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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: Now: A new investigation finds tragic accidents and the lack of government oversight in an important sector of the farming economy.

    Margaret Warner has the story.

    MARGARET WARNER: Working conditions in much of the agriculture industry rarely capture national attention. And that includes the grain storage business.

    But the storage of grain in huge silos is a growing business, ever more so in the age of biofuels. Now a new investigation by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity, among others, is raising tough questions about its labor practices.

    Among the findings, there have been at least 179 deaths at commercial storage facilities since 1984 and numerous others on farms themselves. In many cases, workers like 14-year-old Wyatt Whitebread of Mount Carroll, Ill., literally suffocated to death, buried in corn in the silo. Other deaths result from explosions.

    2010 was the deadliest year on record, with 26 killed. Commercial facilities are overseen by a federal agency, OSHA, but the investigation found that the government's initial fines of the companies ultimately were reduced by nearly 60 percent.

    Howard Berkes of NPR is one of the lead reporters on this story, and he joins me now.

    And, Howard, welcome back to the program.

    First of all, describe how these deaths occur, specifically that 14-year-old boy in Illinois. What happened there?

    HOWARD BERKES, NPR: Wyatt Whitebread, along with two co-workers, were sent into a grain bin in Illinois to walk down the grain.

    That's a process by which they go in with picks and shovels and they're knocking down clogged corn that's crusted on the side of the bin. There may be corn that's blocking a hole in the bottom of the bin through which the corn is supposed to drain or it may just be bridging up, clogging on the surface.

    And it's specifically illegal -- a law in 1996 made walking down grain illegal. But they were sent in to do it. I should add that Wyatt Whitebread, at age 14, was underage. He shouldn't have been working in that bin. And there were a number of other things that were done that put those boys in danger, including the failure to use safety harnesses, which were actually hanging in a shed near the bin, and they weren't trained on what to do. They didn't realize that they were in danger.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, I gather then they just got -- somehow, he got sucked down into the grain?

    HOWARD BERKES: What happened is that underneath the bin is a conveyer belt that is pulling corn out of the bin through holes in the bottom of the bin.

    And there was one hole operating when they walked into the bin. There was a cone that had formed in the center, and the grain was flowing down that cone. And they knew enough to sort of stay away from that flowing corn.

    But the supervisor of the facility opened up a second hole. And a second cone formed. And the flowing grain caught Wyatt first. He was pulled under. Alex Pacas and Will Piper tried to pull him out, and they also were caught. Wyatt went completely under the corn. Alex followed. And Will was caught up to his neck.


    HOWARD BERKES: He tried to keep the corn away from Alex's face, but was unable to do that.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, how does OSHA -- what does OSHA do with these cases and what do they -- how do they explain the fact that the initial fines they levy are so often reduced dramatically?

    HOWARD BERKES: Well, in this case, the fine of $555,000 dollars was one of the biggest ever that OSHA levied. And then it cut the fine more than 60 percent.

    And what we found in our investigation was that that is par for the course. OSHA cuts fines about 60 percent of the time in these cases when workers die. The average fine is cut by 50 percent. And this is a system in which OSHA operates -- other government agencies basically do the same thing with fines.

    They negotiate with the employers. They take into account how much money the employer has, what their income is, various factors like that. And then they come to some resolution. But the problem is that these deaths have persisted year after year after year. 2010, as you said, was the worst year on record.

    So, fines, which are supposed to be a disincentive for employers, turn out not to be a disincentive if the employers can negotiate them down. And I should add that fines have been negotiated down as much as 92 percent, 97 percent. They almost disappear in some cases.

    MARGARET WARNER: Is it from -- I mean, is there some pressure from the companies? Is there -- from your -- from your investigation anyway, is there too much coziness between the regulators and the industry?

    HOWARD BERKES: I don't know what it is that propels OSHA to cut fines on such a regular basis.

    It is the right of an employer to challenge these fines. And the employer can go to an administrative law court if they don't like the way that OSHA is handling it and how much the fines have been reduced.

    Look, there's a lot of pressure in this country to go easy on businesses, to not hurt businesses, and to not over-regulate. And OSHA is probably the one agency in the government that gets the most pressure. And that may have something to do with this.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, very briefly, there are something like 4,500 workplace deaths a year in this country. This is a relatively small amount. What motivated you to spend months and months on this?

    HOWARD BERKES: Well, because what happens with workers dying in grain happens with workers who die in every other workplace.

    Fines are routinely cut. It's very rare to have a prosecution in these cases. In fact, federal law is really weak. You can kill a worker through your negligence, and the most you will get is six months in jail, and it's a misdemeanor. Federal prosecutors don't want to take cases like that. It's much more serious if you kill an endangered species in this country. It's a felony with more serious jail time.

    If you poison a stream, and you don't even kill anybody, you can get more jail time and it's a felony. So, workers don't get the protection of the law. And what happens in grain bins is really indicative of what happens in all kinds of workplaces.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Howard Berkes of NPR, thank you.

    And on our website, you can find links to all of the reporting from this series. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: A strike by a leading symphony is the latest in a string of labor and financial headaches for the nation's orchestras.

    NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels has the story.

    SPENCER MICHELS: The San Francisco Symphony, under its conductor and musical director, Michael Tilson Thomas, canceled all its San Francisco concerts for the past few weeks, and called off an East Coast tour that included a performance in New York's Carnegie Hall.

    Instead of performing, musicians milled about in front of Davies Hall in San Francisco and refused to play, until they got a contract that met their demands for higher pay and paid health care benefits comparable to other top orchestras. It was just the latest trouble on the national classical music front.

    Since 2002, classical music performances have seen a decline in attendance of 13 percent across the country. Season ticket sales decreased as well, forcing orchestras to market single tickets, an expensive proposition, and to search for new audiences by finding new approaches to concerts.

    Last year, Chicago Symphony musicians struck, asking for more pay and better health care. That strike was settled quickly, with modest pay increases, but larger health care payments. In Detroit, the symphony went out for six months in 2011. The musicians finally accepted a 25 percent pay cut. The celebrated Philadelphia Orchestra emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, and still faces financial problems.

    In San Francisco, the symphony has seen small increases in attendance and ticket revenue. Donations are also up slightly. But the symphony says its concert production expenses, including musicians' salaries, are up eight percent a year, a trend they say is unsustainable.

    Brent Assink, executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, says tough economic times have impacted all symphony budgets, including his.

    BRENT ASSINK, San Francisco Symphony: The general trend that we're seeing puts enormous pressure on a -- on orchestras and other arts organizations, in fact, nonprofits in general.

    You will never hear an orchestra management say, oh, we're sitting on pots of cash, we're doing just fine.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Joshua Kosman has been following all this action, in San Francisco and elsewhere, as the classical music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.

    JOSHUA KOSMAN, San Francisco Chronicle: One thing that they all have in common is the health care costs have been soaring because the health care system is so dysfunctional.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Kosman says some orchestras have handled the economic crisis better than others.

    JOSHUA KOSMAN: It's been a sort of a stress test in the sense that orchestras that have their acts more or less together had a rough couple of years, and then kind of came through the other side. Other orchestras found the recession really kind of knocked the wind right out of them.

    SPENCER MICHELS: San Francisco may be one of the healthy ones. It is doing well, but not sharing, says David Gaudry, who plays viola.

    DAVID GAUDRY, San Francisco Symphony: The budget for the San Francisco Symphony over the last four years, the length of our previous contract, increased by about 29 percent. Now, the musicians' share of that in wages only increased by about four percent per year. So, in fact, our share of the total budget is shrinking all the time.

    SPENCER MICHELS: The 105 members of the symphony earn an average of about $165,000 dollars a year. The union says it's a little less. They get 10 weeks' vacation, health care, and a pension. But they say they need more to stay competitive with Los Angeles, Chicago, and other top orchestras.

    Those salaries and the strike evoked varying reactions among symphony patrons.

    NANCY WATSON, San Francisco: I believe any work is honorable, and if you get over $100,000 dollars, you're almost in the rich category, according to Obama.

    DOROTHY CLUNAN, San Francisco: I think they have the right to strike. It's a very expensive city to live in, compared to where we live on the East Coast.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Bassoon player Rob Weir says his fellow musicians are the cream of the crop and earn every penny.

    ROB WEIR, San Francisco Symphony: This is a job where every time we go on stage, we're judged, and we're written about, and we're critiqued. And we hold ourselves to an extremely high standard.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Like musicians in other cities, the players here say the symphony organization hides its books, and pays its executives too much.

    Conductor Thomas got $2.4 million dollars in 2010, the nation's top salary for a conductor.

    BRENT ASSINK: We're under some stress, but we are not in jeopardy. And the fact that we're in San Francisco, one of the wonderful communities for the arts anywhere in the world, and we -- the orchestra plays to 8,000 to 10,000 people a week.

    SPENCER MICHELS: This week, the only place you could hear them was on the street, where a brass quintet of union members played for free. In the strike, both sides are hanging tough, and no one is predicting how long this work stoppage will last.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, Spencer blogs about his own debut at San Francisco's Symphony Hall as a reporter with a clarinet. 

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, the tale of a top-secret town with a top-secret mission and the women who made history there.

    Ray Suarez has our book conversation.

    RAY SUAREZ: During the mid-1940s, thousands of young women got offers of good-paying jobs working on some sort of government project in the South. They were told their efforts would lead to a quicker end to World War II, but they were told little else.

    They worked as secretaries and nurses, chemists and technicians, all the while not knowing the real purpose of their jobs: to enrich fuel for the first atomic bomb ever used in combat.

    Denise Kiernan tells their story in the book "The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II." She's a journalist who has written extensive about American history, and joins us now.

    Untold story, all right. I mean, whether it's Albert Einstein or Leo Szilard or Edward Teller or Robert Oppenheimer, even Harry Truman, this has been a man's story all along.

    DENISE KIERNAN, Author, "The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II": It really has.

    And it's also a story that's often told from the top down, from the position of knowing and decision-making down, as opposed to from the perspective of people who were crucial and invaluable to the success of the project, but didn't necessarily have any idea what the larger picture was.

    RAY SUAREZ: Again and again, I had to remind myself while reading this book how circumscribed the lives of women were in 1943. You're reading it with your 2013 head. And then you have to remember, oh, yes, they couldn't do this. They couldn't do that in so many cases.

    DENISE KIERNAN: In so many cases.

    And at -- in one respect, it was such a time of liberation for women, World War II, because so many men were away fighting. Opportunities opened up for them that had never existed before, to work in plants, to work with farm machinery, to work as welders. But, at the same time, you know, for example, Jane, one of the women I profile in the book, this was a very bright young woman who wanted to study engineering and was -- you know, just got a tap on the shoulder when she went to go matriculate at the University of Tennessee and was told, no, I'm sorry. You -- girls don't study that.

    But then she went on to be a statistician for the Manhattan Project. So, it was limiting and expanding at once, almost.

    RAY SUAREZ: Cumulatively, your women give us a portrait of womanhood in America in 1943, some educated, some not, some rural, some urban, some of immigrant stock, some of longtime American stock.

    It was really -- the crowd you put together gave us a chance to look into all these different lives.

    DENISE KIERNAN: And that was something that I really worked to do because I interviewed so many women.

    And I, of course, interviewed a number of men as well who had lived and worked in Oak Ridge, Tenn., during World War II. And I did want to have as many perspectives as possible on this story. So, yes, some of the women are 18-year-olds with just a high school education recruited out of diners in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Others are, you know, nurses from Chicago, you know, with a certain amount of education.

    And, you know, another is a chemist, you know, with a degree from the University of North Carolina. So I wanted to be able to show all of those perspectives and enter the story of the Manhattan Project from all those different points of view.

    RAY SUAREZ: We are reminded again and again how peculiar this was, to bring together thousands of people from all over the place to a place that really didn't even exist yet.

    It was like mushrooms coming up after spring rain. A city just comes out of the mud, all strangers to each other. But they couldn't talk to each other about what they were doing.


    This was not a town that was designated or repurposed for the war effort. This was a town that didn't exist before the war. And they bring in all of these people. It started in 1942. The government thought, oh, we will probably have -- let's plan for about 13,000.

    Well, by mid-1945, less than two years later, a town with 75,000 residents, operating 24 hours a day, using more electricity than New York City, and with one of the 10 largest bus systems in the entire country, and it's not on a map. And, yes, you have all these people there together in this confined space spending all this time together, but the most natural question, "Well, what do you do?" is the one thing you're never supposed to ask.

    So, "Where are you from?" was sort of the cadence you would hear everywhere, because that was safe. "So, where are you from?"

    RAY SUAREZ: They were pioneering ways of refining radioactive material, weren't they?


    The machines that they used to enrich uranium or separate different isotopes of uranium really had just been created just recently and had never been done anywhere near on this scale. So it was a completely -- just a really completely brand-new endeavor.

    RAY SUAREZ: They don't find out until the end what they were doing, when the bomb is actually detonated.

    But did this experience change the life trajectories of these women? Did they go on to have different 1950s, 1960s, 1970s than they might have otherwise because they were in Oak Ridge?

    DENISE KIERNAN: That's a very -- that's a very interesting question.

    One of the things that did happen to a lot of them is, you know, we were talking about before having all those people in such a confined space. A lot of people ended up married. So some women shifted over to being housewives. Others stayed in the plants working as chemists. One was -- became a librarian for one of the plants. And she probably would have had a future as -- you know, still working at that diner in Tennessee.

    The young coal miner's daughter from Shenandoah always thought she would just be a secretary who got married and stayed in her hometown. And she saw a much greater part of the world because of that. So, a variety of opportunities, and perhaps what was most surprising for them was that this town that really didn't have any post-war plan, for many of them became home for now going on 70 years.

    RAY SUAREZ: If you were a young adult in the mid-'40s, you're, what, in your 90s now? Just like World War II veterans who are disappearing from among us, are the girls of Atomic City also harder to find than they were just a short time ago?

    DENISE KIERNAN: They are even just in the last several years.

    And the window on this world -- and, by that, I mean our access to this moment in time via the experiences and conversations we can have to people who actually lived through it -- is shrinking so rapidly. The youngest of my girls right now is about 88 years old. And others are 94 and 96.

    So there really is a limited amount of time, and decreasing every month the number of people we have that we can talk to about these experiences.

    RAY SUAREZ: "The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II."

    Denise Kiernan, thanks.

    DENISE KIERNAN: Thank you very much. 

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  • 03/27/13--05:45: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performs "D-Man in the Waters" during a dress rehearsal before opening night Tuesday at the Joyce Theater in New York City. Photo by Timothy A. Clark/AFP/Getty Images.

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    Painter and graffiti artist Alec Monopoly is obsessed with Rich "Uncle" Pennybags, the mascot of the board game Monopoly. For Alec, this character is a reminder that money can both be the source of fortune and demise -- in the game and in our lives.

    Alec Monopoly

    You will never see Alec Monopoly's face unmasked. While painting in public, Alec covers his face with a large handkerchief. Photo: Cory Allen Contemporary Art

    In the Studio

    Raised in New York and transplanted to Los Angeles, the artist splits his time creating art on the streets and in the studio. Photo: Courtesy of Alec Monopoly/Instagram

    Getting Caught in the Act

    Alec has been chased, caught and arrested several times by police for creating art without permission.

    The illegal nature of graffiti and some of his street art doesn't faze the artist. "It would only bother me if I were chased [or] arrested for the idea of my work, than the act," Alec said.

    "Other than that, I know when I put work up in the streets that I’m always subject to being caught. That vulnerability is part of the process and you just have to apply as much creativity to the process as you do the art." Photo: Alec Street Art via Flickr

    Graffiti vs. Wheatpaste

    Alec creates art through graffiti and by wheatpasting prints in public spaces.

    Wheatpasting involves painting subjects on paper and applying the premade artwork to walls using a homemade glue that is usually water soluble. Wheatpasting is less destructive than painting directly onto surfaces in public spaces.

    He explains that the medium he uses depends on what he wants to accomplish:

    "If I want to place a detailed piece in a busy area, then I’ll probably use a wheatpaste, but if I’m commissioned to create a ‘legal’ mural, then I’ll probably paint freehand.

    "It primarily depends on time allotted and what medium better identifies with the integrity of my work," Alec said. Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery

    The Road to Success is a Game

    One character is used over and over in Alec's work: Mr. Monopoly, a.ka. Rich "Uncle" Pennybags.

    Alec uses the character in his work to remind people that the road to success in the real world is like playing a game of Monopoly.

    "Sometimes the things that causes us hardship, could be very well, the thing that gets us out of that hardship," Alec said. Photo: Image courtesy of LAB ART Gallery

    LAB ART Gallery

    For Alec Monopoly's first solo show, LAB ART Gallery, which exclusively shows artwork by street artists, transformed its space into a larger than life experience of the Monopoly board game.

    When discussing the references to Monopoly in Alec's artwork, LAB ART Gallery co-owner Iskander Lemseffer says it's easy to see how the game can represent real life situations.

    "As you're going around the Monopoly board and you roll the dice, you never know what you are going to get," Lemfseffer said. "That is like life. You never know what you are going to get." Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery

    It's Temporary

    Graffiti artists become famous by getting their art out on the streets. But the temporal quality of their work means at some point the art will be removed, covered up or fade away.

    "No matter the medium, any work put up in the streets is temporary. That’s why I feel there is room for street art in galleries," Alec said. Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery


    Andy Warhol had Marilyn. Alec Monopoly has Madonna.

    Alec frequently uses iconic images of celebrities and fictional characters as subjects in his artwork, including Richie Rich, Donald Duck, Robert De Niro and Michael Douglas.

    Here, he works on a painting of Madonna, transforming a photograph originally taken by Richard Corman. Photo: Courtesy of Alec Street Art via Flickr

    If I Could Pick Any Mentor

    "I never really had a mentor, unless you count the activity I was exposed to on the streets," Alec said.

    "If I could have picked a mentor, it would be Keith Haring; a combination of brilliance and hard work."

    Alec Monopoly, right, signs a transformed photograph of Keith Haring along with the image's original creator, photographer Richard Corman. Photo: Courtesy of Alec Monopoly/Instagram

    Street Art Is Not Just a 'Fad'

    After the release of the 2010 hit documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop" by legendary British street artist Banksy, everyone, it seemed, wanted to be a street artist.

    Alec has seen this occur in Los Angeles firsthand. "I feel it’s great that more people are paying attention to what is in the streets," he said. "At the same time I am concerned that people are treating it as another fad and getting involved for the wrong reasons." Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery

    Repeating Images in Graffiti

    Why do street artists repeat the same images over and over again with slight variations?

    "I don’t know if it’s more of street art encouraging repetitiveness than it is more of how our culture operates, Alec Monopoly said.

    "People don’t generally look for art in the streets, but when your work catches their eye and they see it over and over again, they begin to pay attention." Photo: Alec Street Art via Flickr

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    Supreme Court demonstration; photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Kris and Lyssa White, a married couple from Manassas, Va., kiss Tuesday in front of the Supreme Court protesting for marriage equality. Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    For a second day, the topic's the same. The Supreme Court will again examine the constitutionality of a case related to same-sex marriage, this time on whether a federal law violates the Fifth Amendment's equal protection clause.

    However, Wednesday's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, presents a more subdued day at the court, one lacking the level of fanfare seen Tuesday, which highlighted supporters and proponents of California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

    Significantly less ppl at #scotus this am twitter.com/dePeystah/stat...

    — Allie Morris (@dePeystah) March 27, 2013

    Inside the court Wednesday, the conversation before the nine justices will have a more technical focus, examining the story of Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old New Yorker and widow who married her female partner in Canada, a marriage also recognized by the state of New York. She now seeks federal recognition of their marriage so she won't have to pay $363,000 in estate taxes because the federal government does not recognize their marriage as valid. A survivor in a heterosexual marriage would not have to pay this tax.

    DOMA, signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1996, leaves recognition of same-sex marriage up to individual states. It allows the federal government not to recognize gay marriages for taxes, entitlement programs or other legal purposes, and it allows states that don't support gay marriage to ignore the unions as well.

    The potential outcomes of this case, compared with Tuesday's, could be far less reaching. While the Proposition 8 case gives the court an opportunity to impose nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage, the DOMA case disputes application of federal law.

    Nationwide recognition was summed up as exceedingly unlikely by a number of court-watchers Tuesdays, including the website SCOTUSBlog, known for its live and thorough coverage of the court. The site tweeted:

    Arguments done. #scotus won't uphold or strike down #prop8 bc Kennedy thinks it is too soon to rule on #ssm. #prop8 will stay invalidated.

    — SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) March 26, 2013

    Even the name of the case, United States vs. Windsor, forces more legal explanations. The United States government sides with Windsor in supporting an end to what it calls discrimination on marriage for gay couples. Because the attorney general's office chose not to defend the law in this case, a group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives, composed mostly of mostly Congressional Republicans, will.

    Attorney Paul Clement will present BLAG's side in court, repeating the matchup between himself and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli during the Affordable Care Act case.

    NPR's Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg noted on Wednesday's "Morning Edition" that neither Clement nor a number of congressional leaders would agree to interviews on the DOMA case.

    Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal will visit the NewsHour again Wednesday night to describe the case in full. To hear her summary of Tuesday's arguments regarding Proposition 8, including exchanges with justices about alleged harm caused by gay marriage and whether the institution of marriage exists for the purpose of procreation, watch here or below:

    Watch Video

    Gwen Ifill followed that conversation by hosting a debate on Proposition 8 with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, an opponent of the law, and Austin Nimocks, who was part of the legal team of Alliance Defending Freedom, which supported the California measure in court.

    Find the debate is here or below.

    Watch Video

    We also have audio of the arguments here. The court chose to release the audio a few hours after the close of Tuesday morning's session, a rare decision saved only for the most important cases. The court will post same-day audio of Wednesday's arguments.

    Our coverage spanned both coasts this week. On Monday -- ahead of oral arguments, NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels spoke with gay rights supporters in San Francisco marching from the Castro District to City Hall.

    Watch Video


    A new poll from The Washington Post-ABC News shows a majority of Americans favorably view President Barack Obama and the Supreme Court. For Congress, not so much -- though the legislative body's positive impression among Hispanics is growing, to more than 50 percent favorability.

    Taking his first step back into the spotlight after resigning as the director of the CIA in November, Gen. David Petreaus apologized for the scandal that led him to resign, speaking at a USC dinner Tuesday night honoring ROTC students and veterans. "Needless to say, I join you, keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago," he said. He authored an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal about helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

    Mr. Obama named Julia Pierson as the first female director of the U.S. Secret Service on Tuesday. Pierson had served as the agency's chief of staff. Her appointment comes as the Secret Service looks to rebuild its image following last year's prostitution scandal.

    On Tuesday, Mr. Obama also signed the six-month continuing resolution approved last week by Congress. The $984 billion spending plan will fund the government through the end of September.

    North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law Tuesday the nation's most restrictive abortion law, which bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is "detectable," which can be as early as six weeks.

    Organizing for Action is stepping into the push for campaign finance reform in New York, advocating a matching fund system. OFA is expected to hold a conference call Wednesday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and grassroots supporters of the "fair elections" fight.

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Thursday her opposition to email, text messaging and tweeting.

    Add Montana's Sen. Jon Tester to the list of Red State Democrats who have announced support for gay marriage.

    An automated survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds the race for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District may be close between Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and former GOP Gov. Mark Sandford.

    Former New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey's time in office has helped him relate to the felons he works with. "For many of them, it was a bag of dope; for me, it was politics and political survival and enhancement," he told Politico. McGreevey's life after politics is the subject of Alexandra Pelosi's latest documentary, "Fall to Grace," which airs Thursday on HBO.

    SEIU is debuting $300,000 worth of cable TV ads Wednesday pushing for a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

    The Fix drew our attention to a National Conference of State Legislatures map that compiles all of the states' voter ID laws, with a few updates on the most recent and pending bills.

    Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry showed off their soccer talents in separate events Tuesday. The president bounced a ball on his head during an event at the White House honoring the L.A. Galaxy, last season's Major League Soccer champion, and the Los Angeles Kings, the reigning Stanley Cup champion. Kerry, meanwhile, demonstrated his skills at "The Beautiful Game," heading a ball at a meeting with the Afghan women's soccer team during a trip to Kabul.

    Democracy for America says it will spend more than $750,000 this year to unseat Republicans in vulnerable districts in the Virginia House of Delegates. As part of its "Purple to Blue Project," the Burlington, Vt.-based group founded by former Gov. Howard Dean, will support five candidates, including activist Jennifer Boysko and retired Air Force officer John Bell for two seats in Northern Virginia. In 2014, DFA plans to go after seats in state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. "Winning these state races is how you win on the national level," Dean said in a conference call Tuesday.

    In what Politico reports is an unusual move, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has purged staff members from Senate Appropriations Committee.

    David Miliband, brother of the leader of Britain's Labour Party and himself a prominent member of the House of Parliament, is stepping down and moving to the U.S.

    Beyonce got in on the marriage equality on Facebook action Tuesday with a post to the 44.6 million people who like her page: "If you like it you should be able to put a ring on it."

    Today's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA: The longer immigrants remain in the United States, the more likely they are to own a home, and of those who arrived befoe 1980, their home ownership rate is higher than that of native-born Americans.


    Ray Suarez sat down with author Denise Kiernan to talk about her book, "The Girls of Atomic City," which is about a group of women who worked on a secret mission during World War II to enrich fuel for the first atomic bomb used in combat.

    Margaret Warner spoke with NPR's Howard Berkes about a new investigation looking at the dangerous working conditions in grain storage bins.

    "Pandora's Lunchbox" author Melanie Warner will participate in a live chat about processed food Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. Tweet comments to @NewsHour using #foodchat.


    Equality Jellybot. instagram.com/p/XWDtasw2rX/

    — Ben Azzara (@benazzara) March 27, 2013

    Coming April 1 to @msnbc at 8pm All In with Chris Hayes. Official handle @allinwithchris.

    — Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 26, 2013

    Hayes of our Lives

    — Ben White (@morningmoneyben) March 26, 2013

    Up with Rutherford B. Hayes

    — Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) March 26, 2013

    Why not 'Sup with Chris Hayes?

    — Elise Foley (@elisefoley) March 26, 2013

    Yes, please to enjoy getting the jokes out of your system...

    — Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 26, 2013

    Was in line with Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, the couple at center of the #Prop8 case #SCOTUStwitter.com/ryanjreilly/st...

    — Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) March 26, 2013

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

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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    Photo courtesy of LAB ART Gallery and Cory Allen Contemporary Art.

    Andy Warhol had Campbell Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe. Alec Monopoly has Rich "Uncle" Pennybags and Madonna.

    The street artist's first solo show, "Park Place," opened at the LAB ART Gallery in Los Angeles earlier this month. Alec Monopoly, who is known only by his pseudonym, and the team at LAB ART transformed the gallery space, inside and out, into a life-size version of the Monopoly board game. Alec's signature game piece, a 1964 Pontiac Catalina owned by actor Adrien Brody, was painted during the show.

    "The idea behind the exhibit is to bring the game of Monopoly to life," explained Alec, who sold one of his paintings in the show for $3 million -- in Monopoly money. Since each board game comes with $20,580, the buyer used money from 146 games to purchase the painting.

    Iskander Lemseffer, co-founder of LAB ART Gallery, was immediately drawn to Alec's work when he first saw it on the streets of Los Angeles five years ago. Alec, originally from New York City, has lived in Los Angeles since 2006. He started creating graffiti 15 years ago.

    Sitting on the floor watching Alec paint the Catalina, Lemseffer said, "I told him, 'You do realize that one day this car will be in a museum.'" When LAB ART opened in May 2011 -- an auto body shop that Lemseffer and his sister Rachel Joelson transformed into a 6,500 square foot gallery that exclusively features street artists -- Alec was one of the first featured artists. "Park Place" is open to the public through April 14.

    View Slide Show

    Alec's art centers around the board game's mascot, Rich "Uncle" Pennybags, a.k.a. Mr. Monopoly. In his paintings and graffiti, Alec puts Pennybags into a variety of situations: Pennybags with no money, Pennybags running away, Pennybags crucified by Wall Street.

    Pennybags represents capitalism in a larger sense, Alec said, and his use of the image is a reminder that the road to financial success can sometimes mirror the efforts of someone attempting to win a board game.

    The goal of Monopoly, of course, is to buy all the real estate in a micro-version of Atlantic City and drive your fellow aspiring tycoons into bankruptcy. Each player has the chance to win big, but they can also lose it all. These are also the risks and gambles that Alec sees playing out in the real world. And at the heart of financial success or demise is cold hard cash. "Sometimes the things that cause us hardship could be very well the thing that gets us out of that hardship," he said.

    Art Beat recently talked to Alec about his work:

    Does it bother you at all to be chased and/or arrested by the police, simply for making your artwork?

    Alec: It would only bother me if I were chased/arrested for the 'idea' of my work, than the act. Other than that, I know when I put work up in the streets that I'm always subject to being caught. That vulnerability is part of the process and you just have to apply as much creativity to the process as you do the art.

    How have you seen the street art scene change since you began?

    Alec: The street art scene has grown tremendously over the last few years, becoming more fluent in the mainstream culture. I feel it's great that more people are paying attention to what is in the streets, but at the same time concerned that people are treating it as another fad and getting involved for the wrong reasons. Graffiti and street art is nothing new, there's a history behind it all that dates back many decades.

    Some street artists use wheatpasting because they think it's less destructive than graffiti. Since you use both, what is your rationale for using one or the other, especially when one of the mediums is more temporary and the other more permanent?

    Alec: No matter the medium, any work put up in the streets is temporary. That's why I feel there is room for street art in galleries. Having your work in a gallery is the only way to be 'more permanent,' providing your work the opportunity to exist past the street's unforeseen timetable.

    As for what medium I use roughly depends on what I want to accomplish. If I want to place a detailed piece in a busy area, then I'll probably use a wheat-paste, but if I'm commissioned to create a 'legal' mural, then I'll probably paint freehand. Again, it primarily depends on time alloted and what medium better identifies with the integrity of my work.

    Why Rich "Uncle" Pennybags? What does he represent for you?

    Alec: He's not only an American icon, but recognized on a global scale. I feel that Mr. Monopoly, Rich "Uncle" Pennybags, represents capitalism, but my use of his image is more about reminding the general population that we are all a part of game that anyone of us can win. Sometimes the things that causes us hardship, could be very well, the thing that gets us out of that hardship.

    What inspired you to paint actor Adrien Brody's car during your first solo show "Park Place" in Los Angeles? What initially gave you the idea?

    Alec: The idea behind the exhibit is to bring the game of Monopoly to life, filling the walls with my past to current work, as well as introduce some real-life components that further illustrate my vision. One of those components is Adrien Brody's 1964 Pontiac Catalina. I felt it was appropriate to introduce my own personal designer game piece. We all have to have a game piece to be relevant.

    Graffiti artists tag their name, paint the same images multiple times in different spaces. Why do you think this type of art encourages this repetitive re-creation of the same piece many times in different spaces?

    Alec: I don't know if it's more of street art encouraging repetitiveness than it is more of how our culture operates. People don't generally look for art in the streets, but when your work catches their eye and they see it over and over again, they begin to pay attention.

    What do you hope that people get out of seeing your work, especially that which is posted on the street?

    Alec: I just hope that they see something. Not everything that I do is going to spark interest, but if it helps create some conversation and emotion, then that alone makes everything I do, worthwhile.

    When you were young, did any other graffiti artists teach or mentor your development as a painter?

    Alec: I'm from New York City, where graffiti and street art have a rich history and continuous activity. I never really had a mentor, unless you count the activity I was exposed to it on the streets. However, if I could have picked a mentor, it would be Keith Haring; a combination of brilliance and hard work.

    What are your main tools that you use to create and post your art?

    Alec: I use aerosol and acrylic paint for most of my work, and when I'm creating large murals, I use ladders and lifts when necessary. When I do put up wheat-pastes, I use a paste that I created, along with a bucket and broom. Nothing extravagant.

    During your travels, have you been inspired by the work of any particular street artists' work?

    Alec: I can't point to one artist specifically, more than just the fact of seeing street art by other artists within their respective community is inspiring. To me, it sets the tone for that community, an underground representation of their culture.

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    By Bob Garfield

    Co-host of NPR's "On the Media" and longtime advertising columnist Bob Garfield talks about the dark side of the digital revolution -- the squeeze on journalism -- and the bright side: "for the first time in human history, commercial interests are rewarded for good conduct and penalized for bad conduct and have no capacity for obscuring which is which."

    A Note from Paul Solman: I first became entranced with Bob Garfield when he was a sometime correspondent on NPR's "All Things Considered" many years ago. I'll never forget his audio bungee jump, for example. These days, I listen to him on public radio's "On the Media," a weekly newsmagazine produced by WNYC and distributed on more than 300 radio stations by NPR. Bob is also a columnist for MediaPost and the Guardian and a presence on Twitter. And for 25 years, his "Ad Review" column of criticism in Advertising Age was an institution in the marketing industry.

    So when I saw that he'd co-authored, with Doug Levy, a new book, "Can't Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results," I asked Bob, a self-described curmudgeon, to submit to an interview. He not only agreed to chat, but generously offered to handle *both the questions and answers himself. Here's a transcript of his self-examination.*

    Bob Garfield's Question: Bob, as a longtime student of media and marketing -- and as an uncommonly attractive, charismatic and decent man -- what do you believe is the most significant development over your many years as a journalist on these beats?

    Bob Garfield's Answer: That would be the digital revolution, which is in the midst of decoupling the magnificent symbiosis of mass media and mass marketing that served us well for three-plus centuries. On the one hand, zeroes and ones broke down the vast barriers of entry that gave oligarchs monopolies and democratized both content creation and distribution basically to anybody with a computer ... or iPhone. On the other hand, infinite fragmentation of audiences obliterated mass reach, facilitated ad avoidance and created a supply-demand imbalance consigning publishers to poverty. On the other other hand, really: Netflix streaming! Find me the flaw in that.

    Bob Garfield: Yours is a rather apocalyptic vision. I read your previous book, "The Chaos Scenario," and wanted to slash my wrists.

    Bob Garfield: You and me both, baby. For those of us who have earned substantial livelihoods in the journalism racket, this is a very depressing time. It's as if this were the industrial revolution, and we were cobblers. But if you are a consumer of media - especially serious journalism -- you have a lot to lose, as well. The number of robust news organizations in the world once numbered in the many thousands. It is now measured in the dozens, on its way to one handful. Distributed journalism, crowd-sourced journalism and citizen spot-news journalism may offer some solace, but nobody makes shoes like a cobbler.

    Bob Garfield: And yet your new book, "Can't Buy Me Like," is ... I don't wish to put any words in your mouth, Bob, but isn't your message this time around actually quite ... optimistic?

    Bob Garfield: Watch who you're calling optimistic.

    Bob Garfield: I know. You have a reputation for curmudgeonliness.

    Bob Garfield: I would say "heroic voicing of truth to power."

    Bob Garfield: No doubt you would, yet your new book, "Can't Buy Me Like," co-written with Doug Levy, actually uses the phrase "land of milk and honey" to describe the business environment ushered in by digital revolution.

    Bob Garfield: There's a subtitle.

    Bob Garfield: Huh?

    Bob Garfield: In our book, "Can't Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results," Doug and I describe a new commercial epoch. We call it the "Relationship Era," displacing the top-down dynamics that have till now characterized the entire history of commerce. No longer will brands, businesses -- or any institution, for that matter, including the White House, the NFL or the Vatican -- get to dictate its messages to a rapt public. The forces of the universe have converged to obliterate the tools of manipulation.

    Bob Garfield: Manipulative tools such as advertising?

    Bob Garfield: Especially advertising, but not exclusively advertising.

    Bob Garfield: What are these sinister forces?

    Bob Garfield: Dude, nobody called them sinister ... any more than gravity and wind are sinister. They just exist. And are inescapable. There are four such converging forces.

    Bob Garfield: Go ahead.

    Bob Garfield: The first is audience fragmentation, as we discussed earlier, which has yielded a crippling loss of reach for those hitherto accustomed to reaching huge audiences with one mass-media megaphone. Now the audience is carved up in zillions of tiny slices.

    Bob Garfield: Like the Military History Channel and Sporkful.com?

    Bob Garfield: Sure, okay. Whatever. The second force is forced transparency. Business, government and all institutions used to do business from impregnable fortresses. Now they all reside in glass houses. Everything they do -- or don't do -- is quickly located online and Google-able in perpetuity. The third force is social media, where all that information is the common currency of social chatter. The public is paying zero attention to your own pronouncements, but they are listening to one another talk about you. And, unlike your advertising and PR, they trust one another. The fourth force is a shift in society. Both longitudinal attitude studies and business results make clear that - for whatever reason -- the public cares about institutional values and conduct even more than they care about the intrinsic quality of the goods and services. These are the facts of life in the Relationship Era.

    Bob Garfield: Why is this good news?

    Bob Garfield: It is good news because for the first time in human history, commercial interests are rewarded for good conduct and penalized for bad conduct and have no capacity for obscuring which is which. It's like the song says, "He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake ..."

    Bob Garfield: "... He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."

    Bob Garfield: Right. I wasn't going to finish the couplet, but nice job.

    Bob Garfield: I must say, Bob, and I know this will irritate you, but it sounds a little Pollyanna, especially coming from you.

    Bob Garfield: Fair point. But nobody is suggesting that cynicism and venality will be erased from the world. What we are saying is to imagine an era in which brands and politicians and clerics and every other institution is obliged to forge, cultivate and sustain relationships under exactly the rules that govern interpersonal relationships. It's a place that puts high value of all the things we place high value on in our personal lives: Trust. Sharing. Honesty. Respect. Integrity. Selflessness.

    Bob Garfield: What are you describing ... Candyland?

    Bob Garfield: Have it your way, but we are already in Candyland. In my new book, "Can't Buy Me Like," Doug Levy and I cite chapter and verse showing that companies who embrace Relationship Era thinking have lower promotional costs and higher share prices than those trying to advertise their way into the public's hearts and minds.

    Bob Garfield: And those who don't?

    Bob Garfield: You mean like AT&T Wireless and Bank of America and United Airlines and Sears and BP and KFC?

    Bob Garfield: Exactly.

    Bob Garfield: Guess.

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

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    NEW YORK -- In his upcoming solo album, "Dark Matter," Wu-Tang Clan's GZA raps about the Big Bang -- the moment that the sun, moon, stars, planets and all matter contained within sprung from chaos, from nothing.

    The legendary rapper performed the new material at Bronx Compass High School, where he hopes to pique students' interest in science by introducing hip-hop to the lesson plan. In an area where test scores are low and students often disengaged, it's his own attempt to bring order to the chaos.

    "It's inspired by science." GZA told the students. "And it's all about the universe."

    GZA has teamed up with Columbia University Teachers College professor Christopher Emdin and ten New York City public schools to use hip-hop to teach everything from biology to physics.

    The project is music to ninth grader Keegan Dillion's ears. "I had lost my passion for science, but now that they're mixing it up with music, I actually feel I can get an A-plus."

    The musical experiment, called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., is the brainchild of Emdin, who believes the curriculum will address low tests scores, especially among Latino and African American students who comprise 70 percent of New York City's student body. (B.A.T.T.L.E.S. stands for Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science.)

    "This is a response to achievement gaps in science and mathematics," Emdin said. "It is a response to students' disinterest in science, and more broadly to kids just not wanting to show up in school."

    Under Emdin's direction, graduate students from Teacher's College work closely with students on their science raps. The raps must rhyme, and the science must be solid. Then student finalists battle each other in an end-of-semester contest, which gets judged by GZA and published on the popular online site, "Rap Genius."

    Emdin rejects the notion that the hip-hop approach is a gimmick and believes the students will come away with a firm understanding of the scientific concepts.

    "There are a lot of fly-by-night approaches to improve the classrooms, and the one thing they lack is cultural authenticity," he said. Hip-hop is firmly rooted in urban culture, and GZA, he said, "is the consummate cultural ambassador."

    Excerpt from the album, "Dark Matter" by GZA Before space and time, thought produced a speck of light It was infinitely hot and so extremely bright. Within the center of this great shining, There was massive energy expanding in great timing. Within this fireball was all of space, A very special place with information and taste. Literally the beginning, this cosmic clock was ticking And allowed space to flow before spinning. Everything we see around us: the sun, the moon, the stars, Are millions of worlds that astound us The universe in size was hard to fathom. It was composed in a region small as a single atom, Less than one-trillionth the size the point of a pen, Microscopic but on a macro level within.

    Watch PBS NewsHour Wednesday for Ray Suarez's full report on how Science Genius is inspiring high school students.

    Create Your Own Science Rap

    Enter your own science rap or hip-hop verse for a chance to win a PBS NewsHour mug signed by GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan along with a personal video shout-out from the rap legend himself. Our contest is modeled after the Science Genius competition, a partnership between GZA, Christopher Emdin and Rap Genius. Entries will be judged by Emdin and two of his Columbia University Teachers College graduate students.

    How to submit a video:

    Create your science rap video according to the guidelines below and upload it to YouTube. Click here to submit your entry in the contest. (You must log in to your YouTube account.) Now, choose the video from your channel and submit it as a response to GZA's YouTube video. Videos will be reviewed and approved before they become visible on the PBS NewsHour channel.

    Competition guidelines:

    Entries must incorporate at least one scientific topic/concept into 16 bars of verse. (16 bars is the length of a traditional verse, and a bar is made up of beats of four.)

    The main topic/concept of the rap must be referenced in different ways at least three times in the verse.

    Be creative in your expression of the science (E.g.: envision yourself either as somebody involved in the scientific process or an object undergoing the scientific process. Draw connections between your real world experiences and the concepts themselves.)

    Information must be scientifically accurate and verifiable.

    Lyrics must rhyme, and incorporate metaphor/analogy

    Entries are due by Friday, May 3.

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    Following the oral arguments at the Supreme Court challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, attorney Roberta Kaplan and plaintiff Edith Windsor, among others, spoke outside the court. Defender of the act did not appear outside the court to make a statement after Wednesday's arguments.

    WASHINGTON -- In a major gay rights case, the Supreme Court indicated Wednesday it could strike down the law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of federal benefits that go to other married people.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote in close cases, joined the four more liberal justices in raising questions about a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that is being challenged at the court.

    Kennedy said the law appears to intrude on the power of states that have chosen to recognize same-sex marriages. Other justices said the law creates what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called two classes of marriage, full and "skim-milk marriage."

    The federal law affects a range of benefits available to married couples, including tax breaks, survivor benefits and health insurance for spouses of federal employees.

    It still is possible the court could dismiss the case for procedural reasons, though that prospect seemed less likely than it did in Tuesday's argument over gay marriage in California.

    The motivation behind the 1996 federal law, passed by large majorities in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, was questioned repeatedly by Justice Elena Kagan.

    She read from a House of Representatives report explaining that the reason for the law was "to express moral disapproval of homosexuality." The quote produced an audible reaction in the courtroom.

    Paul Clement, representing the House Republican leadership in defending the law, said the more relevant question is whether Congress had "any rational basis for the statute." He supplied one, the federal government's interest in treating same-sex couples the same no matter where they live.

    Clement said the government does not want military families "to resist transfer from West Point to Fort Sill because they're going to lose their benefits." The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal, and Fort Sill is in Oklahoma, where gay marriages are not legal.

    Opposing Clement was the Obama administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, Donald Verrilli, who said the provision of DOMA at issue, Section 3, impermissibly discriminates against gay people.

    "This statute is not called the Federal Uniform Benefits Act," Verrilli said. The administration wants the court to apply a level of scrutiny it applies to discrimination against other disadvantaged groups and that makes it harder for governments to justify those laws.

    Both Verrilli and Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer for the 83-year-old New Yorker who sued over DOMA, told the court that views about gay people and marriage have shifted dramatically since 1996.

    "Why are you so confident in that judgment? How many states" allow same-sex unions? Justice Antonin Scalia asked Kaplan.

    Nine, she said.

    "So there's been a sea change since 1996," Scalia said, doubtfully.

    But Chief Justice John Roberts jumped on the idea of a rapid shift in opinion to suggest that perhaps gays and lesbians do not need special protection from the court.

    "As far as I can tell, political leaders are falling all over themselves to endorse your side of the case," Roberts said.

    The justices stepped into the dispute after lower federal courts ruled against the measure.

    The DOMA argument followed Tuesday's case over California's ban on same-sex marriage, a case in which the justices indicated they might avoid a major national ruling on whether America's gays and lesbians have a right to marry. Even without a significant ruling, the court appeared headed for a resolution that would mean the resumption of gay and lesbian weddings in California.

    Marital status is relevant in more than 1,100 federal laws that include estate taxes, Social Security survivor benefits and health benefits for federal employees. Lawsuits around the country have led four federal district courts and two appeals courts to strike down the law's Section 3, which defines marriage. In 2011, the Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law but continues to enforce it.

    Same-sex marriage is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. The states are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington. It was legal in California for less than five months in 2008.

    The justices chose for their review the case of Edith Windsor, 83, of New York, who sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her partner of 44 years died in 2009.

    Windsor, who goes by Edie, married Thea Spyer in 2007 in Canada after doctors told them that Spyer would not live much longer. She suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. Spyer left everything she had to Windsor.

    There is no dispute that if Windsor had been married to a man, her estate tax bill would have been zero.

    The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with a district judge that the provision of DOMA deprived Windsor of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law.

    Like the Proposition 8 case from California, Windsor's lawsuit could falter on a legal technicality without a definitive ruling from the high court.

    The House Republicans, the Obama administration and a lawyer appointed by the court especially to argue the issue spent the first 50 minutes Wednesday discussing whether the House Republican leadership can defend the law in court because the administration decided not to, and whether the administration forfeited its right to participate in the case because it changed its position and now argues that the provision is unconstitutional.

    If the Supreme Court finds that it does not have the authority to hear the case, Windsor probably would still get her refund because she won in the lower courts. But there would be no definitive decision about the law from the nation's highest court, and it would remain on the books.

    Roberts and Scalia seemed most interested in this sort of outcome.

    On Tuesday, the justices weighed a fundamental issue: Does the Constitution require that people be allowed to marry whom they choose, regardless of either partner's gender? The fact that the question was in front of the Supreme Court at all was startling, given that no state recognized same-sex unions before 2003 and 40 states still don't allow them.

    But it was clear from the start of that argument in a packed courtroom that the justices, including some liberals who seemed open to gay marriage, had doubts about whether they should even be hearing the challenge to California's Proposition 8, the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban.

    Kennedy suggested the justices could dismiss the case with no ruling at all.

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

    There was no majority apparent for any particular outcome, and many doubts were expressed by justices 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. The administration's entry into the case followed President Barack Obama's declaration of support for gay marriage.

    Reflecting the high interest in the cases, the court was releasing an audio recording of Wednesday's argument, just as it did Tuesday.

    A somewhat smaller crowd gathered outside the court Wednesday, mainly gay marriage supporters who held American and rainbow flags. "Two, four, six, eight, we do not discriminate," a group chanted at one point. "If this isn't the time, when is the time? When does equality come into play?" asked Laura Scott, 43, of Columbia, Md.

    Related Content:

    In Second Day on Gay Marriage, Supreme Court Takes Up DOMASupreme Court Considers Definition of MarriageAttorneys Debate Proposition 8Supreme Court Could Avoid Ruling on Gay Marriage BanSupreme Court Takes Up Gay Marriage for First TimeChurch and State: Religious Leaders Debate Same-Sex MarriageThe Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage BackgrounderProp. 8 Live Blog From Northern California Public Media

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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    In her new book, "Pandora's Lunchbox," Melanie Warner explains what she considers "processed food" and how it affects the human body. She spoke to PBS NewsHour recently and described seven foods she says claim to be healthy but aren't. Watch that interview above.

    Over the past week, we received a lot of questions and comments about Warner's book. Do you have questions for her? Leave them in the comments section or tweet them to @NewsHour using #foodchat. She'll answer them here during a live chat at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday.

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    If you've been on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the past 24 hours, you've seen it -- the red equal sign, a symbol of support for same-sex marriage. The image has been searched more than 1 million times on Google and according to the Human Rights Campaign -- the organization that created it -- has been shared more than 100,000 times from its initial Facebook posting Monday afternoon.

    Martha Stewart Living Facebook image

    But Fred Sainz, Human Rights Campaign's Vice President of Communications and Marketing, says that "millions" more have used some form of the image, if not the organization's original, then a version of their own. He credits the images' instant virality to such celebrities as Beyonce, George Takei and Martha Stewart using the image, or some form of it, on their own social media accounts.

    In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court cases, Human Rights Campaign planned to change their normally blue and yellow logo to red for the duration of the two arguments: Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

    George Takei Facebook image

    "As an organizing color we chose the color of love," Sainz said. "I think that's why it's been so impacting. You don't really have to over think this."

    The popularity of the image has raised questions regarding what its impact will be on the same-sex marriage debate. A similar question was raised last year regarding whether Invisible Children's viral Kony 2012 campaign would lead to action after its noticeable release. If millions of people share a message on social media, is that enough? Or is it just a form of lazy "armchair activism" that results in conversation but no action?

    We're asking: Do you think social media campaigns can influence change? Tell us in the comments below.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    KWAME HOLMAN: The crowds were thinner, and made up mostly of gay marriage supporters. And, for some, the reasons for being there were intensely personal.

    Nicole Connolly is a teacher from New York married to a woman who's a captain in the U.S. Marines.

    NICOLE CONNOLLY, Supporter of Same-Sex Marriage: I am here for housing allowance. I am here for medical. I am here for death benefits. I'm here for next of kin qualifications, a plethora of reasons.

    KWAME HOLMAN: On this second day of arguments, the justices turned their attention to a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law signed by President Clinton specifically limits marriage to one man and one woman.

    Known as DOMA, it prevents same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage-related benefits, even if they have been legally married by a state. The principal in today's case, Edie Windsor of New York, married Thea Spyer in 2007.

    EDIE WINDSOR, Plaintiff: We lived together for 40 years. We were engaged with a circle diamond pin because I wouldn't wear a ring because I was still in the closet. I am today an out lesbian, OK, who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Spyer died in 2009 and left her estate to Windsor, but the marriage wasn't recognized under federal law, so Windsor faced the full estate tax burden $360,000 dollars.

    Windsor challenged DOMA and won in the lower courts. The Obama administration then declined to defend the law further. With that, House Republican leaders intervened, asking the Supreme Court to uphold DOMA. Today, even some who support the law say they favor legal rights for same-sex couples, but not actual marriage.

    Jim McDonald is from Alexandria, Va.

    JIM MCDONALD, Alexandria, Va.: If people in civil unions were to get federal benefits that were equivalent to what other married people get, that doesn't bother me at all. But the word marriage, I think, needs to maintain its traditional meaning.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The court is expected to decide the DOMA case and yesterday's case involving Proposition 8 in California by June.

    RAY SUAREZ: Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal was in the courtroom this morning and is back with us tonight.

    And for people who don't follow this very closely, know that the two big arguments had to do with gay marriage, what are the main differences between yesterday's argument and today's?

    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Well, I think there is an inherent tension here for those who support gay marriage.

    In the DOMA case today, one of the arguments is that the federal government has intruded on what is a traditional state prerogative, and that is to define and regulate marriage. And yet, in the Prop 8 case, the opponents of Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriage, are attacking the voters, the state's prerogative to define marriage.

    But they have a common bond, though, and that is that the opponents of DOMA and Prop 8 see both as discrimination under the equal protection guarantees of our Constitution, and are arguing for a much tougher kind of scrutiny of what the state did in California -- what California did and what the federal government did in DOMA.

    RAY SUAREZ: There are so many juicy and interesting aspects to today's argument.

    It began with Vicki Jackson, a lawyer appointed by the court to do what?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, one of the -- two of the roadblocks in the DOMA case, similar to the roadblock in the Prop 8 case, has to do with whether key parties in the case are properly before the Supreme Court, and whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the case.

    The United States doesn't defend DOMA. It believes it's unconstitutional. It agrees with Edith Windsor. It agrees with the lower federal appellate court. The bipartisan Legal Advisory Committee of the House ...

    RAY SUAREZ: Representing the House majority, the Republicans.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right, exactly -- believes that it's rightfully before the court, as does the United States.

    The court needed somebody to argue the other side. They want to hear all the arguments. Do those -- are those two parties properly before us? Do we have jurisdiction? So they appointed Professor Jackson.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, in effect, if I understand this, they appointed a lawyer to argue to them that they had no jurisdiction to hear the case?

    MARCIA COYLE: Exactly, exactly, to make those arguments. That way, they get the full picture, Ray.

    RAY SUAREZ: A lot of back and forth between justices and lawyers today went to whether the Obama administration declining to enforce the law created a situation that makes this, in some sense, impossible to judge.

    Tell us more about how this -- how this hit the justices, because a lot of them had a lot of questions about it.

    MARCIA COYLE: They did.

    In fact, they are troubled by the jurisdictional problems here, not just with the United States, but also with the House Republican leadership. But most of Professor Jackson's argument was devoted to responding to questions about the United States.

    And there was some hostility. Chief Justice Roberts said, well, if the president decided that this law was unconstitutional, and yet is going to enforce it until the Supreme Court says otherwise, why didn't the president have the courage of his convictions, if he believes the law is unconstitutional, and not enforce it?

    And so there was also this feeling that this was something unprecedented, that the court was being asked to allow the United States to continue in the case when it basically agrees. Is there really a case or controversy here if the two main parties, the United States and Windsor, agree with each other?

    RAY SUAREZ: We're going to hear a lot of the interesting back and forth, because, as with many big cases, we have an audio transcript of the arguments.

    First, let's hear from Justice Sotomayor bearing down on the House Republicans' lawyer, Paul Clement, on the motivation for the original law.

    Take a listen.

    ASSOCIATE JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. Supreme Court: What gives the Federal Government the right to be concerned at all at what the definition of marriage is?

    Sort of going in a circle, you're saying -- you're saying, we can create this special category -- men and women -- because the states have an interest in traditional marriage that they're trying to protect.

    How do you get the federal government to have the right to create categories of that type based on an interest that's not there, but based on an interest that belongs to the States?

    PAUL CLEMENT, Attorney for U.S. House Of Representatives: Well, at least two -- two responses to that, Justice Sotomayor.

    First is that one interest that supports the federal government's definition of this term is whatever federal interest justifies the underlying statute in which it appears. So, in every one of these statutes that affected, by assumption, there's some Article I Section 8 authority ...

    JUSTINCE SOTOMAYOR: So they can create a class they don't like -- here, homosexuals -- or a class that they consider is suspect in the marriage category, and they can create that class and decide benefits on that basis, when they themselves have no interest in the actual institution of marriage as married? The states control that?

    PAUL CLEMENT: Just to clarify, Justice Sotomayor, I'm not suggesting that the federal government has any special authority to recognize traditional marriage.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, how did that encounter finish?

    MARCIA COYLE: First of all, this is one of the overriding issues in the case, one of two, actually, what we put under the broad rubric of federalism.

    Who has the power under the Constitution to deal with marriage? And, traditionally, it has been the states. But Mr. Clement's argument is that, OK, DOMA affects 1,100 federal laws, and the -- those laws that have a reference to marriage, there is a federal interest in the programs that those laws deal with.

    He is arguing as well that DOMA doesn't regulation marriage. It's just defining the boundaries of those programs that refer to marriage. So he also believes that there is a role for the federal government when it comes to marriage, not -- not regulating it, but ensuring that there's uniformity of federal law, and that citizens in different states are treated the same way.

    RAY SUAREZ: Justice Elena Kagan also was interested in following up on this idea of animus, of discrimination, of distaste for gay people in America.

    Let's listen.

    ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. Supreme Court: So we have a whole series of cases which suggest the following, which suggest that when Congress targets a group that is not everybody's favorite group in the world, that we look at those cases with some -- even if they're not suspect -- with some rigor to say, do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress' judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth?

    And I guess the question that this statute raises, this statute that does something that's really never been done before, is whether that sends up a pretty good red flag that that's what was going on.

    PAUL CLEMENT: A couple of responses, Justice Kagan.

    First of all, I think I would take issue with the premise, first of all, that this is such an unusual federal involvement on an issue like marriage. If you look at historically, not only has the federal government defined marriage for its own purposes distinctly in the context of particular -- particular programs; it's also intervened in -- in other areas, including in state prerogatives.

    I mean, there's a reason that four state constitutions include a prohibition on polygamy. It's because the federal Congress insisted on them. There is a reason that, in the wake of the Civil War and in Reconstruction, Congress specifically wanted to provide benefits for spouses of freed slaves who fought for the Union.

    In order to do it, it essentially had to create state law marriages, because, in the Confederacy, the slaves couldn't get married. So they developed their own state -- essentially, a federal, sort of, condition to define who was married under those laws. So where there are the needs in the past to get involved, the federal government has got involved.

    RAY SUAREZ: Did it sound like Paul Clement had many supporters elsewhere on the bench for his reading of why this law exists in the first place?

    MARCIA COYLE: That's a hard read.

    I think that at least four justices, or possibly five, have a problem with his arguments. Justice Kagan was getting at the second major issue in this case, and that's whether the law discriminates under the Equal Protection Clause guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.

    She wasn't satisfied with his answer. In fact, she followed up by reading specifically from the House report on DOMA where the legislators said that they were expressing their moral disapproval of homosexuality. So she was making a point that it appeared there was another reason.

    And Mr. Clement's response is that maybe some were motivated that way, but -- and if the court believes that the whole statute was based on that, then it should strike it down. But he claims there are -- that was -- it's really not sufficient, because there are many other interests that justify DOMA.

    RAY SUAREZ: We also have the solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, who normally would be arguing defending the federal government's application of a law, so was in a sort of unusual role today, arguing that a law signed by the president of the United States, passed by the Congress should be struck down. Let's take a listen.

    SOLICITOR GENERAL DONALD VERRILLI, United States: Now, this statute is not called the federal Uniform Marriage Benefits Act; it's called the Defense of Marriage Act.

    And the reason for that is because the statute is not directed at uniformity in the administration of federal benefits. All -- there is two equally uniform systems, the system of respecting the state choices and the system of -- that BLAG is advocating here.

    And what BLAG's got to do in order to satisfy equal protection scrutiny is justify the choice between one and the other, and the difference between the two is that the Section 3 choice is a choice that -- Section 3 choice is a choice that discriminates.

    And so it's not simply a matter sufficient to say, well, uniformity is enough. Section 3 discriminates.

    CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. Supreme Court: So, as soon as one State adopted same-sex marriage, the definition of marriage throughout the federal code had to change?

    Because there is no doubt that up until that point every time Congress said marriage, they understood that they were acting under the traditional definition of marriage.

    DONALD VERRILLI: Well, I don't know, Mr. Chief Justice, why you wouldn't assume that what Congress was doing when it enacted a statute, particularly a statute that had the word marriage in it, was assuming that the normal rule that applies in the vast majority of circumstances of deference to the state definition of marriage would be the operative principle.

    RAY SUAREZ: It sounded like there like the chief justice had a little discomfort with the sweeping nature of what the court was being asked to do.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right.

    Mr. -- Solicitor General Verrilli, he was telling the chief justice that these 1,100 statutes may well have been enacted by Congress with the traditional state definition in mind, but when Congress enacted DOMA, it made a choice between deferring to how states handle marriage and singling out a category of people who wouldn't benefit under federal laws.

    And that choice, he said, has to be justified under equal protection principles. There is some concern -- the chief justice did press him and others did, I think, on whether, under his argument, if DOMA falls under equal protection principles, does that mean the state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage also have to fall?

    And Mr. Verrilli said not necessarily, although they would have a very difficult time justifying them under the kind of scrutiny that Mr. Verrilli hopes the court will apply here.

    RAY SUAREZ: Marcia Coyle, thanks for joining us.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There's much more about the same-sex marriage cases on our website. You can hear audio of today's full arguments and also watch reaction from outside the courtroom.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The new director of the U.S. Secret Service was sworn in today. Julia Pierson is the first woman to hold the job. She officially assumed her new duties in an Oval Office ceremony in the White House. Vice President Biden administered the oath, as President Obama looked on.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She's breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agencies. And I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her, and we have the greatest confidence in the wonderful task that lies ahead, and very confident that she's going to do a great job.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Pierson takes over an agency that was rocked last year by revelations that agents used prostitutes in Colombia ahead of a presidential trip there.

    The man accused in the movie theater shootings in Colorado last July has offered to plead guilty and serve life in prison. Defense lawyers for James Holmes filed the motion today. Prosecutors had no immediate response. They're due to announce Monday whether they will seek the death penalty. Holmes is accused of opening fire in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing a dozen people and wounding nearly 60.

    North Korea today cut its last military hot line with the South. The line had allowed the two countries to coordinate cross-border travel of South Korean workers to a jointly run industrial complex in the North. North Korea's state TV announced the move, and it warned South Korea's new president to choose her response carefully.

    NEWS ANCHOR: The South Korean president should behave with discretion, clearly mindful that a wrong word may entail horrible disaster at a time when the North-South relations are being pushed to the lowest ebb and the danger of an all-out war is increasing on the Korean Peninsula.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The North has already cut a Red Cross hot line with the South, as well as another with the U.N. command at the border. It is all a response to U.N. sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea for conducting a nuclear test last month.

    Former CIA Director David Petraeus has resurfaced publicly for the first time since he resigned last November. He addressed a dinner in Los Angeles last night, and apologized for the extramarital affair that cost him his career. Petraeus said he knows he can never undo the pain he caused. But he said he's trying to move forward.

    DAVID PETRAEUS, Former CIA Director: This has obviously been a very difficult episode for us. But perhaps my experience can be instructive to those who stumble or indeed fall as far as I did. One learns, after all, that life doesn't stop with such a mistake. It can and must go on.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Petraeus is a retired four-star general. He called for better treatment of soldiers and veterans, saying -- quote -- "We can and must do more."

    A federal bankruptcy court today approved the merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways. The combined company will form the world's largest airline under the American name.

    And on Wall Street, stocks struggled to hold their ground, amid lingering concerns about the economic stability of Cyprus and Italy. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 33 points to close at 14,526. The Nasdaq rose four points to close at 3,256.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we return to today's Supreme Court arguments involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act with a debate of our own.

    Supporting the law is Ken Klukowski. He's the director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council and a Breitbart News legal columnist. And Mary Bonauto opposes DOMA. She is special counsel for the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

    And welcome to the you both to the NewsHour.

    KEN KLUKOWSKI, Center for Religious Liberty, Family Research Council: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we were just saying before this conversation began there was some discussion at the court today about jurisdiction, but we're going to set that aside and talk about the core of the argument today.

    First of all, in the -- Mary Bonauto, in the analysis I have been reading, there is -- there are a number of folks who are concluding that there are enough votes now on the court to strike down DOMA. How did you read generally what you heard from the justices today?

    MARY BONAUTO, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders: Yes, I'm not prepared to make any predictions based on an oral argument.

    But, clearly, the questions were going to two key issues. One is when the federal government has for so long deferred to a state's determination about who is married, why in 1996 did they change the rules when it looked like same-sex couples might begin to marry and impose a federal definition?

    And then, secondly, when you have all these protections that are available to married people, you know, why are you taking people from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and saying their marriages don't count for Social Security and family medical leave and treating them like they're single, even though they're legally committed in marriage?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about those two different streams of argument today, one, loosely, discrimination, the other one, loosely, the federal vs. the states.

    And, Ken Klukowski, does one of those strands of argument have greater weight, did you think, today in what you heard?

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: Well, the reality is that I think it's -- looking at it from a different aspect, the reality is, DOMA -- DOMA filled in the blanks -- and there's a lot of blanks.

    About 1,100 provisions of federal law reference marriage. But it wasn't the first one. Regarding, for example, filing taxes, if you're going to file a joint married tax return, it's the tax code that specifies that if you are married, but separated from your spouse -- now, you're still legally married under the state, but it's illegal for you to file a married tax return. You must file an unmarried person tax return.

    Also, if you are married to someone who is not a citizen and they're not in the country, you have to file a single tax return. There are aspects of immigration law. So, there are many areas of law going back decades where Congress has had the definition of marriage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying there is a legitimate role for the federal government, you're saying, in regulating these relationships?

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: That's exactly right.

    Who can get married is a state issue. But what federal benefits, mainly, usually entitlements, what federal benefits go to which sort of unions, that's a legitimate exercise of federal power, so long as it's one of Congress' powers in Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard Justice Kennedy today questioning that in particular, didn't we, the role of the federal government in overriding the states in determining how these laws are going to be interpreted.

    MARY BONAUTO: We did.

    And just to respond quickly, we have never had a situation where the Congress has wiped out a whole class of marriages for purposes of every federal law and program, and that's what DOMA is. In the context of any particular program, yes, there's play in the joints, but there's never been a law that just said, oh, these people who were actually married by a state are not married for any federal purpose.

    That's what is so different about DOMA, which gets into the equal protection issue. And then Justice Kennedy had another set of questions about, does the federal government even have the power to do this, not even from an equal protection standpoint, but isn't this something that solely belongs with the states?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about -- and what's the answer to those questions -- to that question?

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: There are federal issues.

    It's a great question. The federal government required several states, as a condition for becoming a state, that they must adopt the state standard that they wouldn't allow polygamy. The Supreme Court dealt with marriage other than one man and one woman in Reynolds v. United States in 1878, where they said there is no constitutional right to polygamy.

    DOMA defines marriages for federal law purposes, only federal law. A state is free to create polygamy or same-sex marriage or anything. But the federal government recognizes one man and one woman also has an impact right now on current immigration efforts. It's something that spreads throughout the federal law.

    And the reality is, federalism has two parts. States are sovereign where they are sovereign. But where the federal government is properly in the Constitution, the federal government gets to set its own rules.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What's the response to that?

    MARY BONAUTO: There's a few responses to that.

    On the polygamy thing, just to be really clear about the historical record, these were territories. And the territories, as a condition of statehood, had to agree to something. It has never been the case that the U.S. government has, again, invalidated a whole class of existing state-licensed marriages.

    DOMA is an anomaly. And I don't think there was any disagreement about that on the court today, at least in terms of what one could hear about the questions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what -- the other strand of this -- and you touched on this, Mary Bonauto, a minute ago -- and that is whether there is out-and-out discrimination here.

    We heard that from Justice Sotomayor. We heard it from Justice Kagan. We heard her ask at one point that whether -- she talked about moral disapproval of homosexuality. How did that play out in the court today and how important is that, Ken Klukowski, to deciding this case?

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: Well, more important is that the Obama administration rejected it. They readily said in court, no, this was not -- DOMA wasn't driven by animus.

    In fact, they said DOMA, if -- what is called rational basis review, which is the federal law -- federal standard under equal protection when we evaluate laws -- the Obama solicitor general, Don Verrilli, who we just heard, said if rational basis review is the test, DOMA would survive. There are legitimate interests here. This law is rationally related to advancing them.

    And this law, they said Congress made a mistake in passing it, but wasn't trying to discriminate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what role do you see discrimination playing in the outcome here?

    MARY BONAUTO: I see it as playing a role.

    This is not about naming -- calling people names or anything else. But, in 1996, it was really clear that the law was, you take state marriage laws as you find them. You fold married people, whether they have differences in racial restriction in the past or first cousins, or second cousins, or how many marriages you can have -- if you were married by your state, you got folded into that system for the federal government.

    And they changed the rule to make sure that married same-sex couples wouldn't be included. That is the situation. So then the question becomes, well, is there a justification for making a new rule? And the justification that's been advanced by Mr. Clement is really around this idea of uniformity, that it's important to treat all gay people alike.

    But we have a system, when we're talking about federal marital benefits and burdens, of treating married people. And we have now an anomaly where we're treating married gay people as though they're unmarried, as opposed to treating all married people alike, whether they're gay or non-gay. So, the uniformity thing just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how do you -- how do you answer that?

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: Well, I think there is a legitimate federal role here.

    The reason I raise polygamy isn't to raise some far-off issue. Legislation is actually -- I'm sorry -- litigation has already started. Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington, is right now pursuing litigation in Utah, saying if there is a right to same-sex marriage, then there is a right to polygamy.

    Now, and he's saying, I'm all for that. I don't think the government should discriminate on that base either. So, I think both sides here agree that there is a role for the government to draw lines. We're just debating where -- where those lines are. And I think, as we understand the different combinations that could be involved, then people will understand what the Obama administration conceded in court and in their briefs today, that -- that DOMA does serve legitimate interests and is reasonably related to it.

    The Obama administration said the law will only be struck down if a court applies what's called heightened scrutiny to this law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to quickly respond?

    And I want to just clarify with you both that you're both saying then -- do I hear you saying that it's the federalism argument that's going to hold more weight here?

    MARY BONAUTO: I think the equal protection argument is going to hold more weight ultimately.

    And I say that because, even if you take the situation where -- let's just even say, even though it's so far-fetched, that some state did authorize multiple-person marriages, again, on equal protection, the question is, what are the government's interests here in saying we're not going to respect those marriages, where there's an acknowledged harm to women and subordination and so on?

    There's a lot of reasons. The question in this case is, let's not change the topic. Let's say, what's the interest in saying that these committed couples who are joined in marriage by their states, many of whom are raising kids, should be cut out of the whole federal safety net?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A very quick response.

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: The quick response is, in that one part, I agree with the Obama administration. And I would encourage people to look at their filings of what the legitimate interest is and why they agree that DOMA does in fact advance them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ken Klukowski, Mary Bonauto, we thank you both.

    MARY BONAUTO: Thank you.

    KEN KLUKOWSKI: Thank you, Judy. 

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    RAY SUAREZ: Now two stories about finding ways to engage students from low-income households.

    We begin with a new way to learn about a nucleus and other science concepts.

    I recently visited a New York classroom where they're using rap music to teach kids science.

    CHRIS EMDIN, Columbia University Teachers College: The characteristic of the organism that is more beneficial for the environment is what gets passed on.

    RAY SUAREZ: Teaching a morning biology lesson in any high school is hard. In underperforming urban schools with low tests scores, it's even harder.

    CHRIS EMDIN: What was the point of that lab that you're going over right now? Who can tell me what was the point of that lab was, of the simulation? What was the point? What was the point? What was the point of the simulation? Was there a point to it?

    STUDENT: To figure out how to come up with natural selection.

    CHRIS EMDIN: To figure out how to come up with natural selection. What is natural selection, though?

    RAY SUAREZ: The challenge has brought Chris Emdin, a professor from Columbia University's Teachers College, back into the classroom. Emdin's mission: to find a way to make science something these kids can relate to. His idea: to use Hip-hop music to unlock science ideas, use the iPod to help you get natural selection.

    CHRIS EMDIN: What happens if a song is just not popping anymore? Then you won't select it to be in your new playlist. If an attribute of an organism, right, if it's not needed anymore, then it won't get passed on to the next generation. In other words, it wouldn't make the new play list. Does that make sense?

    RAY SUAREZ: Emdin has partnered with 10 New York City public high schools like this one, Bronx Compass, for a pilot project using Hip-hop to engage low-performing students, particularly minorities.

    According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, only four percent of African-American seniors nationally were proficient in sciences.

    CHRIS EMDIN: The basic concept is, they love Hip-hop, they don't like science. Let's find a way to figure it out.

    RAY SUAREZ: The new-model curriculum requires students to write raps about science, reinforcing vocabulary and the concepts covered in class. It's called Science Genius.

    CHRIS EMDIN: And you got mutation and adaptation and then work backwards. Think you got it. I'm going to leave for like two minutes and I'm going to come back and see what you got.

    What the best science educators have told us for a very long time, that the best-case scenario in science classrooms is that it's interdisciplinary. So they're learning the science content, but they're also learning to write, and they're also learning reflection, and they're also learning critical thinking, and they're also learning revision, and they're also learning performance, all while learning science, as opposed to the traditional classroom, where they're just learning to soak in the information, and hopefully give it back, you know, a couple days later on a quiz or an exam.

    RAY SUAREZ: Under the direction of Emdin, Columbia University graduate students visit a regular science class once a week to help craft raps.

    STUDENT: I do this and I get it. Natural selection, we talking about a rabbit, it's adaptive like its parents.

    CHRIS EMDIN: This is not just kids rhyming. There are rubrics for assessment. A kid can't come in there and just have a really simple, superficial rap and saying, you know, I'm here to play, this is DNA. That wouldn't work. That kid wouldn't pass a Science Genius class.

    You have to be able to understand the nuances, what does DNA stand for, you know, what are the base pairs, you know, what's the history of DNA -- to create a rap about DNA, you’ve got to know the content.

    RAY SUAREZ: A surprise visit from Emdin's most important collaborator and co-founder of the Science Genius Hip-hop science experiment creates the biggest stir.

    The rapper GZA from one of the greatest rap groups of all time, Wu-Tang Clan, is a 10th grade dropout turned science geek. He adds star power to the project and shows the students how it's done.

    GZA, Wu-Tang Clan: Gravity that's gone mad, clouds of dusts and debris, moving at colossal speed. They crush an M.C. Since this rap region is heavily packed with stars, internal mirror in the telescope notice the guards. From far away, we blink as the light, the strobe with great distance of space between precise globes.

    When you bring an artist in that is a Hip-hop artist, and children are so consumed with Hip-hop music, then it's a way for them to let their guard down, or at least be comfortable enough to give it an ear or a listen.

    CHRIS EMDIN: For young people whose voices have been silenced, they're forever in search of an opportunity to be heard. And you don't have the tool to be heard in schools necessarily all the time, and so they look to Hip-hop to have a voice.

    And what we're doing now is saying, OK, you have a voice in Hip-hop, and Hip-hop is separate from schools, but now we're giving you a voice in the classroom. And that changes everything, and that's what GZA does.

    RAY SUAREZ: It seemed to change everything for student Keegan Dillion.

    KEEGAN DILLION, Student: He walks through rapping. I was like, is this for real? I really asked somebody to pinch me.

    RAY SUAREZ: But Keegan says even without a visit from a famous rapper, the Hip-hop Science Genius class is motivation enough.

    KEEGAN DILLION: I lost my passion for science, so when I came here and everything, I was, like, oh, I'm going to bomb it, definitely. But now that they're mixing it up with music, I feel like I can get like an A-plus.

    RAY SUAREZ: Does it help you actually learn the science? I'm sure it’s more fun, but are you actually learning more science?

    KEEGAN DILLION: Oh, believe me, I am. I actually sit home, looking up different science terms before we actually learn them, and then I actually like read the definitions and all that. And then I put them into my raps and everything. So it really is helping. I'm starting to get back on track with my science.

    RAY SUAREZ: The Science Genius project will finish with a battle of the best raps between the 10 pilot classrooms at the end of the school year.

    GZA will judge the raps, and the best ones will appear on the Web site Rap Genius.

    And I could take what I saw earlier today, and show it to science teachers around the country, and certainly science department chairmen across the country, and they'd say two things: It's a gimmick, and are they learning any science?

    CHRIS EMDIN: Right.

    So I will start off with the gimmick. Everything in education is a gimmick. The present world, particularly of urban education, is filled with gimmicks. Unfortunately, those gimmicks have no grounding in the youth understandings and culture.

    You know, every single day, there's a new curriculum, there are new standards. But I want to talk about the larger issue. And the larger issue is the fact that there is an obsession with these metrics that in reality don't tell us anything about teaching and learning.

    They really, really don't. They tell you how much a kid can soak in information, but -- and spit it back out at you, but they don't tell you anything about the kid who through being in this classroom finally sees himself as a scientist.

    KEEGAN DILLION: You see, I'm an organism, changing every minute. I'm not too good at science, but I'm a still get in it. I remix my lifestyle, change it through my lifeline. I mutate the flow and I go with instinct as a lyricist. My mind is a cave, Darwin turning out in his. I’m keeping it in motion like human evolution.

    CHRIS EMDIN: How do I measure Keegan, who came in the beginning, and was bored to death, and didn't like science, and has his head down for the entire academic year, who all of a sudden is opening up his book, and doing homework and crafting science rhymes, and saying, you know what, I can declare a science major?

    There is no test that exists right now that can measure that, and that is more powerful than any metric that anybody can use to measure what happens in classrooms.

    RAY SUAREZ: Emdin says that for many inner-city youth, science, technology, engineering and math will continue to remain elusive without interventions like Science Genius.

    CHRIS EMDIN: What we're doing here, at the very least, is allowing kids to see that they can be brilliant, that what they know already is intelligent, that they can see new possibilities.

    If we really want to change STEM education, and we talk about as a nation that we don't have enough people to fill those kind of STEM jobs that we have, then what we have to do is focus on the folks who've been pushed out, because they're the numbers that we need to push back in.

    RAY SUAREZ: Emdin says he's confident that, at the end of the year, attendance will be up, and grades will be up, and that the Science Genius model is easily scaled up from a handful of New York schools to students around the country.

    And we have more from the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA. Watch him perform material from his upcoming album, "Dark Matter." And create your own science rap for a chance to win a shout-out from the legendary Hip-hop artist. Instructions for composing and submitting a video for our contest are on our website.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to a second story about students from poorer backgrounds.

    Why are some of the top achievers missing out on a shot to go to some of the best universities?

    Jeffrey Brown explores that question, part of our continuing coverage on inequality in America.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For years, colleges and universities have been trying to diversify their student body, not just by ethnicity, but by income as well.

    But despite high-profile moves at some schools to do so, including big boosts in financial assistance and even full tuition, the numbers are still falling short of the goal. A recent study is shedding new light on the problem and what's behind it. The analysis found just 34 percent of high-achieving seniors from the lower end of the income ladder attend one of the 238 most select schools.

    By comparison, nearly 80 percent of high-achieving students from the upper end of the income ladder attend an elite school. The study also found there are many more high-achieving students from lower-income backgrounds than schools now know of or are recruiting.

    One the study's lead authors, Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University, joins us now. Also with us, Michele Minter, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity at Princeton University. And I learned just now as we sit down that they are sisters.

    So, welcome to both of you.

    CAROLINE HOXBY, Stanford University: Thank you very much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Caroline Hoxby, let me start with you.

    Describe the key problem that you found in this study, the disconnect between low-income students not finding their way to the best schools.

    CAROLINE HOXBY: Well, the problem, as universities and colleges saw it, was that their just were not very many low-income high-achieving student.

    And so if a selective college wanted to diversify its student body, wanted to have students of all income levels, it just didn't find very many low-income student in its applicant pool. And the colleges and universities thought, look, we just cannot diversify our student bodies very much more without cutting our admissions standards so much that we will have some underprepared students.

    That was the problem as they saw it. And what my co-author, Chris Avery and I did, was that we looked at the entire high school graduating class of 2008, so every single student in the United States who had taken a college assessment exam, either the SAT, the PSAT, or the ACT exam. And we looked to see how many low-income high-achieving students there were.

    And we found that there were anything from eight times as many as colleges had thought there were to 15 times as many as colleges had thought there were.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you also, though, showed that the students -- the students don't know to reach further in many cases, right?

    CAROLINE HOXBY: That's right.

    So the -- as soon as we found this out, we thought, well, why are they not applying? If these students could get in, what is the explanation for why they're not applying? So, we tried to eliminate some explanations.

    And the first one we looked at was, well, are they not able to afford these very selective colleges and universities? But interestingly enough, for high-achieving students, the more selective the university they attend, the less they will pay. So these students are actually often paying more to attend a community college or a non-selective four-year college than they would pay to attend Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

    So that's really not the explanation. Those very selective colleges are less expensive for them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, in brief, what is the explanation? Why don't they reach out?

    CAROLINE HOXBY: Well, the colleges are reaching out and have made ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: No, I mean the students.

    CAROLINE HOXBY: Oh, the students.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why don't the students know?

    CAROLINE HOXBY: Well, we think -- we hypothesize that the reason the students don't know is that the low-income high-achieving students who do not apply to selective colleges and universities are fairly isolated.

    That doesn't mean that they're rural, but that they're one of the only two or three very high-achieving students in their high school. So, we might be talking about just an ordinary high school in a working-class kind of neighborhood. It doesn't have that many students who are qualified to go to a Princeton or a Harvard or a Yale.

    And the counselor is not particularly expert in knowing what colleges are out there. Maybe the high school counselor says to the student, you know, you really ought to go to college. I think you ought to go to a good college, but the high school counselor doesn't have the time or the expertise to be able to help the student sort out the full range of colleges in the United States and know about all the financial aid opportunities that are out there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, let me -- Michele Minter, from your point -- standpoint at one of the very elite schools, I guess, how can -- why do you not know? Why do you not that all these more students are out there, if there are that many who are eligible and qualified?

    MICHELE MINTER, Princeton University: Yes.

    Our admissions office tries very hard to reach anyone we can reach to let them know that Princeton would be a good place for them, and we offer very, very generous financial aid. So, as Caroline has said, we can make Princeton affordable for any student.

    The challenge often is that low-income students don't take the SAT or the ACT or an advanced placement test until late in their high school career, often during their senior year. And that's a very late point for us to be able to reach them.

    We then can send some mailings. We can try and use e-mail. But a lot of what really matters for low-income students, if they're going to leave the community that they're from, if they're going to go outside of their comfort zone, is they need a lot of personal contact. And it's very hard to do that on short notice or to get our admissions officers out to students who are relatively isolated in their high schools in person.

    So, we do the best we can, but it can be very difficult to just figure out where they are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you -- I don't know how much you have had a chance to look at your sister's study here, but what do you do now? How do you -- how big a problem is it for you? And how do you do a better job of reaching -- of reaching -- of reaching out more?

    MICHELE MINTER: We don't think it's a problem.

    We think it's a tremendous opportunity. We already had a trustee committee chaired by our president, Shirley Tilghman, looking at how we did outreach to low-income students and trying to figure out if there really were more out there. It was exactly what Caroline was saying, that there was some concern that we really were tapping out the whole pool.

    This data is remarkable because it tells us that we are not tapping out the whole pool, that there are lots of low-income students who could achieve at the level of Princeton and other selective colleges. So we're very excited about that. We think it creates an opportunity for us.

    The challenge then is to figure out how we do the outreach so that we can actually get to those students. That's still the logistical challenge.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Caroline Hoxby, it may be an opportunity going forward, but it seems like a problem right now, right? We talk a lot about -- on this program about divisions within the country, economic, educational, social. You're showing that -- part of that division, right?

    CAROLINE HOXBY: Well, yes.

    But I think there is -- let me say sort of the positive version, the way I look at this. The first is, the colleges and universities are already very successful in recruiting low-income high-achieving students from some high schools. So any high school that they have found that in the past has had a number of high-achieving low-income students, they are there every year, and they are very successful at getting those students to apply to very selective colleges and universities.

    And then, once they apply, they give them generous financial aid, those students actually enroll, and they do very well. They graduate at very high graduation rates, and they get good grades. So, in some sense, with the students they have found, they have already had enormous success.

    I think we are dealing here with intelligent students. And I think the probability that we are not going to be able to get them to be informed enough to make college application decisions that are more -- that are just more information-driven, so that they realize their full range of opportunities is small. I think we will be able to get over this hurdle. This is a little hurdle.

    I think what people had thought was that kids from low-income backgrounds just couldn't ever make it into the ranks of the high achievers, and that would be a huge hurdle to overcome. If you think I need to change all of their circumstances in order to get a low-income student to be prepared to study at a place like Princeton, then, of course, that's enormous.

    Here, we're talking about a small hurdle. We have these students out there. It's an amazing opportunity for the United States to increase intergenerational mobility, to increase income mobility, to expand the number of communities and neighborhoods who know about educational opportunity in the United States, if we can make contact with these students, which shouldn't be that difficult.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask you finally, Michele Minter, we are going to be looking at a lot of this issue, of course, later on with the Supreme Court looking at some of these things in a big case.

    But I just wonder, from your perspective at Princeton, how do you define Princeton and other schools' role in making sure there is a diversity of lower-income, in particular, students and less divisions within the society?


    We think that's one of the most important parts of our mission. We want to have a socioeconomically diverse student body. We don't think we're doing our job if we don't do that. And that's why we have put in place such generous financial aid. That was the first barrier that we perceived.

    We are failing at the elite colleges if we don't create social mobility. That's one of our biggest responsibilities. So we're very excited about the opportunity to do more here, and we think we have an important role to play.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Michele Minter, Caroline Hoxby, thank you both very much.

    CAROLINE HOXBY: You're very welcome.

    MICHELE MINTER: Thank you. 

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    RAY SUAREZ: Finally tonight: an online spat that's causing havoc around the World Wide Web.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One company fights spam; the other is said to be behind sending those pesky e-mails. A dispute between the two has led to one of the largest reported cyber-attacks in Internet history, the result, widespread congestion that's slowing access for millions of users to sites like Netflix.

    Nicole Perlroth has been covering the story for The New York Times, joins me now.

    Thanks for being with us.

    NICOLE PERLROTH, The New York Times: Thanks for having me.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so let's kind of set the table here. What is happening in this particular cyber-attack?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: It's very technical, but, essentially, what happened was this group that sends out a black list of spammers to e-mail providers so that they can block the spammers blocked a group called Cyberbunker, which hosts website anonymously. They say that they will host anything with the exception of child pornography and terrorists.

    So, shortly after this happened, you saw Spamhaus, this volunteer anti-spam group, get hit with what are called denial of service attacks, where an attacker will just flood a site with data requests until it collapses under the load.

    So, Spamhaus enlisted another company here in Silicon Valley called CloudFlare that specifically mitigates against these types of attacks. And what the attackers did then has since almost slowed -- not almost -- it has slowed Internet connections and brought up error messages for hundreds of millions of Internet users around the world.

    The way they were able to do this was very technical, but essentially they were able to exploit some of the best and worst elements of the Internet. So, the Internet by default is set up in a way that it's open and it's loosely regulated, but it runs on servers that accept data requests from anywhere.

    And what the attackers did was they essentially pretended to be this group Spamhaus, and sent millions of data requests to servers all over the world that then amplified them and sent that traffic back to the victim, in this case Spamhaus, CloudFlare, the company that was trying to help it, and even some of the Internet services that help CloudFlare.

    In the process, they consumed huge amounts of bandwidth and resources from servers all over the globe. And, as a result, you saw these Internet connections slow for hundreds of -- hundreds of millions of people around the world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So give us some sense of scale or perspective. We have heard a lot about these denial of service attacks, especially from one government to another. Is this bigger?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: It is bigger.

    So, starting last September, we have been covering attacks that government officials say are coming from Iran, although we don't know this for sure yet, aimed at American banks. And they have intermittently taken American banks offline, starting last September.

    The amount of traffic that we have seen in the last couple of weeks that has escalated from this war between these two companies is what Internet security specialists say is five times bigger in strength than some of the attack traffic that was hitting those banks.

    Now, just for some added context here, the attack traffic that was hitting those banks is almost 12 times more powerful than the amount of traffic that Russia directed at a similar attack on Estonia in 2007 which almost crippled Estonia. So when you look at it in that context, this is a very large attack. Internet security folks are saying that this is the largest such attack of its kind that we have ever seen on the Internet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So if this is some sort of gang war between these two companies, why are we all getting caught in the crossfire?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: That's right.

    They have been able to exploit these servers around the world that are designed to accept data requests from anywhere. And partly because they have been set up in such a way to accept data requests from anywhere, you can't just easily shut them down. I mean, they're directing this traffic through million servers around the globe, and if you were going to just shut down these servers, you would effectively halt the Internet.

    So, one of the problems here is that those servers have been configured to accept traffic from anywhere, instead of filtering them to see if the traffic is legitimate. And that problem is called open resolvers. So, this has been a problem that has been well known in the Internet security community since at least the year 2000, when a bunch of Internet security specialists got together and put together a document of best practices on how to solve this problem.

    The problem is that companies, and even people at home, aren't checking their systems properly to make sure that traffic leaving their systems is actually coming from them, instead of someone else spoofing their system, which is what the attackers were doing in this case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Now, very briefly, I want to ask you, is there anything we can do about this?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: There is.

    It's just going to take a while. Like I said, it's a problem that we have known about since 2000.


    NICOLE PERLROTH: And, unfortunately, you know, it's going to take a lot of awareness for people to realize that just having their systems open like this and not configuring them properly can cause an attack of this magnitude.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    NICOLE PERLROTH: So, hopefully, we're drawing awareness to it, but it is one of the first times we have seen how this could be exploited.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Nicole Perlroth of The New York Times, thank you.

    NICOLE PERLROTH: Thank you. 

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    SEATTLE -- In Laurie Pearson's kindergarten classroom at Lake Forest Park Elementary, students stand at attention. Pearson knows the silence won't last long and that she needs to be quick with her instructions.

    "Everyone must wash your hands," Pearson says, "because baby Claire will be here soon."

    The 20 or so kindergartners are already well acquainted with Claire, a seven-month-old infant who visits the classroom regularly as part of the social and emotional learning program Roots of Empathy.

    Roots of Empathy, first started in 1996 in Toronto and introduced into U.S. schools in 2007, aims to build more peaceful and caring societies by increasing the level of empathy in children. In the last six years, the program has spread to California, New York and other parts of Washington.

    Some teachers at the school, including Pearson, say they were initially nervous about the safety of the babies in classrooms full of students.

    "I thought they were crazy," Pearson said, "but it was just amazing to see the kids respond and light up."

    Roots of Empathy instructor Marilyn Enloe visits the classroom 27 times over the course of the year and for nine of those visits baby Claire will be there as well with her mother, Jenny Fitzpatrick. It's Enloe's job to help students observe the baby's development and to label Claire's feelings.

    The class then reflects on why Claire is either happy or sad and discusses how the children often have similar feelings.

    At the heart of the program, which targets K-8 students, is a mission to decrease aggressive behavior patterns at an early age and therefore curb bullying. Roughly 160,000 children miss school every day "due to fear of an attack or intimidation by other students," according to the National Education Association.

    A recent study by the University of Virginia also found that the dropout rate was 29 percent above average in schools with high levels of teasing and bullying.

    Kim Schonert-Reichl, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has studied the effects of Roots of Empathy and says that the program offers teachers a springboard to talk about emotions.

    "It helps children learn to identify emotions, to become self aware and to develop relationship skills," Schonert-Reichl said.

    A 2011 study in the publication Child Development looked at research involving 270,000 students - comparing those who participated in social and emotional learning programs, like Roots of Empathy, with those who had not.

    Their findings showed that students who received the training not only increased in social and emotional skills but also had an 11 percentage point increase in standardized achievement test scores.

    As for Jenny Fitzpatrick, Claire's mother, she says she was never worried about bringing her daughter into a classroom and that she enjoys watching the kindergartners' reactions.

    "The tone of the room changes when Claire comes in," Fitzpatrick said, "and I think kids start to think about how it feels to be treated a certain way, because they don't like it when she gets upset."

    A version of this report will appear on Thursday's NewsHour

    American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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    Anti-Bullying Lessons With the BardA Man and a Baby Walk Into a Classroom ...Student Reporting Labs Share Bullying Stories, SolutionsBringing Babies to the Classroom to Teach Empathy, Prevent BullyingEnrichment Programs Fill Opportunity Gap for StudentsAfter-School Jobs Spark Academic Success

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    Scott K. Leslie, left, as King Alonso and James O'Hagan-Murphy as Antonio are teaching artists with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival performing "The Tempest" for students at Thornton High School near Denver.

    Some 400 years after the first recorded performance of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest," thousands of Colorado students are seeing an adaptation of the famous play created especially for them. Their version is relatively short, and has a very specific goal: reducing violence among teens and pre-teens.

    "Shakespeare is an expert in violence," said Tim Orr, director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. "There is so much violence and intimidation. And he explores every possible way: family violence, nation violence, kings and queens, husbands and wives, children and parents."

    When professional actors from the festival perform the abridged and adapted version of "The Tempest" in Colorado schools like Thornton High, which is north of Denver, just a handful of actors take on all the parts. And even though there are some modern updates (adding the technology of cell phones, for example), the language is, for the most part, true to the original.

    "The Tempest" tells the story of Prospero, a banished lord who conjures a mighty storm that shipwrecks his old enemies on a remote island. Even as he plots how to get back at those who wronged him, Prospero thinks hard about his actions and eventually renounces revenge, choosing forgiveness instead.

    Watch Video In this scene from "The Tempest," Prospero realizes he should choose "virtue" over "vengeance."

    "It's so amazing that Shakespeare wrote this so long ago but there really is a place in it for everyone," said Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. "There's characters who are more the bullying type, there's some that are the victims, some that are the bystanders. And so it lends itself to a conversation about all those roles," she told the NewsHour.

    Kingston's organization, based at the University of Colorado Boulder, joined forces with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival to create both their new version of "The Tempest," as well as accompanying study guides and workshops on effective strategies to prevent bullying.

    The workshops follow each school presentation and allow actors to help students discuss the themes of the play by role-playing modern scenarios. Students who've seen the performance found a lot they can relate to lessons found in the centuries-old work.

    "People haven't changed" since Shakespeare's time, says said ninth grader Stephen Banks. "You still have people who choose vengeance because it's easier to do. But if everyone chooses virtue, it would be way better because it's the better way to go. If you get revenge on someone, it's not going to fix anything. It's going to make you feel bad and escalate into something worse."

    "The Tempest" is the second of the Shakespeare's plays to be used in the joint anti-bullying venture. In 2011 the two organizations modified "Twelfth Night." "Much Ado About Nothing" is slated to be the third, because the plot centers around the danger of spreading rumors.

    American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    Related Content:

    Student Reporting Labs Share Bullying Stories, SolutionsBringing Babies to the Classroom to Teach Empathy, Prevent BullyingA Man and a Baby Walk Into a Classroom ...

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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