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- 04/17/13--15:40: _Supreme Court Rules...
- 04/17/13--15:47: _Writer Advocates 'C...
- 04/17/13--16:39: _Conflicting Reports...
- 04/18/13--03:54: _Texas Plant Blast K...
- 04/18/13--05:00: _The Evolving Immigr...
- 04/18/13--05:34: _Getting Chummy on C...
- 04/18/13--06:00: _How Are Drones Used...
- 04/18/13--06:31: _Gun Control Advocat...
- 04/18/13--07:37: _The Daily Frame
- 04/18/13--10:33: _Around the Nation
- 04/18/13--11:41: _The Chosen Few: A N...
- 04/18/13--13:15: _Obama Honors Victim...
- 04/18/13--13:27: _Group of Eight Sena...
- 04/17/13--11:15: Official: Suspect in Custody in Boston Bombings
- 04/17/13--13:54: Senate Blocks Expanded Gun Sale Background Checks
- 04/17/13--15:47: Writer Advocates 'Clean' Start for America on Addiction
- 04/17/13--16:39: Conflicting Reports on Alleged Boston Suspect Flood Social Media
- 04/18/13--03:54: Texas Plant Blast Kills Up to 15, Injures Hundreds
- 04/18/13--05:00: The Evolving Immigration Debate: Activism
- 04/18/13--05:34: Getting Chummy on Climate Change
- 04/18/13--06:00: How Are Drones Used in the U.S.?
- 04/18/13--06:31: Gun Control Advocates Lose 'Round One'
- 04/18/13--07:37: The Daily Frame
- 04/18/13--10:33: Around the Nation
- 04/18/13--11:41: The Chosen Few: A New Explanation of Jewish Success
- 04/18/13--13:15: Obama Honors Victims of Boston Bombing in Interfaith Service
3:07 p.m. ET | Police and reporters have gathered at the Boston courthouse, amid reports that a suspect has been taken custody, the Associated Press reports.
A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told the Associated Press on Wednesday that a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings had been taken into custody. But the FBI and the U.S. attorneys office dispute the claims.
The official spoke shortly after several media outlets reported that a suspect had been identified from surveillance video taken at a Lord & Taylor store between the sites of the two bomb blasts, which killed three people and wounded more than 170.
The official was not authorized to divulge details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The suspect was expected at a Boston courthouse, the official said.
A news briefing is scheduled later Wednesday.
Watch Video President Barack Obama expressed frustration Wednesday following the Senate defeat of the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would have expanded background checks. Obama was introduced by Mark Barden, the father of Sandy Hook victim Daniel Barden.
WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans, backed by rural-state Democrats, blocked legislation Wednesday to tighten restrictions on the sale of firearms, rejecting personal pleas made by families of the victims of last winter's mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Attempts to ban assault-style rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines also faced certain defeat in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided together to scuttle the plan.
The White House says President Barack Obama will deliver a statement on reducing gun violence Wednesday after a vote to expand background checks failed in the Senate.
The Senate vote was a major blow to Obama's push on gun control. Expanding background checks was the focal point of Obama's proposals drafted after the December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Vice President Joe Biden said just before the vote that tighter gun control measures will eventually pass, suggesting the White House wouldn't abandon its push even though the vote appeared headed toward failure.
Here's the basic layout of the series of votes expected to begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. Each needs 60 votes to pass.
DEFEATED: Manchin-Toomey amendment on background checks
DEFEATED: Leahy-Collins amendment to increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.
DEFEATED: Sen. John Cornyn's amendment "to allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms."
DEFEATED: Feinstein amendment to regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.
(PENDING): Sen. Richard Burr's amendment "to protect the Second Amendment rights of veterans and their families."
(PENDING): Lautenberg-Blumenthal amendment to regulate large capacity ammunition magazines.
(PENDING): Barrasso amendment to withhold 5 percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program Federal funding from States and local governments that release sensitive and confidential information on law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.
(PENDING): Sen. Tom Harkin and Sen. Lamar Alexander's amendment relative to mental health.
Senate continues to vote on all the amendments, a total of nine to the bill.
JEFFREY BROWN: The campaign for new curbs on guns ran into Senate opposition today that it could not overcome; 41 Republicans joined with five Democrats to kill the proposal that was thought to have the best chance of passing.
NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: This bill protects honest gun-loving, law-abiding citizens more than any piece of legislation we have had in the last two to three decades. And I think that people who've read the bill know that.
KWAME HOLMAN: West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin made a final impassioned plea with his Senate colleagues to support expanded background checks of would-be gun buyers at gun shows and online.
JOE MANCHIN: I understand that some of our colleagues believe that supporting this piece of legislation is risky politics. I think there's a time in our life that's a defining time in public service, a time when you have the ability to stand when you know the facts are on your side and walk into the lion's den, and look that lion in the eye, and tell that lion, listen, not today, not today.
KWAME HOLMAN: The proposal on background checks was put forward by Manchin and by Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey. It headlined a list of nine amendments to a broader gun control measure.
They included provisions offered by Democrats to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and a Republican-sponsored measure that says states must honor concealed firearm permits from other states.
That amendment was authored by John Cornyn of Texas.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: But a concealed handgun license is like a background check on steroids. It's far more intrusive into the privacy and the background of a person who applies for a handgun license. So, it ought to be something -- this standard ought to be one that those who support a robust background check regime could also support.
KWAME HOLMAN: California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, spoke in favor of the assault weapons ban she introduced.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif.: I do not believe that our values are stronger because we allow individuals to own weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible.
KWAME HOLMAN: But South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said the measures being touted by President Obama and most Democrats would do little to reduce gun violence.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: The president wanted three things done. He wanted to ban assault weapons. He wanted to limit magazine size -- sizes. And he wanted to impose a universal background check. Well, all three of those concepts are going to be on the floor of the United States Senate for a vote, and they're all going to lose. Why? Because they're not the solution to the problem we all face.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: On this vote, the yeas are 54, the nays are 46.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the end, as Vice President Biden presided, the background check amendment failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to pass. The concealed firearm measure and the ban on assault weapons also failed. But late in the day, Senate Democrats joined by family members of victims of gun violence pledged to keep up the fight.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: I want everyone to understand this is just the beginning. This is not the end. The forces at work to defeat this amendment became so obsessed with defeating any commonsense reforms whatsoever; they lost sight of the big picture.
KWAME HOLMAN: And President Obama spoke minutes later from the White House Rose Garden.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. We learned that tragically just two days ago.
But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand, if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future, while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try. And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.
KWAME HOLMAN: This was just the first day of voting. But after the string of defeats for gun control advocates, the fate of the overall bill was unclear.
GWEN IFILL: For more on what led up to the Senate action, we turn to two voices.
Lawrence Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry.
Thank you for joining us. We had thought -- we had heard from this bipartisan agreement that Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, this Democrat and the Republican, came up with on background checks, that this was finally the grand bargain. But it wasn't. What happened to that?
LAWRENCE KEANE, National Shooting Sports Foundation: Well, I think that there was never really enough votes, as we saw today, to pass their proposal.
And, you know, we believe that Sen. Manchin's intentions were honest, and he's not trying to infringe upon Second Amendment rights or anything like that. The problem we had from the industry's point of view with the legislation is that the bill prioritized background checks for gun shows over those taking place at storefront retailers, and that just wouldn't work for our members.
And we represent thousands and thousands of firearms retailers, and so we thought that was a problem. And actually it was even worse than that, because the way the language was drafted, it would require that all background checks at gun shows had to be completed before you could do a background check from a storefront FFL dealer.
And so that would shut down background checks on weekends for storefront dealers. That is unacceptable for our members.
GWEN IFILL: You heard what Sen. Graham just said, that the president had pushed for three things on gun control, and that's on the assault weapons ban, on this background check, and also -- I knew I was going to forget the third one, but ...
LAWRENCE KEANE: Banning ...
... sporting rifles, banning ...
GWEN IFILL: Magazines.
LAWRENCE KEANE: ... magazines and universal background checks, correct.
GWEN IFILL: You won on all three of those grounds. Why? And is there any gun control or this sort of gun control effort that you would support?
LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, I think it's important that we oppose bans on modern sporting rifles. They're the most popular rifles being sold in the United States today. Roughly half the people that buy them are current or former members of the military or law enforcement. They buy them for legitimate purposes, primarily for target shooting and increasingly to go hunting.
Members of the United States Senate and Congress own those firearms. Paul Ryan, for example, owns one of those and goes hunting with them. So ...
GWEN IFILL: That one was a forgone conclusion before, as were the magazine clips.
LAWRENCE KEANE: Right.
GWEN IFILL: But the background checks, not so much.
LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, our concern with the universal background checks is we think that the problem we see is that you have to fix the NICS system.
The background checks system we have now is broken. And that's why our industry thinks that the first thing you need to do is fix the NICS system, which is why our industry is funding an initiative to work at the grassroots level, to work with the states that are falling down on the jobs and not getting the background checks -- getting the information into the background check system.
The system is only as good as the information that's in it, and background checks that are incomplete and inaccurate don't help anybody. Having more of those background checks that are incomplete also doesn't help anybody.
GWEN IFILL: But, as far as you're concerned, even though the president -- or I guess it was Harry Reid said this is just round one -- both of them said it -- you think for the federal level this argument is over?
LAWRENCE KEANE: No, I don't think so at all.
I met with Sen. Reid today and Sen. Manchin. And so we believe that this is -- that the discussion is not over, and we don't believe the discussion should be over. The dialogue should continue.
Look, we all share the goal of wanting to make our communities safer, but reasonable minds can and do disagree about how best to achieve that. We don't agree with banning firearms or banning magazines or having so-called universal background checks, which are opposed by 86 percent of the firearms retailers in the United States.
And the president's proposals are also not supported by the men and women in law enforcement. Over 85 percent of the men and women in law enforcement do not support the president's proposal.
GWEN IFILL: But the president says 90 percent of Americans support it.
LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, I think you have -- I don't know that they understand exactly what is meant by universal background checks.
But from our point of view, from the industry's point of view, the problem is that you have to fix the NICS system first. So, we like some of the provisions that were in -- and we told Sen. Manchin and Sen. Toomey we like some of the provisions that were in his amendment.
We also -- similar provisions were in Sen. Grassley's proposal. We supported Senator Grassley's proposal. We think there can be common ground on things like fixing NICS and on getting the records into the system and providing resources for mental health, but we think that the common denominator in a number of these recent high-profile shootings is the mental health of the shooter.
And they're not getting the treatment they needed. They're not in the system. Or if they're the system, the records aren't showing up in the background checks.
GWEN IFILL: One Democrat who voted against this background check plan today, when he was asked -- he's – Sen. Max Baucus was asked, why did you vote again it? And he said Montana, which is his home state, very red state, and the president said this was all about politics.
How much of this was about the contents of this legislation and how much of it was about pure politics, you can't do it and go home and get reelected?
LAWRENCE KEANE: Well, I think that's -- look, it's Washington. The politics is always part of the discussion.
But for the industry, it's about the policy. We think the focus needs to be on fixing NICS. That's why we have our initiative. And we think the other part of it is that we need to address the mental health problems in this country. We think that that is an important issue that there's common ground on.
That's why we -- and we think we need the enforcement of the law. Part of the problem we see is that the background checks that occur now under current law, the people that fail it aren't being prosecuted. If you expand to so-called universal background checks, if you don't prosecute the people that fail the background checks, what's the point?
GWEN IFILL: Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, thank you so much for coming in.
LAWRENCE KEANE: It's a pleasure to spend time with you.
And now we're joined by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who is a Democrat from Connecticut. He joins us from Capitol Hill.
Sen. Blumenthal, there were members of the families from Newtown in the gallery today as this vote happened. What was the reaction?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn.: Today was heartbreaking for me, really sad and shocking, but the hardest part of it was to try to explain to those families how 90 percent of the American people could be in favor of background checks, criminal background checks for all firearms purchases, and the Senate failed to reach the necessary 60 votes.
And their reaction was absolutely inspiring. As one of them said to me -- when I said, we're coming back, she said to me, it's not even close. We're coming back. Not even close.
GWEN IFILL: What does that mean, coming back? After you failed to get the 60 votes necessary on not only this, but also on a number of other pieces of gun control legislation today, what does coming back look like?
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Coming back looks like persuading colleagues that the American people are not just in favor of background checks, illegal trafficking bans, and stronger school safety measures, along with a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but the American people are going to hold the Senate accountable and answerable between now and Election Day and on Election Day.
So I think that the resoluteness and resilience of the families has to be shown by elected leaders here. And if they show an ounce of courage that these families have shown, they will vote for these measures the next time around.
And the leader, Majority Leader Reid, has indicated there's no question that we will have more votes.
GWEN IFILL: But, Senator, you pulled out all the stops this time. We saw the Newtown families making the rounds face to face, meeting with senators. The president came out numerous time and showed his passion, went to Connecticut, met with the families, brought them here on Air Force One, and yet you were not able to persuade enough of your colleagues this time around.
What will be different?
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Gwen, four months ago, this issue was thought to be politically untouchable.
And just about a week ago, the goal of 60 votes to continue the debate was thought to be unreachable. There has been a seismic change in the political landscape, and it is still changing. So I think there is the real possibility that people are going to be listening to constituents back home who will learn for the first time that a majority of votes in the Senate isn't good enough to get action.
And that is a fundamental indictment of our democracy to say that 55 or 54 votes in the United States Senate to save lives and make our neighborhoods safer and keep faith with the families of Newtown, as well as the 3,400 other victims of gun violence since then, is not enough to seek and get action.
And I will just say one other thing. You know, what you have just heard about improving the NICS system, absolutely right. There is common ground here. We do need to improve the amount and accuracy of information going into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
It's the lifeblood of the background checks that are used to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. But we can do that and improve the background checks so as to cover all firearm purchases. We can have more prosecution.
I'm a former prosecutor. I was the United States attorney for four-and-a-half years in Connecticut and then the attorney general of our state for 20 years. So I believe in more prosecutions.
GWEN IFILL: Senator, I guess I understand what you're saying. But I have heard you say it before and others say it before. I'm trying to figure out how the arguments or the dispute here is any different than it has been in past years when you have brought gun legislation to the fore.
It hasn't -- it's been rolled back, and then you have gone back to your corners and nothing else has happened. The president seemed frustrated today, but I'm not quite certain how you change minds.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: This time, we're not going back to our corners, if that's happened in the past.
Certainly, what you heard today from two of the highest leaders in our country are a resoluteness and determination that perhaps hasn't been present before. And, tragically, Gwen, we will have more killings. We will have more mass shootings. They will result from assault weapons and from high-capacity magazines.
But, most important, they will result from criminals having their hands on these weapons of war, not only the assault weapons, but also handguns and other weapons that have to be kept out of their hands.
GWEN IFILL: Let me judge you what I just asked Lawrence Keane from the shooters association. How much of this is simply pure politics?
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: You know, there were some profiles in courage today on the floor of the United States Senate.
There were also some folks who maybe were a little bit more fearful and apprehensive than they need to be, because the special interests here have managed to mobilize a small, vehement, vocal part of the population, some concentrated in some states.
But at the end of the day, it takes a majority to win an election, and I think they're going to hear from the majority.
GWEN IFILL: Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thank you for joining us.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The investigation into the killings of a north Texas district attorney, his wife and an assistant prosecutor took a new turn today.
Authorities said Kim Williams, the wife of a former justice of the peace, has been charged with capital murder. Investigators had been focusing on her husband, Eric Williams. He was arrested Saturday for making threats. The murdered officials prosecuted Williams for computer theft last year. He was convicted and lost his elected position.
The U.S. Supreme Court has sent down new guidelines for handling suspected drunken drivers. A decision today said in most such cases, police must try to get a search warrant before ordering blood tests. That's already the case in about half the states. The state of Missouri and the Obama administration wanted a blanket rule allowing the blood tests without a warrant.
Thousands of people in Southwestern Pakistan were homeless today 24 hours after a powerful earthquake rocked neighboring Iran. At least 700 homes in the Mashkel area of Balochistan province were reduced to rubble. Some 35 Pakistanis were killed in the quake, and another 150 were injured. The Pakistani army said it deployed several hundred soldiers to the quake zone to bring much-needed humanitarian relief.
In the Middle East, Islamist militants fired at least two rockets from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula into southern Israel, adding to growing security concerns there. They targeted the resort town of Eilat. But police officials said there were no casualties. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza marked Prisoner Day, urging Israel to release Palestinian detainees. They waved flags and carried pictures of some of the 4,500 Palestinians in custody.
New Zealand became the 13th country in the world today and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers voted 77-44 in favor of the measure. New Zealand has had civil unions since 2005, but the new law will allow couples to adopt children and have their marriages recognized by other countries. It takes effect in late August.
On Wall Street, a new sell-off pushed stocks down, amid new signs of economic weakness in Europe and lackluster reports from Bank of America and Apple. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 138 points to close at 14,618. The Nasdaq fell nearly 60 points to close at 3,204.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: In Boston today, confusion erupted over conflicting accounts that there had been a major break in the investigation of the bombings earlier this week.
Early this afternoon, crowds gathered outside the federal courthouse in South Boston, amid reports that a suspect had been identified by security camera video, then arrested and even taken to court. But the FBI shot down claims that anyone was in custody, and it issued a statement that said, in part: "Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media to exercise caution and attempt to verify information."
MAN: Another 100 hundred yards back.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Bureau also put off an afternoon briefing, citing a bomb scare that forced everybody out of the courthouse.
Earlier, the FBI released photos of remnants of the bombs made out of pressure cookers and the black nylon bags that concealed them. One of the pressure cooker lids was catapulted to a nearby rooftop. And investigators kept sifting the crime scene for more clues today. All three people killed in the bombings have now been identified, eight-year old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University.
Last night, neighbors and friends of Martin Richard and his family held a candlelight vigil near a baseball diamond and field where he used to play.
DARRAGH MURPHY, Boston: Everybody knows them, everybody loves them. It's just unthinkable, such -- you know, anybody's little boy was our little boy.
JEFFREY BROWN: Boston Common was the site of another vigil last night. Several hundred turned out to sing and pay tribute to those killed and the more than 170 injured.
KISHA WILSON, Boston: Bostonians and people who are here are resilient, and we come together in the hardest times and the best times, so, you know, it's still great to be a Bostonian.
JEFFREY BROWN: And in Washington today, Secretary of State John Kerry, who also calls Boston home, spoke emotionally at a congressional hearing.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: The granddaughter of a very, very close supporter and friend of mine through all of my political career is fighting to keep both of her legs. The -- Boston is not going to be intimidated by this. But we're going to find out who did this.
JEFFREY BROWN: Many of the injured who were treated at area hospitals have now been released. But doctors said a number are facing new surgeries and other threats.
DR. PETER BURKE, Boston Medical Center: So, now what we're doing with these patients is evaluating their wounds to see -- making sure that there's not any other processes going on, trying to prevent infection, and allowing them to be -- for these wounds to heal and then eventually for these patients to have their wounds closed and then start the rehabilitation process.
JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, makeshift memorials sprang up at the entrance of the still-closed Boylston Street, where the marathon had its finish line. People left flowers, flags, posters, and race medals. And there were memorials of another kind from runners.
ANDY ZISKIND, Boston: I was trying to run along the river, and I kind of felt an obligation to run along the boundary of the police cordon. I just felt like something that is drawing runners to respect the people that were hurt and respect the people in the race.
JEFFREY BROWN: Elsewhere in the nation, tensions remained high. In Oklahoma City, where a truck bombing killed 168 people in 1995, buildings were evacuated after a U-Haul truck was parked outside City Hall. It turned out to be empty.
And we're joined from Boston once again tonight by David Boeri, a reporter for WBUR Public Radio. He's been covering the turn of events all day.
Well, David, a very confusing day. What is the latest about whether anyone is now in custody or identified as a suspect? What can you tell us?
DAVID BOERI, WBUR Public Radio: Jeff, at this point, both the FBI and the U.S. attorney here in Boston insist there have been no arrests made. Nobody is in custody.
However, there is a lot of confusion regarding this and reports that we have had throughout the day.
JEFFREY BROWN: What about -- some of these reports involve images that were caught of somebody with the bag that has now been identified.
DAVID BOERI: We started the day with news report that the detonation for those pressure cookers had been a timing device, that a circuit board had been found and it was a timing device. So far, so good.
Then we started to get reports independently that there had been images of a man seen putting a duffel bag close to one of the areas where the bombing took place, and also that there was an image, that there was great surveillance video from a Lord & Taylor shop that was near the area that had also shown activity.
Then that led to reports, again by a number of independent sources, that there had been an arrest made. So the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office came in, knocked the story down. However, I had gone over to the U.S. courthouse here, being told in fact that there was an arrest, and while I was there, I was told by two senior judges and two other senior officials that in fact they had been told to prepare for somebody being brought over in connection to the bombing.
A courthouse -- a courtroom was being prepared, and they were even preparing an overflow courtroom at the time. That's when we got a code red alert in the courthouse. An evacuation took place, an evacuation because a threat that had been -- that had been made that was deemed credible and the building was evacuated at that point.
And, by the way, that building has the U.S. attorney's office in it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, all of these reports coming out, rumors swirling, law enforcement officials are clearly quite upset with news organizations for getting too far ahead of things.
DAVID BOERI: That's true.
We were lectured by the FBI national headquarters. And also the U.S. attorney's office here said, we don't know where the story came from. And yet I can tell you that, at the courthouse, two senior judges and two other senior officials told me they had been told, prepare, we are bring somebody over.
I think, perhaps, we can say from this it would be an indication maybe there's nobody in custody, maybe no arrests have been made, but perhaps we are close to some real progress in this case that might involve an arrest. But there is none now.
The press conference that the U.S. attorney had called for this afternoon was postponed. We don't know when it will take place. The courthouse is closed. The public will not be allowed there tonight. So it wouldn't seem that anything is going to happen at the courthouse either.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, hearing different versions or different reports come out, it is clear who is in charge? Is the FBI in charge of this?
DAVID BOERI: The FBI is supposed to be in charge of this, but as that bomb threat, that code red alert indicated, with the U.S. attorney's office being forced to evacuate, there's a lot of turmoil here right now, a lot of confusion.
One would think that they will have a press conference soon because they need to address some of these reports that were made by a number of independent sources that indicated that they had somebody. Perhaps it wasn't an arrest, perhaps nobody in custody. There's the possibility that they're talking to somebody voluntarily and may be close to something.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, they had canceled or at least postponed that late afternoon news conference, but they may still talk tonight?
DAVID BOERI: We are waiting for them. They said that it was postponed. Well, if it's postponed, it will be rescheduled for tonight. But it hasn't been rescheduled yet.
And there is -- at the same time, Jeff, there's a tremendous amount of work being done on the images. They have a terrific amount of images right now. And, as one expert -- as one forensic expert told me, Boston is now the most photographed crime scene in history.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, we talked a little bit about this yesterday, they, of course, law enforcement asking for the public to help. So these images are coming from the public. They're coming from local stores. They're coming where? Give us a sense.
DAVID BOERI: That's right, from both, from individuals, from stores, from surveillance cameras.
If I can give you an example, Jeff, the closest analog to this is what happened in the city of Vancouver two years ago. After it happens the Bruins beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup, fans rioted in downtown Vancouver. They set fires. They overturned cars. They broke glass. It was a chaotic moment.
The police there put out a call for photos and videos. They obtained 5,000 hours of video and over 100,000 photos. They then brought in national experts. There were 53 experts that worked full-time for three weeks. And at the end of the time, they had identified 15,000 criminal acts. Of course, this behavior is explicit -- but 15,000 criminal acts.
They tagged the individuals, and they made charges that brought over 350 people into court. This is far bigger, but that's an example of what you can do with photograph and -- photographs and photographic analysis.
JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, David, yesterday we talked about the crime scene. Is it still as large as it was?
DAVID BOERI: The crime scene is very large.
Of course, they're working in that close area where the two bomb blasts were. Fortunately, we have not had really bad weather. Rain was expected last night. Often, rain will ruin -- it is considered to have ruined a crime scene. It didn't happen. There has been some wind, but they still have that crime scene. It is still relatively intact.
JEFFREY BROWN: David Boeri, WBUR, thank you very much once again.
DAVID BOERI: You're welcome.
GWEN IFILL: And we turn now to a story adding to what was already a tense day on Capitol Hill.
Hari is back with our look.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington and around the country, authorities chased reports of suspicious letters and packages today. At the U.S. Capitol, police briefly evacuated parts of two Senate office buildings, but they offered little information.
OFFICER SHENNELL ANTROBUS, U.S. Capitol Police: Capitol Police is responding to a suspicious envelope. We're currently conducting an investigation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In all, there were three questionable packages, including one sent to Alabama Republican Richard Shelby. And at the White House, the Secret Service intercepted a letter.
JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: There was a letter sent to, addressed to the president that at an off-site mail facility was noticed to have contained a suspicious substance, and tests were undergone -- undertaken.
HARI SREENIVASAN: New accounts said the letter tested positive initially for ricin, a deadly poison. So did a letter to Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker that surfaced yesterday at a Senate mail facility in Maryland.
But officials cautioned, initial tests are often wrong, and more conclusive testing was in progress. The FBI did say both envelopes were postmarked from Memphis, Tenn. and contained a message that read -- quote -- "To see a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance." They were signed, "I am K.C. and I approve this message."
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said police have a suspect in mind, but she offered no details. In Phoenix, Ariz., and Saginaw, Mich., investigators examined two more letters sent to local offices of Senators Jeff Flake and Carl Levin. For now, though, the FBI said there is no evidence of a connection between the letters and the Boston bombings.
For more on how the investigation is being viewed on Capitol Hill, we are joined by Todd Zwillich. He's Washington correspondent for "The Takeaway" on Public Radio International and WNYC.
So, Todd, what's the latest that you're hearing from authorities?
TODD ZWILLICH, “The Takeaway”: Well, not much beyond what you just described in the piece, Hari.
I will say it is an odd day on Capitol Hill, between questions coming from the Boston bombing, suspicious packages, letters being delivered by hand to offices, including Sen. Shelby's, a ricin letter towards the White House, and one to the Capitol mail-handling facility out of Washington, D.C.
It has everybody on edge, and, in fact, people in the normal sort of conversations and normal execution of the news around here haven't really had a chance to focus down on one thing. The gun votes are going on, on the floor. People want to know what's the latest with the ricin letters. Does anybody know anything about Boston? Will Boston affect the debate on guns or immigration?
It's been that kind of day, really unusual and a little tense, I'm afraid.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Todd, earlier in the piece, we focused on the gun conversation. Some of the family members of the Newtown victims were also in the gallery while all this was happening? Is that right?
TODD ZWILLICH: They were, family members of Newtown victims, also Aurora, Phoenix, from many of the gun tragedies that we have had in this country over the last couple of years.
And many of those families, several of them, I should say, off the Senate floor after the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey gun amendments greeted – Sen. Manchin, Sen. Reid, the majority leader, Sen. Schumer, and other Democrats came and greeted them sort of off to the distance, near the cameras, pledging not to give up. And it was sort of a photo-op, but also a pretty sensitive moment.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, a lot of folks remember after 9/11 the stretch of time when there were these anthrax letters delivered.
What has Capitol Hill done since then? How has the process changed to try to protect people?
TODD ZWILLICH: Well, you're seeing that in -- with these reports of the letter to Sen. Wicker and also with certain things with Sen. Shelby.
After 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, mail handling on the Hill was moved way off the Hill. There is a mail screening and handling facility in Prince George's County, which is in Maryland, over the District line, far, far away, several miles away from the Capitol.
It was there where the letter containing -- which wound up containing ricin powder was discovered and tested. That facility was shut down. Those mail handlers notified the Capitol Police, who in turn notified the senators and eventually the media. Those are the precautions that were taken after the anthrax attacks.
There was a ricin attack also in 2004 where an envelope was sent to Sen. Bill Frist, at the time the majority leader, also contained ricin powder. You cannot send mail to Capitol Hill now without it being pre-screened, whether that's a package, whether that's a letter.
Everyone who works around here knows that even if you work around here and you just want Best Buy to send your order to work because that's easier, don't do it. It will take weeks because of the screening.
One of the issues with the letter that you described that gave a scare today in Sen. Shelby's office wasn't that -- as I understand it, that the letter itself was suspicious. It's that it was handed off in person. Somebody walked into the office, handed the letter to a receptionist or whoever was at the desk.
That's a violation of protocol because it's not screened. That's why it was suspicious. It gave people and the police pause. It was cleared relatively quickly because there was no suspicious powder or anything else, but it was on this day, these couple of days in tension to hand off a letter in person that gets around the screening process made people step back a bit.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, and so what was noticeable today, besides that anxiety that you are describing? How were the staffers that you bumped into all day?
TODD ZWILLICH: I have to say that staffers around here take this kind of thing in stride.
A lot of the staffers around here and a lot of journalists were around for the anthrax attacks, when those letters were opened in offices, when people were quarantined, they were forced or asked to take antibiotics; there were hazmat teams in white and yellow suits running around. This has been nothing like that.
Yes, it makes people a little bit tense, but the removal of mail handling off the Capitol Hill complex and into Maryland I think gives people, at least around here, a measure of security because they know, in this case, that while it is a threat on Sen. Wicker's office in this case, it never got close to them personally. And I think that makes people feel a lot better.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Todd Zwillich from Public Radio International and WNYC, thanks so much.
TODD ZWILLICH: Pleasure, Hari.
GWEN IFILL: In London today, final goodbyes were said at Margaret Thatcher's funeral.
We begin with a report from Gary Gibbon of Independent Television News.
GARY GIBBON: Twenty-three years after she left Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher passed one last time, crowds three deep near Parliament, now five deep and breaking into applause.
At Saint Paul's Cathedral, world leaders past and present were arriving to take their seats, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. At the RAF church Saint Clement Danes, the coffin was placed on a gun carriage, the stuff of royal funerals given to few commoners.
The crowds were now sometimes 10 deep, some wiping away the tears. In an echo of the state funeral the queen granted Winston Churchill in 1965, Margaret Thatcher's coffin was carried up the steps to Saint Paul's.
The queen and Prince Philip sat across from the Thatcher family. The first reading was given by Margaret Thatcher's 19-year-old granddaughter, who was born in America and is now a student there.
AMANDA THATCHER, Granddaughter of Margaret Thatcher: Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.
GARY GIBBON: David Cameron, who spent his early years as Tory leader trying to distance himself from Margaret Thatcher, gave the second lesson.
PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, Britain: Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God believe also in me.
GARY GIBBON: Margaret Thatcher's favorite hymns peppered the service, details of this mourning planned with the palace and Downing Street in the years after she lost power.
As the coffin left the cathedral, some of her supporters outside cheered; 48 years since she last attended the funeral of one of her prime ministers, the queen stood again on the same steps where she said goodbye to Winston Churchill.
The queen talked briefly to the Thatcher family on the cathedral steps. It may be no politician ever has a send-off like this again.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, for some in the United Kingdom, however, Margaret Thatcher's funeral was cause for protest.
PROTESTERS: Waste of money!
JEFFREY BROWN: Small groups gathered along the procession route in London, chanting and raising placards, to criticize the policies of the former prime minister and complain that the government was footing at least some of the bill for the funeral.
REBECCA LOSHBLOOM, Protester: I saw a leader who was cozying up to dictators, who couldn't -- who refused to implement sanctions against apartheid era South Africa, who caused enormous division within our society, made the rich richer and the poor poorer.
MAN: I don't want history written by Cameron and the Conservative Party. I want to say, actually, there's a different story. There's a story where she divided this country.
JEFFREY BROWN: The protests in London were relatively peaceful. Police there made no arrests.
Larger concentrations of Thatcher critics gathered in mining communities like Yorkshire and were much more vocal. Some who blame Thatcher for the collapse of the local mining industry held a mock funeral and burned an effigy of the country's first female leader.
GWEN IFILL: We turn now to the Supreme Court, which ruled today that foreign nationals cannot sue U.S. corporations in human rights disputes.
Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal joins me with more.
Start by explaining the parameters of this case. We talked about it briefly some time ago.
MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal: OK.
Well, this started actually in 2002. Twelve Nigerian nationals brought a lawsuit in federal court here in the United States against three oil companies. They claimed that the oil company had enlisted the aid of the Nigerian military to suppress opposition to the oil company's drilling in a region in Nigeria called the Ogoni region, and that the military had used torture, executions, and arbitrary detentions to do that.
And they brought their lawsuit under a 1789 federal law called the Alien Tort Statute, probably one of the oldest laws on the books in the United States. It was enacted by the first Congress of the United States.
GWEN IFILL: And what was that designed to do?
MARCIA COYLE: Well, it's -- there's some debate as to really what its purpose was, but the statute is very simple.
It has one sentence that says that federal courts have jurisdiction when aliens bring claims for basically injuries caused by violations of international law or treaties.
GWEN IFILL: The court said today that didn't apply in this case? Was it a question about, is there was really a human rights dispute or a jurisdictional one?
MARCIA COYLE: It is a human rights dispute, but it also very much involved interpretation of this very old statute.
The chief justice wrote the main opinion for the court. And he applied a canon of statutory interpretation that's a judge-made doctrine known as a presumption against extraterritoriality. And what that means is that the court looks at a statute, and says unless it's really clear on the face of the statute that Congress intended the law to apply to conduct that happened outside of the United States, there's a presumption against it applying that way.
So the chief justice examined the history of the statute, the text, and the purposes, and he said there was no indication that it should apply to conduct that happened outside of the United States.
GWEN IFILL: Have there been examples in the past where this act has been used for cases like this?
MARCIA COYLE: Oh, absolutely.
In fact, it has become a major tool of human rights organizations and human rights lawyers to try to bring, in most recent years, multinational corporations into court when, as the claim was here, they have apparently worked or allegedly worked in concert with foreign military or foreign governments that engaged in human rights abuses.
And it's been -- the law itself wasn't used much until 1980, and that's when the Supreme Court itself found that -- it upheld the law being used by Paraguayan citizens who sued a Paraguayan military officer for torture that occurred in Paraguay.
GWEN IFILL: So in not allowing it to be used that way this time, was the court -- this was a blow to human rights activists, I presume?
MARCIA COYLE: Absolutely.
As I said, it's become a major tool to bring corporations and others to justice in the United States. The court said today that it doesn't apply to conduct that occurs abroad, outside of the United States. And so, human rights groups see this as a serious blow.
But they do see a ray of hope in some of what was written in the different opinions today.
GWEN IFILL: Well, I want to get to that in a moment, but I'm curious, unless this is the answer to that question. Is there another legal path for redress? If you still -- if you are a foreign national, and you feel that somehow a U.S. corporation has wronged you in another country, other than the Alien Tort Act, is there another way?
MARCIA COYLE: There aren't many ways.
There is a possibility that they may be able to find something under state laws in this country. But this -- this is really the major tool. And it's not just U.S. corporations. We're talking about multinational corporations, some really foreign-based corporations that have maybe a small presence in the United States.
The chief justice said it's not going to be sufficient that you just -- that a foreign corporation has an office in the United States for you to be able to bring this suit in U.S. court. This presumption is a big bar, and you have to show that there are sufficient contacts with the United States in order to overcome that presumption.
GWEN IFILL: I assume what you were alluding to just now is the unusual unanimity of the ruling, yet not all for the same reasons.
MARCIA COYLE: No, no.
All of the justices agreed that this particular case could not go forward because it involved foreign plaintiffs, foreign defendants, and conduct that happened abroad.
Chief Justice Roberts and four other justices, Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, all agreed with the chief's analysis that this presumption against the law applying outside the United States was the right way to analyze it. But Justice Breyer, writing for the three remaining justices, thought that wasn't the right way to analyze this.
He would apply the -- he would say federal courts can hear these claims, one, if the defendant in the case is an American national, if the conduct occurred in the United States, but also -- and this is where he really differed with the other justices -- also if there was danger that the United States was going to become a safe harbor for torturers or, as he called them, the common enemy of mankind.
So he saw it as a little broader. Justice Kennedy, who agreed with the chief justice's analysis, also wrote separately to say that he thought the opinion was cautious and left open many questions as to how to really interpret the Alien Tort Statute, and there might be a small category of cases that the court's opinion today doesn't cover.
GWEN IFILL: In the future.
Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal, thank you so much.
MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure, Gwen.
JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, a new book argues that blaming addicts for their addictions could hurt people's chances for getting clean.
Judy Woodruff has our conversation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Drug abuse and substance addiction costs the United States nearly $600 billion dollars a year. They kill at least 320 Americans a day. And 90 percent of addicts start using drugs or alcohol before the age of 18.
That is despite a long battle launched by President Richard Nixon more than 40 years ago and decades of subsequent efforts and numerous programs to tackle the problem.
In a new book, writer and journalist David Sheff argues that many of our failed efforts stem from the wrong approaches and a misunderstanding of the disease. His book "Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy" is a follow-up to his bestselling memoir, "Beautiful Boy," which documented his own son's struggle with addiction to heroin and crystal meth.
David Sheff, welcome.
DAVID SHEFF, "Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy": Well, thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you did write this earlier book about your son. Why the second book?
DAVID SHEFF: Well, the -- when my son became addicted, we were blindsided.
And we thought -- it was such a horrible, horrible experience. My son was dying. He was on the streets. This was this great kid who every parent can relate to. He was this great student, this athlete. And suddenly he wasn't only smoking some pot, which is pretty common, and having -- drinking, but before I knew it, he was shooting crystal meth.
He was on the streets. He was breaking into our house. So, something had happened, and it was baffling. We had no idea what to do. And we tried to get help. And it took us 10 years how to figure out how to help someone with this problem. And I realized the system was a mess.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You say in the book that one in every 12 Americans over the age of 12 is addicted. That is astonishing.
And yet we're not hearing about drug addiction that much anymore. And you say the approach that this country is taking is all wrong. Explain.
DAVID SHEFF: It is all wrong.
Part of the reason -- and you're right -- we don't talk about it and we don't acknowledge it, and part of the reason is because people with this disease are judged and they're blamed, and it's seen as a moral failing. It's seen as a choice.
If you're having problems in your life because you're using drugs or you're drinking, stop. Well, people who are addicted would stop if they could. So they hide. And there's this enormous shame and this guilt and this blame around this problem, which doesn't exist with any other disease.
So, we don't talk about it. And, in the meantime, there are 20 million Americans who are addicted and 100 million family members. And part of the reason is that we look at this, and as a culture and as a society, we treat if it's as a criminal problem, as if it's a problem about morals.
And there's a stigma around it. But, in fact, this is a health problem, and it's a health crisis.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You go on and you talk about the approach that's needed, that it needs to be a much more evidence-based approach. And yet so much of what we're familiar with is programs like AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous.
And yet you say those programs help some addicts, but they don't help many others.
DAVID SHEFF: One of the big problems with the treatment system is not that AA is available and that it's prevalent. It saves the lives of many people.
One of my dearest friends is alive only because of AA. But it doesn't help a lot of people. And everyone is different, and everyone needs different kinds of treatments. And so what happens now is since most of the rehabs in America are based on this one paradigm, people go into treatment, it doesn't work for them. They are blamed for it. They're kicked out. They go back and they relapse.
They think -- they have this -- it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're not going to get well. They feel like they're not going to get well. They won't get treated. They use more drugs, and it's a cycle that ends up killing, as you said, 320 people a day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You do make a point -- and you just said it again a couple of times -- that addiction is not a moral failing or a shortcoming.
There are reviewers of your book who say that you -- that there should be some weight put on this argument that people make a choice. When they first go, turn to drugs, turn to alcohol, they're making that choice, and, therefore, they bear some responsibility for what's happened.
DAVID SHEFF: I totally get that.
The problem with that is think about 10 kids who go out after school and they go to the playground, or wherever they go, and they all smoke a joint. One of those kids is going to become addicted. So all of those kids made that choice. That one kid didn't make the choice to become addicted.
The reason that he becomes addicted is because his brain is different. His neurological system is different. It responds to drugs. It doesn't process them the same as everybody else. So that's not a choice. And it's -- and that's the problem, is that we look at it -- many of us look at it as a choice, and, therefore, we blame people for becoming addicted, and we blame them when they don't get well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you say to individuals who have an addiction problem or their loved ones, their family members who -- while we're waiting for the system to get better to treat them, what do they do now? Where do they turn?
DAVID SHEFF: Well, it's hard.
And, first of all, the first thing I tell people that are going through this is to get support. Just ...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Where?
DAVID SHEFF: Well, if you're a parent, there are -- there is a 12-step organization, Al-Anon.
Also, there's therapy. I -- my wife and I were in therapy, family therapy. We wouldn't have survived it. But if you need treatment for somebody, because the system is in such disarray, the one place to start is, if you had cancer, if you had heart disease, you know where to start. You go to a doctor.
Well, you need to go to a doctor here. And there are doctors who are trained in addiction medication -- in addiction medicine. That's where you have to go. There's a listing on the Web at the American Society of Addiction Medicine. That's where you go. You get assessed. Find out, is there a problem, how serious is the problem, what to do about it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Call a doctor, go to the Web, get information, get help.
DAVID SHEFF: That's right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Reach out.
DAVID SHEFF: Yes. It's a disease.
It's what you would do -- once we understand that this is a disease, it's a brain disease, then we have a -- we know what to do. When you're sick, you call the doctor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Sheff, author of the book "Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy," thank you.
DAVID SHEFF: Judy, well, thank you very much.
The Boston Police Department sent this tweet after a flurry of conflicting reports from several media organizations.
Editor's note: PBS NewsHour subscribes to the Associated Press wire, which we rely on for national and international reporting. NewsHour tweeted AP's initial alert reporting an "imminent arrest" regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, but when it seemed that there was some confusion we refrained from further updates.
In the span of about an hour on Wednesday, reports clashed regarding whether an arrest had been made in the Boston Marathon bombing.
It's unclear why such confusion erupted. But perhaps the biggest issue was a lack of credible sourcing, as news organizations reporting on an arrest sourced each other or unnamed sources. A misunderstanding over "custody" verses "arrest" could also be the culprit of the confusion, as Al Tompkins from the journalism institute Poynter tweeted. At publish time, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Boston are denying that a suspect is in custody.
The online community began speculating about a possible suspect in the bombing Wednesday morning when the Atlantic Wire pointed to security footage that had been posted on the Reddit sub-forum "Find Boston Bombers".
By the afternoon, a flurry of arrest reports started hitting Twitter. At 1:42 p.m. ET, AP reported via tweet: "Arrest imminent." Ten minutes later the Boston Globe tweeted that an arrest had been made. A few moments after that, CNN chimed in with news that law enforcement sources were confirming an arrest.
NBC, followed by CBS, NPR and Reuters countered with reports that no arrest had yet been made. Within the hour AP, CNN and the Boston Globe began to retract their original reports. The confusion finally ended at 2:33 p.m. ET when the Boston Police Department, the ultimate source in this case, reported that no suspect had yet been arrested.
View the Storify timeline below on the conflicting breaking news reports. [View the story "Timeline of Conflicting Reports on Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect" on Storify]
Local roofer Tony LeNoir explains how he's helping the small Texas town of West recover after a fertilizer plant exploded Wednesday evening.
A massive explosion tore through the West Fertilizer Co. plant in the town of West, in central Texas near Waco, on Wednesday injuring more than 100, destroying several buildings, and sending potentially toxic fumes into the air, according to authorities.
Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton described ongoing search-and-rescue efforts as "tedious and time-consuming," noting crews had to shore up much of the wreckage before going in.
Area resident Tony LeNoir, a local roofer, rushed into action as soon as he heard about the explosion. He posted an offer of help on his company's Facebook page: "Anyone in West that needs tarps or plywood call my office ... We have crews ready to help. No charge people!"
Shortly after posting, LeNoir, 44, went toward the site and began using plywood to stabilize collapsing buildings and board up windows and doors that had been blown out by the blast.
"We're lost for words right now. We're still trying to find people. People are missing," LeNoir told the PBS NewsHour. "It's like a tornado hit. It's like a warzone."
Police say there is no evidence of foul play.
Media sources are continuing to update the situation.
AP has a cell phone video of the explosion and will continue to update their story.
Kirsten Crow, a Waco crime reporter has been tweeting updates all night.
PBS NewsHour Desk Assistant Laura Sciuto contributed to this report.
Hari Sreenivasan talks with Cook Co. commissioner Jesus Garcia about the changing debate over immigration.
The last time the nation heard the terms "amnesty" and "pathway to citizenship" batted around with such frequency was seven years ago, in the year leading up to the ultimately doomed Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The bill was a compromise championed by then-President George W. Bush that called for stronger border security and workplace enforcement laws, and would have led to legal status for immigrants in the U.S. without documentation.
The arguments on both sides sounded a whole lot like they do today. At the time, the NewsHour ran a series of one-on-one discussions, called "Immigration Insights," with individuals exploring the concept of reform through the lens of their own involvement with immigrants.
Today, with comprehensive reform once again reportedly around the corner, we decided to go back to some of the same individuals (along with some new faces) and ask what's changed -- and what hasn't -- seven years later. Does today's political landscape feel like history repeating itself? Have their attitudes toward immigration changed?
When Gwen Ifill spoke with Mexican immigrant Jesus Garcia in 2006, he was busy organizing marches in his adopted city of Chicago to protest parts of proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have cracked down on penalties for immigrants.Watch Video
Gwen Ifill speaks with Mexican immigrant Jesus Garcia on Aug. 18, 2006.
The House bill would ultimately fail to become law. But the marches, Garcia said at the time, "changed the nature of the debate on immigration." He explained: "Since the marches occurred in historic proportions all over the country, we saw the Senate rise and take a position recognizing that legalization of this undocumented immigrant population is something that has to happen, that it is realistic, and that is good for America."
Protesters in Chicago's Union Park May 1, 2006. Photo: Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images
At the time, Garcia also accused some of the "far-fringe" groups of trying "to whip up fear" in the 2006 debate with anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Garcia, now the Cook County Commissioner for the Seventh District of Chicago, tells Hari Sreenivasan that he views the playing field today differently. "I think there's been a tremendous sea change in the conversation."
In large part, he credits November's presidential election for the change. "The Latino vote emerged as a very strategic ... player in the future of the country's national election," Garcia says. "Particularly important is the fact the Republican Party has taken note of that."
"I think there's been a tremendous sea change in the conversation." --Jesus Garcia
In 2011, under Garcia's leadership, the county passed an ordinance to stop complying with detainment requests from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for suspected immigrants jailed on other charges. Garcia said he pushed for the measure after seeing hundreds of people detained for "very small infractions" such as traffic violations, and "because of their immigrant status being arrested and detained at county jail." Now, he says that Cook County is able to guarantee the rights of everyone who lives here, "including immigrants who may not be documented."
Garcia calls the current atmosphere in Washington "very constructive," and he is hopeful about the current push for reform. "People who have lived here for many years are just very, very excited about the possibility of achieving a pathway to citizenship," Garcia said, adding, "It's about time."
A women bicycles through a polluted Beijing on Jan. 23. Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images.
Lost amid the high power diplomacy over North Korea's nuclear threats, but perhaps provoked by the more immediate risks to Chinese citizens breathing dangerously foul air, the United States and China have agreed to step up their cooperation on climate change.
Emerging from Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Beijing last weekend, but mostly unreported, the world's two biggest energy consumers and greenhouse gas emitters and both non-ratifiers of the Kyoto protocol decided to add climate change to their Strategic and Economic Dialogue. That's the highest level exchange between U.S. and Chinese officials short of presidential summits.
Placing such a priority on climate change "would have been unimaginable two years ago," said Kenneth Lieberthal, who handled China issues in the Clinton White House and is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
A joint communique issued April 13 during Kerry's visit to Beijing said, "Both sides recognize that, given the latest scientific understanding of accelerating climate change and the urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China -- including large scale cooperative action -- is more critical than ever."
How this cooperation will work in practice remains to be seen, but clearly China's rulers are trying to respond to increasing pressure from angry citizens over dirty air, especially since pollution numbers soared way beyond acceptable levels during Beijing's "airapocalypse" last winter. China's new leaders promised the public major action to reverse the problem.
But skeptics remain. One Asian diplomat suggested that during the Strategic and Economic Dialogues, when U.S. officials raised such issues as human rights, the Chinese could propose talking about climate change instead.
But environmental analysts such as Jennifer Turner of the China Environment Forum have pointed out that China is in a vicious triangle of growing energy demands, largely met through coal, intensifying pollution and water shortages that make substitutions such as fracking for natural gas and oil more problematic.
And deepening the problem, said Lieberthal at a conference this week, is that any further rise in global temperatures could melt glaciers in China's major water source of the Tibetan plateau as well as potentially inundate sea-level cities including Shanghai.
There's already considerable inter-action between Chinese and U.S. non-governmental organizations dealing with climate and environmental issues, Turner said at a recent Wilson Center conference. And up to now, Chinese authorities have given local environmental NGOs considerably freer rein than to other civil society organizations.
According to one veteran China hand, the government and ruling party could take that relaxed approach because they considered environmental activists politically harmless.
But now that pollution has soared to the No. 1 issue among the general public, right up there with corruption, China's leaders clearly have recognized the potency of the problem. How many citizen challenges they are ready to accept in the process of controlling it may yet be another matter.
Michael D. Mosettig, PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense editor emeritus, watches wonks push policy in Washington's multitude of think tanks. From time to time, he writes dispatches on what those scholars and wannabe secretaries of state have in mind for Europe, Asia and Latin America.
An Air 2 Air Ltd. Draganflyer Helicopter Base Unit camera holder is exhibited at an international airshow in Farnborough, U.K., on July 22, 2010. Photo by Simon Dawson/ Bloomberg via Getty Images.
The drone debate usually centers around U.S. use of the unmanned aircraft in other countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, to target terrorists. But how are drones used in the United States and how far are we from miniature helicopters flying up to our windows and peeking in?
The answer isn't easy. The technology for such drones currently exists, but other factors come into play, including the costs of operating the flying machines and the public's acceptance of their use.
Drones are unpiloted aircraft that can be the size of a Boeing 737 or as small as a magazine. They're generally used for the three Ds: dull, dirty or dangerous missions, said Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution.
Drones can fly for long durations and in inhospitable environments. They can fly into a hurricane to measure its force or into a disaster area like the one left behind after the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
People can fly model airplanes without restriction, but it is illegal to operate a drone as a civilian above 400 feet and beyond line of sight for any commercial reason unless they have received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA issues "certificates of authorization" to public entities, such as NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies, police departments and universities. In anticipation of growing drone use, Congress has tasked the FAA to figure out by 2015 how civilians can use drones beyond the airspace restrictions and licensing requirements.
A Predator drone operated by the U.S. Office of Air and Marine undergoes a maintenance check before its surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7 from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
So how are drones used once they're certified? Here are some examples:
The Department of Homeland Security flies Predators, which are about the size of a Cessna airplane, back and forth along the U.S. border to monitor for people crossing illegally.
For fighting wildfires, NASA and the Forest Service tested using a Predator to find and map forest fires in California.
Universities have drone programs, not just to learn how to build and maintain them, but also to train on their various uses.
Some police departments are testing them for uses such as photographing accident sites and finding criminal suspects.
"The way the police use [unmanned aircraft] is an interesting question moving forward," said Singer. "Are these just like the way police have traditionally used airplanes and helicopters, or something different? Do you have a large system that flies above a city, or tiny systems that you pack into the trunk of a police car" and deploy to track down fleeing suspects?
The American Civil Liberties Union raised some red flags over the use of drones in a December 2011 report. The group expressed concerns over the potential invasion of privacy and about "mission creep" -- things like drones being used to fire tear gas at protesters.
Some municipalities, such as Charlottesville, Va., have restricted drone use in law enforcement, and the Seattle Police Department agreed to return its two unused drones because of the public outcry, reported the New York Times.
What's happening now is akin to the 1980s when people were figuring out how computers could work to the public's advantage and be used for things besides as giant calculators, said Singer. "Now, you're talking about a computer that can essentially get up and fly and walk," and all the privacy implications that go with it.
Although ideas about privacy seem to be loosening with each new generation -- witness the growing posting of personal photos and videos online, Singer noted -- there's still public discomfort over drones, partly because they're able to operate for such long durations and partly because they collect information not only about the intended target but everything else around it.
"An unmanned plane is always gathering, storing and sharing information about the world around it," Singer said. "It always has the camera, versus a manned plane, where my eyes are not always sharing what it's seeing."
Nonetheless, thousands of drones could be used commercially in the United States in the next few years, the PBS program NOVA reported in "Rise of the Drones."
So how could they be used?
Singer declined to speculate, but said some options discussed for daily life include the "tacocopter" -- a delivery system for tacos where customers send in their GPS coordinates and get their meal by air. It's a concept that made a big splash a year ago but never got off the ground, so to speak. Or another use could be for medical purposes in rural, hard-to-reach areas, where doctors could send blood samples via "quadcopters" to labs for testing, thus skipping rough roads and getting results much faster.
"Where this really takes off is where innovation crosses with profit-seeking, where people come up with entirely new roles that we haven't even thought about yet," he said.
We'll have more on the drones issue on Thursday's NewsHour. View all of our international and defense coverage.
And you can read more on how to build your own drone.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with families of victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings at the White House before delivering remarks on the Senate's failure to pass a plan to expand background checks. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.
"So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington," an incensed President Barack Obama declared Wednesday in the Rose Garden at the White House. He was flanked by families who have lost loved ones in mass shootings and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has become a leading figure in the gun control movement.
In a stinging setback for the president and advocates of tougher gun control measures, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday turned back proposals that would have expanded background checks for most gun sales, banned military-style assault weapons and limited the capacity of ammunition magazines.
The defeat of the provisions on assault weapons and magazines had been expected, but the prospects for enhancing background checks appeared to improve last week with the bipartisan compromise put forward by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
The measure, designed to prevent violent criminals and the mentally ill from acquiring a firearm, would have required background checks at gun shows and for online sales. It ultimately failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed for passage, with a final tally of 54 yeas and 46 nays.
Four Democrats voted against the measure: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Pryor, Begich and Baucus all face difficult re-election battles in red states next year.
Three Republicans joined Toomey in supporting the amendment: Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona.
In his remarks, Mr. Obama said the gun lobby had "willfully lied" about the bill by claiming it would create a national gun registry. But the president also blamed members of Congress on both sides of the aisle for succumbing to political pressure from the National Rifle Association and others.
"I talked to several of these senators over the past few weeks, and they're all good people. I know all of them were shocked by tragedies like Newtown. And I also understand that they come from states that are strongly pro-gun," Mr. Obama said.
"But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this. It came down to politics -- the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections," he added.
"And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse -- any excuse -- to vote 'no,'" Mr. Obama said.
Watch the president's event here or below:Watch Video
The NRA welcomed the downfall of the Manchin-Toomey proposal. "This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution," NRA executive director Chris Cox said in a statement. "As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools."
It was evident from the start of the day Wednesday that the prospects of the Manchin-Toomey proposal had begun to fade, with a number of potential Republican "yes" votes lining up against the measure.
Manchin made a last-ditch plea with his colleagues to back the plan. "I understand that some of our colleagues believe that supporting this piece of legislation is risky politics," he said on the Senate floor. "I think there's a time in our life that's a defining time in public service, a time when you have the ability to stand when you know the facts are on your side and walk into the lion's den, and look that lion in the eye, and tell that lion, listen, not today, not today."
But Manchin's appeal was not enough, even with polls showing close to 90 percent of Americans favoring expanded background checks and with families of victims of gun violence watching the vote from the gallery above the Senate chamber.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., absent from the chamber for health reasons for nearly two months, made a dramatic entrance in a wheelchair to cast his vote in favor of the amendment.
Vice President Joe Biden didn't attempt to hide his disappointment as he read the final vote tally, and moments later, shouts of "Shame on you!" were heard coming from the gallery above the floor. The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe and Philip Rucker tracked down the women responsible for the outburst:
As police escorted them from the Capitol, Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas said they were angry. Maisch knocked a large ammunition magazine out of the hands of Jared Lee Loughner in January 2011 after he shot Giffords and other bystanders.
"They are an embarrassment to this country," Maisch said as officers tried to remove her from the building. "I hate them," she added of the senators.
Haas, whose daughter, Emily, was wounded in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, said: "We're sick and tired of the death in this country, and these legislators stand up there and think it's a bunch of numbers. . . . It's a shame, it's appalling, it's disgusting."
The emotion spilled over to the floor following the vote as well.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., scolded her colleagues after they defeated the background checks measure and her own assault weapons ban renewal. "We're here on six year terms for a reason -- to take votes on difficult issues," she said on the floor.
As Mr. Obama finished speaking, CNN reported Capitol Hill police had arrested a man for entering the grounds with a loaded handgun. He was there to protest the background checks bill.
A big question is how much energy, money and effort will gun control advocates expend to keep going on the issue. Their actions Wednesday suggest they are just warming up.
In an email sent moments after the vote, Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions group used a one-word subject line: "Unthinkable."
"Moments ago, the U.S. Senate decided to do the unthinkable about gun violence --- nothing at all," she wrote. "Over two years ago, when I was shot point-blank in the head, the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. Four months ago, 20 first-graders lost their lives in a brutal attack on their school, and the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing."
Then she got to her political point and asked for donations: "It's clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate."
Giffords added to the emotional note Thursday with an op-ed in the New York Times, writing that she is "furious" and won't give up.
Mr. Obama's former campaign, now called Organizing for Action, pledged to keep it up. The White House pushed video of the president's remarks to its official mailing list under the subject line "shameful."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns promised to score the votes and hold senators accountable.
Joining the political threats was the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which promised it would be "holding accountable Democrats who voted against their constituents by running (newspaper) ads in their states, featuring some of the 23,000 gun owners who have joined our campaign for common sense gun reform."
Up until the vote, the Democratic National Committee urged its backers to call wavering senators at their district offices.
Mr. Obama, himself, said he viewed Wednesday's setback as just "round one" in a long-term fight, and he urged the public to remain involved in the effort. "To change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you've got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength, and it requires persistence," he said.
Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was one of the 26 killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, spoke ahead of the president and pledged to the Newtown families that he would remain committed to the effort. "We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated. We are here now. We will always be here because we have no other choice. We are not going away," he said.
Wednesday's series of defeats left the path forward for gun control legislation uncertain, but some Democratic senators stressed the fight is not over.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who made gun control his central issue after last year's massacre in Newtown, told Gwen Ifill on the NewsHour there is "no question that we'll have more votes."
National Shooting Sports Foundation Lawrence Keane told Gwen that he'd met with key Democrats on the issue and "that the discussion is not over, and we don't believe the discussion should be over. The dialogue should continue."
Watch the segment here or below:Watch Video
SUPREME COURT DECISION
In one of its first major decisions of the term, the Supreme Court sided with foreign corporations in a case regarding human rights abuses.
Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal outlined the court's ruling, which hinged on the justices' interpretation of one of the country's oldest laws, the Alien Tort Statute. The first U.S. Congress made the law in 1789, a one-sentence statement that says U.S. courts can hear cases from foreigners regarding injuries committed in violation of U.S. treaties or the law of nations. It was meant to apply to situations involving safe conduct in the U.S., ambassadors and piracy. But in the past 30 years, human rights advocates have applied it to their interests.
The court's decision is considered a loss for human rights groups that hoped U.S. courts could weigh on abuses committed in other countries -- in this case, regarding oil companies in Nigeria.
Watch the segment here or below:Watch Video
The Supreme Court also issued a decision on a Fourth Amendment case involving law enforcement taking a sample of a man's blood to prove he was driving under the influence. The state of Missouri had hoped the court would say that because blood alcohol content levels lessen rapidly over time, police wouldn't need to seek a warrant to test a suspect's level. Instead, it ruled in favor of the defendant, Tyler McNeely. Coyle walked us through that case when attorneys argued it in January. Tuesday's ruling means in DUI situations, the time it takes for alcohol to lessen in a person's blood isn't reason enough for police to bypass getting a warrant for a blood test.
This was Coyle's third segment on the NewsHour this week. On Monday, she discussed a case involving a company's patent on the gene that can show a person's risk of breast and ovarian cancer. And Tuesday, she spoke with Ray Suarez on a custody case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act and a little girl torn between adoptive parents and her biological father.
Next week marks the last opportunities for the high court to hear case arguments this term. We're then expecting to see the biggest decisions of the year in late June.
LINE ITEMSA Mississippi man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly sending letters testing positive for the poison ricin to several senators and Mr. Obama. Carney used reporters' questions about the Boston explosions and the letters to reiterate the hotline people may call to report information. That number is 1-800-CALL-FBI.
On the NewsHour, WNYC's Todd Zwillich explained to Hari Sreenivasan that the scare and evacuations of Senate office buildings added to already frayed nerves since the Boston bombings.On that front, it remains unclear whether law enforcement officials have a suspect. Most of the news focused on how badly the media bungled the reporting about an arrest on Wednesday.
An estimated five to 15 people have been killed in a fertilizer plant explosion in Waco, Texas, triggered by a fire 24 minutes earlier Wednesday night. Another 160, including many firefighters, are wounded.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seems preferential to a piecemeal approach to moving immigration legislation through the House, tackling the border, the e-verify system and some sort of path to citizenship separately.
The Senate Gang of Eight plans a 2:30 p.m. ET news conference to detail its 844-page legislation, officially released earlier this week. Huffington Post's Jon Ward has a good piece examining how immigration matters to the GOP.
Mr. Obama took several Democratic senators to dinner Wednesday night. The White House said they discussed immigration, the economy, gun control and the Boston investigation. Joining him at the Jefferson Hotel were Feinstein and Sens. Michael Bennet, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, Mary Landrieu, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Warner, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden.
The National Republican Congressional Committee won't spend any more money on behalf of once-favored-to-win former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in the special election for the 1st House District....
...because of the trespassing complaint from his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford. Guess that settles that.
Hotline On Call's Sarah Mimms scoops that Sanford and the state GOP made a $100,000 buy on their first television ad of the general election, which hits Elizabeth Colbert Busch for her ties to labor unions. And House Majority PAC has launched a six-figure television ad buy against Sanford, attacking him not so much for his extramarital affair, but for his alleged misuse of taxpayer money for flights to Argentina, China and France. Meanwhile, Cook Political Report moved the race to GOP toss-up.
A study suggests Fox News actually covered the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell less than the other networks.
The wife of former Texas justice of the peace Eric Lyle Williams has identified him as the gunman behind the Texas district attorney murders and confessed to being his driver for the shootings of the two prosecutors who helped convict him on burglary and theft charges. The couple is in custody in Kaufman County jail.
Although it's typically too early for House members to announce their retirement, the $1,000 first quarter haul of Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., doesn't make him look like he's gearing up for re-election. Roll Call parses retirement speculation in light of members' first quarter numbers.
The head of Progress Kentucky attended a meeting at the White House to discuss the fiscal cliff days before launching a Twitter offensive against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Democrats have since distanced themselves from the group's leaders, who are under FBI investigation for recording a McConnell campaign strategy meeting.
McConnell's second TV ad, set to air Thursday, connects the recording scandal to the charge that "liberals will do anything to beat him." The six-figure buy says McConnell is "Obama's No. 1 target."
The Wall Street Journal looked at Thomas Perez's confirmation battle to lead the Department of Labor.
The Boston Globe's Joshua Miller evaluates the Massachusetts Senate special election candidates on gun control.
A former Hill staffer opened a market.
Here's a map charting obesity in America.
Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy examines the limits and potential power of Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's hip-hop cred.
In a 2006 interview with Ray Suarez, immigration activist Jesus Garcia accused some conservative groups of trying "to whip up fear" with anti-immigrant rhetoric. Now the Cook County Commissioner for the Seventh District of Chicago, Garcia tells Hari that he views the playing field much differently today. Watch their Google Hangout -- part of the NewsHour's ongoing series on the evolving issue of immigration reform -- here.
Cindy Huang evaluates the science used in the movies.
We crafted a slideshow from Margaret Thatcher's memorial.
Former foreign affairs editor Michael Mosettig opines on Panama.
Obama is using human props at his Gun Vote presser.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) April 17, 2013
$200K Raised in 1 Day for Mom, Daughter Hurt at Boston Marathon on.mash.to/11wMoMI— Mekahlo Medina (@MekahloNBCLA) April 17, 2013
BREAKING: Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has withdrawn its support for Manchin/Toomey background check bill #guns— Fawn Johnson (@fawnjohnson) April 17, 2013
FBI uses Lord & Taylor accessory wall wisely— Alex Pareene (@pareene) April 17, 2013
The mail to my home was diverted to the WH mail room and no WH mail got through for about a year.#2001— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) April 17, 2013
Katelyn Polantz and politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.
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A man rides a scooter past a graffiti mural by Sheryo and the Yok in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Garrett Ziegler via flickr.
Here are four arts and culture videos from public broadcasting partners around the nation.
The latest "In Performance at The White House" honored soul sounds from Memphis, "a segregated city in the 1960s where many whites and blacks nonetheless came together to make soulful music, a mix of gospel and potent rhythmic grooves—known today as 'Memphis Soul.'"
Performing were Justin Timberlake, Queen Latifah, Alabama Shakes, Steve Cooper, Cyndi Lauper, Joshua Ledet and Bell And Moore.
From "Independent Lens,": "'Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines' traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, Wonder Women! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society's anxieties about women's liberation." (Video expires June 14)
Watch Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.
Idea Channel asks, "Is Buying Call of Duty a Moral Choice?" "If you play video games, you've shot a gun. And those guns are REALISTIC. So real that many are actually LICENSED by IRL arms dealers. Which means that when you buy a video game, you're also putting money in the pockets of those gun manufacturers. That's fine and dandy if you're a fan of guns, but if you are someone who considers themselves anti-gun, this creates quite the moral quandary."
NYC-ARTS explores the Museum of Jewish Heritage: "A visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, located in Battery Park City. The museum's mission is to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about 20th and 21st century Jewish history - before, during and after the Holocaust. It is a place to remember the tragic past, but also a place of hope for the future."
By Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein
A note from Paul Solman: Nine years ago, someone sent me an academic paper that put forward a radically new explanation of why Jews have been so successful economically. Written by economists Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein, the paper explained Jewish success in terms of early literacy in the wake of Rome's destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. and the subsequent dispersion of Jews throughout the Roman empire - Jews who had to rely on their own rabbis and synagogues to sustain their religion instead of the high priests in Jerusalem.
You may know a similar story about the Protestant Reformation: the bypassing of the Catholic clergy and their Latin liturgy for actual reading of Scripture in native languages and the eventual material benefits of doing so. Why is Northern Europe -- Germany, Holland, England, Sweden -- so much more prosperous than Southern Europe: Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain? Why do the latter owe the former instead of the other way around? Might it have something to do with the Protestant legacy of the North, the Catholic legacy of the South?
Botticini and Eckstein have spent their careers studying not Christianity, but Judaism. And they have now come out with a book elaborating on their novel thesis: "The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492," published by the Princeton University Press.
Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein: Imagine a dinner conversation in a New York or Milan or Tel Aviv restaurant in which three people--an Israeli, an American, and a European -- ask to each other: "Why are so many Jews urban dwellers rather than farmers? Why are Jews primarily engaged in trade, commerce, entrepreneurial activities, finance, law, medicine, and scholarship? And why have the Jewish people experienced one of the longest and most scattered diasporas in history, along with a steep demographic decline?"
Most likely, the standard answers they would suggest would be along these lines: "The Jews are not farmers because their ancestors were prohibited from owning land in the Middle Ages." "They became moneylenders, bankers, and financiers because during the medieval period Christians were banned from lending money at interest, so the Jews filled in that role." "The Jewish population dispersed worldwide and declined in numbers as a result of endless massacres."
Imagine now that two economists (us) seated at a nearby table, after listening to this conversation, tell the three people who are having this lively debate: "Are you sure that your explanations are correct? You should read this new book, ours, "The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History," and you would learn that when one looks over the 15 centuries spanning from 70 C.E. to 1492, these oft-given answers that you are suggesting seem at odds with the historical facts. This book provides you with a novel explanation of why the Jews are the people they are today -- a comparatively small population of economically successful and intellectually prominent individuals."
Suppose you are like one of the three people in the story above and you wonder why you should follow the advice of the two economists. There are many books that have studied the history of the Jewish people and have addressed those fascinating questions. What's really special about this one?
To understand the spirit of the study we've undertaken, one should borrow two tools: a magnifying glass and a telescope. With the magnifying glass, the reader will be like a historian, who focuses on a place and a time period, painstakingly digs through the sources, and carefully documenting the historical trajectory of the Jews there. A thousand such scholars will offer a detailed description of the history of the Jews in hundreds of locales throughout history.
But with the telescope, the reader will be like an economist, who assembles and painstakingly compares the information offered by the works of the historians, creates a complete picture of the economic and demographic history of the Jewish people over 15 centuries, and then uses the powerful tools of economic reasoning and logic to address one of the most fundamental questions in Jewish history:
Why are the Jews, a relatively small population, specialized in the most skilled and economically profitable occupations?
In doing so, the "alliance" of the historians and the economists offers a completely novel interpretation of the historical trajectory of the Jews from 70 to 1492. In turn, this may help us understand several features of the history of the Jewish people from 1500 up to today, including the successful performance of the Israeli economy despite the recent economic crisis.
The journey of "The Chosen Few" begins in Jerusalem, following the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, continues in the Galilee during the first and second centuries, moves to Babylon in Mesopotamia during the fourth and fifth centuries, and then to Baghdad in the second half of the first millennium when the Muslim Abbasid empire reaches its economic and intellectual apex.
At the turn of the millennium, the historical voyage reaches Cairo, Constantinople, and Cordoba, and soon after the whole of western and southern Europe, then turns back to Baghdad in the 1250s during the Mongol conquest of the Middle East before ending in Seville in 1492.
During these 15 centuries, a profound transformation of Judaism coupled with three historic encounters of the Jews -- with Rome, with Islam, and with the Mongol Conquest -- shaped the economic and demographic history of the Jewish people in a unique and long-lasting way up to today.
Let's first start describing the profound transformation of Judaism at the beginning of the first millennium, which has been amply documented by scholarly works. In the centuries before 70, the core of Judaism was centered around two pillars: the Temple in Jerusalem, in which sacrifices were performed by a small elite of high priests, and the reading and the study of the Written Torah, which was also restricted to a small elite of rabbis and scholars. (It was the power of this elite that the Jew Yeshua ben Josef, later know as Jesus Christ, so often decried.)
The destruction of the Temple in 70 at the end of the first Jewish-Roman war was the first of the three external events which permanently shaped the history of the Jewish people. Momentously, it canceled one of the two pillars of Judaism, shifting the religious leadership within the Jewish community from the high priests in Jerusalem to a much more widely dispersed community of rabbis and scholars. In so doing, it transformed Judaism into a religion whose main norm required every Jewish man to read and to study the Torah in Hebrew himself and, even more radically, to send his sons from the age of six or seven to primary school or synagogue to learn to do the same.
In the world of universal illiteracy, as it was the world at the beginning of the first millennium, this was an absolutely revolutionary transformation. At that time, no other religion had a similar norm as a membership requirement for its followers, and no state or empire had anything like laws imposing compulsory education or universal literacy for its citizens. The unexpected consequences of this change in the religious norm within Judaism would unfold in the subsequent centuries.
To understand what happened to the Jewish people in the eight centuries after 70, "The Chosen Few" asks the reader to travel back in time to a village in the Galilee around the year 200. What would the reader see?
They would see Jewish farmers, some rich, some poor who have to decide whether to send their children to primary school as their rabbis tell them to do. Some farmers are very attached to Judaism and willing to obey the norms of their religion, others are not very devout and consider whether or not to convert to another religion. In this rural economy, educating the children as Judaism requires is a cost, but brings no economic benefits because literacy does not make a farmer more productive or wealthier.
Given this situation, what would economic logic predict? What would likely happen to Judaism and the Jewish people? Given a high preference for religious affiliation, some Jews will educate their children and will keep their attachment to their religion. Other Jews, however, will prefer their material well-being and will not educate their children. Furthermore, a portion of this latter group will likely convert to other religions with less demanding requirements. And so, over time, even absent wars or other demographic shocks, the size of the Jewish population will shrink because of this process of conversions.
But are the predictions of the economic theory consistent with what really happened to the Jews during the first millennium? The historical evidence assembled in our book says yes. The implementation of this new religious norm within Judaism during the Talmud era (third to sixth centuries) determined two major patterns from 70 C.E. to the early 7th century.
The first of these trends was the growth and spread of literacy among the predominantly rural Jewish population. The second: a slow but significant process of conversion out of Judaism (mainly into Christianity) which, caused a significant fall in the Jewish population -- from 5 to 5.5 million circa 65 to roughly 1.2 million circa 650. War-related massacres and epidemics contributed to this drastic drop, but they cannot by themselves explain it.
At the beginning of the 7th century, the Jews experienced their second major historic encounter -- this time with Islam. In the two centuries after the death of Mohammed, in 632, the Muslim Umayyad and, later, Abbasid caliphs, established a vast empire stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to India and China, with a common language (Arabic), religion (Islam), laws, and institutions. Concomitant with the ascent of this empire, agricultural productivity grew, new industries developed, commerce greatly expanded, and new cities and towns developed. These changes vastly increased the demand for skilled and literate occupations in the newly established urban empire.
How did this affect world Jewry? Between 750 and 900, almost all the Jews in Mesopotamia and Persia -- nearly 75 percent of the world's remaining 1.2 million Jews -- left agriculture, moved to the cities and towns of the newly established Abbasid Empire, and entered myriad skilled occupations that provided higher earnings than as farmers. Agriculture, the typical occupation of the Jewish people in the days of Josephus in the first century, was no longer their typical occupation seven to eight centuries later.
This occupational transition occurred at a time in which there were no legal restrictions on Jewish land ownership. The Jews could and did own land in the many locations of the vast Abbasid Muslim Empire. And yet, Jews moved away from farming. This is of vital importance.
Modern explanations of why the Jews became a population of craftsmen, traders, shopkeepers, bankers, scholars, and physicians have relied on supposed economic or legal restrictions. But these do not pass the test of the historical evidence.
This is one of our main and novel messages: mass Jewish literacy was key. It enabled Jews -- incentivized Jews -- to abandon agriculture as their main occupation and profitably migrate to Yemen, Syria, Egypt, and the Maghreb.
The tide of migrations of Jews in search of business opportunities also reached Christian Europe. Migrations of Jews within and from the lands of the Byzantine Empire, which included southern Italy, may have set the foundations, via Italy, for much of European Jewry. Similarly, Jews from Egypt and the Maghreb settled in the Iberian Peninsula, and later, in Sicily and parts of southern Italy.
The key message of "The Chosen Few" is that the literacy of the Jewish people, coupled with a set of contract-enforcement institutions developed during the five centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple, gave the Jews a comparative advantage in occupations such as crafts, trade, and moneylending -- occupations that benefited from literacy, contract-enforcement mechanisms, and networking and provided high earnings.
Once the Jews were engaged in these occupations, there was no economic pressure to convert, which is consistent with the fact that the Jewish population, which had shrunk so dramatically in earlier times, grew slightly from the 7th to the 12th centuries.
Moreover, this comparative advantage fostered the voluntary diaspora of the Jews during the early middle ages in search of worldwide opportunities in crafts, trade, commerce, moneylending, banking, finance, and medicine.
This in turn would explain why the Jews, at this point in history, became so successful in occupations related to credit and financial markets. Already during the 12th and 13th centuries, moneylending was the occupation par excellence of the Jews in England, France, and Germany, and one of the main professions of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and other locations in western Europe.
A popular view contends that both their exclusion from craft and merchant guilds and usury bans on Muslims and Christians segregated European Jews into moneylending during the Middle Ages. But our study shows, with evidence we have come upon during more than a decade of research, that this argument is simply untenable.
Instead, we have been compelled to offer an alternative and new explanation, consistent with the historical record: the Jews in medieval Europe voluntarily entered and later specialized in moneylending and banking because they had the key assets for being successful players in credit markets:capital already accumulated as craftsmen and traders, networking abilities because they lived in many locations, could easily communicate with and alert one another as to the best buying and selling opportunities, and literacy, numeracy, and contract-enforcement institutions -- "gifts" that their religion has given them -- gave them an advantage over competitors.
With these assets, small wonder that a significant number of Jews specialized in the most profitable occupation that depended on literacy and numeracy: finance. In this sector they worked for many centuries. As they specialized, just as Adam Smith would have predicted, they honed their craft, giving them a competitive advantage, right up to the present.
But what if the economy and society in which the Jews lived, suddenly ceased being urban and commercially-oriented and turned agrarian and rural, reverting to the environment in which Judaism had found itself centuries earlier?
The third historic encounter of the Jews -- this time with the Mongol conquest of the Middle East -- offers the possibility to answer this question. The Mongol invasion of Persia and Mesopotamia began in 1219 and culminated in the razing of Baghdad in 1258. It contributed to the demise of the urban and commercial economy of the Abbasid Empire and brought the economies of Mesopotamia and Persia back to an agrarian and pastoral stage for a long period.
As a consequence, a certain proportion of Persian, Mesopotamian, and then Egyptian, and Syrian Jewry abandoned Judaism. Its religious norms, especially the one requiring fathers to educate their sons, had once again become a costly religious sacrifice with no economic return. And so a number of Jews converted to Islam.
Once again, persecutions, massacres, and plagues (e.g., the Black Death of 1348) took a toll on the Jewish population in these regions and in western Europe. But the voluntary conversions of Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, we argue, help explain why world Jewry reached its lowest level by the end of the 15th century.
The same mechanism that explains the decline of the Jewish population in the six centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple, that is, accounts for the decline of the Jewish communities of the Middle East in the two centuries following the Mongol shock.
None of this was planned. The rabbis and scholars who transformed Judaism into a religion of literacy during the first centuries of the first millennium, could not have foreseen the profound impact of their decision to make every Jewish man capable of reading and studying the Torah (and, later, the Mishna, the Talmud, and other religious texts).
However, an apparently odd choice of religious norm--the enforcement of literacy in a mostly illiterate, agrarian world, potentially risky in that the process of conversions could make Judaism too costly and thus disappear--turned out to be the lever of the Jewish economic success and intellectual prominence in the subsequent centuries up to today. This is the overall novel message of "The Chosen Few."
Maristella Botticini is professor of economics, as well as director and fellow of the Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research (IGIER), at Bocconi University in Milan.
Zvi Eckstein is the Mario Henrique Simonson Chair in Labor Economics at Tel Aviv University and professor and dean of the School of Economics at IDC Herzliya in Herzliya, Israel.
Addressing the puzzles that punctuate Jewish history from 1492 to today is the task of the next journey, which the authors will take in their next book, "The Chosen Many."
Watch Video President Barack Obama honored victims of Monday's marathon bombings at an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on Thursday.
BOSTON -- President Barack Obama sought to inspire a stricken city and comfort an unnerved nation Thursday, declaring that Boston "will run again" and vowing to hunt down the perpetrator of the twin blasts that brought mayhem and death to the Boston Marathon.
"If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us ... It should be pretty clear right now that they picked the wrong city to do it," Obama said.
The president spoke at an interfaith service in Boston honoring the three people killed and more than 170 injured when a pair of bombs ripped through the crowd gathered Monday afternoon near the finish line of the famous race.
"We may be momentarily knocked off our feet," Obama said. "But we'll pick ourselves up. We'll keep going. We will finish the race."
Defiant, Obama demeaned the still unidentified culprit or culprits as "small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important."
"Yes, we will find you," he declared as applause filled the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "And, yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable."
Obama spoke as his second-term as president is increasingly burdened by terror, politics, and disaster. In the aftermath of Boston's deadly blasts Monday, Obama lost a fight for gun control measures in the Senate, was the target, along with a U.S. senator, of letters that showed traces of poisonous ricin, and awoke Thursday to news of a powerful fertilizer plant explosion that devastated a small Texas town.
The letters alone -- one addressed to Obama and another to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. -- evoked eerie parallels to the anthrax attacks that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Authorities arrested a Mississippi man Wednesday in connection with the letters and charged him with threatening the life of the president.
It was against that backdrop that Obama and his wife, Michelle, came to Boston Thursday morning, joining the packed cathedral for a "Healing Our City" service. The Obamas sat at the front of the church next to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick as the service began.
Obama listened from his pew as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino praised the response of his city.
"Nothing will take us down because we take care of one another," Menino said. "Even with the smell of smoke in the air and blood in the streets and tears in our eyes, we triumphed over that hateful act."
Moments later, Patrick said: "We will grieve our losses and heal. We will rise, and we will endure. We will have accountability without vengeance, vigilance without fear."
Sustaining that uplifting theme, Obama recalled his days as a law student at Harvard and declared, "There is a piece of Boston in me."
"Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city, every one of us stands with you," he said.
"This time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon," he said.
Before the service, Obama and the first lady met at the cathedral with members of the family of Krystle Campbell, one of the three killed Monday.
After the observance, Obama visited a gymnasium across the street from the church to thank volunteers who worked at the marathon, saying they displayed "the very best of the American spirit."
"There's something about that that's infectious. It makes us want to be better people," he said.
Obama then rode to Massachusetts General Hospital where he met privately with patients, their families and hospital staff.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama received a briefing from national security adviser Lisa Monaco on the status of the investigation into the Boston blast before departing the White House. Accompanying Obama aboard Air Force One were members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mo Cowan.
The president has stepped into this role as the nation's consoler in chief many times before in his presidency, most recently in December after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Before that, there were the deadly shootings in Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., and Fort Hood, Texas, as well as the natural disasters that tore apart towns and neighborhoods in Missouri and the New York-New Jersey area.
Watch Video Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., and their colleagues in the so-called Gang of Eight, held a news conference Thursday to detail the 844-page immigration reform legislation, officially released earlier this week.
In a joint statement Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado say the bill is a "common-sense approach" that is "vital in order to secure America's borders, advance our economic growth, and provide fuller access to the American dream.
"Our bipartisan proposal is a starting point, and will be strengthened by good-faith input and ideas from across the ideological spectrum. We look forward to multiple Senate hearings on this bill, an open committee process with amendments, and a full and fair debate in the Senate."
The Border Security and Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 lays out a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., reforms the family and employment-based visa in favor of a merit based system, creates a new category of visas for low-income workers and provides framework and funding to secure the southwestern border between the U.S. and Mexico.
The bill establishes a security and fencing fund to monitor "high-risk" areas along the U.S.-Mexico border. The plan features $4.5 billion in funding to implement this a strategy to control the borders to include spending on surveillance, additional border patrol agents at and between entry ports along the border as well as unmanned aerial surveillance positioned along the border. Funds also would be used to identify where fencing deployed along the border.
Pathway to Citizenship
The bill establishes procedure for undocumented people living in this country to eventually become citizens. Law-abiding non-citizens who arrived in the U.S. before December 31, 2011 would be allowed apply for registered provisional immigrant status. Applicants would be required to pay a $500 fee for a six-year renewable term. After 10 years they would be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status based on criteria that would include working in the U.S., paying taxes and a demonstrated knowledge of civics and English.
The bill also would reshape the current family and employment-based routes of immigration toward one based on merit. The bill proposes creating two family preference categories. The bill would allocate 40 percent of the country's employment-based visas to people who hold advance degrees in science, technology and mathematics, have a job offer in a related field and earned the degree within five years of filing the petition. In the fifth year after enactment the bill would introduce a merit-based visa which awards points to individuals based on their education, employment and how long they have lived in the U.S. with those earning the most points receiving visas. In its initial year 120,000 merit-based visas would be available with the number increasing by 5 percent each year with a maximum of 250,000 visas, if demand exceeds supply and the U.S. unemployment rate is below 8.5 percent.
A group of eight senators on Wednesday filed an 844-page bill that would respond to both political and business interests for reforming the nation's immigration policy.
Additionally, the bill would raise the base number of H-1B visas to 110,000 from 65,000 with an option for the number to go as high as 180,000 based on the demand for candidates with specific skill sets. To prevent employers from choosing immigrants over American candidates, the bill would require employers to pay higher wages for H-1B workers and to first advertise the job to Americans at this higher salary before hiring someone in the country on an H-1B visa.
The bill also establishes a new non-immigrant classification of visas for low-skilled workers. These workers would be able to work in the U.S. for an initial period of three years with the ability to renew their status every three years. W-Visa holders may not be unemployed for more than 60 consecutive days and would be required to leave the country if unable to find employment.
Despite the collaboration on the bill from members on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers say enforcing the borders, as well any new pathway to citizenship, may be a deal breaker even among those that say they are in favor of immigration reform.
For example, Sen. Ron Paul, R-Ky., has signaled his intent to introduce at least one amendment to the bill.
"Each year in order for the reform to go forward, there has to be a report on border security...It should include statistics on how many are returned who come here illegally, how many are getting background checks," Rand said.
The policy also is being drafted at a time when a booming economy in Mexico has led to reduction in the flow of immigrants across the southwestern border. With a healthy middle class in Mexico experts say that Mexico is better able to invest more in education, and offer a better life to its children.
"They went through some major economic difficulties in the 1990s, but they made changes and they got the fundamentals right and they are now really steaming along," said Doris Meissner, senior fellow and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program policy at the Migration Policy Institute. Meissner served as commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service between during the Clinton administration.
"More people are finishing high school. More and more people are looking at their future in Mexico as a future in Mexico as compared to going North."
The 2012 election cycle pushed the issue to the top of the list for many lawmakers this year after results of the presidential election illustrated the political power of Hispanics and Latinos at the polls.
The bill also comes after pressure from industry which has indicated a need for workers to fill positions in science and technology and to also fill jobs in the agricultural industry.