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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States Senate moved closer today to a showdown over gun legislation. At the same time, supporters of new restrictions from the White House on down tried to step up the pressure.

    Today, it was Vice President Joe Biden leading the charge for new gun control laws.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We have an obligation to try. We know, if we do the things we are talking about, we will all save lives. You have all seen the urgency of this issue. And you know what we have to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder and law enforcement officers from around the country. And family members of the school shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut, were on Capitol Hill appealing to lawmakers, the goal, pressuring Congress to act on gun legislation in the face of rising opposition from the National Rifle Association.

    The focus, especially in the Senate, has turned to a Democratic bill expanding the federal background check requirement to nearly all gun purchases. President Obama pressed the issue at a speech in Connecticut last night.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I'm asking everyone listening today, find out where your member of Congress stands on this. If they're not part of the 90 percent of Americans who agree on background checks, then ask them, why not?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The current federal system enacted as part of the Brady Act in 1993 was formally launched in 1998. It requires prospective gun buyers to fill out a six-page form for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

    Before the sale can be completed, the gun dealer must then call the FBI or other designated agencies to ensure the customer is eligible to purchase a firearm. Among the criteria that would make someone ineligible: having a criminal record, specifically felony convictions or violent misdemeanors, such as domestic abuse; being deemed mentally ill by a court; or involuntarily committed to a mental health facility; or being in the United States illegally.

    But the law applies only to federally licensed dealers. Under the so-called gun show loophole, no records are required for private gun sales. And it's a longstanding point of debate as to just how many guns are sold that way.

    Whatever the figure, prospects for action in the Senate remained uncertain. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell joined today with 13 Republicans who have vowed to block a vote on the Democrats' bill unless it's changed.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: Yes, the particular bill that the majority leader has indicated he may call up is one that came out of the Judiciary Committee on a partisan vote. It clearly had no bipartisan support in committee, and that was my view on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the other hand, five Senate Republicans, including Georgia's Johnny Isakson, say they want a vote.

    SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON, R-Ga.: The instant background check law in Georgia, I was a part of in 1995 when it passed. The issue on instant background checks -- on background checks now is how far they go and whether or not they violate rights to privacy in terms of mental health.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey are still trying to work out a compromise bill. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid went to the Senate floor with the photo of a picket fence with 26 slats, one for each victim in Newtown, and he insisted there's no going back.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: We have a responsibility to safeguard these little kids. And unless we do something more than what is the law today, we have failed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, Reid announced he will try to force an initial vote Thursday. It remains unclear if he can get 60, the number needed to proceed.

    We look more closely at the questions surrounding the way background checks work now and what effect changing the law may have.

    Jim Johnson is the Baltimore County police chief. He's chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence. He met with Vice President Biden at the White House today. And Lawrence Keane, he's senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It's the trade association for the firearms industry.

    And we welcome both of you to the NewsHour.

    Chief Johnson, let me start with you. How well does the current background check system work?

    POLICE CHIEF JIM JOHNSON, Baltimore County, Md.: Well, certainly, we know across America, nearly 40 percent of all guns that are transferred, nearly 6.6 million, are done outside of licensed federal dealers.

    We know when a buyer goes to a licensed federal dealer, it does work. There's many reputable gun shops all across America, nearly 58,000 that stop these guns from getting in the hands of bad people. Nearly two million guns were stopped from being purchased through that system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're saying it misses a lot of guns for sale.

    JIM JOHNSON: It certainly does, nearly 40 percent. And we have case after case all across America where these guns were purchased at gun shows and the penny saver ads and over the Internet, where they get in the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lawrence Keane, how do you see how well the current system works?

    LAWRENCE KEANE, National Shooting Sports Foundation: Well, actually, we think the current system is broken, and far too many records of people who are prohibited by law from being able to purchase or possess a firearm aren't in the NICS system.

    So we think that the focus should be on fixing NICS and getting the records into the system that aren't in there now. That's why the National Shooting Sports Foundation is launching a program to work with the states to build coalitions in the states where the records aren't being put into the system to fix NICS. We think that's where the focus should be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So when you are saying records are not getting into the system, what's falling down? What isn't happening that should be happening?

    LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, records of people that are, for example, adjudicated as mentally defective or were involuntarily committed to mental hospitals are not being put into the system.

    For example, Massachusetts put in one record, Rhode Island, no records. So there was a study recently done by the General Accounting Office that shows that how the states -- about half of the states are really failing to get their records into the system, and it's not just mental health records, records on restraining orders, et cetera, other records that should be in the system that document who's a prohibited person.


    The NICS database is only as good as the records that are in it. And if the records aren't getting put in because states need to change privacy laws, that's what we think needs to be done. We think the Congress needs to use a carrot-and-stick approach and condition federal funds going back to the states to require them to get the records into the system or they don't get the federal grant fund.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We're using the term NICS database. That is the name of the background check system.

    What about the solution he's describing, that you just need states to comply, to do what they're supposed to do?

    JIM JOHNSON: That's been great improvement in the entry of data into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, great improvement. More needs to be done.

    But we know, as you look at the president's plan and you look at the work of many elected officials who worked very hard on this, you listen to the vice president and the president on this matter, we know that entering more information and certainly doing a background check will save Americans' lives.

    I'm a sportsman. I'm a shooter. I'm a hunter. I relate to this gentleman that I'm talking to tonight. And I would ask hid organization, his membership, don't we all want a background check? This is something simple we can do to save lives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're saying it's not just putting more of the records -- filling out the records that are there. You're saying there needs to be more gun sales that are required to go through a background check.

    JIM JOHNSON: Just adding information into the NICS system is not going to make a great difference. We need a background check nationwide. Maryland has a background check, for example, for regulated firearms.

    But if you don't like Maryland's laws, go to another state and just acquire it. This is a case where we need a national system in place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In other words, everybody who buys a gun.

    JIM JOHNSON: Yes, ma'am.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lawrence Keane?

    LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, it's not correct that you can simply go across state lines and buy a gun. For example, you can't buy handguns across state lines. That's currently prohibited by federal law.

    We think that -- the problem we have with the proposals for so-called universal background checks from the industry point of view is it places the burden on small mom-and-pop federally licensed firearms retailers, small businesses, to perform a government function, and then for which they are required to incur the cost of keeping the records.

    They are then exposed to potential license revocation if there's a mistake in those records or to be dragged into lawsuits, liability lawsuits, product liability claims and such. And we think that to put the burden on small mom-and-pop businesses to do these background checks to perform the government function is wrong. And we can't support placing that burden on retailers.

    And, in fact, recent surveys show that 86 percent of federally licensed retailers in the United States are opposed to the proposals for universal background checks, precisely because of these reasons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So he's saying that there are a number of sales that are handled by smaller gun shops that shouldn't be required to register.

    JIM JOHNSON: Well, I would like to correct something Mr. Keane had stated. And I respectfully disagree.

    Many people do acquire their guns outside of states that have strong regulations. In fact, we know in Maryland that only 30 percent of the guns that are used in crimes of violence were acquired outside the state. And I can show you case after case where people go to gun shows and then bring them back into the state.

    I don't think this is going to be an inconvenience on gun shops. Frankly, nearly 92 percent of all these gun transaction NICS checks can be done in less than three minutes. And, frankly, if I owned a gun shop, I would want those customers coming in. Perhaps they will pick up targets, holsters or other apparatus for shooting while they're there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But he's saying it's inconvenient, it's going to put people out of business.

    JIM JOHNSON: I disagree completely.

    I think that is not going to happen. Frankly, 58,000, I think you will see a growth in the amount of licensed federal dealers that do this work. And, frankly, you don't have to think just about gun shops. There will be other industries that will pop up to deal with these background checks as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lawrence Keane, do you have a response?

    LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, I would agree with the chief that there are criminals who go across lines to illegally obtain firearms across state lines. And those same criminals are not going to go through background checks.

    So the burden is placed on retailers to perform a government function for which they could lose their license and their livelihood through a license revocation or they can be dragged into lawsuits, which is why 86 percent of retailers are opposed to this.

    That's not just the small mom-and-pops. That includes large corporate retailers like Wal-Mart, Cabela's, Dick's, and others.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. All right, what about that point?

    JIM JOHNSON: What I would say to that is that career criminals will still try to acquire their guns illegally. But law-abiding citizens today that are selling nearly 6.6 million of these guns will abide by the law.

    If you create a universal background check system that applies across this great nation, if I'm a good upstanding citizen, I want a background check. I don't want my gun getting in the hands of somebody who is going to use that thing illegally. And, frankly, good law-abiding citizens will demand a background check be done. They will go to a licensed dealer.

    Today, they don't need to do it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's not clear yet, Mr. Keane and Chief Johnson, what is emerging in the form of a possible compromise in the Congress, but it looks at this point as if it's something perhaps short of a universal check or a universal system, that it would -- we heard -- we know that Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who has been involved in these conversations, said this afternoon that gun show loopholes, Internet sales loopholes will be closed, but he didn't make it sound broader than that.

    If that's what they're doing, Lawrence Keane, what would the reaction be from your organization?

    LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, I'm not going to speculate on what the proposal is. I would need to see the legislative text to make a decision.

    Federally licensed firearms retailers, the folks that my organization represents, already do background checks at gun shows. So, for the industry, we already do the background checks at gun shows. I think there's a lot of misconception and misinformation about the so-called gun show loophole.

    The Department of Justice has done surveys of prison inmates incarcerated for firearms-related offenses, and asked them where they obtained their firearm, and less than one percent said they got them at a gun show. So let's see the proposal, let's see the details. And we'd be happy to take a look at the senator's proposal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chief Johnson, if it's something less than universal background check, would that satisfy what you're looking for?

    JIM JOHNSON: A universal background check will definitely make Americans safer.

    The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence and many police leaders all across America, the collective wisdom of tens of thousands of police leaders, we're calling for a bill, we're calling for action that doesn't create a masquerade national background check.

    And certainly we believe -- and we stand next to 90 percent of Americans, 74 percent of NRA members, calling for a universal national background check. I wish we all could just get in a room and agree to one point. So many of us across this great nation want this. Why can't we make this happen?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to respond, Mr. Keane?

    LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, actually, a recent survey of police officers indicate that 85 percent of police officers, rank-and-file police officers don't believe that the president's gun control proposals are going to do anything to advance safety.

    So there isn't even disagreement within the law enforcement community. We think there's certainly a lot of room for building coalitions, for coming together to try and make our communities safer. Clearly, reasonable minds can disagree about how you achieve that. We think the focus needs to be on preventing unauthorized access, by encouraging individuals who own firearms like Ms. Lanza, for example, to have locked those firearms up.

    The safe was in her son's room, and he had access to the combination. It was essentially his safe. She failed her responsibilities as a gun owner to keep those firearms secured and locked up and away from her son, who she knew to have serious mental health issues. We think there's sadly not a sufficient discussion going on in Washington right now about addressing the failures of the mental health system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the ...

    LAWRENCE KEANE: The commonality of the last several horrific shootings, we believe, is the mental health of the shooter.

    And we think that's not being addressed, and that's an important part of this discussion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And those are issues that we want to continue to look at here tonight.

    The focus has been on the background checks. And we thank you both very much, Lawrence Keane and Chief Jim Johnson. Thank you.

    JIM JOHNSON: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: Online, you can find a state-by-state look at efforts to expand and restrict gun laws. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: A student allegedly stabbed at least 14 people today at a Texas college just outside Houston. Two were critically wounded. Police said the attacker ran from building to building at Lone Star Community College. He said later they have a male suspect in custody. There was no word on what kind of weapon was used or what the motive was.

    ExxonMobil has been ordered to pay $236 million dollars to the state of New Hampshire for contaminating groundwater. A state court jury found the oil giant liable today for damage done by the gasoline additive MTBE. After a three-month trial, it took the jury less than two hours to agree on a verdict and damages. New Hampshire sued ExxonMobil 10 years ago. The company plans to appeal the verdict.

    North Korea pounded out a new note today in its drumbeat of war warnings. This time, the message was aimed at foreigners in the South: Leave while you can.

    We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.

    JOHN SPARKS, Independent Television News: In this frenzied war of words the North Koreans today delivered a warning, issued, as ever, in feverish tones.

    "Foreigners in South Korea should seek shelter or evacuate," she said, "because the region is on the brink of war."

    The city of Seoul, the South Korean capital, seemed to shrug off the threat of thermonuclear war. The traffic moved. Pedestrians shopped as normal. Yet, this time, the regime has picked a new target: foreign travelers and companies, new groups to lecture and unnerve.

    MAN: Given how close we are to the border, that you just have to grin and bear it. I mean, yes, there's a very small chance that something really dramatic would happen, and if that happens, we're not going to have a whole lot of warning.

    JOHN SPARKS: The South Korean military is taking the threat seriously. An artillery unit fired live rounds in a drill with the U.S. today. And Seoul has promised to retaliate forcefully in the event of an attack.

    The Japanese aren't taking any chances, moving Patriot missiles into the capital, Tokyo, the fear, that the North Koreans are now ready to test a medium-range ballistic missile. Japan says it will shoot it down even if it's passing over the country into the Pacific.

    "Such provocative acts won't help you," said the country's cabinet secretary.

    Not everyone's been put off by the trouble. The North Koreans opened the doors to a group of foreign tourists and businessmen today and they seemed happy to make the trip. Their welcome in the capital sits uneasily with advice given by the North Koreans last Friday. Diplomats were told to evacuate. From tomorrow, their safety can no longer be guaranteed, said the regime. Yet the streets of Pyongyang seem peaceful. This is not a nation outwardly preparing for conflict.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, the top American commander in the Pacific, Adm. Samuel Locklear, said tensions with North Korea are the worst since the Korean War. But he told a Senate hearing that the U.S. has the capability to intercept a North Korean missile, if it needs to.

    Iran announced today that it's upgrading two uranium sites related to its nuclear program. The news came just days after the latest nuclear talks with the world powers fell flat. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the expansion of a uranium mine and processing facility via videoconference, and he sounded a new note of defiance.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran: You did all you could to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Well, Iran has gone nuclear. Now do you want to take it away from us? After all, it's good to use your wisdom in politics. You could not block our access to nuclear technology when we didn't have it. How can you take it from our hands now that we have it?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, an earthquake struck in the vicinity of a nuclear site in southern Iran. The quake killed at least 32 people and injured at least 800 more, but the government said the nuclear facility was undamaged.

    Two U.S. troops have died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The NATO aircraft went down today in the eastern Nangarhar province. Officials said there was no enemy activity in the area at the time.

    In South Sudan, armed rebels ambushed a U.N. convoy today, killing five peacekeepers from India and seven civilians. It happened in Jonglei state. A spokesman for South Sudan's army blamed a militia backed by the government of Sudan. South Sudan became its own country in 2011, six years after ending a decades-long civil war with Sudan.

    A spring snowstorm brought back winter to large parts of the U.S. today. Wyoming had a record low of 14 degrees, plus more than a foot of snow and winds that gusted to 71 miles an hour. Elsewhere, some 500 flights were canceled at Denver International Airport, and many departures were delayed so that planes could be deiced. Freezing rain, snow, and strong winds also hit Kansas, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

    The University of Louisville basked in the glow today of a national basketball championship. The Louisville men beat Michigan last night in Atlanta 82-76. It was the third national title overall for the Cardinals, and their first since 1986. Louisville gets another chance to celebrate tonight, when the women's team plays Connecticut for the women's national championship.

    On Wall Street, a surge in the price of commodities helped push stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 60 points to close at 14,673. The Nasdaq rose 15 points to close near 3,238. Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Gwen.

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    GWEN IFILL: We return now to the conflict in Syria.

    Earlier today, al-Qaida in Iraq announced that it will merge with the Syrian militant group Al-Nusra Front. The al-Qaida offshoot could become the dominant player in the fight to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    The country's civil war is the subject of tonight's FRONTLINE documentary, "Syria: Behind the Lines."

    Jeffrey Brown has more on the story and the making of the film.

    But a warning to viewers: Some of the images are disturbing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's a war, as this film says, of community against community and sometimes neighbor against neighbor.

    Documentary filmmaker Olly Lambert traveled to Syria twice last year to the Orontes River Valley, where Sunnis live on one side of the river and Alawites on the other, once peacefully, now amid violence. He was able to follow and talk with people loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and also with members of the Free Syrian Army.

    Here are two excerpts. The main protagonists are Syrian Army Lieutenant Ali Ghazi and a former policeman who defected to the opposition named Ahmad.

    NARRATOR: Across the river our regime are regime forces, usually off-limits to Western media. Their positions along the 40-mile valley defend Syria's Alawite heartland.

    This army checkpoint faces Ahmad's village, and is one of the launching sites for regime attacks. The platoon commander is Lieutenant Ali Ghazi.

    ALI GHAZI, Platoon Commander: We are the Syrian Arab army, and our duty is to defend this homeland, to protect unarmed civilians and to attack militants and destroy the armed mercenaries.

    NARRATOR: Rebel-held Sunni villages are less than a mile away. This is President Assad's front line.

    ALI GHAZI: There are a lot of armed groups over there. They're particularly active at night or at dawn, when they're preparing to carry out armed attacks.

    There used to be a sniper in the dome of that mosque. One of my soldiers was shot in the chest by this sniper. They were using armor-piercing bullets, but we dealt with the threat.

    AHMAD, Free Syrian Army: I grew up in this valley. I used to mix with the Alawites a lot. We were like brothers before this revolution. We used to go to their homes until the early hours of the morning and they'd visit us, too.

    If the Alawites don't want to fight us, then we will solve this problem peacefully. But if they want to confront us, then we will respond with deadly force.

    NARRATOR: Three miles from Ahmad's village in the settlement of al-Bara, Jamal Maarouf meets his senior commanders. They're planning their next attack at the army base at Wadi Deif.

    A regime jet has dropped a bomb on al-Bara. It's landed 300 yards from Jamal and his commanders. They fear they are being targeted and flee to safe houses. The bomb has destroyed homes filled with villagers and refugees.

    WOMAN: Where are you taking my children?

    MAN: Just come in the ambulance.

    WOMAN: My children, my children!

    JEFFREY BROWN: And with me now is the producer of FRONTLINE’s "Syria: Behind the Lines," Olly Lambert.

    Well, welcome to you.

    Tell us first what you were after in this approach of spending time with protagonists on both sides of the civil war.

    OLLY LAMBERT, "Syria: Behind the Lines": Well, there's been a lot of coverage of the rebel side of the conflict.

    And it's now relatively easy to get into rebel-held areas, particularly around Aleppo. And the conflict is now entering its third year. And I think we're really interested in looking at not just the up-close, what the conflict is looking from both sides, but it was a way of being able to see where the conflict might go in the future, and the forces that are acting on it and the motivations of both sides that might give some indication of where things are going to go in the months and years which it's looking like this conflict is going to take.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How hard was it to find these two, especially the two main protagonists, one on either side, to gain their trust, to capture their sense of the war?

    OLLY LAMBERT: Well, the hard thing was actually getting to that location.

    Once I was there, it was relatively easy to -- like with any documentary, you want to meet people as quickly as you can and you can explain as clearly as you can about who you are and what you're doing. And you want them to trust you. And, ultimately, when people trust you, then both sides were very, very keen to tell their stories and to give their perspective on where the conflict was going.

    The hardest bit was actually getting to that location. And that was -- it was a very complex procedure. Ultimately, I was filming in two areas that were in places less than a mile between them. And yet I had to do a sort of 3,000 or 4,000 round-trip to get to those two places. It was impossible to cross just one from one place to the other.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, the camera takes us right into the war, right into the violence.

    Can you give us an anecdote or a key moment for you in filming this and kind of getting a real sense of what was going on?

    OLLY LAMBERT: Well, I mean, I have made documentaries in areas of conflict for on and off for about 10 years now.

    And this was far and away the most bitter and most violent conflict zone I have ever been to, I mean, by a very -- by a long margin. Every day, I was witnessing death and bloodshed. I was either seeing people get killed or I was seeing the aftermath of people being killed or I was seeing people being buried.

    Nothing really rammed to home how awful this conflict has become than the airstrike that is a significant part of the film. I was actually filming with a rebel commander called Jamal Maarouf. He was one of the most powerful rebel leaders in the region that I was staying in.

    And while I was filming him, as the camera was running, a regime jet flew overhead and dropped what was clearly a very large bomb on the very village that I was in. And it landed just less than 300 meters from where I was sitting.

    The force of it threw me to the ground. And it killed 17 people. And there were many more injured. And there weren't any other journalists, any either Arab or Western, for many, many miles. And to witness the sort of destruction and the bloodshed on that scale was quite horrific.

    But it was -- more than that, it was the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the civilian population, many of whom were actually refugees. The people in the villages that I was staying in, many of them had fled to these villages from the cities. They thought that the villages were safer.

    And then their worlds are literally blown apart in front of them. It was a really shocking experience. I have never -- I never really witnessed or experienced anything like that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I want to ask you finally, we hear so much about a stalemate. That's the word that is often used in our coverage here.

    And I wonder what sense you came away with of the relative state of play, the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and also their -- their desire and ability to carry on with this fight. What is your sense of it?

    OLLY LAMBERT: It's a good question, because it's a paradox, really.

    On the surface, when you look at this conflict, it seems very kinetic, very energetic. There are all sort of things happening. There's munitions falling. There's a lot of weaponry being used up. Many, many people are dying. A staggering number of people are getting killed.

    And yet somehow this is also -- it is a stalemate. Although both sides are fighting very, very heavily and taking casualties on both sides every day, what we're actually seeing is that -- is a stalemate because neither side can win and neither side is actually going to lose at the moment. And this will just continue like a sort of churn on both sides of human lives.

    There's lots of talk about whether we should -- in the West, whether we should or shouldn't arm the rebels. And to my mind, seeing it up close, your first instinct is, on the rebel side, they are taking such a punishing, that one's instinct is that you -- we should be giving them weapons to defend themselves.

    And yet, the more you think about that and you pull back -- and I'm no military strategist -- but it did seem clear that pumping in lots of weapons to try and force a change, giving weapons to one side will probably not solve anything, because the regime itself has got absolutely no shortage of weapons.

    It's getting weapons quite easily from Iran and training from Iran and also from Russia. And so it would merely up the ante on both sides. How to force the regime and President Assad to come to the negotiating table, indeed, how to make the rebels really accept any kind of conversation with him, given the destruction that he's wreaked on his own people, these are impossible questions. And I really have no idea.

    It's -- usually, one comes out of these situations, of any situation as a filmmaker, with some idea of how things might be -- might be cleaned up or might be resolved. But I came away -- every day that I spent there, I just felt more and more bleak about it. It's -- I think the country, a very civilized country with a great deal of history, is facing an incredibly bleak future.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the FRONTLINE documentary "Syria: Behind the Lines."

    Olly Lambert, thank you so much.

    OLLY LAMBERT: It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

    GWEN IFILL: You can watch more videos and hear more Syrian voices on our home page, where we have a link to FRONTLINE’s website.

    "Syria: Behind the Lines" airs on most PBS stations later this evening.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: One would be hard-pressed to think of any connection linking Rikers Island, Goldman Sachs, and a private charitable foundation. But they're all part of a new way to finance government social services through private investment.

    The NewsHour's economics correspondent, Paul Solman, looked into the project as part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: New York City's infamous Rikers Island jail, responsible for the bulk of the city's billion-dollar corrections budget, it's home to 88,000 inmates a year, many of them regular repeat offenders.

    JUDITH RODIN, Rockefeller Foundation: A complete turnstile.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin has been as despairing as most social reformers about so-called turnstile recidivism and its costs, both to the taxpayer and to society.

    JUDITH RODIN: These people don't get put back in prison for doing nothing, so there's all the social costs of what next crime they commit during this period and throughout the remaining periods that make them go back, and back, and back numerous times.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, in 2010, Rodin heard about a new financial approach to recidivism: social impact bonds.

    JUDITH RODIN: This team of investment bankers formed an organization in the U.K. called Social Finance and asked themselves the question, could we create a bond, just like a typical bond structure, but where the payout would be based on a social outcome and performance?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Here's how it works. Investors lend money to a social service nonprofit with a successful track record. They get an interest-paying bond in return. The nonprofit then uses the investors' money to expand its program. If the program meets its goals, saving the government money by, say, keeping people out of jail, the government pays back the investors out of the money it has saved.

    Judith Rodin loved the idea. So her foundation joined the bankers and invested in a six-year bond to reduce recidivism at the United Kingdom's Peterborough prison.

    JUDITH RODIN: We believe that we will make 9 percent on this, and we're not doing it to be charitable. We're doing it because it's an investment.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dora Schriro runs New York City's huge corrections system.

    DORA SCHRIRO, New York City Department of Corrections: This opportunity to find a new funding stream is exceptional.

    PAUL SOLMAN: One of her most costly problems, young repeat offenders.

    DORA SCHRIRO: The adolescents, they make up about 6 percent of our population. Person-to-person, they represent some of the most serious felony charges that we admit into our system in the course of a year. Four out of five are charged with violent felony crimes, and they're young.

    And on top of that, despite the severity of the charges, relatively few end up being sentenced to the state's correctional system.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That's because teenage offenders receive lesser sentences than adults.

    DORA SCHRIRO: Which means they're back on the street in a relatively short period of time. And how well they fare and so how well the city fares when they come back into our neighborhoods really rides on what we can do with them in the amount of time that we have.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Enter high finance's do-good innovation, the social impact bond, to support programs like this one to reduce recidivism.

    MAN: The mistakes that you did to get here, did you learn from that?

    CLASS: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So investors are funding here the Osborne Association, a proven expert in successful cognitive therapy, also known as behavior modification. And the key to this scheme is that nonprofits like Osborne have demonstrated that they can actually reduce recidivism. But they haven't had the funding to try to do so on a large scale.

    WOMAN: It does take courage to stand down when you have those emotions, to think, stop and think, and not just act out of passion.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It's one-on-one, it's costly, and the city has no legal obligation.

    ALICIA GLEN, Goldman Sachs: The city of New York is not required to provide therapy to kids who are on Rikers Island.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But Alicia Glen, who worked in legal aid and New York's Housing Authority, is now a partner at Goldman Sachs. She saw an investment opportunity for the firm that promised a double payoff, social and financial.

    ALICIA GLEN: We are funding $9.6 million dollars to a nonprofit. We are making a loan to them. The repayment of that loan and our return, our interest, is entirely dependent on whether or not the actual program works. If the program doesn't work, the city is not obligated to pay. That is a huge shift in the way you would finance a social services program. That is really groundbreaking.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the thinking on the part of the city is that if it works, they will save so much money that they can pay you back?

    ALICIA GLEN: Correct. If 10 percent fewer kids go back to prison, we get our capital back, our $9.6 million dollars.

    Between a 10 percent reduction and an overall 20 percent reduction, we get our capital back and a return. That return is capped at a total of $2.1 million dollars on top of our principal.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, again, investors pony up to expand a proven program that could save the city big money, an estimated $20 million dollars if recidivism drops by 20 percent. And Glen points out:

    ALICIA GLEN: Any savings the city realizes above that -- so if it's a 25 percent reduction in recidivism, a 30 percent reduction in recidivism, in other words, if the program we have financed really, really works -- then we do not capture any of that savings. That all goes back to the city of New York.

    PAUL SOLMAN: If it works?

    ALICIA GLEN: If it works. If it doesn't work, they don't have to pay. So it really is a win-win for the taxpayer.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Win-win-win-win, Rockefeller's Judith Rodin hopes.

    JUDITH RODIN: The government gets a proven intervention. The second win is, the social organization gets to go to scale, because the government is buying their services wholesale, rather than them running little boutique programs. So that's the win for the social service. Win number three, government is always seeking new sources of capital.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Capital to augment its own money?

    JUDITH RODIN: Correct, and maybe allows it to deploy some of the money it was spending there towards other things that would be harder to capitalize from outside.

    The fourth win is for the investor. Innovative finance, Paul, I think, is the next big step in solving social problems.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But wait a second. This is too good to be true, right? There must be skeptics. And, as if on cue, here's Professor Mark Rosenman, an expert on charitable giving.

    MARK ROSENMAN, Caring to Change: If the concern is criminal activity and the possible repeat of it, why not prevent its emergence? Why not invest in better early childhood education and public schooling and job training?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, because we are shortsighted and we're strapped, and given those facts, this is better than nothing.

    MARK ROSENMAN: If you are perpetuating a model that is dysfunctional at its core, I don't believe it is better than nothing, although it's a great way for a new industry to make money. These social impact bonds will create an industry of intermediaries and deal-makers and brokers and accountants and lawyers. And they will be making a lot of money, and I'm sure taking that money off the top before it ever makes it to underpaid nonprofit workers or the beneficiaries of the program.

    PAUL SOLMAN: There are other reasons for skepticism as well. Yes, this is a radical innovation. But isn't Goldman Sachs' loan guaranteed by the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, through his private foundation, a luxury other cities are unlikely to boast?

    ALICIA GLEN: Well, yes, the Bloomberg Foundation is providing a 75 percent principal guarantee of our loan that is part of our collateral package.

    Never really in the history of doing public-private partnerships to experiment with interesting financial vehicles have people not sought and/or had some form of credit enhancement in a transaction.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Collateral?

    ALICIA GLEN: Collateral. At the end of the day, if, in fact, the intervention doesn't work, we can still lose 25 percent of our capital. So we have real skin in the game.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But people in our audience are going to be watching you and thinking, I know why Goldman Sachs is doing this, for publicity. They have been tarred and feathered for years now.

    ALICIA GLEN: Well, I'm sure there are a whole subset of people who would think that, but, you know, that actually doesn't square with what the history of our business has been. We have over $2 billion dollars of our own capital invested in impact investing.

    But I know, as a human being who has been a lifelong New Yorker, that I can't sleep at night thinking that 50 percent of kids who go to Rikers, many of whom haven't even been convicted, are winding up coming back into jail because nobody is doing anything about it. And if we can figure out ways to finance services to make a different outcome for those kids, then that's what we need to be doing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But will the outcome actually be different? On that question hinges the future of a brand-new and potentially positive development in modern finance: the social impact bond.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In his next piece, Paul takes a closer look at the program at Rikers Island. 

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    GWEN IFILL: As preparations for an April 17th funeral get under way, the passing of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female leader and the country's longest-serving prime minister in the 20th century, is eliciting a mixed response from the British public.

    Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports.

    ALEX THOMSON, Independent Television News: Late last night, her body was removed from the Ritz Hotel in the center of London, police outriders at the ready to begin a carefully managed process. Tony Blair dubbed Princess Diana the people's princess. David Cameron called Margaret Thatcher the patriot prime minister. Both end up with what looks and feels quite like a state funeral, but isn't.

    FRANCIS MAUDE, Member of British Parliament: Well, there's already a huge amount of interest. She was a great prime minister. She was prime minister for 11 years and was totally transformational for the country. And I think there's a huge amount of people who will want to -- not just in Britain, but around the world -- who will want to pay their respects to her.

    ALEX THOMSON: In death, as in life, of course, the Thatcher story is two stories, of love and hatred. There will be, therefore, the praises, the hymns, the eulogies in this place next week, but across Britain, many, many other people will be singing very different songs and feeling very different emotions.

    So, today, a rush of U.K. downloads of "The Wizard of Oz" song Judy Garland's "Ding-Dong the Witch Is Dead." The Daily Telegraph's online comments page shut down after it was inundated with messages of hate for Margaret Thatcher.

    Across Britain, street parties last night celebrating her death. This was Bristol, where riot police attempted to break up the party. Belfast, Glasgow, and London saw similar events. Police in London say they're aware of a gathering planned this weekend. The public can line the routes to Saint Paul's next Wednesday under a plan now being code-named Operation True Blue. 

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    GWEN IFILL: For another look at the controversial legacy of the Iron Lady, I'm joined by Rana Foroohar, TIME magazine's assistant managing editor for economics and business, and John Burns, London bureau chief of The New York Times.

    Welcome to you both.

    John, in the United States, Margaret Thatcher is being embraced as this transformational figure, kind of a Reagan across the pond. Is she being seen the same way there?

    JOHN BURNS, The New York Times: Well, of course, there's a significant, though I think minority, opinion in this country that disliked Mrs. Thatcher and in some quarters even hated her

    But I think that the overwhelming opinion in this country and in widely distinct political quarters, certainly including principal political parties, she is viewed, as so many have said in the last 24 hours, as one of the greatest prime ministers this country has had and possibly the greatest peacetime prime minister of the 20th century.

    GWEN IFILL: Rana, you not only cover economics and business, but you also lived in Great Britain for nine years. How divided is opinion about her?

    RANA FOROOHAR, TIME: Well, I have always seen Thatcher as a very divisive category in a lot of ways.

    In some ways, I think her economic legacy is rosiest outside of Britain. The commentary, of course, with her passing has been, as John said, very positive in many ways, but I think that, inside Britain, particularly on the left, she was a very, very polarizing figure.

    You know, she did some very important things to modernize the country, to make the labor markets more flexible, to better prepare Britain for globalization. But it was a very, very painful process. I think that conservatives in the U.S. have often embraced her and paired her, as you say, with Ronald Reagan, although I see them in very different lights.

    I think that, in some ways, Mrs. Thatcher was much better at austerity than Ronald Reagan was. She actually cut the budgets and public spending as a percentage of the economy in Britain, whereas spending went up under Reagan. They were both tax-cutters, but she was more successful, perhaps, at austerity.

    GWEN IFILL: Let's talk about that, John Burns, for better or for worse her legacy, especially on matters like austerity.

    JOHN BURNS: Well, I think you have to have a baseline.

    And the baseline would be the mid to late 1970s. This country was in a truly terrible state, in a state that most Americans of my age would simply not recognize. People would have to go back to the Great Depression. I mean, there were inflation rates running at over 20 percent.

    There were endless strikes. There were three-day working weeks. The nationalized industries, coal, power, steel, the railways, telecommunications, were vastly over manned, hugely inefficient. The automobile industry, which had once been one of the great exporters and one of the great prides of this country, was on its knees.

    The biggest car manufacturer in the country had come into public ownership. The country was in a really, truly dire state. And I think it needed the radicalism of Mrs. Thatcher, who, by the way, had to defy opinion, I would be inclined to say the majority opinion in her own cabinet, to make the changes that she did.

    And the Britain that I live in today is just unrecognizable compared with that. And I think if people took a really hard look back over those 35 or more years, they will agree that nobody would want to return to that chaos. She put the country back on a trajectory, an upward trajectory.

    The Britain I grew up in, in the wake of the Second World War, was a country which was in precipitous decline, which had entirely lost its national self-confidence. And Mrs. Thatcher put that right.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, Rana, I'm curious, was she in the wrong -- a couple of examples -- the right or the wrong history on things like South Africa?

    RANA FOROOHAR: Well, I think that some South Africans would certainly say that she was on the wrong side.

    You know, again, she was a very polarizing figure. I think that, as John said, her legacy has to be looked at in -- with the benchmark at that time. One of the things that I think is most fascinating right now is her view on Europe. She was very forward-minded in terms of saying that Europe had a choice to make about whether it was going to be deeper or broader in terms of how it expanded or integrated.

    And I think that was quite prescient. I think that Mrs. Thatcher itself would have gone for broader, because of course she felt politically that the Eastern Bloc countries should be taken into the E.U. Many people today feel that the E.U. is too large, that there are too many countries with diverse agendas and that it really can't be maintained with the size it is now, and that the Eurozone crisis is part and parcel of that.

    So it's interesting. I mean, her opinions about austerity, about Europe, about globalization are as relevant, certainly, for discussion as they ever were.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, as you -- we look at legacy, we talk about legacy after people of this substance pass away.

    And I wonder, Rana, whether -- who you would identify as the heirs to her world view. Now that she's gone, does what she believed in, does it still sustain?

    RANA FOROOHAR: Well, it's interesting.

    I think that in some ways, the heirs may be in the emerging markets in the developing world, because those countries, countries like China, Brazil, India, South Africa even, they are at the stage in development where many of her economic ideas about privatization, about the push forward of markets and the rollback of the state are more relevant.

    I think, in the West, we're at a point where people are thinking about markets being broken and the fact that we may need more state involvement in things like regulation. But in places like China, like Brazil, there is certainly still a role for more opening, more liberalization and more privatization. And so I think that she would have a lot to say about what was going on in those countries today.

    GWEN IFILL: Final thought on that, John Burns?

    JOHN BURNS: Oh, I think Rana is correct about that.

    There was bound to be a correction. The Thatcher/Reagan model of free market development definitely, as we saw over the last 10 years, brought with it a lot of irresponsible behavior, and which has now caused the kind of chaos that we see across much of the developed world and certainly much of Europe. So there was a correction.

    GWEN IFILL: John Burns of The New York Times, Rana Foroohar of TIME magazine, thank you both so much.

    RANA FOROOHAR: Thank you.

    JOHN BURNS: Thank you. 

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    photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    Copies of President Obama's budget proposal are distributed Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    President Barack Obama took a risk by deciding to include changes to Medicare and Social Security in his 2014 fiscal year budget. And, as with all true gambles, political or otherwise, it comes with an uncertain fate.

    By offering to alter the formula for calculating Social Security cost-of-living increases, which would reduce future benefits, Mr. Obama has rankled some of his liberal allies in a bid to attract Republican support for a long-term deal on the deficit.

    Overall, the Obama administration calculates the 10-year blueprint, which will be unveiled Wednesday, would save $1.8 trillion, on top of $2.5 trillion in reductions already agreed to since 2011. For the 2014 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, the administration projects that the federal deficit would be $744 billion.

    Senior administration officials outlined the details of the outline Tuesday, calling it a "fiscally responsible plan for middle-class jobs and growth." With the $4.3 trillion in combined savings achieved, they said the proposal "turns off" the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending reductions that began to take effect earlier this year.

    Under Mr. Obama's proposal, the deficit would drop to 1.7 percent of the nation's gross domestic product by 2023, what the officials called "an important milestone of fiscal sustainability."

    They said any new investments in the budget are fully paid for by tax increases and closing corporate tax loopholes. Those measures, which the president has put forward in the past, would result in $580 billion in fresh revenues, according to administration officials.

    Mr. Obama seeks to eliminate tax breaks for offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, companies that ship jobs overseas and corporate jet owners. He would also require people with annual incomes above $1 million to pay at least 30 percent in income taxes (aka the "Buffett Rule") and limit deductions for the top 2 percent of wage earners.

    Politico posted a six-page overview of the budget containing more details of the plan.

    Mr. Obama's offer Wednesday completes the budget picture on Capitol Hill, as both House and Senate lawmakers approved blueprints of their own last month before the two-week recess. The House version, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would slash $4.6 trillion over the next decade without increasing taxes and transform Medicare into a premium support system.

    The plan that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, meanwhile, raised $1 trillion in new revenue and left entitlement programs unchanged.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., deflected questions Tuesday about whether Democrats would be willing to support Mr. Obama's offer to change the cost-of-living formula, or chained CPI.

    "We worked until 5 o'clock in the morning the last day we were here before the break. And we have our budget, and it was passed. It's a good budget. It sets our priorities. I think they're priorities of the American people and the Democrats. The president has his budget," Reid told reporters.

    As details of the president's plan began to emerge last week, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the "modest entitlement savings" should not be "held hostage for more tax hikes."

    With progressives angered by his offer on entitlements and conservatives not yet sold on his commitment to reforming the programs, that leaves Mr. Obama staking out what appears to be some very lonely middle ground.

    Mr. Obama will deliver remarks on the budget at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday in the Rose Garden, and he will surely try to bolster support for his plan when he meets with a dozen Republican senators for dinner at the White House later in the evening.

    Watch Wednesday's NewsHour night for analysis.


    With a deal expected Wednesday morning on background check legislation, Reid set up a Thursday voting showdown on the overall gun control measure amid a week of intensified public pressure on lawmakers considering the issue.

    Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have planned an 11 a.m. ET news conference to detail their agreement on a proposal to expand the background check system. That legislation would replace the current proposal that passed out of committee with only Democratic votes.

    The bipartisan deal could help clear the way for passage, but Reid must first bust a possible filibuster by at least 13 GOP senators. The Democrats made this chart to track Republicans who don't want to debate the bill. Reid's counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., had said this week he would join a filibuster if the bill reached the floor in its current form. The Manchin-Toomey pact likely would change things. If 60 senators agree, the chamber will formally start debate Thursday on the gun control package, which looks to end straw purchases and boost school safety and would include doomed amendments, such as an assault weapons ban and limits on purchases of high-capacity magazines.

    Reid echoed Mr. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and others by attacking Republicans who would filibuster the plan.

    "It would be a real slap in the face to the American people not to do something on background checks, on school safety, on federal trafficking, which everybody thinks is a good idea," Reid told reporters Tuesday. "On background checks, even the vast, vast majority of people who belong to the NRA support that."

    Bloomberg's Julie Bykowicz & Heidi Przybyla examined how the tactics used by gun control groups differ from the NRA. Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama will address urban violence during an appearance Wednesday in Chicago.

    Don't miss this detailed infographic from NewsHour's Elizabeth Shell and Vanessa Dennis that charts how state-by-state gun control and gun rights laws are faring.

    On Tuesday's NewsHour, Judy Woodruff offered a detailed discussion and debate on the background check issue. She talked with Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson and Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Watch here or below:

    Watch Video

    For all the discussion about what may pass the Senate, don't forget that any gun control measures face long odds in the Republican-controlled House.


    The Senate's Gang of Eight could reveal its immigration proposaI as soon as Thursday, but aides cautioned that early next week is more likely. Divisions over the legislation are once again dividing the right, with Americans for Tax Reform and Cato supporting comprehensive reform and Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation, calling it amnesty.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced Tuesday that agriculture workers and growers have reached a tentative deal, which could speed up release of the Gang's legislation. However, the growers haven't yet approved the deal, and debate persists over visas for high-tech workers.

    The battle over judicial nominee Sri Srinivasan is reigniting filibuster reform talk.

    Sens. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, John Thune of South Dakota, John Boozman of Arkansas and Orrin Hatch of Utah are among a dozen Republican lawmakers invited by Mr. Obama to the White House for dinner Wednesday. The president also broke bread with Republicans last month at the Jefferson Hotel. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that considering the economy, the president and lawmakers should forgo a fancy dinner and instead order pizza. He even offered to pick up the bill.

    McConnell's re-election campaign is working with the FBI to investigate how Mother Jones' David Corn procured tapes of the team working behind closed doors. Mother Jones responded, defending its source's anonymity and asserting it wasn't a "Watergate-style bugging." McConnell's team was recorded discussing strategies to smear actress Ashley Judd's mental health and moral stability. She has said she will not run for his Kentucky seat.

    In short, Buzzfeed's Evan McMorris-Santoro rounded up McConnell's spin on the issue here. And McConnell's still unpopular back home.

    Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., says he opposes same-sex marriage. He's one of the last Senate Democrats not to "evolve" on the issue this year. He faces re-election in 2014.

    The New York Times Magazine devotes its cover story to Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin, as the former congressman explores running for mayor of New York City.

    Chicago voters Tuesday made it official: Robin Kelly is coming to Congress to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson.

    Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell insists that his daughter and her husband paid for their own wedding and that a $15,000 check for the catering from a major donor was a gift to his daughter, and therefore wasn't disclosed. But documents reveal McDonnell had invested more in the catering than he admitted, and when the catering company issued a refund check, it went to McDonnell's wife, not to the donor or McDonnell's daughter.

    Count the Blue Angels among the victims of the sequester. The Navy announced the precision flying team will be grounded for the remainder of its 2013 show season because of federal spending cuts, the Associated Press reports.

    Cancer patients involved in clinical trials are seeing disruption because of sequestration. Because of the mandatory federal budget cuts, some treatment centers have ended trial programs, forcing patients to travel elsewhere, the Huffington Post reports.

    Freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, announced she will return 5 percent of her salary while sequestration cuts are in effect.

    In the first attack ad against his re-election campaign, progressive group One New Jersey hits GOP Gov. Chris Christie on the state's 9.3 percent unemployment rate.

    Meanwhile, the Star-Ledger reports that New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, who has endorsed Democratic candidate Barbara Buono, may be showing his true colors as a "Christiecrat" by "considering reviving a tax cut proposal that could hand Gov. Chris Christie a major political victory." Buono was of the main opponents of the 10 percent income tax cut Christie proposed last year.

    Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post asks: "What happened to Bobby Jindal?"

    Mr. Obama appointed longtime Democratic aide Melanie Roussell as the assistant secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    The Treasury Department told members of Congress that Beyonce and Jay-Z had a valid license to travel to Cuba.

    Texts from Hillary was named the best Tumblr site of 2012 at the Shorty Awards.

    Daniel Newhauser delivers the good news for Hill staffers in Roll Call: The Spotify ban has been scrapped.


    Justin Scuiletti edited a video montage of the Iraq War, the 10 year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein.

    NewsHour superstars Michael Fritz and April Brown were nominated for a Webby Award for their American Graduate series story about Victor Rios. Here is our other nomination, for best television website.

    The PBS Ombudsman reveals a soft spot for the NewsHour.

    Jenny Marder breaks down a study that shows some monkey speech is similar to humans.


    Spotted: Sonia Sotomayor chatting with @chefjoseandres at @jaleotapasbar 20 year anniversary party

    — Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) April 9, 2013

    New from @novapbs -- learn what you didn't know about bed bug sex: ow.ly/jUenr#grossscience

    — PBS (@PBS) April 9, 2013

    I thought it was The Atlantic that was at the Watergate.

    — Stefan Becket (@stefanjbecket) April 9, 2013

    Cherry blossom time, people. Go. RT @steveholland1: Only in Washington: Crowd chanting "no chained CPI" outside White House NW gate

    — gwen ifill (@pbsgwen) April 9, 2013

    Katelyn Polantz, Cassie M. Chew and Politics Desk Assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

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  • 04/10/13--06:32: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    Venezuelan acting President Nicolas Maduro holds a portrait of the late President Hugo Chavez during a campaign rally Tuesday in Catia La Mar. Photo by Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images.

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    By Jesse Appell

    Fulbright fellow Jesse Appell's "Gangnam Style" parody was subject to censorship when he was asked to perform on Chinese television.

    A note from Paul Solman: Jesse Appell is a young humorist, fluent in Mandarin, studying stand-up comedy in Beijing this year on a Fulbright Fellowship. "Our Man in China" this year, he reported for Making Sense late last year on his then-new rap video, "Laowai Style."

    Now, he describes what happened after its wildly popular debut, and what it says about "doing business" in China.

    Jesse Appell: Last fall, I produced and featured myself in a video parodying the most popular entry ever on YouTube -- the K-pop klassic "Gangnam Style," now up past 1.5 billion views. My own video, "Laowai Style," was about the life of a foreigner ("laowai") living as modestly as most everyone else in Beijing, with me rap-singing my own story in Mandarin.

    To my amazement, it quickly went viral on the Chinese Internet. It was featured on The Business Desk, with the lyrics translated into English, when it first came out.

    It didn't take long for invitations to come in, asking me to perform live on Chinese TV shows. While this is not all that unusual in China -- it seems that almost every foreign-looking resident of Beijing has been on television at least once--there was something very different about my case: I had written my own lyrics. In Chinese. Without knowing it, I was scheduled for a crash course in Sino-self-censorship.

    Most foreigners appear on Chinese TV dancing and singing to Chinese songs -- the phrase "dancing monkey" appears in almost every conversation I have about foreigners on TV.

    Lately, foreigners have begun to appear on dating shows, struggling to woo tall, pale Chinese women who wear lots of makeup. Foreigners in these roles never trigger any censorship concerns. Most are people literally dragged off the street and, given their minimal mastery of Mandarin, they pose no danger to censors: they lack the skill to say anything that would be considered politically inappropriate. The deepest probing involves asking whether the foreigner likes China or can handle spicy food.

    But I had written my own lyrics -- containing quite a bit of subtext about normal life here -- and so my views on China and the Chinese were front and center. This meant some of the lines were on the chopping block.

    Poor is the New Rich in Viral Video from Expat in China

    After I got a call from the TV station explaining the show, I was asked to send my lyrics over for review. They came back with three lines highlighted and a notice: "Please change these lines." I was given no directions on how or why to change them. When I played dumb and asked why the lines had been nixed, they gave the following reasons. First, the line, "I'm the kind of guy who's lived in Beijing a long time / Who eats Chinese food every day and doesn't use a spoon / Who doesn't wait for the light to turn green before crossing the street." Though its purpose was to express solidarity with regular Beijingers, I was told the line implied I didn't obey traffic laws, and that neither did they.

    Another line mentioned the fact that traffic-savvy Beijingers avoid the jammed third ring road during rush hour. Again, I identified myself with the people: "I'm that kind of laowai/ Who avoids the north third ring road during rush hour, that kind of laowai." The authorities said it implied that the Chinese hadn't provided sufficient infrastructure for their people.

    Finally, there was the line about how very non-rich I am: "I'm a laowai who sucks at basketball / A laowai who won't be cheated when he shops at the Silk Street market / A laowai who doesn't drive a BMW and instead drives a secondhand electric bike." It was meant to be the most self-deprecating of lists, but the authorities felt that by saying I knew enough not to be cheated at the Silk Street tourist market, I was implying that - well, foreigners were being cheated at the Silk Street tourist market.

    By the way, these same three lines were among the most noted in the 1000+ comments about the video posted online; Chinese people thought they were funny, weren't insulted in the least. Rather, they seemed to both criticize and acknowledge their jaywalking tendencies in the same way that I, a Bostonian, simultaneously complain about the ridiculous city "planning" that leads to traffic jams and notorious "Boston drivers," yet admit to being part of the problem. Similarly, it's simply part of being a Beijinger to cross the street the moment you can see the other side. The Chinese may not be proud of this side of themselves, but nearly everyone seemed to appreciate that an American had noticed it, and couldn't help jaywalking himself.

    Yet these lines, harmless as they might seem, were singled out to be censored. Or, as young Chinese on the Internet say, to be "harmonized" -- a play on the government trope that media censorship plays a role in constructing a "harmonious society."

    Interested in how plastic this process really was, I drafted an email saying I understood why they felt the lyrics were touchy, but meant no offense, wanted to keep the lyrics as originally written.

    I hit the send button. Immediately, my phone rang. It was the TV studio, wanting to discuss. After much back-and-forth, I managed to preserve the first two lines - about traffic - but had to change the reference to Silk Market improprieties.

    If this entire process seemed arbitrary, that's because it was. There is (likely) no secret government edict restricting discussion of the third ring road, nor strict compliance measures for street safety to be integrated into every TV program that mentions traffic. But someone had flagged the lines as having the potential to prompt charges of disharmony. But who? Why?

    Actually, there would seem to be a straightforward explanation. When censors, operating on their own personal set of arbitrary rules, see something about to be broadcast that could conceivably provoke attention from government authorities and cause trouble for the station--or the newspaper, magazine, publishing house, or website-- they might in future have to navigate the actual, far more onerous, formal censorship system, which is often arbitrarily applied.

    In recent years, one of the most popular sayings in China has become a cliche: "Kill the chicken to frighten the monkey." Better to avoid any possibility of overreaching, that is, however unlikely to be noticed or censured, by practicing anticipatory self-censorship instead. Better to keep your job.

    My own experience suggests that the rules of modern China can't simply be looked up in a law book or vouched for by any one leader. The practical effect is that what does and doesn't get through the censorship process depends more on the subjective opinions of various intermediaries at various levels of the process between content creation and release. As the TV official told me over the phone, she, like so many others, is responsible for "guarding the gates." And when in doubt, cut it out.

    Recognizing the pathways through which the anticipation of government control manifests in China itself turns out to be vitally important to understanding the Chinese economy. Like arbitrary taxes, it distorts incentives. Standard economic thought assumes that people and companies respond to incentives; these incentives can be altered through law, which dictates the state of play and the rules of the game. Thus comes the idea that everything from business practices to environmental pollution can be improved through legislation: if people know what the rules of the game are and face sufficiently stiff penalties for breaking them, the market will figure out the optimal way to play efficiently within these rules.

    But what do you do if the rules are unwritten? Then everyone, from the TV station's lowly production assistant up through the director and producer to top TV executives, feel the pressure to weigh in on the process before the matter ever gets to a formal censor. And because the formal censors in China also do not reveal their criteria, people in charge of creative content bear the risk of seeing their projects swallowed up in a black hole with no means of recourse. Easier to avoid content that runs that risk in the first place.

    What I encountered made me wonder: When will China be self-confident enough to allow good-natured self-deprecation?

    But there is a good side to what I learned as well. The stereotype of the silly foreigner that predominates on Chinese TV is more the result of internal processes within the TV stations themselves rather than any top-down plan from the government restricting foreign self-expression. Admittedly, my image in "Laowai Style" is pretty silly, yet the content is honest, even earnest. And though there were objections to all the lines mentioned above, I got to keep the two lines about traffic, and made only a slight change to the Silk Market line, playing up my ability to haggle rather than their inclination to cheat. As we say in America, two out of three ain't bad. Mine is a small, isolated case. But it doesn't support the skeptics who think foreigners will never be "allowed" to go much beyond conventional singing, dancing, and dating on Chinese TV. With a little resistance, a little persistence and a bit of strategic understanding, as well as a facility with Mandarin, projects that enter the black hole of self-censorship may emerge retaining the core ideas with which they were created.

    In the end, that's what happened with Laowai Style: For the chance to share my message of commonality between Americans and Chinese on Chinese television, with millions watching, that seemed a pretty good tradeoff.

    Amateur video of Jesse Appell performing "Laowai Style" on Chinese television

    Editor's note: For more on Jesse Appell's work in Beijing, check out his website.

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

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    More than 1 million visitors flock to Washington, D.C. each spring to view the cherry trees. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson.

    Every spring in Washington, D.C., the tree paparazzi come out. As the 3,700 ornamental cherry trees along the National Mall and Tidal Basin burst into bloom, more than a million visitors flock to the capital to view the flowering canopies. They cross barriers and climb branches just to capture the perfect shot of the pink and white blossoms. The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, now in its final week, is a part of Washington tradition.

    The iconic trees were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912 as a symbol of friendship between the two nations. But the stock of original cherry trees is rapidly depleting. Of the original 3,000 gift trees, fewer than 100 still live on the National Mall, said Carol Johnson, a National Mall spokesperson.

    Watch Video

    Margaret Pooler, research geneticist at the National Arboretum, explains why cloning the trees is necessary. Video by Rebecca Jacobson and Cindy Huang.

    Ornamental cherry trees in the United States have an average lifespan of 40 years, made shorter by the stress brought on by the annual flood of visitors, said Dave Kidwell-Slak, a horticulturist at the National Arboretum. Constant traffic compresses the soil around their roots, removing the protective grass and leaving roots exposed. Tourists climb the trees and pluck their branches, scarring the trees, preventing new growth and exposing gaping wounds for bugs and diseases. And Kidwell-Slak fears that warming winters will bring more bugs.

    As the trees die, National Parks Service officials sometimes replace them with other cherry trees from U.S. nurseries. But there's another effort that's been underway since 1997: cloning the originals.

    Japan gave the United States 3,000 ornamental cherry trees as a sign of friendship in 1912. Fewer than 100 of the original trees remain. Photo by Cindy Huang.

    In the 1970s Roland Jefferson, a botanist at the National Arboretum and a personal champion of the cherry trees, started taking cuttings of the originals and propagating them himself, fearing that they would be lost forever. By 1979, he had cloned 100 flowering cherry trees. He was also the first person to pen a definitive history of Washington's cherry trees.

    Cloning trees may sound like a major biotech effort, but it's actually fairly simple, said Margaret Pooler, a geneticist who has been working on cherry trees for the Arboretum. People have been doing it for hundreds of years, she said.

    One technique involves cutting "soft wood," or new tender growths from a late spring branch. Nursery gardeners at the Arboretum wrap the cuttings in wet towels and dip them in a root hormone. Then they incubate them in a warm, moist greenhouse until the stems sprout roots.

    Another involves grafting the sapling onto the established roots of another tree, literally highjacking that tree's roots, Kidwell-Slak said. Genetically, it's the same tree that was planted in 1912, and it would take generations for trees to see any genetic "drift" between the clones and their original. So scientists could theoretically clone these trees indefinitely, Kidwell-Slak said.

    Clones are appealing to horticulturists, Pooler said, for their reliability. The blossoms, the colors, even the bloom times will remain the same from generation to generation.

    Cloning the trees isn't complicated, but it is time and labor intensive. Horticulturists could freeze samples of DNA, but it's easier to clone the living plant. The saplings have a 70 percent survival rate, and it can take years before they are strong enough to plant outdoors, Pooler said. Since the project began, 500 clones have been created from the gift trees.

    But the reasons for cloning the trees are mostly esoteric, Kidwell-Slak said, like keeping a dog's pedigree. That genetic lineage connects the trees to their past, and allows that heritage to be shared. Kidwell-Slak says the Arboretum has sent clippings of the gift trees to Pittsburgh and North Carolina for cities to plant.

    According to Pooler, keeping that lineage preserves a record of the original gift so future horticulturists can keep the line going 40 or 50 years into the future. However, having too many trees of the same family in one park makes the group susceptible to disease. So Pooler has been studying the 1912 trees to create new, resilient hybrids of ornamental cherry trees to strengthen the historic crop.

    "Cherry trees are loved," she said, "We are hanging onto one lineage, but we are also breeding to make wide crosses of species to broaden the base of cherries."

    Charles Birnbaum, founder of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, said there are dozens of other trees and landscapes that need the same preservation and attention as the Tidal Basin cherry trees. Birnbaum calls the cherry blossoms "witness trees," trees that were a part of history and serve as living reminder of our past. Seeing an inauthentic replica isn't the same, he said.

    "Every tree has a story," he said. "These are portals to the past. These are like an "Alice in Wonderland" hole that you get to fall into and experience something real."

    Cindy Huang contributed to this report.

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  • 04/10/13--12:07: On the PBS NewsHour Tonight
  • On Wednesday's NewsHour:

    President Obama's 2014 budget proposal, which calls for changes to Social Security and Medicare, as well as tax hikes for the wealthy

    Then, with a Senate comproise on background checks breathing new life to a comprehensive guns bill, we look at gun violence in the nation's cities

    A billion-dollar trove of Picasso and other important Cubist works, given by one man to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Plus, a Cuban activist reflects on life as a dissident in her home country

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

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

    Follow @NewsHour

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    Philanthropist Leonard A. Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder estate, is giving New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art 78 signature Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures valued at more than $1 billion. Here are highlights of the gift.

    'Bottle of Rum'

    Georges Braque, 1914. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'The Violin (Mozart/Kubelick)'

    Georges Braque, 1912. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'Trees at L'Estaque'

    Georges Braque, 1908. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'The Smoker'

    Fernand Leger, 1914. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'The Typographer'

    Fernand Leger, 1917-18. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'The Absinthe Glass'

    Pablo Picasso, 1914. Painted bronze and perforated tin absinthe spoon. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'Nude Woman in an Armchair'

    Pablo Picasso, 1909. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'The Scallop Shell'

    Pablo Picasso, 1912. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'Woman in an Armchair'

    Pablo Picasso, 1913. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'Student Reading a Newspaper'

    Pablo Picasso, 1913-14. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'Still Life with Fruit Dish'

    Pablo Picasso, 1912. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    'The Oil Mill'

    Pablo Picasso, 1909. Oil on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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    The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced a major gift Wednesday, one of the largest and most important ever for any museum. Philanthropist Leonard A. Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics estate, is giving the museum his entire collection of Cubist art -- 78 paintings, drawings and sculptures valued together at more than $1 billion.

    They include 33 pieces by Pablo Picasso, 17 works by Georges Braque and other major pieces by Fernand Léger and Juan Gris.

    You can see some of the highlights of the collection in this slide show:

    View Slide Show

    On Wednesday's NewsHour, Margaret Warner will talk to Rebecca Rabinow, a curator from the Met's department of modern and contemporary art, about the Lauder collection and what it means for the museum.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama administration has rolled out a new budget, but it was clear today the plan is in for a bumpy ride. Democrats objected to provisions to save money on Medicare and Social Security. Republicans dismissed any talk of raising taxes again on the well-off.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The president's plan arrived at the Capitol this morning bearing a price tag of $3.8 trillion dollar for the coming fiscal year. And the chief executive made his pitch in the White House Rose Garden.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we want to keep rebuilding our economy on a stronger, more stable foundation, then we have got to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that's what the budget I'm sending to Congress today represents.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The blueprint aims to reduce the deficit by another $1.8 trillion over 10 years. That's on top of $2.5 trillion dollars in reductions agreed to at the end of last year.

    The cuts in this new budget also replace most of sequestration, those across-the-board spending reductions that already have begun taking effect. To make it all possible, the president would raise $580 billion in new revenue from higher taxes on the wealthy. And he anticipated Republican objections.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: If anyone thinks I will finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families, or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again. When it comes to deficit reduction, I have already met Republicans more than halfway.

    KWAME HOLMAN: But on the Senate floor this morning, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the president's math.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: But when you cut through the spin and get to the facts, it looks like there's less than $600 billion dollars worth of reduction in there, and that's over a decade, all of it coming, not surprisingly, from tax increases. In other words, it's not a serious plan.

    MAN: It's nice to see you today.

    MAN: Thank you.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Obama hoped Republicans would appreciate $400 billion dollars in savings from Medicare and other health programs, plus lower cost of living adjustments for Social Security.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don't believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I'm willing to accept them as part of a compromise, if and only if they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.

    KWAME HOLMAN: House Speaker John Boehner said he does give Mr. Obama some credit for moving on entitlements, but not at the price of higher taxes.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: But I would hope that he wouldn't hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax cuts -- tax hikes. Listen, why don't we do what we can agree to do? Why don't we find the common ground that we do have and move on that?

    KWAME HOLMAN: While House Speaker Boehner and other Republicans welcomed the president's offer on entitlements, many Democrats expressed displeasure. They said the changes in Social Security and Medicare would hurt seniors and other Americans struggling to make ends meet.

    Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

    REP. RAUL GRIJALVA, D-Ariz.: Quite frankly, Social Security doesn't cause the deficit. It should be a separate discussion away from this whole budget issue. And it's been a trophy the Republicans have wanted since I have been here for 10 years, to begin to undo Social Security. I don't think Democrats should hand them that opportunity readily.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The budget does include new spending that Democrats can support on jobs, infrastructure and expanded preschool education. That last item would be funded by a 94-cent increase in the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes.

    Now it falls to the president to try to sell his plan to both sides. He's scheduled to host a dozen Republican senators at the White House for dinner this evening.

    GWEN IFILL: For reaction to the president's budget, we go to Capitol Hill and the White House.

    Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state is the chairwoman of the Republican Conference. I spoke with her a short time ago from the Capitol.

    Cathy McMorris Rodgers, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

    As you look at the president's budget proposal today, what do you think, who do you think the winners are and the losers?

    REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, R-Wash.: Well, I thought the winners were those people that -- well, see, it's hard for me to quickly think of winners.

    I thought the losers at least were the American people in the aspect that it was a lot of the same old from the president. It was more taxes, more spending, another stimulus. These policies have not got our economy growing, and just look at the jobs report. It was -- it showed that we have the least number employed today as we have since 1979. We're not headed in the right direction.

    And so it's hard for me to think of the winners right now.

    GWEN IFILL: The president said today that he feels like he's gone halfway, especially by offering entitlement reform, what he had on the table before when he talked to House Speaker Boehner. Do you agree with him on that or disagree?

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, but the rest of that story that was he also was demanding more tax revenue, and the president got $600 billion dollars in new tax revenue on Jan. 1st.

    And the Republicans, we believe it is time to address the other side of this equation, the spending, the out-of-control spending, the record deficits. And that's why we put forward a budget that balances within 10 years, and we challenge the president, we challenge the Senate Democrats to come up with a budget that balances within 10 years.

    And part of that may be tax reform. It may be entitlement reform, making sure that these programs are available for our seniors, important safety net programs. But the president continues to demand more tax revenue, instead of looking at the spending side of this equation.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you about some of that, because one of the details in his plan would call for couples, retired couples who earn more than $170,000 dollars a year to pay higher Medicare premiums. Is that not the kind of entitlement reform you had in mind?

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, the Republicans, we want to work on this. We believe that it is important that we address Medicare and that we put it on a path so that it is going to be available for our current seniors and the next generation. And we need to have this type of discussion with the president.

    He's been very reluctant when push comes to shove, though, to really move forward on these kind of reforms without there being -- he continues to say there has to be more tax revenue on the table.

    GWEN IFILL: Speaking of tax revenues, one of the things he suggested is raising the cigarette tax, doubling the cigarette tax to pay for pre-K initiatives. Is that not what you think -- that's not a tradeoff you would agree with?

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, again, he always comes back to raising taxes.

    The American people -- just on January 1, every American family saw that their paycheck was reduced because taxes went up. And so we need -- we need the president to join in an effort to really look at the spending side of this equation. His default seems to be always to take more money. And the federal government continues to grow. It means that it makes it hard or families. They are having to tighten their belts. And we need the federal government to tighten its belt.

    GWEN IFILL: No matter what the initiative is that the money is being raised for, as far as you're concerned, raising taxes in and of itself is a problem?

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, yes, the Republicans recognize that we have a spending problem. The president early on in his time said he was going to reduce the deficit in half by the end of his first term.

    And we need -- we need the president, we need the Democrats to look at the spending side, the trillion-dollar deficits. They jeopardize our opportunities and our economic growth and the opportunities for young people that are graduating from college, and it jeopardizes important safety net programs for our seniors.

    So that is where the Republicans are standing firm. The president got revenue on Jan. 1st. We need to look at the spending side.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the things that you talk about -- about safety nets. one of the safety nets is Social Security, and Democrats are unhappy with the president's plan to change the formula for cost of living increases to Social Security.

    Do you think that's the right approach?

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, it's certainly one that I think we need to look at closer. And that is a -- you know, Republicans and Democrats, I believe we may be able to find some common ground here. And those are the kind of solutions that do give me hope moving forward that we can find the common ground so that these programs are secure for many generations to come.

    GWEN IFILL: Bottom line, do you see any difference from where the president's plan is today from when it was when you were negotiating with him in December?

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: I was disappointed that he continued to make it all dependent upon there being new tax revenue. And that has -- you know, from the Republicans' perspective, he got $600 billion dollars on Jan. 1st. And we need the president to join us in looking at the spending side.

    GWEN IFILL: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, thank you so much.

    CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: For the view from the White House, I also spoke this afternoon with Gene Sperling, director of the president's National Economic Council.

    Gene Sperling, thank you for joining us.

    The president said today in the Rose Garden what he is proposing was not optimal, is the word he used, and -- but he needed to go this far for compromise. So far, both sides seem to be rejecting this.

    GENE SPERLING, White House National Economic Council: Well, the president rightly said that he was putting forward today something that was unquestionably a compromise offer to Speaker Boehner to try to get a balanced deficit reduction package that would get us out of this very harmful sequester, deal with some of our long-term fiscal challenges, and put us on a path to both lowering our deficit as a percentage of our economy, but also still investing in jobs right now, by accelerating infrastructure investment and still investing in our long-term competitiveness.

    And the president said all along that we're not going to get that type of a compromise unless everybody is willing to give a little. No one is going to get 100 percent. And the president's very clear this is not his ideal proposal, but it shows his willingness to take a balanced approach. It does ask for the most fortunate to have a little bit less tax expenditures and tax loopholes, and has some sensible entitlement reforms, and again some measures that he might prefer not doing, but realizes you need to have out to be part of a bipartisan compromise to see if we can move our country forward.

    GWEN IFILL: We just spoke to a member of the House leadership, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and she said she couldn't think of any winners in this budget proposal.

    GENE SPERLING: Well, you know, deficit reduction is never easy.

    We inherited this terrible deficit, along with a great recession, and we're fighting our way out of it. And the question is how to do in a way that gets the balance right. And the balance is about having sensible entitlement savings, but also having revenues as part of a fair deficit reduction plan.

    The balance is also about making sure your fundamental goal is about economic growth and job creation, and the type of plan the president has does have targeted investments to create job, investment infrastructure, worker training. You saw his preschool proposal. That would be very important.

    And it does maintain investments in our future in manufacturing and in the skills of our workers. But the fact is, we all have to try to get ourselves back on a long-term fiscal path so we can give people more confidence that America is still the place to create jobs and make your future. And that's going to require some tough choices.

    GWEN IFILL: And yet Republicans are not happy because they say taxes -- this is all about taxes going up again, and Democrats, some Democrats are not happy because they think that you're hurting the poor. You're not winning on either side of this.

    GENE SPERLING: Well, Gwen, I look at it in a different way, when you see the president of the United States doing what he should do, lead, trying to bring both sides together.

    And, yes, this is not going to be ideal for everyone. But the question is not whether it's ideal for Democrats or ideal for Republicans, but whether it is an honorable compromise that is good for jobs, good for growth, that moves our country forward. Is it good for the American people?

    And that's going to require everyone to give a little and be unhappy on a few measures. But, if in doing that, we can replace the sequester that is harming millions of innocent people and hurting job growth, and replace it with something that is good for job growth, that has a balance of entitlement savings and revenues, and helps put our deficit on a strong path, that's going to give more confidence. That's going to be good for jobs. That's going to be good for our competitiveness.

    And that's the bigger perspective that all of us have to take if we're going to try to get by divided government to do something that's unified that can help us strengthen our economy.

    GWEN IFILL: But before you get by divided government, you have to get agreement. So, you have an agreement that you say you had on the table last year with Speaker Boehner. It didn't go through then.

    Taxing the wealthiest didn't work before. How is it going to work now?

    GENE SPERLING: Well, you know, despite all our problems and all our challenges, Gwen, we actually have lowered the deficit by $2.5 trillion, and that has been a mix of $600 billion dollars in revenues on very high-income individuals. There has been spending cuts. And we reduced deficit through lower projected interest costs.

    So, it has been tough, but we have made progress, and we just have to -- we have to stay at it, and I think that's going to be the challenge. Now, the president tonight is going to be meeting and having dinner with 12 Republicans, because the president is looking at every moment for what he calls the caucus of common sense.

    And I will repeat that one thing we have going for us is that the American public wants us to work together. They want to us compromise. They want us to have a balanced plan that's good for growth, invest in our people, and deals with our long-term deficit. And I think that that's what this president is trying to do in putting forward the budget he did today.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you, finally, tonight's dinner, is that the first step towards the grand bargain everyone is talking about, or is it another step towards business as usual with these budgets?

    GENE SPERLING: I think it is another step in the president's outreach to look for those who want to be part of a solution.

    And he did a previous dinner with 11 or 12 Republicans that I think was very good in creating some trust, starting to see that there can be some common ground, and moving towards where I think the American public would like, which is to see us in Washington, even with divided government, willing to make honorable compromises that are going to be good for our economy and good for job creation.

    And I think we will all be better off. And his budget is an important step in doing that, and his outreach is just one more step again in looking for that -- that coalition of the willing, that caucus of common sense that is willing to work together and try to strike compromise that's good for jobs and the economy.

    GWEN IFILL: Gene Sperling at the White House, thank you so much.

    GENE SPERLING: Thank you, again. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Thousands of people gathered in Washington today, pressing Congress to approve immigration reforms. Senators hope to finish work this week on a bill that grants a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. Supporters rallied at the U.S. Capitol with signs that read "Time Is Now," "All in For Citizenship." Rallies also took place in at least 18 states.

    A new warning came today amid the tense waiting for North Korea's next move. The foreign minister of South Korea said chances are considerably high that the North will launch a midrange missile soon. It could coincide with next Monday, when the communist state marks the birth of its founder.

    Meanwhile, in Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel weighed in at a Pentagon briefing.

    DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL, United States: North Korea has been -- with its bellicose rhetoric, with its actions, has been skating very close to a dangerous line. Their actions and their words have not helped defuse a combustible situation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: North Korea has warned all foreign diplomats to leave its capital, Pyongyang. But the European Union said today there's no need to take such steps.

    In economic news, there was word the U.S. Federal Reserve wants to keep long-term interest rates low through at least midyear. The news came in the minutes of the Fed's last meeting. The report gave Wall Street an early boost, and it never looked back. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 128 points to close at 14,802. The Nasdaq rose 59 points to close at 3,297.

    Saturday home mail delivery is back on for now. The U.S. Postal Service said today it's delaying plans to end Saturday service because Congress will not allow the change. Back in February, the Postal Service said it would have to cut back to five-day-a-week delivery by August to rein in costs. The agency ended its last budget year with a record loss of nearly $16 billion dollars.

    The University of Connecticut today celebrated its eighth national championship in women's basketball. The Huskies beat Louisville in a rout last night in New Orleans 93-60. It was the most lopsided win ever in the women's national title games. Louisville had been trying to add to the men's championship it won the night before. UConn remains the only school to win both titles in the same season.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn to the other big political story of this day, gun control legislation, and a new proposal for expanding background checks.

    The president said in a statement late today the plan unveiled by a pair of senators didn't go as far as he wanted, but he welcomed it as significant progress. Other gun control groups said they too hoped it could serve as a tipping point in the Senate.

    SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: Good morning.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The bipartisan deal was announced by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

    Manchin said the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn., demanded a response.

    JOE MANCHIN: This amendment won't ease the pain. It will not ease the pain of the families who lost their children on that horrible day. But nobody here, and I mean not one of us in this great, great Capitol of ours, with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again. And I think that's what we're doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Under the proposal, federal background checks would be expanded to include gun show and online sales. All such sales would have to be channeled through licensed firearms dealers, who'd be charged with keeping records of the transactions.

    But in a major difference from the president's proposal, the senators' plan wouldn't require background checks for private sales between individuals.

    SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R-Penn.: I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control. I think it's just common sense. If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun. It's no problem. It's the people who fail a criminal or a mental health background check that we don't want having guns.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senators Toomey and Manchin also would create a national commission on mass violence.

    JOE MANCHIN: This commission is going to be made up with people with expertise, people who have expertise in guns, people who have expertise in mental illness, people who have expertise in school safety, and people who have expertise in video violence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Manchin-Toomey proposal takes the form of an amendment to a larger Democratic bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans an initial vote tomorrow to bring that measure up for debate. Senate Republicans are divided on whether to try to block the action. And on the House side, Speaker John Boehner wasn't tipping his hand today.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Well, we will wait and see what the -- what the Senate does. It's one thing for two members to come to some agreement. It doesn't substitute the will from the other 98 members. And so we will wait and see what the Senate does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Others were quick to react. Mayors Against Illegal Guns founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it strongly supports the amendment.

    But the National Rifle Association condemned the proposal, saying, "Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools."

    The NRA said that it would support a proposal by Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. It cracks down on gun trafficking and on so-called straw purchases, when someone buys firearms for those barred from owning them.

    All of this as first lady Michelle Obama returned home to Chicago, addressing a conference on young people and gun violence.

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: We need to show them not just with words, but with action, that they are not alone in this struggle. We need to show them that we believe in them, and we need to give them everything they need to believe in themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The first lady also visited Harper High School on Chicago's South Side, where 29 current or former students have been shot in the last year. Eight died.

    Last February, the first lady attended the funeral of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. She was killed just days after performing with her school band at the presidential inauguration.

    For a closer look at the persistence of inner-city gun violence, we turn to Paul Barrett. He is the author of "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun," as well as assistant managing editor and senior writer at "Bloomberg Businessweek" magazine. And Del McFadden, he's outreach coordinator for the Columbia Heights-Shaw Collaborative. It's a community support organization in Washington, D.C.

    Welcome to you both.

    And, Paul Barrett, to you first.

    For all the publicity around these horrible mass shootings, we know most gun violence takes place as one-on-one shooting. Tell us, where do these take place? Who is doing the shooting, and who are the victims?

    PAUL BARRETT, Bloomberg Businessweek: Well, there's a very wide variety, but you're absolutely right that, as a general matter, out of the 30,000 gun deaths we have a year, some 10,000 or 11,000 are gun homicides.

    Many of those take place in unsafe poor neighborhoods, and often involve gunplay between one gang and another gang, drug traffickers. But they also -- you have gun crime that take plays all across the country in other settings as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we -- I should have said, of course, that so many of the gun violence in this country is suicide, people turning a gun on themselves.

    Del McFadden, you work every day in an urban community in Washington. First, tell us what the Collaborative does.

    DEL MCFADDEN, Columbia Heights-Shaw Family Support Collaborative: The Columbia Heights-Shaw Family Support Collaborative is a nonprofit organization located in Northwest D.C.

    We started in 1996 supporting families, making sure that families were healthy and strong through capacity-building and advocacy. Now we have branched out to work force development for ex-offenders, returning citizens. And we also have a youth violence prevention and intervention program, which I am one of the outreach managers for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what does gun violence look like to you?

    DEL MCFADDEN: Well, let me kind of set the tone.

    In the last five years of me being outreach manager for this position, we have buried 32 African-American and Latino youth. And a lot of the issues around gun violence, now that we have social media, now that we have school closures in the District where kids from feuding communities now have to coexist under one roof, we have different functions that may happen, entertainment functions that may happen where kids come in contact, and there's conflict, and it's peculiar to me in the sense of we work closely with different partners.

    And for each one of those 32 youth, we can find the burial assistance funds within 48 hours to bury those kids. And so my thing is, why can't we have the same resources to sustain life?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To keep these -- this violence from happening.

    What would you add to that, Paul Barrett? Help fill out that picture of what's going on in our inner cities now.

    PAUL BARRETT: Well, I think there -- as with many social issues, there's a downside and an upside.

    And, obviously, we have got far too much gun violence in the inner cities. We have far too much gun violence in other segments of society. But it's also important to put on the table and to think about, as we analyze how to move forward, the fact that in the aggregate, actually, gun violence is going down sharply and has been going down since the early 1990s.

    Violent crime overall in this country is at about half the rate that it was in 1980. And big cities, though they still do have pockets of terrible violence and social dysfunction, overall are actually safer today than they were 20 years ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is it known why that's happening?

    PAUL BARRETT: Well, it's -- there's a great deal of debate over that. It is almost certainly not any one factor. Determining why crime levels shift is a very, very difficult challenge for social scientists.

    But the ingredients probably include a higher rate of incarceration, which has been very pronounced over the last couple of decades, shifts in police practices, targeting certain neighborhoods where there's a lot of violence, as opposed to just kind of randomly patrolling the streets, and also improvements in certain cities in social programs and improving public housing. In some cities, there has been very, very concentrated public housing that has been disbursed to some degree.

    And I'm sure the circumstances vary a great deal from city to city.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I see you nodding, Del McFadden, to what he's saying about the reasons why violence has decreased.

    Having said that, it is still happening. You cited what you see here in the nation's capital. What is causing it to still happen? What do you see are the dynamics in the community between these young people that cause them to kill somebody?

    DEL MCFADDEN: Well, I think it's environmental triggers, stressors, different situations that may happen in these communities.

    Like I stated, it's a different environmental factors the play, risk factors that play a part in that. And with the youth in the District of Columbia, where I work, I think it's just those different issues, those needs that are not being met within those households, those needs that are not being met in the community and in the school system.

    I think that's a big part of it. And if you look at the incarceration rate, we have around 2.4 million Americans arrested. Almost half of that is African-American. So when you look at those households, those are individuals that's no longer there. Those are fathers. Those are brothers, and that really plays a part in the erosion of those family units.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the extent guns, Paul Barrett, are part of this, how do they get injected into this picture? How available are they?

    PAUL BARRETT: Well, we have 300 million firearms in private hands in the United States. So we are a society that is permeated by guns and gun ownership.

    The vast majority of those firearms are owned legally, and are not causing any particular problem, but millions are owned illegally, are on the black market, and are readily available in neighborhoods where there's a lot of crime. So we have a very high level of gun homicide, compared to similar industrialized societies.

    And yet, at the same time, we have an improvement over time, so that the trends are actually quite complex. And I think one thing we need to focus on is, we need to ask, if the crime rates are coming down, particularly in big cities, as they are, why is that happening and how can that be replicated? If police departments are doing a somewhat better job, what are the keys to that success and how can it be repeated?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a huge subject, and we only have a little bit of time left.

    But, Del McFadden, what are some of the questions the rest of us should be looking at right now, in addition to the availability of guns?

    DEL MCFADDEN: Well, I think guns -- I think there's availability, and I think we need to look at the outlets that play a part in fueling the influx of those weapons into these communities.

    I think we also have to look at the mental health piece. I think we have been failing tremendously at looking at the psychological trauma that these kids endure over long periods of time. And I have young men groups, and when you talk to these young men, you ask them how many individual that they knew or were close with, asking them how many have passed in the last five years. They can rattle off 35 names.

    And that is something that definitely has to be looked at in a deeper sense.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And these are young men?

    DEL MCFADDEN: Yes, these are young men.

    I think, also, on the side of law enforcement, in Washington, D.C., I think the case closure rate is around 93 percent. It's very high, which does play a part in violence reduction. But there's no way that we're going to arrest our way out of this situation. We're dealing with -- we're mainly dealing with the byproducts of generational poverty, social economic disparities and deprivation.

    But we have to get to the core of these issues and build on self-worth and positive self-image.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Del McFadden and Paul Barrett, we thank you both.

    DEL MCFADDEN: Thank you.

    PAUL BARRETT: Thank you. 

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    GWEN IFILL: Now the second of a two-part look at efforts to prevent felons from returning to New York's Rikers Island jail once they have served their time.

    Last night, NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman reported on a new way of creating private financing for such public programs.

    Tonight, he explores how the program hopes to keep participants from ending up in jail again.

    It's part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: High school on New York City's Rikers Island, the world's largest jail. Though they make up just 6 percent of the population, the teen inmates here pose some of the biggest problems.

    DORA SCHRIRO, New York City Department of Corrections: They contribute to 28 percent of all of the fights, which is the most common form of misconduct in a jail setting.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dora Schriro is New York City corrections commissioner.

    DORA SCHRIRO: This group, one of the areas where they are terrifically weak is in decision-making and problem-solving. And their propensity to impulsively rely on fights, rather than insight, really contributes to how they got here and why it is that every one out of two are likely to come back pretty quick.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In other words, nearly 50 percent are back in jail within a year of their release. That's why New York City officials have just launched a program that puts every 16-to-18-year-old entering Rikers almost as soon as the bars slam shut into a class called moral reconation therapy, or MRT, a form of behavioral modification to improve decision-making.

    JAFAR ABBAS, Osborne Association: If you can go back in time and change one thing, what would it be, what year would you go back to, and why?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, cognitive therapy like MRT isn't new; it's been around for decades. But it is new on Rikers. Also new, the cash-strapped city is using an innovative private investment vehicle called a social impact bond, a type of loan, to fund it.

    JAFAR ABBAS: We're going start from here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: MRT starts small: drawing pictures of happier times, like a real or imagined skydiving jump, talking about feelings.

    STUDENT: When I get nervous, I feel like I want to shut down and not do anything.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because they're minors, we can't show student faces.

    It's all part of a 12-step process that moves from the most basic psychological concepts to higher goals. Studies show that MRT can reduce recidivism by 20 percent to 30 percent, and the more steps they master, the more likely these kids will be to stay out of jail.

    JAFAR ABBAS: You got everything working with you, and you're moving in a positive direction now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Jafar Abbas and Karimah Nichols are counselors with the Osborne Association, the nonprofit hired by New York to run MRT on Rikers.

    JAFAR ABBAS: It starts out slow with pictures and stuff, but as it progresses through 12 steps, is that they get more difficult, and that's what we want. We want you to get out of the box that you put yourself in and start looking for higher things.

    KARIMAH NICHOLS, Osborne Association: Just the fact that they were even willing to talk in group, like, that is a big step for someone at that age. That's a sign of real maturity.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As when this boy was asked to recount his best of times.

    STUDENT: One is winning my first basketball championship when I was in middle school. Second is, I got my first job. Third is when I got my middle school diploma, and when I went to high school, and got my first computer.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And worst of times?

    STUDENT: First is jail. Two is going to court and not knowing what is going to happen or when you go home, the bus -- the jail bus ride, being in a place where you're treated like an animal. You're literally caged up most of the time of the day.

    KARIMAH NICHOLS: Do you notice the connection between the best times in your life and the worst times? What's the relationship between those two, the sort of pattern?

    STUDENT: Well the pattern with the best things of my life is there's little things I never thought was big until I came here. And jail, I can't control the outcome that's going on when I'm here.

    SUSAN GOTTESFELD, Osborne Association: None of these kids want to be in jail, and our message to them is, you have control.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Susan Gottesfeld helps run the Osborne Association.

    SUSAN GOTTESFELD: Cognitive behavioral therapy is not a coddling, huggy, touchy, feely, fuzzy intervention. It's an evidence-based therapy that works for lots and lots of different people, for lots and lots of different things.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What's the key to the cognitive change?

    SUSAN GOTTESFELD: So, if we want to change outcomes, we have to change behavior, and if we want to change behavior for the long run, we have to change the way we think, right? And for a lot of these kids, it's a realization: I can choose to do that in a good way or I can choose to do that in a negative way.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But will it keep enough kids from coming back to Rikers to save the city enough money to pay back investors? Let's face it. Transformation doesn't come easy.

    At Rikers, says Commissioner Schriro:

    DORA SCHRIRO: You never know for sure until they day they leave how long they're going to be there. So, we really needed to figure out how to make the most out of every day, not wait for our next class to start, grab them, you know, the minute they get in, engage them right away, and keep them engaged right to the time that they go back out to the streets.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Those released from Rikers have the option of continuing their 12-step therapy at offices in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    Dwayne Arthur has been seeing counselor Victoria Phillips since getting out of a two-week stint at Rikers in January.

    WOMAN: For the ice breaker today I want to know, what are some of the things that you try to control, but can't control?

    STUDENT: First is my urges. Sometimes, you can't control your emotions.

    WOMAN: OK. Sometimes, you can't control your emotions. But can you control the actions that follow the emotions?

    STUDENT: Yes.

    WOMAN: And since you have been here, like, are we starting to see that you are controlling your actions?

    STUDENT: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But who has he hurt when he couldn't control them?

    Dwayne shared his workbook with us.

    STUDENT: The first one is my mother, and I'm her son, and I have damaged this relationship by letting her down.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because you wound up at Rikers?

    STUDENT: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what else does it say?

    STUDENT: To be a good, successful son. That's my goal in this relationship.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dwayne's mother, Sharon Goveia, had watched our interview.

    What did he mean, did you think, by that he had let you down?

    SHARON GOVEIA, Mother: Because he knows I have high expectations for him. I want him to be something. I want him to, you know, strive and be the best that he can be, you know, so ...

    PAUL SOLMAN: And being in Rikers is not a part of that story.

    SHARON GOVEIA: Exactly. But I think he learned from it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But to learn, you have got to attend. It takes Dwayne Arthur more than an hour to get here.

    STUDENT: People can only help themselves. But if they come here, it's going to help them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Of 100 people who take this program, what percentage, how many do you think wouldn't, will not go back to Rikers?

    STUDENT: If they came to the program? Ninety of them, 90 out of 100.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But how many actually come?

    When this taping was first scheduled in December, we had lined up another boy named Carl to interview. But we had to reschedule for February, and by then Carl had stopped coming regularly. That raises a red flag to social impact bond skeptics like Mark Rosenman.

    MARK ROSENMAN, Caring to Change: I think, ultimately, it will result in creaming.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Creaming?

    MARK ROSENMAN: Cherry-picking participants, selecting the easiest people to work with. And no matter how well-intentioned you are, if you know ultimately that being able to repay your investors is dependent on how well you meet a narrow benchmark, the temptation of beginning to operate in a way that is more likely to produce those outcomes, I think, is significant.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, gaming the system?

    MARK ROSENMAN: It will be gaming the system.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, as Susan Gottesfeld points out, the MRT program, and the social impact bond issue that funds it, seek to reach every young person on Rikers Island, period.

    And the evaluation will look at whether, overall, it reduces recidivism or it doesn't.

    The skeptic would say, these are great goals, but you're likely not to achieve them.

    SUSAN GOTTESFELD: Well, I would say that I believe we will. We see change every day in our classrooms. And, you know, in a year from now or two years from now, we will really see for sure.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so we will. Stay tuned. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a treasure trove of cubist art and a record gift for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    Margaret Warner has more.

    MARGARET WARNER: Philanthropist Leonard Lauder, an heir to the Estee Lauder estate, is giving the Met his entire collection of cubist art. The 78 paintings, drawings and sculptures are valued together at more than $1 billion dollars. They include 33 pieces by Pablo Picasso, like Woman in an Armchair from 1913, 17 works by Georges Braque, including Bottle of Rum from 1914, and other major pieces by Fernand Leger and Juan Gris.

    For more on the collection and its significance, we turn now to Rebecca Rabinow, a curator from the Met's Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. And she joins us from San Francisco.

    And, Ms. Rabinow, thank you for joining us.

    What is the -- how unusual and how important is this bequest, both as a body of work in and of itself, and also for the Met?

    REBECCA RABINOW, Metropolitan Museum of Art: It's extraordinary in every possible way.

    On the one hand, you have a collector who has really focused so intently and so in-depth at one particular moment, buying the best of the best. So it's an extraordinary collection. And in giving it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. Lauder has transformed our holdings, certainly of 20th century art.

    He understands that this was a big lack of the collection, and by giving us these extraordinary works, cubist works, we can really help start to tell some of those important stories of modern art. But he also understands that it is an encyclopedic museum. So we are able to put it in the context of art from other cultures and arts of other time periods.

    So, from our point of view, this is a transformative gift of the highest caliber.

    MARGARET WARNER: And help us understand cubism. It's oft been described, of course, as revolutionary. What was revolutionary in the way cubist artists portrayed the world?

    REBECCA RABINOW: So, you're talking about Braque, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso, two young artists who were working in Paris.

    In 1908, there was an exhibition of Braque's work at the gallery Kahnweiler, a gallery in Paris. And it was at that gallery that a critic coined the term cubism. He felt that Braque was taking apart the picture plane and turning shapes, using geometric shapes to reproduce objects of art in a sense.

    By 1909, Braque and Picasso were inseparable. They became great friends. They went to each other's studios every day. They vacationed together. And they began to look at art and art's possibilities in an entirely new way. They began to emphasize that two-dimensional aspect of a painted surface.

    They were interested in breaking up contours and creating a faceted surface, looking at one work of art from multiple points of view simultaneously. So what the cubists did was absolutely revolutionary for themselves, but also in the way it inspired other artists.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let's take Picasso's Nude Woman in a Chair from 1909. How does that illustrate cubism as you just described it?

    REBECCA RABINOW: That painting, which is a masterpiece in and of itself, about 3 feet tall, is a perfect example of how cubism bridged 19th century -- late 19th century art into the 20th century, because Picasso was very interested in the art of Paul Cezanne. Cezanne had recently died. There was a retrospective of his work in 1907.

    And what Picasso is doing in that painting is that he is looking at Cezanne's famous pictures of his own wife, Hortense, seated in an armchair. But now Picasso is starting to break apart the forms. And so it's clearly identifiable as a woman, and yet he's showing her from multiple perspectives simultaneously. He's starting to reduce or simplify parts of her anatomy into geometric forms.

    So, that painting really in many ways is a wonderful link. It shows Picasso looking back to what came before and also looking forward to see his new direction.

    MARGARET WARNER: Could any museum, even with a large budget for acquisitions, go out on the market today and acquire a collection of this kind of size and depth in one field?

    REBECCA RABINOW: It would be absolutely impossible to replicate Mr. Lauder's collection. These important cubist works are simply not on the market, in private hands, because his collection is not only about fantastic works of art. He bought the best of the best.

    But he was a scholar collector in many ways. He was interested not only in sort of the formal values, how these pictures look, how they function within an artist's career, but interested in them as objects as well and in history. So, his collection has works that passed through the most important cubist dealers' hands, the most important cubist collectors' works.

    He has pictures in his collection that were exhibited in historic exhibitions, like the Armory exhibition of 1913, which introduced modernism to American audiences. So his collection is a collection of firsts. It's a collection of masterpieces. It is absolutely impossible to replicate, and we are just thrilled to be able to have it at the Met for the enjoyment of everyone.

    MARGARET WARNER: And the public will get to see this next year in a special exhibition.

    Rebecca Rabinow, thank you so much.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Watch a slide show of the donated works on Art Beat. 

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a conversation with a Cuban dissident.

    Blogger Yoani Sanchez has been called the most famous living Cuban not named Castro. For six years, her online posts about life in Cuba have attracted millions of readers around the world. In 2002, Sanchez fled Cuba. But unlike most Cubans who leave, she returned two years later to press for change on the island.

    And the last decade has seen change. Earlier this year, the government lifted the travel ban, allowing most citizens freedom to come and go. Sanchez is now in the middle of a three-continent tour, where she's openly criticized the Cuban government.

    While in New York, she sat down with one of our media colleague at WLIW in New York. Correspondent Rafael Pi Roman of the program MetroFocus talked with Sanchez about life under a totalitarian regime and her hopes for a new Cuba.

    RAFAEL PI ROMAN, WLIW: You have written that when you decided to return to Cuba, you promised yourself that you would live in Cuba as a free person, regardless of the consequences. What have been the consequences?

    YOANI SANCHEZ, Cuban Blogger: Well, yes.

    I told myself that I wouldn't return to the mask. I wouldn't return to the pretense. I wouldn't return to the silence. From that moment, a new chapter began in my life, a chapter that has brought with it many reprisals and consequences, for example, being watched, being stopped by state security, knowing that anywhere I go, there could be someone informing, filming and photographing what I do, and losing many friends, friends who are afraid to come close to my house or to me, also the arbitrary detentions, the arrests, the insults, the threats, the not being able to leave my country for five years.

    RAFAEL PI ROMAN: How much have things changed in Cuba since Fidel handed over power to his brother Raul almost seven years ago?

    YOANI SANCHEZ: I can categorically say that nothing has advanced in terms of citizen rights or civil rights.

    In fact, I do notice a change in the repression. But it's been a change in style, rather than a change for the better. But Raul's style is one of repressing, without leaving any legal fingerprints.

    Fidel Castro repressed his opponents in grand, theatrical style and would condemn them to long prison sentences, while Raul has used more occult methods that leave the victims without even the possibility of proving they have been repressed.

    RAFAEL PI ROMAN: How do you respond to those who say that the very fact that you're here speaking freely and critically about the Cuban government shows there have been profound changes in Cuba?

    YOANI SANCHEZ: I think the fact that I and several other activists have been able to leave Cuba in the last few weeks and have been expressing ourselves through the microphones of the world is not a sign of transformation, but of weakness.

    The Cuban government can no longer hold back what's happening. It can't stop it for many reasons, but, fundamentally, because of the growing number of critical voices within Cuba, and also because technology has allowed us to gain a visibility which is protecting us.

    Social networks like Facebook and Twitter now serve as a protective shield for us.

    RAFAEL PI ROMAN: But, as you know, a lot of the supporters of the government say that there hasn't been a manifestation, a rebellion against the system, because many Cubans, or most Cubans, if not all, support the system, and they support it because they want to protect the social conquests of the revolution, like health care and free education.

    How do you respond to that?

    YOANI SANCHEZ: Well, let me respond with a metaphor that I like very much, the metaphor of the bird in the cage.

    To say that Cubans have settled for a change of limited liberties in exchange for some birdseed and water, which would be in this case the education and health care systems, I think would be very unjust. It's very unjust to reduce us to a condition of servility, of citizens genetically incapable of enjoying liberty.

    This is completely false. Cubans want to fly. We want to leave the cage, just as any individual in any part of the planet would want. The problem is that the cage is very well made. The bars very thick. And, by the way, neither the birdseed nor the water is all that wonderful either.

    RAFAEL PI ROMAN: Oswaldo Paya, the man who many considered the Vaclav Havel Cuba, died last year in a car accident under very mysterious circumstances.

    Are you in any way afraid of your physical well-being, of your safety, when you return to Cuba?

    YOANI SANCHEZ: When you live under a totalitarian regime and know that danger and risk can come from everywhere, the fear of death, of physical harm, of threats to your family, of social and physical death can lead you to paralysis, to doing nothing, in the hope that, one day, the regime will forget about you or forgive you.

    Or you can simply continue to struggle. There are many ways to react to fear. I tell my friends that, since I was very little, whenever something frightened me, I would run towards it. Others may hide and stay under the bed, but fear will never stop me from doing what I do.

    RAFAEL PI ROMAN: What are your hopes for the future of Cuba?

    YOANI SANCHEZ: I would be happy with a pluralistic Cuba, an inclusive Cuba that can fit all Cubans, basically, a Cuba that is difficult to govern, where there are long discussions in the legislature just to change one line of a law, and where those who govern don't see themselves as chosen messiahs or think they have the right to exercise any power, other than that granted them by the sovereign citizens.

    I would be happy with that, with a Cuba that accepts plurality and respects it.

    GWEN IFILL: To see more of that interview, you can follow a link on our website.

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    Grave markers on the National Mall; photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Volunteers place grave markers on the National Mall Thursday to remember victims of gun violence. Clergy from Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere will begin a 24-hour vigil to urge Congress into passing tougher gun laws. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    The U.S. Senate is expected to take a key procedural vote Thursday that would pave the way for debate to begin on new gun legislation, including a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks that was unveiled Wednesday.

    Family members of Sandy Hook shooting victims will spend a third day on Capitol Hill lobbying lawmakers in support of tougher gun control measures, while the Obama administration is working in public and behind the scenes to boost the legislation's prospects.

    Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in an appearance taped Wednesday that when it comes to gun legislation, members of Congress are playing catch-up with their constituents.

    "This is one of the cases where the public is so far ahead of the elected officials. I mean, so far ahead," Biden said. "You saw it in immigration. You saw it in marriage issues. You're seeing it now. The public has moved to a different place. And there is not one single thing we are suggesting, not one, the administration, in our proposal, not one single thing that anyone can make even a prima facie case that it impacts on the Second Amendment."

    (Gun legislation was also a topic of discussion Wednesday evening when President Barack Obama and a dozen GOP senators gathered at the White House for dinner.)

    A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Thursday found that 55 percent of Americans back stricter laws for the sale of firearms. That was down six points from February, following the Mr. Obama's call for a vote on measures to address gun violence in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

    The survey showed a sharp split among the two major political parties, with 82 percent of Democrats favoring tougher gun measures, but just 27 percent of Republicans saying the same. The gap in those numbers could foreshadow trouble ahead as debate on gun legislation moves forward.

    The major breakthrough Wednesday came from the announcement that Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., had reached a deal on a plan to expand background checks for firearm purchases at gun shows and over the Internet.

    "I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control. I think it's just common sense," Toomey told reporters. "If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun. It's no problem. It's the people who fail a criminal or a mental health background check that we don't want having guns."

    The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe and David Fahrenthold examined the role Manchin played in spearheading the agreement on background checks:

    For Manchin, that agreement was the payoff from months of relationship-building with Republicans, including nights of pizza and beer on a senator-stuffed boat called the Black Tie. The final deal was worked out over the past week, and concluded late Tuesday with a huddle at a rooftop birthday party for TV host Joe Scarborough.

    There, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to support the proposal -- but to skip the news conference so his enemies would not become the bill's enemies.

    Roll Call's Meredith Shiner also took note of Schumer's absence from the Toomey-Manchin news conference, despite his co-sponsoring of the background check provision. She reports:

    Toomey, the former Club for Growth president, had told Manchin he would not speak at the news conference if he had to get on stage with Schumer, according to two sources familiar with the talks. Schumer obliged, and Kirk also agreed not to appear in order to provide cover to Schumer.

    Despite showcasing just Manchin and Toomey, both of whom have received "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association, the compromise was rejected by the gun rights organization.

    "Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools," the NRA said in a statement.

    Chris Cox, the group's executive director, also wrote a letter to lawmakers putting them on notice that their "votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in NRA's future candidate evaluations."

    "This includes the misguided 'compromise' proposal drafted by Senators Joe Manchin, Pat Toomey and Chuck Schumer," Cox wrote.

    Groups on the left are also seeking to ramp up pressure ahead of Thursday's vote.

    The Democratic National Committee launched a website aimed at blocking a potential Republican filibuster in the Senate, urging supporters of tougher gun laws to tweet at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

    For the third day this week examining the guns issue, the NewsHour on Wednesday zeroed in on urban violence. Judy Woodruff spoke with Paul Barrett, author of "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun" and assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, and Del McFadden, outreach coordinator for the Columbia Heights-Shaw Collaborative in Washington, D.C.

    Both noted the risk factors in a community that may lead to violence. Still, Barrett said gun violence on the whole has lessened in the United States in recent years.

    Watch the segment here or below:

    Watch Video

    For more gun policy-related coverage on the NewsHour this week, watch this segment on recent developments in Arkansas and Maryland and a discussion on background checks with national leaders from a sportsmen's group and from law enforcement.


    Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee is splitting with his party leadership, criticizing the inclusion of chained CPI in Mr. Obama's budget.

    The Senate approved REI chief executive Sally Jewell as interior secretary in an 87-to-11 vote Wednesday.

    The Congressional Hispanic Caucus says it is encouraged by the Gang of Eight's priorities in its forthcoming proposal for immigration reform.

    Thursday's Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing for EPA nominee Gina McCarthy is expected to showcase a new Republican assault on Mr. Obama's second-term climate agenda.

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, again violated the "Hastert Rule" by allowing a vote on something the majority of his majority didn't support.

    Virginia Republicans are expected to wage a multibillion dollar attack on Democrat Terry McAuliffe for Mitt Romney-like remarks that he created 100,000 jobs, National Journal says. On Wednesday, the Washington Post published comments from Virginia economic development leaders that McAuliffe's company, GreenTech Automotive, was a "visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications." (Remember this Mark Leibovich profile of McAuliffe, highlighting the cheery, bipartisan opening of GreenTech in the New York Times Magazine last July? McAuliffe has since resigned as the company's chairman.)

    As GOP activists head to Los Angeles for the RNC's spring meeting Thursday, a group of state party leaders is planning to submit a marriage resolution, obtained by Yahoo! News, to "re-affirm conservative principles" on same-sex marriage.

    A state representative in Texas is attempting to restrict airport security personnel from obtrusive pat downs.

    Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad highlights the top five House rematches to keep your eye on this cycle.

    "I think we have a cacophany" on the Supreme Court during oral arguments, notably silent-on-the-bench Justice Clarence Thomas told a university crowd Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

    In a speech Wednesday at Howard University, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seemed to strike some common ground with the students, professors, alumni and community members of the historically black university. But he lost points after making remarks that didn't give the audience -- on a campus located four miles from Capitol Hill -- credit for knowing the history of African-Americans and the GOP. A claim that he never opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stirred up debate on Twitter. BuzzFeed has more.

    The White House chef faces furloughs because of sequestration.

    Dr. Benjamin Carson, the neurosurgeon who has found a political perch in right-wing outlets, has withdrawn from giving a graduation speech at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. He's facing criticism after he compared gay people to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality.

    There's drama brewing between female members of Congress playing in the softball game against female members of the press. This year could mark the first time two women running for the same seat play on the same team. (Full disclosure: Christina is on the press team.)

    Mr. Obama's budget would rename the Corporation for National and Community Service after George. H.W. Bush and give it $10 million.

    Sri Srinivasan's nomination to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seems uncontroversial after a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, a shift from the Republican opposition many of Mr. Obama's judicial nominees have faced.

    "I never remember David obtaining a tape of something the principal said at a faculty meeting," recalls New York Times reporter David Sanger about his White Plains High School classmate, David Corn. The Washington Post profiles the Mother Jones journalist in the wake of his second leaked recording scoop.

    Mad Magazine has already designed Anthony Weiner's mayoral campaign posters.


    Kwame Holman reported on the release of Mr. Obama's 2014 budget Wednesday, and Gwen Ifill followed with two interviews reacting to the proposal. Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the Republican Conference, struggled to name any winners in the budget proposal. Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council and an adviser to the president, highlighted that the proposal is more a compromise than an ideal solution. "Is it good for the American people?" he said. "That's going to require everyone to give a little and be unhappy on a few measures."

    Here's the coverage in full:

    Watch Video

    Margaret Warner looked at the collection of Cubist art bound for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    Rebecca Jacobson reports on cherry blossoms and cloning.


    When I was elected to the US Senate last November, I would have never guessed that my maiden speech would be about guns or gun violence

    — Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 10, 2013

    The president's DOJ budget is very heavy on new funds to combat gun violence. He is asking for $395 million more than 2012 enacted levels.

    — Jeremy P. Jacobs (@GreenwireJeremy) April 10, 2013

    Powerful - gun victims read names of all ppl killed SINCE Newtown. Going all night. YouTube.com/user/SenateDem...twitter.com/asatter/status...

    — Andrew Satter (@asatter) April 10, 2013

    Stoplights are useless.Only law-abiding drivers observe them!Why infringe on the freedom of those responsible drivers?

    — David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) April 10, 2013

    And now Rand Paul is quoting Toni Morrison.

    — Elahe Izadi (@ElaheIzadi) April 10, 2013

    Proud to be on board of advisors for @gov4youth - a great group with a smart idea to establish Presidential Youth Council.

    — Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) April 10, 2013

    .@steventdennis be honest: how excited are you every time a budget drops? on a scale of 1 to SQUEE

    — Neda Semnani (@Neda_Semnani) April 10, 2013

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

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

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