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

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    GWEN IFILL: A recent chill in U.S.-Afghan relations showed signs of a slight spring thaw today. It came as America's top diplomat sat down with Afghanistan's leader to hash out differences.

    Friendship was today's watchword, as Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Kabul, meeting with President Hamid Karzai and smoothing over U.S.-Afghan tensions at a joint news conference.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: I appreciate enormously our friendship. And I know that you share with me a sense that this next year could well be one of the most important in the modern history of Afghanistan.

    GWEN IFILL: The show of unity followed new flare-ups as the U.S. winds down its combat mission there.

    After a deadly bombing this month, Karzai was quoted as saying the U.S. colluded with the Taliban to destabilize his country and to justify a continued U.S. presence beyond the Dec. 2014 pullout date. Today, though, he denied he had made that charge.

    PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan: The media took that to say that I said there is a collusion. I never used the word collusion between the Taliban and the U.S. Those were not my words. Those were used, picked up by the media.

    GWEN IFILL: Kerry in turn said he had reached an understanding with Karzai on the matter.

    JOHN KERRY: We're on the same page. I don't think there's any disagreement between us. And I'm very, very comfortable with the president's explanation.

    GWEN IFILL: There was progress too on meeting another Karzai demand: the return of Afghan prisons to Afghan control.

    GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, ISAF Commander: This ceremony to transfer the detention facility is important and it's meaningful.

    GWEN IFILL: Today, U.S. General Joseph Dunford formally handed over the last jail under American control, Parwan prison near Bagram Air Base outside Kabul.

    All in all, said Karzai, today was a very good day. Kerry agreed. But this wasn't his only challenge in the region this week. The freshly minted secretary of state arrived in Kabul from Baghdad, where he pressed U.S. claims that Iran is shipping weapons to Syria through Iraqi airspace.

    JOHN KERRY: Anything that supports President Assad is problematic.

    GWEN IFILL: Kerry said Sunday that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a very spirited discussion on the issue.

    JOHN KERRY: I also made it clear to him that there are members of Congress and people in America who increasingly are watching what Iraq is doing and wondering how it is that a partner in the efforts for democracy and a partner for whom Americans feel they have tried so hard to be helpful, how that country can be, in fact, doing something that makes it more difficult to achieve our common goals.

    GWEN IFILL: For Kerry, stopping the violence in Syria after two years and 70,000 people killed will be another top diplomatic priority. So will the years-long effort to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. To date, both problems have proved intractable.

    At the same time, President Obama's trip to the Middle East last week has also put new focus on trying to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The trip through the region has provided Kerry with a first-hand introduction to a daunting agenda, and it is likely to be only the first of many such trips to come. 

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    GWEN IFILL: For more on the challenges ahead for Secretary of State Kerry, I'm joined by Michele Dunne, formerly with the National Security Council and State Department. She now heads the Middle East Program at the Atlantic Council. And Susan Glasser, executive editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

    Michele Dunne, it seems, as John Kerry hopscotches around the region, all he is encountering are rocks and hard places. Am I right?

    MICHELE DUNNE, Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East: Yes, you are right about that.

    I mean, this is a region I think that actually has been crying out for a bit more U.S. engagement, but that doesn't mean that it's going to be easy. Secretary clearly shows – Sec. Kerry clearly shows he's ready to be engaged, but, you know, he's walking into a situation in Iraq where the United States has already withdrawn its troops, in Afghanistan, where we're in the process, and that means we have diminishing influence in both of those places.

    We still have interests there, but diminishing influence. Syria, a very, very hot conflict, the United States has been reluctant to get more involved. And then -- and Iran, of course, difficult negotiations, with, you know, not necessarily any sign of progress. And then on top of all of that, Sec. Kerry has shown that he wants to take on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and see if he can make progress where others have not.

    GWEN IFILL: What does his schedule, his first big trip as secretary of state, what does it tell us about his priorities?

    SUSAN GLASSER, Foreign Policy: Well, it certainly doesn't look like we're pivoting to Asia, does it?

    GWEN IFILL: No, which is what Hillary Clinton was doing.

    SUSAN GLASSER: Well, that's right, and Barack Obama. That was the administration's stated goal.

    The real answer, right, is that the Middle East -- regardless of whether the United States achieves energy independence any time soon, the Middle East is a geopolitical center that is just not easy to pivot away from. And I think that daunting list of challenges that you just ran over suggests why that is.

    I also think if you look at what Senator-turned-Sec. Kerry's agenda is, you get the sense of this is still very much a political figure. He spent 29 years in the Senate, which prizes a kind of face-to-face diplomacy, if you will, the handshake, the look them in the eye. And that was a mission that then Senator Kerry, he often undertook even for Barack Obama when he was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    He went to Afghanistan. He met with Karzai. I think this is a somewhat familiar role for him. And it's very different, by the way, than the way that Hillary Clinton used her time and credibility in the job.

    GWEN IFILL: And, yet, Michele Dunne, whether it's Syria or what we just saw in Afghanistan or whether it's worrying about the red lines with Iran or the Middle East peace process, it always comes down to whether the U.S. has the leverage to do what it wants, to get what it wants done in this area. Does it?

    MICHELE DUNNE: Well, as I mentioned, I think, with Iraq and Afghanistan, it's going to be increasingly difficult. As the United States, you know, pulls its troops out, you know, undoubtedly our leverage is waning.

    In some of these other areas, in Syria, you know, I think the United States could have more leverage over what's happening there, but it has to be willing to invest more and to take risks to get more deeply involved. There's a very messy situation in Egypt now with a developing economic and security crisis that may bring down the political transition.

    I think the United States could exert more influence there, but we have to decide that we want to do it.

    GWEN IFILL: Is John Kerry the type of secretary of state, from what we know so far from his history in the Senate, who would actually push the White House to be more actively engaged in places like Syria?

    SUSAN GLASSER: Well, I think that's exactly the question right now.

    I was thinking listening to Michele that really the challenge for Sec. Kerry is not only diplomacy with the likes of President Karzai, but, you know, some real delicate diplomacy back here in Washington, where by all accounts it is President Obama personally who has been the most resistant to increasing the U.S. commitment to aiding the rebels in Syria in any way, for a variety of reasons. This is a very complicated conflict, obviously.

    But, you know, from what -- the sense that I have, Sec. Kerry is staking some of his new credibility in the job and saying we have to offer something more. We have got to change our strategy and present something that changes the calculus on the ground in Syria or we're not going to break through this stalemate.

    GWEN IFILL: The quicksand, always, for secretaries of states or presidents for decades now has been the Arab-Israeli peace process. Did we detect any shifting toward more engagement on the part of the U.S. in that process, or is that yet another thankless task waiting for the secretary?

    MICHELE DUNNE: President Obama just made this important trip to Israel, I think a very necessary trip, and so he's now established a much better relationship with the Israeli people and some ability to exert influence there.

    So that prepares the ground a bit. But the actual conflict itself I think is no more ripe for diplomacy right now than it has been for a long time. But Sec. Kerry seems determined that he wants to try. The question is, you know, will President Obama really back him? Because we know that in the end, this is the kind of a conflict where you need the White House involved. It very quickly becomes a domestic political issue.

    GWEN IFILL: It does become a question, because this State Department at least for the last four years has been famously run -- or at least the foreign policy has been famously run out of the White House. Do you detect any shift in that?

    SUSAN GLASSER: Well, not really.

    And, by the way, many presidents by the time their second term comes around, their thoughts turn to, can I achieve Middle East peace and something lasting legacy I can put on the board, if you will.

    GWEN IFILL: Exactly.

    SUSAN GLASSER: But, at this point I think, you know, President Obama has gotten a lot of points for the eloquence and the cleverness with which he offered this speech over the head in some ways over region's stalemated political leadership.

    But he hasn't really outlined a very new in terms of negotiating points platform that suggests we can pick up new diplomacy. And, frankly, we have been talking about such a daunting list of challenges for Kerry to work on, it's hard to imagine that he's going to be bashing his head against a brick wall, if that's what is still the case when it comes to the actual peace process.

    GWEN IFILL: Finally, he's very different, or is he very different from Hillary Clinton, from what we have seen, for the last four years? Is it style? Is it substance? Is it geography, the Middle East instead of the East?

    MICHELE DUNNE: I think he is going to be different from Sec. Clinton in the sense that, you know, people see this as probably his ultimate achievement as being secretary of state, that he's not necessarily looking forward to a further political career.

    And he's really focused on the next few years and trying to achieve something. I think he has a lot of confidence in himself, after all those years heading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But one last point, though, is to remember that whatever agenda he might set, U.S. foreign policy is usually largely reactive. And particularly in the Middle East, things will happen. And the region will probably change whatever priorities Sec. Kerry tries to set for himself.

    GWEN IFILL: Susan?

    SUSAN GLASSER: Well, you know, it's hard to see any real substantive differences if you listen to Clinton and Kerry talk at the 30,000-foot altitude.

    Stylistically, however, I think there really is. And I think clearly Kerry is a believer in that face-to-face, one-on-one backroom diplomacy with power players. I'm going to go see the men who count in the world. And Hillary Clinton, she used and harnessed that -- that enormous global celebrity of hers, and she played a very sort of inside-outside game, if you will. She was always using public diplomacy and speaking directly in the same way that actually Barack Obama was on this trip to Israel. So, I think that's a major difference already that you're going to see.

    GWEN IFILL: Susan Glasser, Michele Dunne, I know you will be watching very closely. Thank you both very much.

    MICHELE DUNNE: Thank you.

    SUSAN GLASSER: Thanks, Gwen.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The CIA is secretly helping expand military aid shipments to Syrian rebel fighters. The New York Times reported today that the agency has assisted Turkey and several Arab states, increasing an airlift of weapons and equipment. The report said American agents are helping procure the weapons and helping to vet the various rebel factions to decide which ones should receive the help.

    The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today over drug company efforts to delay the release of cheaper generic drugs. The Federal Trade Commission wants to stop the companies from paying generic drugmakers to withhold their products. Drugmakers insist the deals help them recoup huge investments and help avoid lengthy patent disputes. The FTC argues the move stifles competition and costs consumers billions of dollars each year.

    A blanket of spring snow fell for much of the day on a swathe of Eastern states, after socking the Plains and the Midwest. The snowstorm dumped a mix of heavy wet snow and rain from Ohio to New Jersey. Travel in the Midwest was hit hard, with slick roads in Indiana causing a series of crashes. Springfield, Ill., set a record for this time of year, with 17 inches of snow.

    There's a new name on the list of U.S. senators who have decided to retire. It was widely reported today that Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota won't seek reelection next year. Johnson survived a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in 2006, returned to the Senate in late 2007, and easily won reelection the following year. So far, seven senators, five Democrats and two Republicans have opted to retire.

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Lewis died today. He suffered from Parkinson's disease. Starting in 1948, Lewis spent most of his career with The New York Times. He won two Pulitzers for reporting and was a columnist from 1969 to 2001. He also won acclaim for "Gideon's Trumpet," a book about a petty thief whose case led to a landmark Supreme Court decision. Anthony Lewis was 85 years old.

    Wall Street lost ground today, amid nagging concerns about Europe's economic recovery. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 64 points to close at 14,447. The Nasdaq fell more than nine points to close at 3,235. Meanwhile, the price of oil hit a five-week high, finishing well over $94 dollars a barrel in New York trading.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn to politics, as President Obama today applied pressure to congressional lawmakers on the issue of immigration reform at an East Room ceremony.

    SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY JANET NAPOLITANO, United States: Candidates, please raise your right hand.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: 28 immigrants from more than two dozen countries rose to take the oath of U.S. citizenship this morning at the White House. Then, President Obama welcomed the newly minted citizens, 13 of them members of the U.S. military. And he used the occasion to push Congress again on immigration reform.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, United States: We have all proposed solutions. And we have got a lot of white papers and studies. We have just got at this point to work up the political courage to do what's required to be done. So I expect a bill to be put forward. I expect the debate to begin next month. I want to sign that bill into law as soon as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, bipartisan efforts are under way in both the House and Senate to craft immigration overhaul plans. Details are still being hammered out, but the president today restated his goals.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: We know that really form means continuing to strengthen our border security and holding employers accountable. We know that real reform means providing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the shadows.

    We know that real reform requires modernizing the legal immigration system, so that our citizens don't have to wait years before their loved ones are able to join them in America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Senate's so-called gang of eight negotiators had hoped to have agreement last week on a plan that is close to the president's priorities. But a dispute arose over wages and visas for lower-skilled guest workers. If that can be resolved, lawmakers could introduce a plan after Congress returns from a two-week recess.

    To walk us through the political state of play, we're joined by reporter Sara Murray. She has been following the issue for the Wall Street Journal.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    SARA MURRAY, Wall Street Journal: Thanks for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the president calling on Congress to finish the job. Why did he make this statement now, Sara?

    SARA MURRAY: Well, look, I think that it's clear that the Senate kind of missed their mark by not having a deal before they went on a two-week recess.

    And so I think this is the president is saying, hey, look I'm encouraged by what you have been doing. I am giving you the space to kind of hash out your own bill, but I'm also watching you. And everyone knows the president has his own bill. And he wants this stuff to kind of move speedily along. I think this is a warning that says, hey, guys, make sure you're still doing that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where do things stand? As we reported, they were -- we thought it -- it was thought they were getting close, but then it didn't happen. Where does everything stand right now?

    SARA MURRAY: Well, Friday was a really interesting day, because you talk to people who are negotiating this, at around 3:00 p.m., a lot of people who are familiar with these talks, we can get a deal, it will be great, we will all got off on recess, everything will go off fine.

    And then a few hours later, things just completely fell apart. There was an issue with how you set the wages, not for the current people who are -- the current immigrants who are in the U.S., but people who want to come here in the future and be hotel workers, maids, janitors, that kind of thing.

    And negotiations really fell apart between the unions and the business groups.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, they were literally discussing wages for future workers?

    SARA MURRAY: Yes. And this is the last sort of big part that hasn't fallen into place. A guest-worker program is how we refer to it. It's this future flow of workers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: These are the, as you said, lower-skilled workers who would work in hotels, restaurants, doing landscaping and so forth.

    SARA MURRAY: Right, absolutely.

    And in some of these cases, I mean, people who are familiar with said, we're talking about a couple dollars an hour. That's where talks fell apart at, the difference between paying, say, a housekeeper $10 dollars an hour or eight dollars an hour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we also know, Sara, from your reporting and others that there are huge interests on the outside watching all this very closely, business interests, organized labor. What role are they playing in all this?

    SARA MURRAY: Well, they originally tried to be in the same room, business and labor, and kind of try to hash out a future guest-worker program. That pretty much fell apart.

    So, what we have are, we have these eight senators in a room with their staffers hashing out a deal and then taking parts back to labor and taking parts back to business and saying, well, what do you think about this? Will you guys get on board with this? And that's really where they have been hitting these difficult parts. They just can't get everyone on board.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How is this different, Sara, from what happened in 2006 and 2007, when the Senate worked, did pass a bill, it went to conference with the House, and nothing ever came of it?

    SARA MURRAY: Well, I think the big difference is just the climate.

    You know, we don't hear people running around saying -- well, at least not as frequently -- saying, let's round up these 11 million people and deport them. I think that rhetoric kind of died with the 2012 presidential campaign. Republicans got a big wakeup call that they weren't doing themselves any favors with Hispanics.

    So, we have really seen the opposition to immigration reform among Republicans die down. And that's been a big change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it's still not enough to push them -- the two sides together to an agreement in the Senate?

    SARA MURRAY: Right.

    I mean, the fact is this is a really difficult and complex issue. So, we're not saying that there won't be any agreement. I think you will still see a bill that comes out of the Senate. But I think it's proving a lot more difficult, even among the most well-intentioned people, to come up with an agreement that works for business, that works for labor and that the senators can then go out and sell.

    I mean, these guys have to go back to their districts and convince a bunch of people who still might not be in favor of immigration reform that this is the right thing for the country. And that is a tough sell.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about the role of the House of Representatives in all this?

    SARA MURRAY: The House has a similar track going on. They also have a bipartisan group of eight. And apparently that's the big thing.

    And they're working on their own bill. They are also saying that they could have something come out right after the recess. They seem to have been OK with letting the Senate take the lead and kind of let the focus be on the Senate and let these guys be under the scrutiny. We will see if that still holds up when they get back from recess.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned earlier the White House has language. They have a bill. They have been holding it back. They haven't put it out there.

    What is the leverage that the White House has? Do they really believe if they -- if the Senate and the House can't come together, that the White House puts its own language out?

    SARA MURRAY: Well, look, I think we saw the president's bill was leaked. Parts of it were leaked earlier this year.

    So, we do know he has a bill. And I think the leverage that the president has is, he's basically saying, look, I want this to be a bipartisanship solution. He gets to rise above it all, rise above the politics and say, if there's a bipartisan solution to be had, then great. And Republicans can kind of get their little bit of political capital.

    But the truth is, if you guys fumble on this issue, if it doesn't seem like Republicans and business can come to the table, then, hey, I'm stepping in and taking over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, there is some urgency to all of this.

    If you listen to the president, he's saying they have -- you have got to do this next month or get to it.

    SARA MURRAY: Right. There is urgency.

    And he's -- the president basically is talking about the same time frame the Senate has, which is get to work on this in April. Get to this in the Senate in April. But I think that there's still a big question about whether that can happen if you still have business and labor at each other's throats, and the deadline now is two weeks away.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sara Murray, the Wall Street Journal, thank you very much.

    SARA MURRAY: Thank you. 

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    GWEN IFILL: Next to two economic stories about Europe, one a near-crisis, the other a comeback.

    First to Cyprus and its desperate efforts to find a way out of financial chaos. The country today avoided a potential plunge into bankruptcy after agreeing on terms for a bailout from its Eurozone partners.

    Margaret Warner has our coverage.

    MARGARET WARNER: It was still dark in Brussels when Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris announced the deal, a bailout totaling $13 billion. But his words did little to brighten the somber atmosphere.

    MICHALIS SARRIS, Cyprus Finance Minister: I don't think there is any denying that the Cyprus people will have to go through tough times and will suffer the consequences of a protracted period where wrong decisions were made.

    MARGARET WARNER: Those decisions center around the oversized Cypriot banking sector, swollen with foreign money and now saddled with enormous bad debts. Under the bailout, large depositors in the two biggest banks will take substantial losses to help the government raise some $7.5 billion.

    And the country's second largest bank will be shut down. The Cypriot parliament rejected an earlier plan to tax all bank deposits, large and small. But this new agreement sparked little optimism in Nicosia, the capital.

    SAVVAS GEORGIOU, Cyprus: The decisions that were taken were harsh. It is a catastrophe. It will be a long time before things are right again.

    ELIZABETH LOAKOVOU, Cyprus: It's a big shame what has happened. But with the way things were going, what else could they do? There was no other solution. God help us all.

    MARGARET WARNER: The bailout does prevent Cyprus from falling out of the euro currency system, a prospect that alarmed financial markets last week. Still, the Cypriot foreign minister didn't sound relieved.

    IOANNIS KASOULIDES, Cyprus Foreign Minister: We feel rather bitter. And we feel rather that we have not been treated the same way as other partners, probably being the smallest, I don't know. But we are a resilient people. And we are going to fight.

    MARGARET WARNER: The news also got a chilly reception in Russia, where depositors hold an estimated $26 billion dollars in Cypriot banks. But in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the deal.

    ANGELA MERKEL, German Chancellor: I am very pleased that a solution was found last night. I believe that a fair burden of distribution was achieved.

    MARGARET WARNER: Smaller Cypriot banks are expected to reopen tomorrow, after being closed for more than a week. The biggest, the Bank of Cyprus, will reopen Thursday. 

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    MARGARET WARNER: For more, we turn to Liz Alderman of The New York Times in Nicosia, Cyprus.

    And, Liz, thank you for joining us.

    Tell us more about these depositors who are going to take the hit for this, who are going to finance this, essentially. How big a hit will they take and who are they?

    LIZ ALDERMAN, The New York Times: What's happening is that, as you know, Cyprus received a 10 billion euro bailout last night, something cobbled together at the very last minute between the president of Cyprus and euro area finance ministers.

    In exchange for that, what is going to happen is effectively a significant downsizing of this country's outsized banking sector. One of the largest banks here has effectively gone bankrupt. It's going to -- part of it is going to be merged with another bank, and this is actually something that Cyprus had fought all last week to try to protect, because without a big banking sector, a lot of people say that Cyprus' economy is going to be in significant peril in the future.

    MARGARET WARNER: And I gather a lot of these big depositors are Russians, other foreigners? How much is known about them?

    LIZ ALDERMAN: A lot of the deposits, particularly at the major banks, are certainly from Russians. Cyprus has, you know, a long history with Russia. In recent years, a lot of -- we had a lot of Russians coming to this island and basically sort of seeking a safe haven for their money, given some of the instability in Russia.

    What has happened, however, is that that has drawn suspicion over time that, for example, some oligarchs or even some money of questionable origin is in the banking system. And that's one reason why European leaders and particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted to take a much closer look at Cyprus' banking sector as a part of this whole bailout.

    MARGARET WARNER: And so, as part of this bailout, how fundamentally will the Cypriot essentially economy be restructured or changed?

    LIZ ALDERMAN: The Cypriot economy basically lives and breathes on finance.

    Ever since it joined the European Union, it has shifted away from an economy that had produced a lot of goods over many years to one that basically produced services, and that is finance. So with one of the big banks out of the game, with question marks hanging over whether the financial system, you know, is going to be stable with another big player left, you know, the concern is that, first of all, there are going to be thousands of layoffs from one bank, Laiki Bank, which is closing.

    And, furthermore, there are going to be a lot of problems, you know, for businesses that had big accounts in these banks. The accounts had been frozen. Nobody has been able to get money out to pay suppliers, to pay their people. There's a concern that there is going to be sort of a wave of bankruptcies. And that is something that would also ripple -- ripple through this economy.

    And it is raising questions about whether this really would be the last bailout needed for this country.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, how have people been coping these last 10 days as I gather credit was really frozen up? And what's been the reaction today from Cypriots?

    LIZ ALDERMAN: Well, the last week here has been a little bit surreal.

    People woke up here, you know, last Saturday to radio announcements that basically the government had agreed with European leaders to reach into their bank accounts and take money directly out of their bank accounts in order to meet a payment that E.U. lenders had been demanding in exchange for this bailout.

    That set off a wave of anxiety. Throughout the week, we had obviously a lot of people, as you saw in the images during the week of people lined up at the ATM machines, and an atmosphere of uncertainty. There have been some businesses that have stopped taking credit and stopped taking checks. Cash only. Cash is king now at a lot of places.


    And, you know, furthermore, there was a much deeper fear that, if something didn't happen, if something didn't come together, that Cyprus could very well be the first country to actually have to exit the Eurozone. A bit of a sigh of relief was breathed this morning after the bailout, but now already questions are starting to rise again about whether it's going to be enough and does it stop here.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, this is the first European bailout in which the big depositors at big insolvent banks were required to take a hit. Is that being seen as a template for further bailouts? In other words, what's the message to other banks and other countries here?

    LIZ ALDERMAN: Yes. The message is that a precedent is being set.

    The message from a lot of people in Brussels and particularly from Germany is if you're a country that's gotten into trouble because you have let your banks run amok, then your banks and the people who are in those banks need to pay for it. That's something that surely, you know, resonates back in the United States, after what we saw happen on Wall Street after 2008.

    But it also raises a lot of questions about fairness, particularly for small depositors who had nothing to do with the major problems that were racked up at these banks, and legitimate businesses as well that are now going to see a significant amount of their money being wiped out.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Liz Alderman of The New York Times, thank you. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the economy of another European nation, Ireland.

    Good times turned sour during the worldwide financial crisis. But now there are signs of a turnaround driven by locally grown businesses.

    Ray Suarez reports from Dublin.

    RAY SUAREZ: For 15 years, Western Europe had few economies like Ireland's. From the early '90s to 2008, the economy grew at breakneck speed.

    When the global recession hit, the bubble burst. The Celtic Tiger was declawed. Unemployment shot up. Countless for-sale and for-rent signs sprouted even on Dublin's most desirable streets. Construction projects just stopped. The workers were sent home, the carcasses of buildings left to sit for years, maybe never to be finished.

    Talk to the Irish today about what happened, and you get a mixture of wonder, sadness, and regret.

    GARETH OWEN, Ireland: It was a little bit unsustainable. Maybe we were living in kind of cuckoo land a little bit.

    RAY SUAREZ: From a working mother.

    NICOLE HOLLEY, Ireland: I only go out and buy something when I really need it, instead of seeing something and impulse buying. Don't do that anymore.

    RAY SUAREZ: From a trade union leader.

    DAVID BEGG, Irish Congress of Trade Unions: We have had an incredibly severe retrenchment of the Irish economy over the last five years or so, such that we have lost just short of a fifth of our total economic size.

    RAY SUAREZ: From an accountant.

    CARROLL TURNDOWN, Ireland: A lot of the kids have emigrated now. We have lost a lot of highly skilled young people, and that's as a result of the downturn.

    RAY SUAREZ: And from a high-tech executive.

    KARL FLANNERY, Storm Technology LTD: And people were becoming -- or felt they were much wealthier than they were in reality. So there was a lot of investment in property particularly in the Irish economy. And I think now, when we look back on that, we look at -- that looks like a huge waste of money, which it was.

    RAY SUAREZ: Hundreds of thousands of jobs gone. New, now-empty office buildings became quiet monuments to the banking frenzy. There have been tax hikes and public service cutbacks as the government struggled to live within its means as its revenue severely contracted.

    Suddenly, with all that slack demand in the economy, wages were falling, but so were rents. And if you could get a panicky bank to write you a loan, money was cheaper to borrow. So rather than wait for the return of jobs that might never come back, thousands of Irish are starting their own businesses.

    The pace of new business creation is starting to pick up again in Ireland, with 14,000 new companies registered last year and a similar pace set so far this year. Job creation is strongest in the first five years of a new enterprise.

    You can't smell the good things coming from Brother Hubbard's ovens, as the cafe prepares for breakfast. You will just have to be satisfied with the sights and sounds of a new business.

    Partners Garrett Fitzgerald and James Boland sank about $100,000 dollars into a labor of love.

    GARRETT FITZGERALD, Cafe Owner: I realized a number of years ago that life isn't a rehearsal, and you need to get on with it. And this desire was always within me. I was really keen to have my own business. It was something that I had always dreamt of.

    The emphasis here is on fresh, high-quality Irish ingredients. Remember, a business like this isn't only a seller. It's a buyer, too, spinning off business to other small firms, like the software writer who developed the program for using the iPad as a cash register and has since spun that off into it’s own new business.

    The partners hope to move up to seven days, and add dinner, now that breakfast and lunch is really working, meaning more hours and more company in the kitchen for Marta Gutierrez, who came to Ireland from Spain.

    MARTA GUTIERREZ, Employee: Recently, it's improved quite a lot, I think. I think, two years ago maybe, or a year-and-a-half ago, people would be more scared of spending.

    RAY SUAREZ: What businesses are going to make it in the new Ireland? It has a small domestic market, a little more than four million people, many now too frightened to spend. Irish businesses have a lot of experience selling overseas. And now the cost of doing business is lower than during the boom years.

    Fergal O'Brien is an economist with the Irish employers organization.

    FERGAL O'BRIEN, Irish Business and Employers Confederation: One of the things which Ireland would have experienced in the years prior to the crisis was, we became very expensive. We became an expensive country in which to do business. And what we saw when the global crisis hit us in 2008 was the flexibility in the economy came to the fore and that we started to get our cost base right.

    So Ireland is actually now a much more attractive location in which to do business than it was prior to the crisis.

    RAY SUAREZ: The country's universities have gotten a lot of credit for helping set off the boom years in the first place. Building on the strong tech and research base, University College Dublin has established a new business incubator in an 18th century manor house on the campus.

    Ciara Leonard is the program manager for innovation and says NovaUCD brings together all the ingredients for successful startups.

    CIARA LEONARD, University of College Dublin: First of all, the talent pool, people understand, and they have better sense by of what talent exists here, very strong networks, particularly in the high-tech community, and a very strong network of investors as well that are linked with that, both angels and venture capitalists. And also I would think very important is the government support for startups in Ireland.

    RAY SUAREZ: Abhinav Chugh came from India to work for a multinational company, and stayed to launch his own companies, like VideoCrisp, an online tool for making promotional videos.

    ABHINAV CHUGH, VideoCrisp: You could be a sales guy. You could be a marketing person. You could be a dentist. If you have a website, you have a need of a video. So, video is becoming pretty much like, a decade ago, businesses were saying that you need to have a Web site. Otherwise, you will be invisible. That's exactly what is happening to videos.

    RAY SUAREZ: Chugh says the government's enterprise Ireland seed capital gave him the money to get started as a soft loan, and now they're helping him raise millions more to grow.

    ABHINAV CHUGH: I believe Ireland today is probably the best place in the world to start a business.

    RAY SUAREZ: Have you been a good deal for the Irish taxpayer?

    ABHINAV CHUGH: Yes, yes, absolutely. So VideoCrisp will have 10 full-time employees in Ireland by the end of 2013 because of the funding that we are raising now.

    RAY SUAREZ: At that point, Chugh will then outgrow the Nova incubator and make room for the next startup, like EnBio, a materials science company also launched from University College Dublin. This startup is pioneering new treatments for metals that won a contract for the heat shields on the European Space Agency's orbiter heading to the sun in the coming years.

    Tech services company Storm Technology started by Karl Flannery during the boom years, today he is worried about a talent shortage in Ireland. He wants more emphasis on science and mathematics education for Irish kids and an open door to bright young people like Chugh from everywhere.

    KARL FLANNERY: The very short-term way we're going to try and address this is change how we -- the work permits, how we issue work permits to non-nationals, or non-Irish nationals coming into the Irish economy, particularly from people outside the European Union.

    So we have changed our visa regime for tech visas in Ireland, so that will help bring in people -- bring in a lot more qualified, skilled computer science people into the Irish economy.

    RAY SUAREZ: But to have a healthy domestic economy, Ireland can't just create great jobs for manipulating data on microchips. There's a role for potato chips too.

    The Keogh family has been growing potatoes for generations. Irish potato consumption waned during the economic boom as Irish tastes changed. The youngest generation of Keoghs looked for new markets and started a new business, gourmet potato chips, called crisps here, kettled in small batches. After 18 months, they're selling in Europe, Asia, and to high-end American grocers.

    Food was singled out again and again by the experts as an export sector where Irish businesses thrive.

    FERGAL O'BRIEN: Ireland has a very strong tradition in its food and drink sector. So there's a significant sense that we're going back to our strengths. We're going back to where we had heritage, where we had traditions, our people were good at.

    Some of it is new technologies in terms of people owing their own businesses. Some of it is in the food and drink sector, where we have always maybe had those advantages, but they didn't seem as attractive when we were in a property bubble and when the financial sector was probably one of the big drivers of growth.

    RAY SUAREZ: The Keoghs have 14 full-time employees, and will add more soon if the strong growth they have seen in recent months continues.

    Before the crash, big foreign companies were creating thousands of new jobs. Now Avine McNally, director of the Small Firms Association, calls small businesses a big part of the answer to Ireland's jobs crisis.

    AVINE MCNALLY, Small Firms Association: Believe it or not, about one in four say that they are going to recruit over the next nine to 12 months, so really in the year 2013, about one in four small businesses in Ireland are going to take on new employees.

    The small business environment in our last difficult period, economic period, created an awful lot of jobs. And they do create an employer path at the private sector work force.

    RAY SUAREZ: Maureen Smith has seen the hard times making people creative.

    MAUREEN SMITH, Small Business Owner: I just think people are trying new things that will bring them into a different career. Me personally, I know a lot of people in their 30s who there is no work in what they trained and went to college for. But they have just went and done other things. And now they're looking at opening businesses in other things, not what they're trained in.

    We're transporting you back in time.

    RAY SUAREZ: Smith took a chance. She had a long career doing hair for movie and TV productions. Between shoots, she was hairdressing in a market stall, and figured it was time to move indoors.

    She took over a lease from a closing business, recruited a bunch of friends with their own small businesses, and far from the university scene created her own small business incubator. Customers get their hair and makeup done, buy vintage clothes and vintage decor from five other vendors in her little shop, who help her cover the rent.

    She's a good news story, she says, following her dream. But she worries about all the Irish who once again, as in times past, have had to leave the country to work.

    MAUREEN SMITH: My son went to college. He is an electrician. And he went back to do electrical engineering. And all his class, including his boss, have left -- most of them have left the country. He's still here and he's gone into a different business totally.

    RAY SUAREZ: Is the worst over?

    NICOLE HOLLEY: Well, they say -- you see it on the television every day that things are getting a little bit better. But it's taking a long time, and it's taken a big toll on people's lives.

    GARETH OWEN: I think that there is industry. And there are opportunities, or there will be in the years to come, but probably won't get back to those dizzying heights for quite a long time.

    RAY SUAREZ: Ireland's minister for jobs, enterprise, and innovation, Richard Bruton, says government, businesses, and households are winding down the heavy debt that's burdened the economy.

    The latest numbers are good, unemployment down to 14.2 percent from 15. The interest the government has to pay to borrow is dropping, now to 4.15 percent, than other troubled Eurozone countries. Bruton hopes his people see the steady improvement that will rebuild confidence.

    RICHARD BRUTON, Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation: The way you rebuild that is hitting your fiscal targets, being able to borrow again at very low interest rates in the marketplace. The interest rates for businesses gradually come down as well. It builds a sense that the economy is moving again.

    So, I think that's the challenge, to keep people with you, to demonstrate that we're working really hard to fix things that were broken and that the track will deliver.

    RAY SUAREZ: Ireland's business community is forecasting growth well above the European average for the next 20 years. After leading the Eurozone into the bust, Ireland now wants to lead it out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can read all of Ray's reports from Ireland on our World page. 

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Next: a look behind the headlines at real-life crimes and punishments at the highest court in the land.

    Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They begin as often grisly tales of murder, the stuff of the tabloids and nightly news, but some of these crime stories end up in the Supreme Court, part of a continuing and evolving debate in this country about the death penalty, its methods, its effectiveness, its morality.

    A new book explores this history. It's titled "Murder at the Supreme Court: Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases." Its authors are veteran journalists Martin Clancy and Tim O'Brien.

    Welcome to you.

    MARTIN CLANCY, Co-Author, "Murder at the Supreme Court: Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases": Thank you.

    TIM O'BRIEN, Co-Author, "Murder at the Supreme Court: Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases": Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The title sounds like an Agatha Christie mystery, right, but you're after something quite serious.

    Why, Martin, were you -- why a book on murder, the law and the Supreme Court?

    MARTIN CLANCY: Because the crimes intrigued us.

    I mean, the cases, legally are very interesting. And Tim can speak to that. But, as reporters, we were both intrigued by the stories behind those crimes. I mean, there are human beings, victims, perpetrators, families. And we take you literally from the scene of the crime to the court.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the stories become law at a local level and then you're telling us about how they bubble up into the Supreme Court.

    TIM O’BRIEN: Yes. These are all landmark cases. We address 15 cases; 10 of them split the Supreme Court five to four. They raise very difficult legal questions, philosophical questions.

    These are initially -- our title was going to be "Murder at the Supreme Court: The Crimes That Made the Law," because these are the crimes that went to the Supreme Court and the court used these crimes, these cases to define what capital punishment is all about, how it may be implemented in the United States.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what did you find about the evolution of the -- maybe give us an example of the way the court looked at cases like this.

    TIM O’BRIEN: Well, what we found is that the court is in great disarray.

    There's enormous division on the court, not only about capital punishment itself, but how to decide capital punishment cases. To what extent should the questions before them really be left to juries and state legislatures? For example, the Supreme Court ruled that a defendant who was mildly retarded cannot be executed. A defendant who is 16 years old cannot be executed or 17 years old, even though some 17-year-olds are just as cold-blooded as a 30-year-old killer.

    So you have that big debate, who decides? The Supreme Court ruled many years ago in defining what is cruel and unusual punishment that it draws its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, I mean, the stories are about characters. And you're used to telling these stories, but the court is also human beings, right? And that changes over time. And that's what you tell too.

    MARTIN CLANCY: Very much so.

    I mean, there was a case that made really landmark law before the court in 1946. You couldn't try to execute somebody twice. But you take that case back to where it began, and it began in Louisiana, where they had a traveling -- literally, a traveling electric chair. It would go from county to county. It would be displayed on the county courthouse during the day.

    We talked to a man who went there on a sixth-grade field trip. And at night, they would bring it into the courthouse and execute. Well, in 1946, there was a black man named Willie Francis, 17 years old, who had killed a pharmacist. And they put him in a chair. And as our witness said, the executioner, said "Goodbye, Willie," and Willie didn't go anywhere.

    That case made it to the Supreme Court. The justices decided it would be constitutional to put Willie in the chair again. But Justice Frankfurter was so distressed -- he voted for the execution. He felt he had no choice. But he was so distressed, he reached out to a member of the Louisiana bar to try and stop that execution in Louisiana.

    He didn't. Willie Francis was executed.

    TIM O’BRIEN: With so many of these cases, the decisions are very important, no question about that.

    But the stories that precede the decision and that follow are just fascinating. I found that with so many Supreme Court cases, but especially these death penalty cases. One of the big death penalty decisions is Gregg v. Georgia, when the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

    We all thought that Gregg then would be the first person to be executed, a Georgia defendant. But on the eve of his execution, he wound up escaping from prison with four of the worst murderers in Georgia history. They went up to North Carolina. They got into a bar fight. Gregg apparently made an unfortunate comment about the girlfriend of one of the others and wound up being murdered by his co-escapees.

    These stories are all made-for-television movies.

    MARTIN CLANCY: You can't make this up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And yet they're -- and they're unbelievable, but they're also really raw. And they're horrible, in many cases.

    TIM O’BRIEN: One of the issues we had with this book is, to what detail do we go into the gruesomeness of these crimes?

    And we were persuaded by some prosecutors. I said -- I asked, why do you have to use those gruesome pictures? He said, we shouldn't sanitize this for the jury. We should let the jury, who is going to make a life-or-death decision, see what this person did. I got to thinking, maybe that's what we should do as well.

    MARTIN CLANCY: And we did.

    We published some photographs with a warning that not everybody wants to see these. But these are the pictures that jurors see when they condemn someone to death.

    TIM O’BRIEN: I admit I'm uncomfortable with that, but I think it was the right thing to do.


    Where are we now in this issue? I mean, the application of death penalties is down in this country. There's more action, I guess, at the state level. Where would you say we are now in this debate?

    MARTIN CLANCY: Well, Maryland will be the 18th state to ban the death penalty in this country. And it's been a gradual process. I think that's where we're going.

    TIM O’BRIEN: It is really in decline.

    You have maybe 15,000 homicides a year. We have 3,100 inmates on death row. But the number of executions are in the 40 to 50 a year. So, it's not being practiced. It may be on its way out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And yet there is still support.

    In the end of the book, you guys write about the many problems you found with the death penalty, unequal applications, some of the things you just talked about, the -- including the racial factor, right, whether it acts as a deterrent or not, the old argument there.

    And yet I just saw still support for it, 63 percent in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder.

    MARTIN CLANCY: Absolutely.

    What's interesting about that is that is if you look at the data of the polls, most people want to keep the death penalty on the books. Most people also don't believe it deters crime. The support for the death penalty appears to be what pollsters would say is soft.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think?

    TIM O’BRIEN: Well, I think the greatest motive behind the death penalty today is retribution.

    And people think it's justice. We -- this is not an advocacy book. And we make no moral judgments about the death penalty at all. But we do draw some conclusions, that, if you're rich, you're not going to get a death sentence. If your victim is a white person, you're much more likely to get the death sentence than if your victim is a minority.

    That should play no part in it at all. There are so many arbitrary factors, that we have concluded it doesn't serve the purpose that many people think it does.

    MARTIN CLANCY: The smartest men in America, I think, have worked for over 200 years to figure out a rational way to administer the death penalty. As far as we're concerned, they haven't figured it out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the new book is "Murder at the Supreme Court."

    Martin Clancy, Tim O'Brien, thank you both.

    MARTIN CLANCY: Thank you.

    TIM O’BRIEN: Thank you. 

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    Havilah Phillips, a sister of a 15-year-old shooting victim in Newark, is comforted during his memorial service in 2011. Photo by Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger.

    NEWARK, N.J. | The floor of the trauma bay was slippery with blood the day Dr. Sampson Davis looked into a gunshot victim's face and did a double take.

    In too many ways, the bullet-riddled man on that stretcher looked like Davis himself -- a 20-something man with an eerily similar face, "the same muscular medium build, the same honey-colored complexion, and the same neat, short haircut," he wrote in his new book, "Living and Dying in Brick City."

    As Davis cut away the man's shirt, cracked open his chest and attempted to plug up a hole near the heart, he couldn't shake the feeling that it easily could have been him dying on that stretcher. If Davis hadn't walked away from drug dealing and crime as teenager, his own vital organs might have been the ones torn apart by several rounds of high-caliber bullets in a Newark turf war. And his own death might have become part of the statistic -- just one of 2,366 homicides between 1982 and 2008.

    "Far too many," he said. And while Davis shares the outrage that shook the U.S. after the murder of 26 children and adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtow, Ct., in December, he also points out that inner-city gun violence occurs daily on a much wider scale -- and almost entirely unnoticed by the general public.

    On a typical summer night at Newark's University Hospital, as many as 35 people will walk into the E.R. "shot, stabbed or beaten," he said. And that's just at one of Newark's major hospitals.

    Davis sat down with Ray Suarez last week to explore why living in America's roughest neighborhoods can negatively impact health. Their discussion continues below with a closer look at one of the most pressing reasons: gun violence.

    Join our live chat with Dr. Sampson Davis at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 26. See below for details.

    The mass bloodshed doesn't just mean chaos for hospitals and heartache for families. It also translates to huge health care costs for federal and state governments.

    On average, treatment for a victim of an inflicted gunshot wound costs about $322,000, Davis said. If as many as 35 wounded patients are hauled into an E.R. in one night, "you're looking at millions and millions and millions of dollars spent, by tax-payers, in order to take care of them," Davis said.

    One recent study estimated that nationwide, gun-related court proceedings, insurance costs and hospitalizations cost taxpayers $12 billion each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2010 that the medical and work loss costs from firearms death and injury totaled more than $68 billion.

    It's why Dr. Davis believes now is the time to start treating inner-city violence with the urgency of a disease. Because in some ways it is, he said "especially in the sense that 35,000 young people lose their lives a year through gun violence."

    The theory was taken one step further in a recent study in which Newark's murders were tracked with equipment previously used to keep tabs on public health threats like the flu and certain types of cancer.

    Just like a disease, homicides usually have a source, a mode of transmission and a susceptible population, according to one of the study authors, Jesenia Pizarro -- who is also a native of Newark and associate professor at Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice.

    In large cities like Newark, "sources" often include areas with drug markets, gangs and a high availability of firearms, Pizarro said. Violence is "transmitted" by gang retaliation, common crime and a population feeling the need to "arm up" and respond violently when threatened. The "susceptible population" often includes those at an economic disadvantage, she said.

    By tracking the homicides that occurred in Newark between 1982 to 2008, Pizarro and her team saw the original cluster of violence -- which, at first, was mostly contained to the central part of the city -- spread west and southward as the public housing projects were demolished and gang activity spread.

    Continuing with the disease analogy, Pizarro said that tracking homicides in this way may help "inoculate" at-risk populations in the future by giving officials the opportunity to increase services or interventions in a given neighborhood. And they may be able to do that "more effectively because they'll know exactly where the violence is and where it's likely to go," she said.

    Dr. Davis shares his own thoughts on the theory of viewing "gunshot wounds as a disease" in the video below:

    As Davis sees it, there's nothing "inherently wrong" with the inner-city youth caught up in violence.

    "Children growing up in poor urban neighborhoods aren't programmed by their DNA to run around with guns, killing one another," he wrote in "Brick City." "Violence is a learned behavior. And I know from my own experience that the negative lessons learned in an environment saturated by drugs and violence can be unlearned."

    He also knows from his own experiences that hope and success -- both powerful weapons against drugs and violence -- are things that can be demonstrated and taught. His proof: Dr. Arabia Mollette.

    Mollette grew up in the projects of the South Bronx, raised by a family "where drugs, alcohol and crime" were nothing unusual. Gunshots rang out so frequently in her part of town that Mollette would barely flinch when a gun was fired. "If I was sitting outside and I heard one, sometimes I wouldn't even run," she said. "Because it's just like, 'Oh, here we go again.' I became desensitized by it."

    But as far back as she can remember, Mollette dreamed of bigger things.

    She would sometimes cut out paper dolls and play hospital and would always care for the sick around her. And when she was a little older, she questioned hospital employees about the medical explanations behind the tragedies in her life -- like when her four-month-old baby boy was beaten by his father and ended up dying of the wounds. Or when her sister was shot and killed while riding in a friend's car. Everyone told her she should become a doctor and help put that passion to work.

    "But I didn't have any money for medical school," she said. "The opportunity was unrealistic."

    At least that's the way it seemed until the young woman met Dr. Davis at a film festival and realized their stories were nearly identical -- the poverty, the obstacles, the desire for change. She bought his first book to find out more, and "I remember I kept reading it over and over and over again because I felt that my life story was pretty much laid out in that book," she said.

    When Mollete contacted Davis again, he saw the similarities, too, and became her mentor. He advised her broadly on things like how to fund her education, and also talked to her about the nitty gritty, like how to study for tests and manage time.

    Nearly a decade later, Mollette is an emergency medicine resident at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center -- the same place Dr. Davis started his career. When her days get tough, she remembers why Davis said that despite the obstacles, people from disadvantaged backgrounds are extremely qualified to succeed in medicine.

    "He told me, 'You are a fighter and you will make it. And just understand that it is hard but always know that you are cut out for this, you are made for this,'" Mollette said. "Still today, he'll repeat it to me: 'You got this far and you will get even further.'"

    After all she's been through, Mollete can see his point.

    Related Content

    Live chat with Dr. Sampson Davis: March 26 at 1 p.m.

    Full NewsHour discussion: Dr. Davis on his book, "Living and Dying in Brick City"

    Dr. Davis Offers "Seven Things Teenagers Can Do to Stay Out of the Emergency Room"

    More NewsHour Coverage: "The Gun Debate: Special Coverage of Guns in America"

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    Gay marriage case at the Supreme Court; photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Justin Kenny of Akron, Ohio, holds a flag Tuesday morning in front of the Supreme Court building. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    Tuesday's arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court involving California's ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, boil down to this: Can a popular vote revoke a privilege already granted by a state government? Does the 14th Amendment prevent California from defining marriage as between a man and a woman?

    These are simple legal questions, among dozens heard by the Supreme Court each year testing state laws and constitutional rights. But the fervor surrounding this one is different.

    For some, it's a case that challenges civil rights or that questions the traditions of heterosexual marriage. Those viewpoints are reflected in two opposing rallies Tuesday near the court building. Gay marriage supporters will gather at the Supreme Court Plaza as part of a United for Marriage Coalition's equality rally. And marriage traditionalists led by the Coalition of African American Pastors USA and the National Organization for Marriage will march as well.

    Especially for the pro-gay rights side, Tuesday's case marks a cultural milestone of sorts. Many Supreme Court watchers have speculated that the justices chose to take the case partly because cultural momentum for gay rights has risen to a point where legal questions need answers. That momentum has continued to grow this week, with a new public opinion poll, fresh support from moderate Democrats and a Peter Baker story on former President Bill Clinton's history with the issue.

    The 42nd president signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, setting the court up for the second of its two gay marriage cases this week. Baker writes about Clinton's anxiety after he signed DOMA late at night with little fanfare and how he changed his mind to the point of criticizing his own action (The NewsHour searched for footage of Clinton signing the bill, and indeed, there's none to be found.)

    A Columbus Dispatch/Saperstein poll released Sunday found that 54 percent of Ohioans support an amendment to repeal the state's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, which passed with 62 percent support.

    Sen. Mark Warner, a moderate Democrat from Virginia, announced Monday that he now backs same-sex marriage. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, a Red State Democrat, added his support for gay marriage as well.

    The shifts by Warner, Begich and others come after Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced last week that he no longer opposes same-sex marriage after learning that his college-aged son is gay. Portman's son, Will, penned an opinion piece Monday in the Yale Daily News titled "Coming Out," in which he wrote:

    In February of freshman year, I decided to write a letter to my parents. I'd tried to come out to them in person over winter break but hadn't been able to. So I found a cubicle in Bass Library one day and went to work. Once I had something I was satisfied with, I overnighted it to my parents and awaited a response.

    They called as soon as they got the letter. They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.

    Politico added to the pro-gay rights chatter Tuesday morning with a Josh Gerstein story that asserts possible defeats for the movement -- including the court upholding both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act -- wouldn't devastate supporters:

    But gay rights activists say this wouldn't have the impact of Plessy v. Ferguson -- the 1896 decision that left "separate but equal" the law of the land until Brown v. Board of Education six decades later.

    Instead, they say, they still leave the court in a better position than when they started their legal trek, since public opinion has swung in their favor, supporters have been galvanized, and about 100 prominent Republicans signed a brief publicly endorsing gay marriage.

    With little other news on the legal front breaking before the arguments, D.C.-based journalists turned their attentions to the line forming outside the Supreme Court building. The Associated Press reported those in line included college students, a substitute teacher and an Army veteran, and that some arrived last Thursday to wait for a seat at the arguments. One man, there since Friday morning, has done about 200 interviews with inquiring reporters, he told National Journal. He's there on his own, though many are paid to wait in line in place of others.

    A guaranteed seat to watch the Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage this week could cost between $864 and $1,200, according to the AP. This figure is based on the cost to hire someone to stand in line for a day at the going rates of $36 or $50 an hour charged by two line-standing firms. A line for the free tickets began on Thursday. The court seats about 500 with about 60 seats for the general public. Another 30 seats reserved for the public will rotate every three to five minutes, the AP notes.

    It wouldn't be a major news event without a Buzzfeed listicle. Matt Stopera visited the site across from the court building Monday, where he says nearly 70 people camped. He produced these observations, which honor the obscene amount of garbage bags needed for sitting all day on concrete in the rain.

    The NewsHour will have you covered from every angle with in-depth coverage on the broadcast and online this week. Bookmark our Supreme Court page and keep an eye on our staff Twitter feed for updates outside the court.

    Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal will join us Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

    On Wednesday, the court will hear a case on the Defense of Marriage Act, which questions a federal law allowing states not to recognize legal ties between gay couples made elsewhere. The case involves a gay widow and asks what to do about her payments to the federal government on her deceased partner's estate -- payments she wouldn't have had to make had they been a straight and married. However, the case could have legal implications for gay couples that are far more reaching if their side wins. For instance, S.P. Sullivan of NJ.com profiles a gay couple who struggles with one partner's immigration status.

    In this NewsHour segment, Coyle outlined both the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases.

    Watch Video

    If you missed it, politics editor Christina Bellantoni hosted a Google Hangout with four faith leaders about religion's role in this public policy debate:


    Reuters reports that Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., will not run for re-election in 2014, bringing the number of Senate Democratic retirements in next year's midterm cycle to five. Johnson, the current chair of the banking committee, is expected to announce his decision Tuesday at the University of South Dakota.

    The Office of Congressional Ethics is interviewing former campaign staff of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., about alleged intentional campaign finance violations from her failed 2012 presidential bid.

    The National Review's Robert Costa reports that Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., is writing a book with former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. The project is expected to focus on Walker's gubernatorial experience.

    Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., responded Monday to a new ad campaign from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which seeks to push lawmakers to back expanded background checks for gun purchases. "I don't take gun advice from the mayor of New York City. I listen to Arkansans," Pryor said in a statement.

    Speaking with current and former city officials, the New York Times takes a close look at New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's "habit of hair-trigger eruptions of unchecked, face-to-face wrath."

    Resurrecting "Robin Hood" from last year's election, the DCCC is out with a new video attacking GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's budget.

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke with Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News about his first 10 weeks in the Senate. When it comes to immigration reform, Cruz accused President Barack Obama of wanting the effort to fail because it would be politically beneficial to Democrats. "What he wants is for the bill to crater, so that he can use the issue as a political wedge in 2014 and 2016," Cruz charged.

    Clinton has taken sides in the upcoming Los Angeles mayoral runoff, endorsing city controller Wendy Greuel over city council member Eric Garcetti.

    Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser finds that Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma has become a suprising go-between for GOP leaders and the party's rank-and-file.

    Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., is expected to kick off his Senate campaign with events in Atlanta and Augusta on Wednesday.

    The Kansas City Star's Dave Helling reports that the city is making a bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

    The Los Angeles Times reports on a dog that mauled a sea lion in Laguna Beach, Calif., Saturday. The dog belongs to a relative of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

    Georgia state senators have voted to take some land from Tennessee.

    "Being the leader of the free world is an expensive proposition. But the costs don't stop once you leave the White House," the AP reports about a Congressional Research Service study showing the federal government spent nearly $3.7 million on former presidents last year. George W. Bush was the costliest.

    President Obama on Monday declared five sites national monuments, using powers granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act. The sites include Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington; the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland; the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio; and the First State National Monument in Delaware. Critics say the designation of new federally protected areas burdens taxpayers. The White House, citing a 2006 study, noted in its announcement that "each federal dollar spent on national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public."

    ABC News' Jilian Fama writes that Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith is doing an internship with the office of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

    Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, a Democrat representing American Samoa, introduced legislation last week that would ban current and future use of the trademark "redskins." Besides affecting Washington's football team, the Non-Disparagement of American Indians in Trademarks Registrations Act of 2013 is reviving debate over other sports teams' names.

    A group at Towson University that calls itself the White Student Union plans to patrol for crimes on the campus, Daily Caller reports. One groupmember was the man who made segregationist comments at a CPAC presentation earlier this month.

    NBC's Ann Curry forgot her driver's license to the White House Christmas party, and Matt Lauer had to wait for her outside the security gates. It's one among many juicy anecdotes in New York Magazine's fascinating tale of politics, power and hubris on Lauer and his former co-host at the "Today Show."

    Comedian Jim Carrey mocks the late Charlton Heston in a new pro-gun-control spoof video.

    You can thank us later for this one. Or just thank Chris Moody.

    Today's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA: In 2011, 28 percent of married women -- a growing percentage -- earned more than their husbands.


    Gwen Ifill looked at Secretary of State John Kerry's unannounced visit to Afghanistan to meet with Hamid Karzai and spoke with Michele Dunne, head of the Middle East Program at the Atlantic Council, and Susan Glasser, executive editor of Foreign Policy magazine, about the challenges he faces.

    Judy Woodruff got an update on the state of play in the immigration debate with Sara Murray of the Wall Street Journal.

    Ray Suarez reported on the turnaround in Ireland's economy led by local businesses.

    Jeffrey Brown spoke with Martin Clancy and Tim O'Brien, authors of "Murder at the Supreme Court: Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases," a new book that explores the evolving debate about the death penalty.

    NewsHour regular commentator Michael Beschloss (@beschlossDC was named one of Time magazine's top tweeters. He explained a few select tweets as illuminating history lessons last year on the NewsHour:

    A programming note: We'll bring you the Morning Line this week through Thursday, and then will take a little recess of our own. We'll return April 8.


    Definition of a slow news day: people live Tweeting Newt Gingrich "class" on driverless cars.

    — Ben White (@morningmoneyben) March 25, 2013

    Stop what you're doing and watch Mike Bloomberg dancing on stage with the cast of "Rock of Ages" youtu.be/GWcNbwWIAuM

    — Mike Hayes (@michaelhayes) March 25, 2013

    Obama gets #Biden'd at today's national monument signing ceremony: yfrog.com/nhfprj

    — Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) March 25, 2013

    So #nvleg may legalize betting on federal elections. Hope they do. I need a way to fund my golden years.

    — Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) March 25, 2013

    It's 38 degrees and raining, but the line to get into #SCOTUS tomorrow is down the block twitter.com/dePeystah/stat...

    — Allie Morris (@dePeystah) March 25, 2013

    Happy Birthday to the one and only @arethafranklin!

    — James E. Clyburn (@Clyburn) March 25, 2013

    Stephen Glass wrote this story 15 years ago: nytimes.com/2013/03/25/tec...#ianrestil#jukt#iwantamiata

    — Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) March 25, 2013

    !!! RT @alykat: The NPR sign is coming down off the old building. A little bittersweet. twitter.com/alykat/status/...

    — Ibrahim Balkhy (@ibalkhy) March 25, 2013

    We have snow! On spring break! Even our pandas can't believe it. twitter.com/NationalZoo/st...

    — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) March 25, 2013

    Opening day at NPR's new HQ in DC!Great things willhappen here even during Spring snow! twitter.com/NPRgaryknell/s...

    — Gary Knell (@NPRgaryknell) March 25, 2013

    Tonight's White House seder will use the plate that Mrs. Netanyahu gave Mrs. Obama in Israel last week, says @jearnest44

    — Ari Shapiro (@arishapiro) March 25, 2013

    Christina Bellantoni, Cassie M. Chew and politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijiFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @indiefilmfanFollow @tiffanymullonFollow @dePeystahFollow @meenaganesan

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  • 03/26/13--06:33: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    A butterfly lands on a girl at the "Sensational Butterflies" exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

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    By Nick Corcodilos

    Did you ever have a horrible former boss and then worry about what that boss would say as a reference for future jobs? Nick Corcodilos explains how to proactively compensate for undeserved nastiness. Photo by Hans Neleman/Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: I am unemployed due to a "reduction in force" at the small start-up company where I was working. I was fired from my job previous to the start-up company. I had the worst boss in the world. I did a great job that everyone (including the boss at one point) acknowledged, but ultimately I was fired. How should I handle questions in interviews about why I left that job? I'm not certain, but if they call that employer and ask if I am eligible for re-hire, the human resources office would probably say no. Thanks for any help you can give.

    Nick Corcodilos: First, remember that your most recent references from the start-up will count for a lot. Pay most attention to those. A preemptive reference could quickly solve your problem. (Please see "The Preemptive Reference.")

    Second, you need to find out what your old employer is saying about you. Please read "Take Care of Your References" for more on this. Companies are pretty careful about giving references nowadays because they can get sued. (If you believe your termination was improper, you really should see an attorney. Even if there's no lawsuit or cash settlement, you may be able to get the company to "clean up" your file. This could mean a lot to you in the coming years.)

    MORE ANSWERS Ask The Headhunter: How to Overcome Missing Job Requirements

    While your old HR office might give out nothing more than your dates of employment, a prospective employer could poke around in other corners to find out why you left the job. (HR people have informal communication channels that they use all the time.) Your challenge is to produce a couple of references from people you worked with at your last two companies who will say good things about you. That will put the story about you in context.

    But, you might be able to do even more to de-fuse one vindictive boss.

    I once placed a manager whose ex-boss provided this reference: "He's a bum. He can't be counted on, doesn't do a good job, and I'd never recommend him to anyone."

    This individual got the job because I produced a reference who casually explained that the candidate's old boss was a kook. After delivering positive comments, the reference volunteered, "Oh, by the way. If you talk to your candidate's last boss, let me give you a word of advice. He's a kook, and I wouldn't be surprised at anything he says. He disparages anyone who leaves his team."

    To put a nasty reference in context, you might ask one reference to "provide references" about other references. This might not be difficult if your old boss is known as a backstabber. But enough about direct references.

    You asked what to say in the interview about that old job, if it comes up. My advice: Say as little as possible. Focus instead on the job at hand, and introduce what I call "an indirect reference." We'll call that reference "John Jones" in this example.

    How to Say It:

    "I want to work in a company where I'd be proud to be an employee. I didn't feel that way about that old company. John Jones has told me a lot about your company, and I've checked you out through other contacts. What I'm told consistently is that you value and reward hard work. I'd like to show you how I believe my expertise in XYZ could be applied to make your business more successful and at the same time provide me with the kinds of opportunities that are important to me."

    It's critical that you develop contacts like "John Jones" -- credible mutual contacts who know the hiring manager, whom you can quote, and who will stand up for you. An employer will take you seriously if people he knows and trusts recommend you. So, before you interview with a prospective employer, do whatever it takes to make those links to establish your credibility.

    That's how you preempt any negative comments from one bad boss. I didn't say it was easy. But if you really want that job, you must do the legwork in advance to present yourself as a candidate the employer will want to hire.

    Related Content:

    Ask The Headhunter: The Only Interview Question That Really Matters

    Ask The Headhunter: Networking for People Afraid of Being Obnoxious

    Ask The Headhunter: Should I Reject a Counter-Offer from My Employer?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?" and "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps."

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow Paul on Twitter.Follow @PaulSolman

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    Biologist Edward O. Wilson studies fire ants at Harvard University on Sept. 8, 1975. Photo by Hugh Patrick Brown/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

    Edward O. Wilson's "Letters to a Young Scientist" arrived in the mail this week. Finding myself with a free minute, I picked it up and began reading it, and found myself immersed.

    We learn a great many things about Wilson himself in this book: that as a teenager he wrestled and caught venomous snakes with his bare hands, that his great-great grandfather was a horse thief, that he first learned calculus as a 32-year-old tenured professor at Harvard.

    A deliberate play on Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" -- he compares poetry and science more than once -- this is teeming with advice for a young researcher, ranging from how theories are made and how to choose your field of research to how to build a butterfly net.

    It's a book about finding your passion for science and following it faithfully. About finding a discipline that you can call your own -- preferably one that is sparsely inhabited, he says. "Be prepared mentally for some amount of chaos and failure," he writes. "Daydream a lot."

    Mathematical skill is not essential, and neither is a genius IQ, he says. Of more importance is creativity, deep thinking, confidence, commitment and allegiance to the small, informal experiments.

    He sums up elements of the book in this TED talk:

    An excerpt from that speech:

    "I found out that in science and all its applications, what is crucial is not that technical ability but it is imagination in all of its applications. The ability to form concepts with images of entities and processes pictured by intuition. I found out that advances in science rarely come upstream from the ability to stand at a blackboard and conjure images from unfolding mathematical proposition and equations. They are instead the product of downstream imagination leading to hard work, during which mathematical reasoning may or may not prove to be relevant. Ideas emerge when a part of the real or imagined world is studied for its own sake. Of foremost importance is a thorough, well organized knowledge of all that is known of the relevant entities and processes that might be involved in that domain you propose to enter."


    Strange reaction after learning that the person behind a popular science site on Facebook is a woman.

    From AsapSCIENCE: Can the snooze button do more damage than good? A look at what it does to the body's chemical processes.

    How changing the color of a mosquito's eyes can bode well for stopping the spread of diseases like dengue fever.

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the world wide web, Marc Andreesen who made the first popular browser and three others -- Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf and Louis Pouzin -- who invented the precursor to the Internet have won the 1 million pound Queen Elizabeth Prize for engineering. "The internet is the most complex engineering feat ever attempted," said the judge. Financial Times reports.

    Some science humor:

    Two guys walk into a bar. First guy says I'll have a glass of h2o. Second guy says I'll have a glass of h2o, too. Second guy dies. #science

    — Jeff Arrrrgh (@ThatMcAliasGuy) March 25, 2013
    From NBC News: "After a week of down time due to a computer glitch, NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is once again sending back pictures of its rocky Red Planet locale at Yellowknife Bay."


    This newly discovered amphibian feeds her own skin to her offspring.

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    Watch Video Following the oral arguments at the Supreme Court challenging Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, and plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami spoke outside the court.

    WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court suggested Tuesday it could find a way out of the case over California's ban on same-sex marriage without issuing a major national ruling on whether gays have a right to marry, an issue one justice described as newer than cellphones and the Internet.

    Several justices, including some liberals who seemed open to gay marriage, raised doubts during a riveting 80-minute argument that the case was properly before them. And Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss the case with no ruling at all.

    Read a transcript of the oral arguments Tuesday.

    Such an outcome would almost certainly allow gay marriages to resume in California but would have no impact elsewhere.

    Kennedy said he feared the court would go into "uncharted waters" if it embraced arguments advanced by gay marriage supporters. But lawyer Theodore Olson, representing two same-sex couples, said that the court similarly ventured into the unknown in 1967 when it struck down bans on interracial marriage in 16 states.

    Kennedy challenged the accuracy of that comment by noting that other countries had had interracial marriages for hundreds of years.

    Watch Video

    Following the oral arguments for and against Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, attorney Charles Cooper spoke outside the court. Cooper defended the ban during the arguments.

    There was no majority apparent for any particular outcome and many doubts expressed about the arguments advanced by lawyers for the opponents of gay marriage in California, by the supporters and by the Obama administration, which is in favor of same-sex marriage rights.

    Kennedy made clear he did not like the rationale of the federal appeals court that struck down Proposition 8, the California ban, even though it cited earlier opinions in favor of gay rights that Kennedy wrote.

    That appeals court ruling applied only to California, where same-sex couples briefly had the right to marry before voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2008 that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

    Several members of the court also were troubled by the Obama administration's main point that when states offer same-sex couples all the rights of marriage, as California and eight other states do, they also must allow marriage.

    Justice Samuel Alito described gay marriage as newer than such rapidly changing technological advances as cellphones and the Internet, and appeared to advocate a more cautious approach to the issue.

    "You want us to assess the effect of same-sex marriage," Alito said to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. "It may turn out to be a good thing. It may turn out to be not a good thing."

    Charles Cooper, representing the people who helped get Proposition 8 on the ballot, ran into similar resistance over his argument that the court should uphold the ban as a valid expression of the people's will and let the vigorous political debate over gay marriage continue.

    Here, Kennedy suggested that Cooper's argument did not take account of the estimated 40,000 children who have same-sex parents. "The voices of these children are important, don't you think?" Kennedy said.

    Related Content:

    Supreme Court Takes Up Gay Marriage for First Time

    Church and State: Religious Leaders Debate Same-Sex Marriage

    The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage Backgrounder

    Prop. 8 Live Blog From Northern California Public Media

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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    With a new pope comes plenty of new memorabilia. Not even the most unmaterialistic could escape Pope Francis on cards and trinkets across the world for the past few weeks. Before we get this week's winner, here's the real caption to Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images photo:

    "A nun looks at postcards of Pope Francis in a gift shop on March 15, 2013 near St Peter's square at the Vatican."

    This week's winning caption was truly the best, bar-"nun." The sarcastic cutline juxtaposed with our nun's gleeful expression left us in stitches. And the feeling seemed mutual as it also received the most "likes" on Facebook. Congrats to Jeremy Closs for your winning caption:

    Postcards of Pope Francis; photo by Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images "Sister Mary's favorite part about the Vatican gift shop was the variety."

    Thank you all for playing along. Join us next week for another Tuesday Cutline.

    About the Tuesday Cutline: Every other Tuesday, we post a photo. You compose a witty/funny/creative caption, submit it by Friday at 5 p.m. ET in the comments section or on the NewsHour's or Art Beat's pages. The following Tuesday we pick one winner. Everyone celebrates.

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    Click to enlarge. Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

    The ongoing strike by the San Francisco Symphony brings back a lot of memories for me, some pleasant, one in particular rather daunting.

    I've been listening to and watching the San Francisco Symphony for a long time. My mother used to take me to concerts at the Opera House when I was a child, before Davies Symphony Hall was built. When I was a high school student, I took clarinet lessons from Frealon Bibbins, the second clarinet in the orchestra, which was then conducted by Pierre Monteux. (I didn't get much out of those lessons, because I didn't practice enough and because I didn't have any talent. No reflection on Bud Bibbins.)

    In recent years, my wife and I have been regular season subscribers to the orchestra, through a series of conductors from Seiji Ozawa to Michael Tilson Thomas, who is the boss today.

    When Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall opened in 1980, I was assigned to do a story on its acoustics. Besides conducting the required interview with an acoustics engineer, I decided it would be amusing to try out the sound myself. So I packed up my clarinet and took it with me to the hall. When the interviews were done, I walked onto the stage, and while my camera operator rolled, I played a bit of Mozart's clarinet concerto -- the first performance in that celebrated venue. You would have thought I had infiltrated the situation room at the Pentagon! Public relations people descended on me from all sides. I had told them when setting up the interview that I was going to try out the acoustics with my horn; they had said ok, but now they said they thought I was kidding.

    They told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn't use the footage -- that no one could listen to the sound in the new hall until after the New York Times had listened to it and reviewed it. They threatened to get me fired from my job at the local public television station.

    So I didn't use the music I had created; instead I used music from a record (we had those then) of a far better clarinetist playing Mozart over pictures of the symphony hall. And I didn't get fired.

    Now, in my job as a PBS NewsHour correspondent, I'm covering a strike by symphony musicians who make on average $165,000 a year, plus get 10 weeks vacation, health care and a pension. That fact, when I tell people about it, often outrages them. But orchestra members I talked with say they have to stay competitive with other top orchestras; these are star performers, the creme de la creme, the equivalent of athletes on the San Francisco 49ers or Giants, the reason 8,000 to 10,000 people a week come to the symphony. Doctors and lawyers and executives make that kind of money and more. In fact, symphony management isn't arguing for lower wages but says it can't afford to pay much more, claiming expenses for performances are too high, especially in the face of a recession.

    The strike has gone on for a couple of weeks now and shows no signs of ending. It's one of many labor disputes that have plagued American symphony orchestras over the last few years. Some have gone out of business; others have reduced pay; others have settled. In San Francisco, it's a polite labor dispute among cultured people on both sides. But it's in earnest, and for now the music has stopped.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The highest court in the land took on a major social issue today, the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. The issue drew impassioned crowds for the first of two days of arguments.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    PROTESTERS: What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!

    PROTESTER: One man and one woman! One man and one woman!

    KWAME HOLMAN: The theme ranged from protests to parades to a festival atmosphere at times.

    Inside the court today, the justices heard the legal arguments about whether same-sex marriage is a right protected under the Constitution, while, outside, supporters and opponents filled the streets, many holding their own debates and demonstrating the fierce passion the issue inspires.

    MAN: That's what that was about. It had nothing to do with law.

    WOMAN: Man shall not lie with mankind as with womankind. It's an abomination.

    MAN: It has nothing to do with love.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The specific issue today, the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage. The California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 in 2009, but a federal court struck it down a year later, setting the stage for today's U.S. Supreme Court showdown.

    The hundreds who gathered for the occasion came from all over the country.

    SARAH POWERS, Supporter of Same-Sex Marriage: I'm gay, and I want to have these rights. I believe, even if I wasn't, I would want equal rights for all of us.

    REV. SAMARIS GROSS, Opponent of Same-Sex Marriage: We brought 30 buses from the New York Democrats for Life organization, from Queens, Bronx, New Jersey to just voice ourselves and know and tell everyone that every child deserves to have a father and a mother.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Many of those favoring same-sex marriage were couples, including Robert Voorheis and Michael Sabatino, together for 34 years.

    ROBERT VOORHEIS, Supporter of Same-Sex Marriage: So many rights that we don't have access to under the law without the rights to marry. Fortunately, in New York, we now have marriage rights. But it doesn't transfer to the federal level.

    KWAME HOLMAN: But many supporters of Proposition 8 who marched today said it wasn't about denying rights.

    Shawn Bowen is from New York.

    SHAWN BOWEN, Opponent of Same-Sex Marriage: I believe that marriage is really in the context of family and children, and that's its primary purpose, and that's what the definition should be, and that they're not hateful people, but they just believe something that is practical. And it really does form the foundation of where we come from.

    KWAME HOLMAN: After the arguments, the principals in the case emerged to have their say.

    Kris Perry and her partner are one of two California couples who challenged Proposition 8.

    KRIS PERRY, Plaintiff: In this country, as children, we learn that there is a founding principle that all men and women are created equal. And we want this equality because this is a founding principle.

    Unfortunately, with the passage of Proposition 8, we learned that there are a group of people in California who are not being treated equally.

    KWAME HOLMAN: On the other side, Protect Marriage, the group behind Proposition 8, its legal counsel, Andrew Pugno, said the decision should be left to voters.

    ANDREW PUGNO, Protect Marriage: Our position all along has been that the political process, that means state by state, states deciding for themselves, that that's the forum where this debate belongs, and that this is not something that should be imposed by the judiciary, by the courts.

    PROTESTERS: Prop 8 has got to go.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Still, the issue now is before the nation's highest court and will be again tomorrow, when the justices hear a separate case on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That 1996 law limits marriage to one man and one woman.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal was inside the court, Supreme Court, this morning, and she is back with us tonight.

    Welcome back to the NewsHour.

    MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal: Thanks, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Marcia, this is a case that has the potential to make the history books, a momentous set of questions. Did that come across in the court?

    MARCIA COYLE: Oh, I think absolutely.

    Before the arguments, the courtroom was packed with public spectators, members of the bar. More than 100 reporters were seated for the arguments, reporters from a number of different countries as well. And there was a strong undercurrent of excitement. No matter what the court says, no matter how little the court says, this is the first substantive review of same-sex marriage, which some people have said is the most important civil rights issue of the day.

    So, yes, I think these arguments are historic and will make the history books.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I was struck by the justices' questions right at the outset about whether they should have even taken this case at all, and in particular Justice Kennedy got to it early on. The chief justice did.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right.

    The very first question was from the chief justice. And it had to do with whether the defenders of Proposition 8 have what we call standing to defend it. Do they have a right? Do they meet the requirements for defending Proposition 8, the federal requirements?

    And that's a really key question, because, if they don't have standing to defend it, then the case may well be dismissed on standing grounds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Marcia, looking ahead, if that were to happen, what happens to Proposition 8?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, if there is no standing, then the court is likely to vacate the lower court ruling that struck down Proposition 8.

    And that leaves in place a federal district court judge's injunction against Proposition 8. And then there will be a battle over whether that injunction still stands, what the scope of the injunction is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have got time to worry about that later, when we know what the court rules.

    So the attorney defending Proposition 8, his name is Charles Cooper. He argued that the institution of same-sex marriage is so new that the court would be wise to use caution, at which point Justice Kennedy raised another factor. And we have got audio from the arguments, so let's listen to one section there.

    ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. Supreme Court: I think there's -- there's substantial -- that there's substance to the point that sociological information is new.

    We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more. On the other hand, there is an immediate legal injury or legal -- what could be a legal injury, and that's the voice of these children.

    There are some 40,000 children in California, according to the red brief, that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?

    CHARLES COOPER, Attorney: Your Honor, I certainly would not dispute the importance of that consideration, that consideration especially in the political process, where this issue is being debated and will continue to be debated, certainly, in California. It's being debated elsewhere.

    But on that -- on that specific question, Your Honor, there simply is no data.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you take away from that exchange?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, first of all, Justice Kennedy was responding to an exchange with Mr. Cooper that actually began with Justice Kagan.

    She asked him, what harm is there to the institution of marriage or to opposite-sex couples if marriage were extended to include same-sex partners?

    And Mr. Cooper gave kind of a general answer that, we don't know yet. We can't predict the future. We don't know what harms might result. But it was Justice Scalia who interjected and said, well, I can give you a concrete one. If same-sex marriage is permitted, then states will have to recognize adoptions by same-sex couples.

    And there is dispute in sociological data in studies about whether children raised by same-sex parents are harmed or not harmed. And so that is what Justice Kennedy was responding to. But that's been one of the key arguments against Proposition 8. And I think that may have been one of Mr. Cooper's weaker points in response to Justice Kennedy.

    However, Mr. Cooper did consistently argue that these are policy questions that ought to be decided by the states, not the Supreme Court.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marcia, there's another noteworthy exchange a little bit later when Justice Kagan tried to pin down Mr. Cooper, the attorney defending Prop 8, about the definition of marriage. We're going to listen to that now.

    ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. Supreme Court: Mr. Cooper, suppose a state said, because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we're not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55? Would that be constitutional?

    CHARLES COOPER: No, Your Honor, it would not be constitutional.

    JUSTICE KAGAN: Because that's the same state interest, I would think, you know? If you're over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the government's interests in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?

    CHARLES COOPER: Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples -- both parties to the couple are infertile. And the traditional ...

    JUSTICE KAGAN: No, really, because if a couple ...

    I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.

    CHARLES COOPER: Your Honor, society -- society's interest in responsible procreation isn't just with respect to the procreative capacities of the couple itself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where did that discourse leave everyone?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, Justice Kagan was trying to probe the logic of Mr. Cooper's argument that procreation is the central purpose of marriage.

    And Justice Breyer later also picked up on that, saying, you know, there are a lot of people who get married who don't intend to have children.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Marcia, one other exchange we want to listen to.

    And this is between Ted Olson, who is the attorney challenging Prop 8, and the chief justice. And, again, this has to do with the definition of marriage. We will listen to this one.

    THEODORE OLSON, Former U.S. Solicitor General: If the fundamental thing is that denying gays and lesbians the right of marriage, which is fundamental under your decisions, that is unconstitutional, if it is -- if the state comes forth with certain arguments -- Utah might come forth with certain justifications, California might come forth with others -- but the fact is that California can't make the arguments on adoption or child rearing or people living together because they have already made policy decisions.

    So that doesn't make them ...

    CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. Supreme Court: So it's just about -- it's just about the label in this case.

    THEODORE OLSON: The label is like ...

    CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: If same-sex couples have every other right, it's just about the label.

    THEODORE OLSON: The label marriage means something. Even our opponents ...


    If you tell -- if you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend, I suppose you can force the child to say, this is my friend. But it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend. And that is, it seems to me, what supporters of Proposition 8 are saying here. You're taking -- all you're interested in is the label, and you insist on changing the definition of the label.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the chief justice there really probing him on that.


    This -- Mr. Olson really has two purposes here. One, he is pushing the broader argument that the U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex couples the right to marriage. But he also wants his clients, who are two California couples, to win. So he was saying that the arguments Mr. Cooper is making about Proposition 8 don't hold water in California.

    You can't argue about adoption or morality, because California has already approved civil unions, so it's made those policy decisions. But he has stressed throughout his argument that marriage means something. He said, for example, the court in Loving vs. Virginia back in 1967 could have said to interracial couples, you can't have marriage, but you can have interracial unions.

    That, he said, everybody would know is wrong. Marriage is status. It's recognition. It's support.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was, of course, the case that said that interracial marriage was legal.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Marcia, finally, what should we take away from today and what bearing did what we heard today have on tomorrow's case that they're going to hear, the Defense of Marriage Act, which is that marriage -- the federal law that requires that marriage be between a man and a woman?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, you know, Judy, I don't ever predict on the basis of oral arguments. It's way too risky.

    But I will say sort of my gut reaction here to the court's argument and questions were that they're not ready to go as far as Mr. Olson would like, and that is to say that the U.S. Constitution does guarantee the fundamental right to marriage to same-sex couples.

    They seem to be looking for either a narrower approach, as the lower federal appellate court did, or actually to dispose of the case in some way without saying anything major about same-sex marriage.

    The case tomorrow is very different. It has to do with a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman for all federal purposes. That's more than 1,000 laws. And marriage, the definition of marriage, the requirements of marriage have always been a state prerogative.

    So, we're going to see whether Congress overstepped its boundaries here by legislating the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will have you back tomorrow to talk about what is said in court.

    MARCIA COYLE: I will be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marcia Coyle, thank you.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure, Judy.

    GWEN IFILL: You can find much more about today's case on our website, including audio of the full arguments and reaction from the lawyers and the plaintiffs. Plus, we will have our own debate about Proposition 8 coming up. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Police will have to get a warrant from now on before they bring drug-sniffing dogs on a suspect's property. The Supreme Court handed down that decision today five to four. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion for a conservative-liberal combination. He found that using sniffer dogs without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against illegal search and seizure.

    The Republican governor of North Dakota signed legislation today banning most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That means abortions would be illegal as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Gov. Jack Dalrymple acknowledged it's a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. Dalrymple also signed the nation's first law banning abortions based on Down syndrome and other genetic defects.

    The Supreme Court of Indiana has upheld the broadest school voucher program in the nation. A unanimous decision today rejected arguments that the law mainly benefits religious institutions that run private schools. Unlike most states, Indiana's program extends not only to the poor, but to middle-class families as well.

    In Cyprus, several thousand students protested in Nicosia a day after the country secured a $13 billion dollar international bailout. The deal calls for Cyprus to shrink its banking sector and impose heavy losses on large depositors. Today, protesters marched on parliament and the presidential palace. They waved signs and chanted slogans against the austerity measures and the financial toll they're expected to take.

    THOMAS, Student Protester: They have just gotten rid of all our dreams, everything we have worked for, everything we have achieved up until now, what our parents have achieved. And basically they're just knocking down this country just because they want to.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Cyprus government has ordered its banks to remain closed for another two days, so people won't be able to withdraw all of their money.

    Wall Street turned in a big day, thanks to upbeat reports on housing and manufacturing. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 112 points to close at 14,559. The Nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 3,252.

    A New Jersey man today claimed one of the largest Powerball jackpots ever, $338 million dollars. Pedro Quezada is a Dominican immigrant who came to this country 26 years ago, and owns a small grocery store. He said through a translator that he felt pure joy at winning, and is still figuring out what to do with his new fortune.

    PEDRO QUEZADA, Powerball Lottery Winner: I don't know how exactly, but I will help those in need. Of course, my family is a very humble family. And we are going to help each other out.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: New Jersey lottery officials said later that Quezada has opted to take his winnings in a single lump-sum payout. After taxes, that comes to $152 million dollars.

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

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    GWEN IFILL: We return to today's same-sex marriage debate with one of our own, featuring two attorneys who were at the court today, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who supports overturning the gay marriage ban, and Austin Nimocks, counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports Proposition 8.

    Thank you both for joining us.

    I want to start by asking you both this question.

    Why is the right to marry or same-sex marriage considered to be a constitutional issue, and not a social one, Attorney General Harris?

    ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS, California: Well, first of all, the United States Supreme Court since 1880 has described marriage as a fundamental right.

    So, what we know is that it is based on some very fundamental notions that we -- around which we crafted our Constitution and our country, the fundamental notion of justice, of privacy, and of equality. And the discussion then before the court was rightly before the court to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage in the context of those 14 cases over a century of discussion about what is fundamental, what is most sacred of the rights that we have, and therefore shouldn't be taken away and therefore shouldn't be deprived to any citizen.

    GWEN IFILL: Mr. Nimocks?

    AUSTIN NIMOCKS, Alliance Defending Freedom: Well, I think when you look at the history of the Supreme Court and the precedent about marriage, it's been very clear that the Supreme Court is always talking about marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

    And all of that precedent led up to a case in the '70s where the Supreme Court rejected a claim for same-sex marriage. So all of the history of the Supreme Court precedent is really about marriage between one man and one woman. And the case before the court today was whether or not same-sex marriage must be imposed upon the entire country.

    We have been arguing consistently to the Supreme Court and to other courts across this country that that shouldn't be the case, and we need to leave this debate that we're having as a country over same-sex marriage in the hands of the people.

    GWEN IFILL: Let's talk about some of the commentary that came up today, the conversation among the justices.

    Justice Kennedy was talking about that this was too new, that maybe this was a cliff we were walking off, that this is -- that same-sex marriage is a virtually new idea. It's younger than the Internet, he said. And, therefore, maybe the Supreme Court shouldn't be jumping into this and maybe it might not even have standing to do so.

    What was your reaction to that?

    KAMALA HARRIS: I think that it -- that when we are discussing this issue, we should discuss it in the context perhaps of what is new to the court vs. what is new to the fundamental principles in our Constitution.

    And it is not a new concept to us as a country and it is not a new concept to our Constitution that we have described marriage as a fundamental right. And so the issue before the court in this case, which is whether Ms. Perry can marry her partner of 16 years with whom she shares a child, and whether she and other same-sex couples will be treated equally under the law as opposite-sex couples is -- really relates to fundamental notions about equality and liberty.

    GWEN IFILL: Austin Nimocks, are we talking about unchartered waters, as the justice was saying?

    AUSTIN NIMOCKS: They are exactly unchartered waters, as Justice Kennedy remarked today.

    And it really goes to the newness of the debate we're having in this country over marriage, its meaning, its importance to our society and children. Same-sex marriage is a very new concept, and newer, as Justice Alito said, than Internet or cell phones.

    And so it really highlights the role of the court. The Supreme Court is not a legislature. It's not designed to be a legislature. And justices expressed reservations about the capacity of the court to answer this difficult question over this very important debate.

    That's why we have ballot boxes. That's why we have legislatures, to deal with these important issues so we can have the debates, see how things go over the course of time. And that's all we're asking the Supreme Court to do.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you ...

    AUSTIN NIMOCKS: We don't need a 50-state mandate on same-sex marriage in this country. We need to leave it to the hands of the people.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, do you reject the point that Justice Ginsburg, I guess, made today comparing this to the Loving v. Virginia case, which allowed interracial marriage in Virginia? Do you not see any parallel to that?

    AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Not at all.

    When the Supreme Court decided the Loving case, it made very clear that marriage is colorblind, but it's not gender-blind, because it said in that case that marriage is very fundamental to our very existence and survival, talking about the procreative aspects of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

    And Justice Kennedy even seemed to reject that notion during the course of the argument today. And so we have been very consistent on that argument. The gender concept of marriage between a man and a woman is the very core of marriage. And to radically redefine it through a 50-state mandate, which is what our opponents are asking in this case, we don't think is in the best interest of America or does it respect our democratic institutions.

    We have those institutions for a reason, so that he people can use them. The people of California have used them twice, voting for marriage twice in a nine-year period. And I think we need to respect those votes and the votes across the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Kamala Harris, as the chief legal officer in the state of California that has voted on this twice, what about that argument about procreation especially?

    KAMALA HARRIS: Well, I think it's actually a very weak argument to suggest that the only -- that the difference between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples is accidental procreation. That's literally what they argue.

    And to argue that that distinction and that should be the basis for treating people differently under the Constitution, and in particular treating people differently as it relates to a fundamental right, I think it just makes an extremely weak argument.

    On the point of California, 61 percent of Californians today believe in same-sex marriage. The majority of Americans believe in same-sex marriage. The majority of Catholics believe in same-sex marriage and are not opposed to it.

    And so when we look at the issue in terms of where America is, I think America is consistent with fundamental notions of justice as articulated in the Constitution. I think we also need to look at the fact that, in California today, we have 50,000 children who are the children of these same-sex couples, who are looking at their parents and looking at us as a society and saying, why can't my parents be married too?

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask Austin Nimocks about that, because Justice Kennedy mentioned that as well, this question about what happens to the children.

    What would your answer to that be?

    AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Well, I don't think I can really improve upon Mr. Cooper's answer today during oral argument that our opponent's own experts even acknowledge that there's no proof in the record that adding same-sex couples to the institution of marriage dramatically increases their lives or the lives of their children.

    And so it just really goes back to the point then is whether or not Californians and Americans across this country are allowed to protect and preserve something that's always been constitutional, and that's the institution of marriage, believe in the idea that mothers and fathers are not merely accessories to the family, but important components to the family, and uphold that ideal in our public policy.

    Americans across this country, tens of millions, have voted in favor of marriage. I think those votes and the opinions of Americans in that regard are very important. Gen. Harris mentions -- makes a good point. We're having a debate. There are polls out there. We need to keep the debate alive. I agree with her. And we need to keep the debates where debates belong, and that's in our legislative processes and our democratic institutions.

    GWEN IFILL: If this were not to be taken up by the court, they were either to reject it or to only uphold part of it or reject part of it, could the people of California repeal this ban? Would it withstand that?

    KAMALA HARRIS: Well, the issue before the court included the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but it also included the issue of standing, and in particular in the case before the court, the question of whether Mr. Hollingsworth, who is a proponent of Proposition 8, has standing to bring the case.

    And Article Three in the Constitution, as your previous segment discussed, requires that the person who brings the issue to the court shows that they actually have a personal stake in the outcome. And part of our position is that Mr. Hollingsworth's life will not be impacted in any direct way. There will be no harm to his life to allow Ms. Perry to marry her partner.

    And, for that reason, if the court agrees with that, it is possible that the court could send the case back to California, declaring that Mr. Hollingsworth has no standing, so the case shouldn't rightly be before the court.

    GWEN IFILL: And, briefly, Mr. Nimocks, this public opinion question, is this something that in the end is going to change the direction, do you think, of this argument, no matter what the court does, briefly?

    AUSTIN NIMOCKS: I think you bring up a good point.

    I think no matter what the Supreme Court does, Americans are going to continue to debate this question. The Supreme Court can no more settle the question of marriage than it did settle the question of abortion in this country. And that's I think all the more reason why we need to keep the debate where it is.

    Californians have the right, right now, to go back to the ballot box, go back to the polls to enact any number of constitutional amendments that they want to, to their Constitution, to enact any number of propositions. We don't need to squelch that democratic process with a 50-state mandate from the Supreme Court.

    And that's what we're asking the Supreme Court, not to rule with a heavy hand here. Let the people work on this issue.

    GWEN IFILL: Austin Nimocks of Alliance Defending Freedom and Kamala Harris, attorney general for the state of California, thank you both very much.

    KAMALA HARRIS: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: And we will have full coverage of tomorrow's case, a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a housing recovery that seems to be picking up strength, and even surprising expectations in some cities.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The latest numbers showed the biggest gains in home prices since the onset of the financial crisis. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index found prices rose in the largest 20 markets by a little more than 8 percent in January, compared to a year ago.

    Separately, a government report out today found new home sales were down by five percent last month, but still up 12 percent compared to 2012. While some markets are reporting prices are climbing more quickly than expected, the average price of a new home is nearly $247,000 dollars.

    For a closer look at what's driving the pace of this recovery, we turn to Nicolas Retsinas. He teaches about real estate at the Harvard Business School.

    So, first of all, this seems to be the fastest rate of recovery since before the crash. What's your take on these numbers?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS, Harvard Business School: Well, there are broad signs of recovery.

    All the numbers, as you point out, are positive. So, the recovery is moving. It's still a little uneven overall, but, clearly, all the signals are positive. That doesn't mean we can't overreach. But, right now, it seems we're moving in a very positive direction.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, why is it so uneven? It seems that, in certain parts of the country, sales fell in the Northeast, in the South, and they seem to be picking up again in the Midwest and West.

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Well, let's look, for example, where the price increases were the sharpest today, in Las Vegas, in Phoenix.

    In those cases, much of that is motivated by investors. Those are places where prices fell 50, 60, 70 percent in some neighborhoods. Investors feel that was overcorrecting, so, therefore, they're trying to get in. So, this may be a temporary spike in those cities. Hard to imagine you will see the same pace of increase in the days ahead.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there a danger of us walking back into bubble territory, as some of these folks that have been waiting on the sidelines decide to jump in and almost create the panic that they're scared of?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Well, there's always a danger. But, again, credit is still pretty tight. We still have some issues that we haven't quite resolved. While foreclosures have slowed, that doesn't mean there aren't still more foreclosures ahead of us.

    Interest rates at some point will start to edge up. So there are some governors, some dampeners of price increases. So, yes, bubble increases are possible, but probably unlikely, given the recent history.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Let's talk a little bit about foreclosures. How much of an impact are they having on inventory, or have they made their way through the system?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Not quite.

    They have had an impact on inventory for the last couple years. Foreclosures have slowed dramatically over the last year. Banks are worried about getting sued. They're being much more careful. They're much more aggressive with loan modifications.

    But lest we forget, there are three million households who are either seriously delinquent or started a foreclosure process. At some point, the pig is going to get out of that python. And when it does, it will add to inventory. And when that happens, we will see a price -- the price increases will start to moderate substantially.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what does this increase in prices mean to those people whose homes have been underwater for so long?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Well, most people's homes that are underwater are still very underwater.

    So, while there's been a modest uptick in the properties that have gone above water overall, at some point, if prices continue to go up, those people will start putting their homes on the market. They're reluctant to do so today because to do so means they would have to pay the bank the difference between value and what they owe. But if the value were to go up, you would start to see the inventory go up. That's why I think that will dampen any substantial price increases going forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, we know these numbers have a tendency to be corrected every month. So when we look at a three- or four-month moving average, we start to see this trend in the right direction. What happened three or four months ago? What's different now?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Well, part of it I think is something we don't measure very well. And that's psychology.

    You know how sometimes that dogs hear whistles that people don't hear? Somehow, three, four, five, six months ago, people started to hear a whistle that said, it's OK to buy a home now. Prices aren't going to keep falling. And I think that psychology has influenced consumer behavior and it is responsible for some of the uptick in existing home sales and even in new home sales.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the job market? Does that factor into it?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Very much so.

    People are much more confident when they're working. They're much more confident about buying a home if they're not being afraid of being let go. And for those children who have been in our basements, maybe now they're now getting a job. And enough is enough, mom and dad. Time for me to go out in the marketplace.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so is there enough evidence to see this trend line continuing?

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: All the signs are positive.

    Again, there are some clouds on the horizon, the interest rates I mentioned, the foreclosures overall. But, generally speaking, we seem to be in the midst of recovery. I just don't think it's an overly robust recovery, but I think there are clear signs of recovery.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nicolas Retsinas from the Harvard Business School, thanks so much.

    NICOLAS RETSINAS: Thank you.


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