organization City Year.

    The nonprofit works like an urban Peace Corps. It requires recruits, many of whom are recent college graduates, to work for 10 months in some of the nation's highest-need public schools in an effort to reduce the dropout rate.

    Today's cheering and upbeat attitude is in contrast to how the school was when principal Denise Charbonnet arrived in 2009.

    DENISE CHARBONNET,BroadmoorMiddle School: The first year I came, I almost turned and walked out the door. The discipline was a real issue here. We had over 50 percent suspension rate.

    RAY SUAREZ: On top of behavior issues, Charbonnet also inherited a school where one in four of the students were failing and the district was seeing a spike in homelessness.

    BroadmoorMiddle School is made up of mostly minority students and 95 percent of them are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch, meaning the kids come from low-income families that qualify for federal assistance.

    But despite these challenges, Charbonnet says her school has largely been able to turn things around in the last three years.

    DENISE CHARBONNET: We have lowered our suspension rate from 50 percent to 15 percent, which is below the national average. We have lowered the failure rate to 7 percent and improved attendance for each and every grade level.

    RAY SUAREZ: It's an unlikely success story Charbonnet says began when a program called Diplomas Now came to Broadmoor. Diplomas Now identifies at-risk students long before they could ever drop out of high school and then provides a set of intervention and support guidelines to raise achievement.

    The idea came from one of the nation's leading experts on dropout prevention, Robert Balfanz of JohnsHopkinsUniversity. Balfanz spent years developing a data-driven model that flags early warning indicators to target students who show signs of falling behind in subjects like math and English. He says two pivotal years determine whether or not a student will be academically successful.

    ROBERT BALFANZ, Johns Hopkins University: Our focal point is always starting with sixth and ninth grade, because the data shows if you can make the transition to middle school and the transition to high school and really get from sixth to 10th grade on time and on track, your odds of graduating go from maybe one in four to three in four. It's a really big shift.

    RAY SUAREZ: With the help of $30 million in federal stimulus funds, Balfanz has been able to implement his research and create partnerships with nonprofits dedicated to helping students in 44 schools across the U.S.

    Balfanz says Diplomas Now cost a school like Broadmoor anywhere from $650 to $750 per student to put the program in place.

    That money helps to pay for City Year's presence and additional support staff within the school. Balfanz admits that's a high cost at first, but it's well worth it in the long run.

    ROBERT BALFANZ: The cost to society of a dropout is staggering compared to the investment it actually costs to keep many of these kids in school.

    And if you don't believe that, the statistics in the most recent recession, right, is the number of youth 18 to 24 who are -- dropped out of high school that are neither in the labor market nor in any kind of training is in many cities over 50 percent to 60 percent, I mean, true depression-level statistics.

    And imagine if you are 24 years old, don't have a high school diploma, and now don't have a work history. Are you ever going to actually be employable? The odds are quite likely not.

    RAY SUAREZ: At the heart of Balfanz's approach is an ABC method for turning around failing schools. It focuses on attendance, behavior and course performance, with the first goal being simply to get students to show up on time for class every day.

    ROBERT BALFANZ: Not surprisingly, kids that don't attend get in trouble and fail their courses drop out. And we found that kids were signaling early and often, but schools weren't designed to pay attention to it, and if they did pay attention, they didn't have the resources to respond.

    RAY SUAREZ: Balfanz says that many of the schools in his model needed additional resources as quickly as possible.

    And his research showed it was critical for students to have relationships with adults inside the school that shifted constantly from nagging to nurturing.

    Balfanz says that City Year, which already had a national presence, was a natural partner for Diplomas Now.

    ROBERT BALFANZ: By having this corps member who is a near peer, who has just graduated college, knows your music, but is seen as being the captain to the whole classroom, getting attention from that person is seen like, wow, I'm getting attention from the cool person. You now seek it out.

    So, that sort of flips that dynamic, that getting extra attention is now good, not bad.

    RAY SUAREZ: And that dynamic is on display with Keithrick Junius Jr., a seventh grader at Broadmoor. Teachers say Keithrick had some behavior issues last year, but he is making great strides, in part because of his relationship with Sara Ross, who Keithrick describes as being his older sister at school.

    KEITHRICK JUNIUS JR., student at BroadmoorMiddle School: Well, she helped me with my schoolwork. She helped me with school problems. Say, if, for instance, if I get put out of class, she will walk me around the school. We will sit down and we will talk. And she will bring me back to class, and I will get back and do my work.

    RAY SUAREZ: Ross, a Baton Rouge native, is in her second year at Broadmoor, helping to lead the corps members here on their mission.

    SARA ROSS, City Year: We're here to make things better. We're here to tutor kids. We're here to make sure that they stay on track. We are here to make sure that they graduate. We want to prepare them for high school.

    RAY SUAREZ: But, sometimes, serious personal issues outside the classroom can derail student achievement and require more expertise than school officials or City Year can provide.

    PATRICK GENSLER, Communities in Schools: So, those things that might be affecting their physical or mental health, such as suicidal ideation, loss of a parent or a loved one, incarceration of a parent, mental health diagnosis, physical health diagnosis, all those things.

    RAY SUAREZ: Patrick Gensler is an on-site social worker at Broadmoor from Communities in Schools, a nonprofit that is yet another Diplomas Now partner.

    Gensler says that he sees more than 50 students at Broadmoor who are having problems that could keep them out of class. Gensler also takes part in the regular required meetings involving all of the partners: school administrators, teachers, City Year corps members, and the Johns Hopkins Diplomas Now team based in Baton Rouge.

    Each student showing warning signs in attendance, behavior or course performance is discussed at length.

    WOMAN: The reason why his grades are low is because he's not putting forth the effort.

    RAY SUAREZ: A plan is then agreed upon for the best course of action. Incentives and encouragement are often used, as are calls home to a parent for any student who doesn't show up to class.

    Eighth grade science teacher Shelis Jones says the meetings have been instrumental in changing the culture at Broadmoor.

    SHELIS JONES, teacher at BroadmoorMiddle School: When we are there, we are discussing individual students who may have some signs that need to be addressed. And we designate who is going to focus on that. And it breaks the job down. It makes it a little easier. It's not one big load on the administration, one load on the teacher. It's divvied up. And I like that.

    RAY SUAREZ: And the program also seems to work for students like Keithrick, who says he wants to one day become an architect, so he can build homes for the homeless. First, though, he is narrowing down his options for what he wants to do after high school graduation.

    KEITHRICK JUNIUS JR.: I'm thinking going to a -- probably LSU, if I'm still in Louisiana, or Juilliard, the school of arts and music and all that stuff. Did I say that right?

    RAY SUAREZ: Denise Charbonnet says that Balfanz's model was immediately embraced by the school because it didn't call for a full-scale turnaround.

    DENISE CHARBONNET: Johns Hopkins came, and what I really, really liked about them is that they didn't come in and try to say that we needed to do everything differently. They came to say, what can we do to enhance what you are doing here? How can we make it better?

    ROBERT BALFANZ: We often have this vision that it's because the adults weren't succeeding. If we change the adults, find the right person to blame -- maybe it's the principal, maybe it's the teachers -- change them -- maybe it's the community -- close the school -- change them, we will be OK, and not recognizing that, by and large, people are really trying to do a good job, and they are just overwhelmed and overmatched.

    RAY SUAREZ: Robert Balfanz says he is aiming to implement Diplomas Now in 20 additional schools over the course of the next two years.

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: A Japanese town aims for a comeback two years after the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima reactor.

    Our story comes from special correspondent Emily Taguchi, a graduate of the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, one of our reporting partners.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: It's been two years since the meltdowns at the Daiichi nuclear power plant. The city of Minamisoma is celebrating the Nomaoi festival, showcasing their heritage as horsemen and warriors.

    About a third of the city is still uninhabitable. But, on this day, residents who fled the city return, standing shoulder to shoulder with former neighbors to honor their history.

    MAYOR KATSUNOBU SAKURAI, Minamisoma, Japan: I'm Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai of Minamisoma. This year's Nomaoi festival, in the hopes of recovery for our residents affected by the nuclear crisis, is being held per the custom.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: At 20 miles north of the Daiichi plant, Minamisoma was cut off from the rest of the world two years ago by radioactive plumes. Not even aid trucks would come near. Mayor Sakurai uploaded a plea for help on YouTube.

    KATSUNOBU SAKURAI: The banks are closed. The people are literally drying up as if they're under starvation tactics.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: Eiju Hangai, a Tokyo-based businessman born and raised in Minamisoma, felt a particular responsibility to help. He'd spent 32 years working for TEPCO, the utility that operated the stricken nuclear power plant. He'd wanted to work at the utility since he was a little boy.

    EIJU HANGAI, Businessman: My grandfather took me to the construction site of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor one. That was where Japan's energy was going to be made with nuclear power for the first time. That left a powerful impression on me.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: But now the crying need of his hometown was also leaving a powerful impression. So he arranged for supplies to go to a bakery that Mrs. Chisaku Ishida kept open after the earthquake. People needed the traditional funeral cakes to give proper burials to their loved ones.

    EIJU HANGAI: Giving out supplies to people who'd come to buy the sweets was the fastest way to get them to people in need. But then Mrs. Ishida said, we're thankful for the supplies, but we're going to need many, many years to rebuild. We have to do something for the kids who have their futures ahead of them. Hangai-san, please think of something for the kids.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: The baker's mandate became a personal mission for Hangai. His faith in nuclear, indeed the whole region's, had been shattered by the disaster. He listened when the mayor announced an initiative to buy coastal land from former residents and lease it to renewable energy companies to transform the region to solar.

    KATSUNOBU SAKURAI: Whether it's nuclear, thermal, or hydro, electricity is electricity. Once it's produced, people have no choice but to use it in our lives today. So, selling electricity is a means to revive the industry we lost.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: To bring together solar and the baker's plea to help the kids, Hangai worked to set up a partnership between Toshiba, which makes solar panels, and KidZania, the operator of a theme park where kids experience real-life jobs.

    The result would be a solar power company in the city that not only generates electricity, but lets kids experiment with working in a renewable energy plant.

    WOMAN: We would prepare a solar power generation system for kids. They'd have to figure out the best angle, direction, and how to place the panels to generate the most electricity.

    EIJU HANGAI: So for me to answer Mrs. Ishida's homework, I thought, OK, couldn't we give the kids the experience of working in Minamisoma to support their growth?

    EMILY TAGUCHI: Hangai's solar company became one of the first to sign on to the mayor's plan. Radiation levels here have dropped sharply. They are now lower than average background levels in the U.S., and the company is gearing up to open for business this month.

    For Hangai, it's just the beginning of repaying for all those years he spent at TEPCO.

    EIJU HANGAI: The fact that those words of Mrs. Ishida echoed so heavily for me is because I had a sense of guilt and the need to make amends for the reconstruction of my hometown, which will take many years from now, and for the children who will shoulder that burden. This, in some sense, is my life's work.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: Mayor Sakurai tries to imagine a better future.

    KATSUNOBU SAKURAI: In our long history, it's only a moment in time that we had nuclear power, 40 years. But it can destroy history itself. But as long as we don't lose our dreams, I think this town will come back in some form.

    EMILY TAGUCHI: It's a big dream. The city of Minamisoma set a goal to produce all of the electricity it needs using only renewable sources by 2030.

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    Last Meeting Pope Benedict XVI at his last meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 28. Photo via Osservatore Romano/Reuters.

    By Robert McMahon, editor for the Council on Foreign Relations


    The February 2013 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI set in motion a succession process for the Roman Catholic Church that dates to the Middle Ages. Cardinals gathering in a conclave will cast votes for the next leader of the 1 billion-member church amid unusual circumstances. The 85-year-old Benedict was the first pope to resign in six centuries, and the transition occurs at a time when the church faces a number of highly publicized scandals, including a widening crisis over child sex abuse and a probe into the dealings of the Vatican Bank.

    The election of a pope also stirs new debate over modernization of the church, prospects for a non-European pontiff, and the degree to which divisive issues, such as the ordination of women and birth control, will be taken up by a new pope. Meanwhile, the next papal administration will face challenges over religious freedom for Catholics in Asia and Muslim states.

    How Is the Pope Elected?

    The College of Cardinals, comprising leaders of dioceses around the world as well as senior administrators in the Vatican, is charged with meeting in a conclave to elect a new pope. Cardinals gather in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel and swear an oath of secrecy before the voting begins.

    In 2013, the number of voting cardinals -- only those under 80 years of age are eligible -- was expected to be 115. A two-thirds majority is required to elect a winner. The balloting process involves four votes per day until a new pope is elected, with three cardinals chosen to scrutinize the vote and announce each ballot.

    If there is a deadlock after 13 days, a runoff vote between the top two vote-getters is held. When a candidate is selected, he is asked if he accepts and what name he will take. Ballots and other paper notes used in the voting are then burned with a chemical that produces a white smoke, signaling a new pontiff. A cardinal deacon then appears before St. Peter's Square in Rome to declare "habemus papam."

    How Is This Year's Conclave Different?

    Pope Benedict surprised even senior church officials with his announced resignation, citing an inability to keep up with the rigors of the position. His departure means the College of Cardinals will be electing a successor with a previous pope still alive, which hasn't happened since Pope Gregory XII abdicated in 1415 as part of an arrangement to end the Great Schism in the church. Benedict will adopt the title emeritus pope, and in his parting words pledged "unconditional reverence and obedience" to the next pope.

    The 2013 papal conclave also occurs at a time in which the church hierarchy faces multiple crises, including ongoing reports of priests who committed sexual abuse against minors and were shielded by church officials. Hundreds of cases have been brought by alleged victims in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, resulting in settlements of roughly $2 billion and continuing probes of high-ranking prelates accused of covering up evidence.

    The church is also confronting the so-called "Vatileaks" affair, in which the former butler to Pope Benedict shared with a newspaper some confidential documents stolen from the pope's chambers. A church investigation of the incident reportedly shed light on corruption and infighting in the Vatican bureaucracy. In addition, the Vatican Bank is under investigation by Italian authorities for alleged money laundering.

    There have been papal conclaves in times of crisis before, such as in 1914 and 1939 on the brink of world wars, but rarely has a papal succession occurred with such internal scandal, says the Rev. Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University.

    What Are the Main Election Criteria for the Cardinals?

    Voting cardinals select the next pope from amongst themselves. Technically, any baptized Catholic male is eligible, but popes have been chosen exclusively from cardinals since the 14th century. The last non-cardinal elected pope was Urban VI in 1378, but after five months his election was challenged by a group of cardinals, setting in motion events that led to the Great Schism.

    Experts on the church say they do not expect a choice that will steer a major shift in Catholic teaching, in part because all of the voting cardinals were selected by popes John Paul II and Benedict. Both were committed to restoring orthodoxy in church tradition, as seen in their disciplining of a number of priests and scholars, including Latin American clerics who believed in "liberation theology," and in Benedict's case, the liberalizing of the use of the 16th-century Tridentine Mass in Latin.

    "We're not going to see a lot of ideological diversity," said Richard Gaillardetz, who teaches Catholic theology at Boston College. "This is not about being conservative or liberal from a doctrinal view. What you are going to see are questions about style and leadership. Those are important."

    Adds Seton Hall's Wister: "They are considering the condition of the church, the challenges, and who best to lead the church. One of the major challenges would be increasing secularism and the lack of religious faith throughout the world. Also, the internal challenge of the reputation of the church damaged by sex abuse scandals or questionable financial dealings."

    In the aftermath of Pope John Paul II's death in 2005, when some of these same issues were challenging the church, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, emerged as a favorite going into the conclave. Already well known as doctrinal enforcer of John Paul, his role in the period after John Paul's death, including his homily at the funeral Mass, sealed his election after just a few votes, some Vatican experts say.

    Who Are Leading Candidates to Become Pope?

    There has been growing media discussion that this year's papal election will be considering geographic representation more than previous conclaves because the church's main areas of growth are Latin America and Africa (see Pew chart below). A slight majority of cardinals are from Europe, from where nearly all popes have come. Vatican experts have repeatedly cautioned against handicapping papal elections like political races, but media reports have said lead candidates include Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada. (National Catholic Reporter's John Allen provides in-depth profiles of the papabile.)

    What Are the Principal Duties of the Pope?

    As paramount spiritual leader for Catholics, the pope issues regular instructions of the faith through weekly public audiences as well as periodic encyclicals, lengthy letters articulating church teachings on a wide range of issues, both contemporary and timeless. Pope Benedict wrote three encyclicals on the theological virtues of love, hope, and charity. Papal "infallibility" over doctrine concerning faith or morals was officially defined in 1870 by the First Vatican Council.

    The pope also has authority over the functions of the church, including oversight of the Roman Curia, the collection of departments overseeing such areas as Catholic education, spiritual orders, interreligious affairs, and the Secretariat of State (foreign policy). The pope is responsible for the approval of bishops, amounting to hundreds appointed worldwide every year.

    Recent popes have also mounted frequent pilgrimages abroad. John Paul has been the most well-traveled, visiting 129 countries, and was the first in millennia to visit a synagogue and the first ever to enter an Islamic mosque.

    Pew Research Center, "The Global Catholic Population," © 2013

    What Are the Chief Issues Facing the Next Pope?

    The next pope is expected to continue efforts accelerated by Pope Benedict to address the child sex abuse scandal. Many of the abuse cases date to decades ago, but new accusations and charges of cover-up continue to plague the church. A number of church observers have said reform efforts should focus on establishing a mechanism for holding bishops accountable for their role in the scandals.

    "The next pope must, in my judgment, be more severe than his two predecessors in dealing with bishops whom the evidence demonstrates were complicit in abuse cover-up -- even if such an approach was considered appropriate at the time by both the counseling profession and the legal authorities," writes George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II, in a column for First Things.

    Benedict's successor also will be challenged by how to react to the church's global growth and ways in which the increasingly diverse church is managed. Gaillardetz of Boston College says the demands of running the church are beyond the capacities of the pope and his Curia.

    "We don't have institutions suited for the challenge of leading a global church," says Gaillardetz. "Catholicism in the Philippines doesn't look like Catholicism in Nigeria or Catholicism in Brazil or in Boston. How you hold that diversity together is an incredibly difficult challenge."

    The next pope will be arriving midway through the "year of the faith" designed to reinforce church doctrine. But opinion surveys in recent years have shown divisions among Catholics over questions related to adjusting traditional beliefs as well as the proportion of church focus on social justice and right-to-life issues. Fifty years after the convening of the Second Vatican Council, which introduced a number of modernizations of church practices, Catholics continue to debate whether the Council's pronouncements (see Additional Resources) amounted to a weakening of church traditions or a path to greater relevance in contemporary life.

    What Are the Modern Foreign Policy Duties of the Pope?

    The Vatican, the world's smallest sovereign state at 108 acres, maintains the world's oldest -- and one of its largest -- diplomatic services.

    In the past 50 years, experts say, popes have taken a more outspoken stance on global issues. For instance, Pope Jon XXIII in 1963 published an encyclical calling for nuclear disarmament, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). John Paul was famously identified with the Eastern bloc struggle against communism, speaking frequently of human dignity and freedom and serving as a chief inspiration for Poland's ultimately successful Solidarity movement. Other popes have spoken out regularly on environmental stewardship, alleviating poverty, capitalism and inequality, and defending human rights. Pope Benedict gave particular attention to defending religious freedom, telling the U.N. General Assembly in 2008 (PDF): "The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order."

    Considering Benedict's approach to foreign affairs, Edward Pentin, a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, writes for Foreign Affairs that he "primarily sought to bring the teachings of the Catholic Church to the world stage, rather than dwell on practicalities" of diplomacy.

    The next pope will continue to face challenges to protecting church interests, including friction between the church and authorities in places like China and Vietnam, competition by Christian Pentecostalism in Latin America, and ongoing concerns about freedom to worship in Muslim states, especially amid the turmoil created by the Arab Spring uprisings in the Mideast and North Africa.

    CFR's Isobel Coleman, reflecting on calls for a pope from the developing world, notes the church's vast network of humanitarian organizations and the outsized role a papal shift on issues like condom use could have on the treatment of diseases like HIV/AIDS.

    Additional Resources

    How do U.S. Catholics view the church and what they wish to see in a new pope? This Pew Center on Religion study examines the issues.

    The National Catholic Reporter published a series in January 2013 looking at the issue of ordaining women as clergy in historical context.

    George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes for the publication First Things about distinguishing "authentic Catholic reform from ersatz Catholic reform."

    Examine the trove of documents on church positions produced by the Second Vatican Council.

    This backgrounder first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations' website. View all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter:

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