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

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    Sports Illustrated's May 6 cover features NBA center Jason Collins, who is openly gay.

    Jason Collins made headlines this morning as the first male athlete from a major U.S. professional league to announce that he is gay. The NBA free agent wrote his personal account for Sports Illustrated. In the column, co-written by Franz Lidz, Collins says he was reluctant to be the "first" openly gay athlete on the court. He wrote:

    "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

    The 7-foot Collins is 34 and just finishing up his 12th NBA season. He's played for six teams including the Boston Celtics and most recently the Washington Wizards.

    In his Sports Illustrated account, the magazines' cover story for the May 6 issue, he pointed to the April 15 attack in Boston as a factor in his decision to come forward.

    "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

    Boston Celtics coach Doc River said in a statement, "I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He's a pro's pro."

    Ed Stefanski, the Toronto Raptors executive vice president who helped draft Collins in 2001 when he was with the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), said he shared his support with Collins.

    "I texted him and told him how proud I was of him and that it took a lot of courage for him to come out. I'm sure it took a lot off his shoulders," Stefanski said. "I know that all the players that were with him with the Nets are going to be very supportive and only wish him the best."

    And Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant tweeted his encouragement:

    Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage#support#mambaarmystandup#BYOU

    — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 29, 2013

    Bryant's support came two years after he was fined $100,000 for using a homophobic slur during a game.

    And the issue has arisen in other sports. Before this year's Super Bowl, a San Francisco 49ers player said gay athletes would not be welcome in the locker room.

    We gathered a collection of athletes' tweets about Collins' news today:

    [View the story "Athletes React to Jason Collins Coming Out" on Storify]

    Terence Burlij and Crispin Lopez contributed to this report.

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama voiced new concerns about the Syrian war and the alleged use of chemical weapons to Russian President Putin today. They spoke in a phone call on a day when the Syrian prime minister narrowly missed being killed by a bomb in Damascus.

    The bomb blast ripped through cars and buses in the Syrian capital, shattering windows and sending the wounded to the hospital.

    MAN: I just heard a very loud sound. I didn't look around. I tried opening a door, but it wouldn't open. My uncle, a professor at the university, died beside me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: State TV said Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, the intended target, was unhurt. He was later seen presiding over a meeting of economic advisers without any indication of when the footage was shot. And in recorded comments, Halqi mentioned today's date, but not the bombing. Instead, the state news agency quoted him as saying it shows the rebels are bankrupt.

    There have been other high-profile attacks in Damascus in the last year. Today's came amid rising tensions on a different front, U.S. claims that the Syrian regime twice likely deployed chemical weapons in recent weeks.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: It's going to become a failed state by end of the year. It's fracturing along sectarian ethnic lines. It's going to be al-Qaida's safe haven.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the U.S. must take action.

    LINDSEY GRAHAM: There's nothing you can do in Syria without risk, but the greatest risk is a failed state with chemical weapons falling in the hands of radical Islamists and they are pouring into Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fellow Republican John McCain called for giving military aid to the Syrian rebels. And he said there might be a need for outside forces, but not involving Americans.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: We have to, as an international group, plan and be ready operationally -- not just plan, but be ready operationally, to go in and secure those areas. Whatever the composition of that force is, is something I think we have to look at very carefully. But the worst thing the American -- the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground in Syria. That would -- that would turn the people against us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney turned aside talk of immediate action. He repeated that the administration wants to make sure it has all the facts.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Spokesman: We have established with varying degrees of confidence that there have been incidents of chemical weapons used, sarin in particular, in a limited fashion in Syria. We're now working to build upon that evidence to increase the amount of evidence to find specifically what happened, what occurred, who was responsible, and build that case, if you will.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that assessment is ongoing.

    Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria continues, with more than 70,000 dead, and nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees in surrounding countries. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: What should the U.S. do about the war in Syria? We get two views. Murhaf Jouejati is the chairman of The Day After project, an independent organization that advises the Syrian National Council on plans for a post- Assad government. He was born in Syria and is also a professor of Middle East studies at the National Defense University. And Joshua Landis is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He also runs the website "Syria Comment."

    To both of you, welcome to the NewsHour.

    Let me turn to you first, though, Murhaf Jouejati. Before we talk about what the United States should do, let's look at whether the U.S. should go in. Are you convinced that at this point there's enough evidence to warrant further U.S. involvement?

    MURHAF JOUEJATI, Day After Project: I think there's overwhelming evidence.

    There's overwhelming evidence -- take away the chemical weapons we're recently talking about. There's overwhelming evidence that this dictator is out to kill as many Syrian opponents of his regime as possible. We're now into the second year. There are over 80,000 people that have been killed. There are about five million Syrians who are displaced. That's a quarter of the population. And, so, yes, the ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On moral grounds, are you saying ...

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: It's not only moral grounds. On strategic grounds as well, it's in the national interest of the United States to break that axis, that alliance between Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah. So, both in terms of American values and the American national interest, I think the U.S. should do more than it is doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joshua Landis, both for moral reasons and as we heard him say in the national interest?

    JOSHUA LANDIS, University of Oklahoma: I don't think America should get tangled up in this. I don't believe that the third time is a charm.

    This is a national civil war that Syria has slipped into. It's an ethnic and sectarian war. And America cannot solve it. We cannot stop this process. Syrians are going to have to come out the other end of this process and find out what kind of nation they want to be.

    Everybody is blaming Obama for -- saying he is not a leader, he is not going in, and it's America's fault for not intervening immediately, and that's why it's radicalized. But in Iraq, we intervened and in three short weeks, we destroyed Saddam Hussein's regime, we Roto-Rootered the military and we dissolved the Baath Party.

    And what happened? The country exploded into civil war, sectarian fighting, and radicalization that went on for years and is still going on. More and more people in Iraq are joining al-Qaida. There are car bombs going off every day. The United States spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and it couldn't get the outcome it wanted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: His point is ...

    JOSHUA LANDIS: Neither in Afghanistan. And it's not going to happen in Syria. This is a civil war.

    In America's Civil War, 750,000 Americans were killed in a population of 34 million. Syria has 24 million; 100,000 have been killed so far.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me bring it back ...

    JOSHUA LANDIS: This process cannot be solved by an outside power.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He is basically saying the U.S. cannot fix this.

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: And he is basically wrong.

    One, this is not a civil war. This is a national uprising against almost half-a-century of dictatorship. The United States can help solve this by assisting this free and democratic movement that has risen in Syria in order to level the playing field. The regime of Assad is supported by Iran, and Hezbollah and Iraq, and the rebels have next to nothing.

    If the situation continues without U.S. assistance, what we have is the infiltration of radical elements into Syria. And should these radical elements be victorious, they will be in control of chemical weapons at the heart of the Middle East.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joshua Landis, it is the case that in the last few weeks and longer, we have seen the infiltration by al-Qaida and by these Islamist groups into the opposition.

    JOSHUA LANDIS: Look, an American no-fly zone is not going to stop al-Qaida from infiltrating.

    In the northeast, where al-Qaida is most active, the Assad regime pulled out within the first months. It's been hardly active. American no-fly zone wouldn't stop them. They are crawling all over Iraq. Now they have got into Syria. Only American boots on ground going after al-Qaida is going to stop them.

    Syrians are joining Islamist forces because they want to destroy the Assad regime and because many want an Islamic state. And this is not something that America can stop. We have tried to go to Afghanistan and stop Afghanis from being Islamists and we want them to be more secular. It's failed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Murhaf Jouejati, let's talk about what the U.S. would do if it did go in. His -- Joshua Landis is arguing -- nobody is arguing for boots on the ground, but what about the no-fly zone?

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: Nobody is arguing for boots on the ground. And the Syrian opposition doesn't want American or any other boots on the ground.

    The Syrian opposition wants support in neutralizing Assad's air force. Assad is using fighter jets to bomb civilian neighborhoods. He's using Scud missiles to bomb the same civilian neighborhoods.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what could the U.S. do?

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: The U.S. could give air cover.


    MURHAF JOUEJATI: It could establish a no-fly zone, for example, in the south of Syria, much as it had done in the north of Iraq and here.

    Let me remind our American audience that zero American pilots have been killed in the no-fly zone in the Iraq. So in the absence of this, at least, at least, the minimum can provide the rebels with ammunition for them to defend their families and their civilian brothers and sisters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's take that one at a time, Joshua Landis. What about supplying -- let's take this question of supplying ammunition and other equipment to the rebels?

    JOSHUA LANDIS: Well, we're already supplying. We're helping get much more sophisticated arms to the rebels already.

    One of major problems is the rebels, there are over 1,000 militias in Syria. The moderate rebels that Murhaf Jouejati is talking about have had three different leaders in the last two weeks. There is complete chaos. The United States is not confident that if they give them real anti-aircraft weapons, they won't share them with al-Qaida, which is what has been happening.

    And this is the dilemma for the U.S. regime. It's not a good answer. The U.S. can do -- excuse me -- the U.S. government can do a lot more to help the opposition. The problem is, is that the real fighting forces on the ground in Syria, the most effective forces are Salafist movements, the Islamist front, and the al-Qaida affiliates.

    And that's what the United States is frightened of. Israel is frightened of it. And they don't want us to give more weapons. So, we're in a bind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about his earlier point that if you give ammunition, weapons to the rebels, it falls into the hands of the wrong people?

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: One, not necessarily.

    And recently the decision by Friends of Syria has been taken to pour the assistance into the Supreme Military Council, which will channel it to the good guys within the FSA.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You are saying you can make a distinction?

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: Absolutely. And the U.S. has vetted the FSA and knows who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

    The -- the -- I want to go back also to an earlier point. I don't know why Professor Landis wants to equate Syria with Iraq. In Iraq, it was a foreign intervention. In Syria, this is again a national uprising against dictatorship. And there are civilians that are dying to the rate of 150 per day.

    And the longer we wait, the longer the radicals and the Islamists are going to jump in. The longer we wait, the worse it's going to be, not only for Syrians, but also for the region and the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joshua Landis?

    JOSHUA LANDIS: Look, the average cost of Iraq and Afghanistan for the American -- each American household has been about $40,000 dollars of debt for every household, $1 trillion dollars in Iraq, $1 trillion dollars in Afghanistan.

    We hardly changed the outcome in those two countries. We did change it because we have spent a thousand -- we have spent a quarter of a billion dollars in Syria so far, almost nothing. We could pour in a number more billion dollars, but the question is, what kind of outcome are we going to get?

    This is a civil war. And it's pitting two different sectarian groups against each other, and the United States, if they get in and get a Sunni Arab win over the minorities, which is what Murhaf is calling for, in a sense, there could be ethnic cleansing. There is going to be a lot of there -- there is going to be a lot of things that go on that we didn't plan for, as had happened in other countries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well ...

    JOSHUA LANDIS: We could provide a no-fly zone, but the no-fly zone is for humanitarian reasons to stop the killings. If the killing doesn't stop, as it probably won't, then the next -- the mission creep is tremendous.

    We will have to go start -- we will have to go hunting Assad and kill him. And in Libya, it took two days really to go from a no-fly zone to a kill-Gadhafi zone. And that's what is going to happen in Syria. And then we're going to have boots on the ground, and we're going to be mediating a very tough civil war.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Very brief response.

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: In Iraq and Afghanistan, it was very costly because there were boots on ground. Syria doesn't want boots on the ground. It wants a protection for the civilian population and for the Free Syrian Army to be supported in order to collapse this murderous regime, so that the Middle East can see stability again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The debate goes on.

    Murhaf Jouejati, Joshua Landis, we thank you both.

    JOSHUA LANDIS: Thank you.

    MURHAF JOUEJATI: Thank you. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Five car bombs exploded in Shiite areas across Central and Southern Iraq today, killing at least 36 people. It was the latest in a wave of sectarian violence that's left at least 218 dead since last Tuesday. After today's bombings, the mangled remains of the vehicles and other debris littered streets in Diwaniya and other towns. In addition to the dead, dozens of people were wounded.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed that his national security team received payments from the CIA for the last 10 years. The New York Times reported today that the agency delivered millions of dollars in suitcases and even plastic bags in a bid to gain influence. Karzai said it was only -- quote -- "a small amount of money" and that it went to care for the wounded and to pay for housing. The Times report said, in fact, the money has fueled corruption and funded warlords.

    In Bangladesh, rescuers ended the effort to find survivors of last week's eight-story building collapse. The death stood at 382, with some 2,500 survivors.

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

    JOHN SPARKS, Independent Television News: In Dhaka this morning, the authorities gave up. Cranes and heavy cutting equipment were moved in, volunteer rescuers told to go, little chance now, say officials, of finding anyone left alive.

    Yet, six days after this catastrophe, there are hundreds of people, perhaps as many as 1,000, still unaccounted for. Yesterday evening, rescue teams were given one last chance to find survivors. The obstacles were fearsome, the heat and stench of decomposing bodies overpowering, but they descended into the ruins nonetheless.

    IDRIS ALI, Rescuer: You can't see anything inside, but you can hear people shouting for help. It's so dark, no wind, no light.

    JOHN SPARKS: Mr. Ali told us they were looking for a woman, a distant voice amidst the rubble.

    IDRIS ALI: We think there's only one person alive now, and we're trying to help. We can hear her, but we need more time.

    JOHN SPARKS: Their efforts would be in vain. Rescuers started a fire, accidentally, as they tried to cut her free. To save themselves, they were forced to retreat.

    "God knows what happened to the girl," he said. They wept for the one they couldn't reach.

    The owner of the building, Sohel Rana, was led to court today dressed in a police helmet and bulletproof vest. An angry crowd shouted, "Hang him, hang him."

    In an interview conducted the day before the disaster, he said cracks in his building were nothing to worry about.

    MOHAMMED SOHEL RANA, Factory Owner: I saw them. My engineer saw them. But they are not cracks, just plastic coming off. It's not risky at all.

    JOHN SPARKS: The family of the missing hang on, still waiting at the site with family pictures in hand.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A Mississippi man charged with sending ricin- tainted letters was ordered held without bond today, at least for now. James Everett Dutschke made his first appearance in federal court since being arrested on Saturday. The poisoned letters were sent in early April to President Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge. Federal agents originally arrested another suspect, but decided they had the wrong man and let him go.

    It has been two weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing, and the mother of the suspects is denying that she or her sons played any role. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the Associated Press that the charges are all lies. The focus on her came after Russian authorities reported she discussed jihad with her elder son, Tamerlan, in a phone call. It was intercepted prior to the Boston attack. Tsarnaeva lived in the U.S. for 10 years until last fall.

    President Obama has nominated the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, to be the next secretary of transportation. Anthony Foxx is the first African-American nominee to be tapped for a Cabinet slot in the president's second term. The 41-year-old Democrat pledged today to work with Congress and state and local governments to boost public works spending and create jobs.

    SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION- DESIGNATE ANTHONY FOXX: There's no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road, bridge, port, airfield, or rail system. We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation's infrastructure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx will succeed Ray LaHood, the outgoing secretary. LaHood was one of a handful of Republicans serving in the Obama administration.

    State funding for preschool education fell last year by the most since record-keeping began. Rutgers University researchers reported today that most cuts were due to lingering budget problems caused by the recession. They also said half-a-million students are now enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs that do not meet federal standards.

    In economic news, consumer spending and personal income rose in March by 0.2 percent. The increases came despite a return to higher payroll taxes to fund Social Security. Overall, the news encouraged Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 106 points to close at 14,818. The Nasdaq rose more than 27 points to close at 3,307.

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

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    GWEN IFILL: Since the earliest days of the Web, buying goods online has often come with one often-not-quite-legal perk: no sales tax. But that may be about to change.

    The Senate has cleared the way for a new law that would allow states to collect taxes on transactions conducted across state lines. The bill exempts businesses earning less than a million dollars a year. As it stands now, states can only collect taxes from businesses that have a physical presence in their state.

    We look at what's at stake in Congress and the debate surrounding the change with Brian Bieron, senior director of global public policy for eBay, which has actively opposed the legislation, and Rachelle Bernstein, a vice president at the National Retail Federation, which supports the bill.

    Rachelle Bernstein, let's start with the basics. What percentage of goods, would you say, of sales are made online at this point?

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN, National Retail Federation: You know, it's a growing percentage. It's not that large. I don't have that exact number, but we do know it has really grown exponentially over time.

    And we do know that that number is supposed to double in the next six years. So, if we look sales tax base of the states, it will be greatly eroded if something is not done to even out the tax burden on goods that are purchased from out of state, as well as in state.

    GWEN IFILL: So, we're talking basically a difference between way the brick and mortar salespeople, people who actually have a building and a front door and a cash register, and people like you at eBay who look at this and everything exists online.

    BRIAN BIERON, eBay: Well, eBay is a marketplace on the Internet actually for all size and all kinds of retailers.

    We have thousands and really tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses who use the Internet on eBay and in other ways. But many of them also actually have physical storefronts and they have physical presence through warehouse.

    Really, the thing to think about is that while the Internet right now is around six percent of retail, so it's not an overwhelming amount, that this bill really treats small businesses in a much more negative way than it treats really giant businesses.

    GWEN IFILL: How?

    BRIAN BIERON: Well, the giant businesses today, because they tend to be in more places, the current law essentially requires them to collect and live under the laws of a large number of states.

    Smaller businesses, many of whom are using the Internet, but also let's say might also be in storefronts, no matter how they sell things, they are only required to collect for one state and to essentially be audited or live under the enforcement of just one state's tax collectors.

    To take any business when they are really small who today is living under the laws of one state and would ask them to live under the same set of laws that giant businesses, billion-dollar businesses with armies of accountants and tax lawyers, treating them exactly the same we think would be unfair.

    We think that it's not that we oppose the idea. We think that these bills should be rejected right now because they are not balanced and they don't treat the small businesses in the right way.

    GWEN IFILL: Rachelle Bernstein?

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN: Well, I understand what Brian is saying.

    But we have small members that are really the mom and pops in the community, the people that are paying property taxes, employing people there, and they face a lot of competition from the Internet sellers.

    And what this ...

    GWEN IFILL: Give me an example of that.

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN: Well, we have -- one of our members in Baltimore owns a running shoe store, and it's just one store.

    He has a very wide selection of different types of shoes so that you can go in and you can try everything on and figure out exactly which shoes you want. Running shoes are a little bit expensive. People go in there. They will find exactly what they want, maybe -- maybe order two pairs. They will be as bold as to in that store pull out their telephone and order those shoes online after they have identified what they need.

    GWEN IFILL: To save the taxes?

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN: To save the taxes.

    This man can't compete with that, this owner of the store. So, we have got a real problem here. And I hear what Brian is saying in terms of the burdens of collecting taxes from a state that you are not in. But the legislation said that is -- the Senate is about to pass includes -- requires the states that want to collect these taxes to provide software to the remote sellers that will calculate the tax, collect the tax, and remit it to the states on behalf of those sellers.

    GWEN IFILL: You just made an important point. The Senate is about to pass it.


    GWEN IFILL: I said clear the way, but the Senate committee has cleared the way, so it will go to the full Senate and then to the House.

    I want to ask you about that, Brian Bieron. Why shouldn't everybody pay the taxes?

    BRIAN BIERON: Well, first of all, states all today have the right to require whether it's the businesses in their to collect or the consumers in their states to pay. States have authority to collect their taxes.

    And in fact, the Internet doesn't change that.

    GWEN IFILL: They have the authority, but it involves individuals going back and saying, oh, this is how much I think I spent on eBay last year.

    BRIAN BIERON: But the fact is they're -- when you're shopping on eBay, you are shopping with actual retailers.

    Now, on eBay, they are usually very small businesses. But if you buy on the Internet from a business that is in your state, the sales tax is collected. This is about requiring businesses that are far away from a state to live under that state's laws, which Rachelle mentioned software.

    If software was all it took to comply with taxes, then giant multibillion-dollar businesses wouldn't have large teams of accountants and teams of tax lawyers to do their tax compliance, because they would replace all that with just software. The reality is that it's a lot more than software.

    And the current bill would mean that any small business over a very tiny size who were using the Internet to sell could be audited and face tax enforcement in the tax courts of businesses thousands -- I mean, states thousands of miles away.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let's talk about the states, Rachelle Bernstein.

    Do -- how much -- we have any way of knowing or measuring how much money states are losing by people who buy across state lines and don't pay that tax?

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN: The National Council of State Legislatures said that the number is $23 billion dollars this year.

    So, yes, that is -- that's a lot of money. The states are -- right now are hurting for funds. This would help them not have to pass new taxes to be able to collect the money that is needed. The other thing is that, again, as -- as the growth of the Internet goes on, if this situation isn't corrected, either state sales taxes are going to have to rise or states are going to have to look to other sources of revenue, increasing income taxes, whatever, to be able to collect the revenue that they are relying on.

    GWEN IFILL: The bill calls for that million-dollar cutoff. You are saying it should be higher.

    BRIAN BIERON: We're saying it should be higher. We believe that a number more like $10 million dollars, which has been proposed in a bipartisan way -- for example, the Department of Treasury Office of Tax Analysis, they recommend $10 million dollars.

    GWEN IFILL: It's not a big business at $10 million dollars?

    BRIAN BIERON: Oh, no, it's -- well, their -- they recommend, the Department of Treasury today has a proposal that $10 million dollars would be the number that they would use to measure the difference between small businesses and big businesses -- businesses for tax bills across the board.

    Chairman Dave Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee, the lead tax writer on the House side of the Hill, has said that $10 million dollars is a standard for him for deciding where a small business becomes like a midsized business.

    GWEN IFILL: I have a very brief final question for you both, which is we know what the debate about taxes is like on Congress -- on the Hill, on Capitol Hill. Why isn't this just a tax increase, pure and simple?

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN: Well, it's not a tax increase because this tax is already due and owing. It's just, as you said before; it's up to the consumer right now to remit it.

    But, if I could just make one comment ...

    GWEN IFILL: We really ...

    RACHELLE BERNSTEIN: ... 99 percent of Internet sellers have less than $1 million dollars of sales.

    GWEN IFILL: Very brief response.

    BRIAN BIERON: Well, we think that the most balanced answer is to raise that small business number to a realistic level where you balance the interest of the states with revenue and you also keep the Internet open for small business.

    GWEN IFILL: Brian Bieron of eBay and Rachelle Bernstein of the National Retail Federation, thank you both very much.

    BRIAN BIERON: Thank you very much. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first time, an active male player in the four major professional sports today announced publicly he's gay. Pro basketball's Jason Collins put it this way: "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

    Jeffrey Brown looks at his decision and the reaction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The news came first in Collins' own account on Sports Illustrated's website.

    He wrote: "If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

    The seven-foot Collins is now 34 and a free agent. He played for the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics this season, his 12th in the league. In his "Sports Illustrated" account, he pointed to this month's attack in Boston, saying: "It reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

    Reaction appeared largely positive. Doc Rivers, coach of Boston Celtics, said in a statement: "I'm extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He is a pro's pro."

    Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant tweeted his encouragement: "Proud of Jason Collins. Don't suffocate you are who you are because of the ignorance of others."

    Bryant's support came two years after he was fined $100,000 dollars for using a homophobic slur during a game. And the issue has arisen in other sports. Before this year's Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers player Chris Culliver said gay athletes wouldn't be welcome in the locker room.

    Indeed, until Collins, the only male athletes to come out were already retired, while women's sports have been more accepting. Brittney Griner, the top pick in this year's WNBA draft, made hardly a ripple this month when she announced she is a lesbian.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And for more now on the Jason Collins story, I'm joined by LZ Granderson, a sportswriter and columnist ESPN and a CNN contributor.

    Well, specifically for our non-sports fans, why has this taken so long in pro sports and why is it a big deal now?

    LZ GRANDERSON, ESPN: Well, one of the reasons why it's taken so long in professional sports is because there's the sense in the locker room that it isn't an environment in which an openly gay male player would feel safe, that if he came out, that his job would be in jeopardy, that his health could be at risk, especially if he is playing a collision sport like football or hockey, or that a team wouldn't sign him, or would cut him or waive him if he is playing football.

    So, the threat of your livelihood and the threat of the health for many, many years was the reason why athletes were so hesitant to come out. And as far as it being a big deal now, I would like to -- it's a big deal in the sense that it's the first player, but when you look at the arc of the LGBT movement and where we are right now, I'm not sure if it's as big of a deal as perhaps what is going on at the Supreme Court right now with the Defense of Marriage Act.

    In other words, the movement has progressed to a certain point at which the laws that are being addressed are affecting a much larger group of people than perhaps the symbolism of one player coming out in the NBA.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You are saying the movement in the larger culture is beyond where the -- where sports is perhaps?

    What kind of reaction is this getting so far in the world of sports and what kind of reaction might you expect later on in the locker room?

    LZ GRANDERSON: Well, you know, Jason is a free agent.

    So, right now, he doesn't have a particular locker room to report to. And that is the piece of puzzle that we're all waiting for, if you will. Everyone that has been tweeting thus far, for the most part, have been very supportive.

    It's my understanding that President Obama recently called Jason Collins and congratulated him. We know Michelle Obama tweeted that "We've got your back." Numerous players, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, have all tweeted in support of Jason.

    But at the end of the day, where we're in this conversation will be determined about whether or not Jason is re-signed. If he goes into a locker room, if he is signed as an openly gay player, then I think we know where we are. If he is not signed, we have much more questions that need to be asked, as well as answered.

    Was he not signed because he is openly gay? Was he not signed because he is not a particularly great player, because he is 34? A lot of other questions will be out there that have to be answered.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What is your sense of where things stand in other sports beyond basketball, football, for example, a famously macho environment, right?

    LZ GRANDERSON: Well, you know, I'm an openly gay man. I like to think of myself as fairly macho. So, I don't like think one's sexual orientation ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: I didn't -- I certainly didn't -- I certainly didn't mean that. I just meant the reputation and ...

    LZ GRANDERSON: No, no.

    No, and people usually prefix the conversation about professional sports, about it being this really macho environment, when the truth of the matter is that whatever we deem as stereotypically macho, the male athletes that have come out thus far in professional sports all fit that bill. John Amaechi played a big power forward position. I would think that would be pretty macho. He's a big, strong guy.

    Before him, Dave Kopay was a killer on the field, pretty macho guy. So, I think part of this conversation is perhaps reframing the way we think about it in its entirety, looking at it perhaps through a different paradigm. So, that's the reason why I gave a little pushback there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: No, no, no, I take the point, well-taken.

    So, what is the situation in other sports? Is there -- similar to what you see in basketball?

    LZ GRANDERSON: Well, you know, I do know that all these leagues have worked with or are still working with some national organization addressing homophobia in sports.

    The NBA has been working with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network for years prior to Jason Collins coming out, prior to Kobe Bryant being fined last year for uttering a gay slur inadvertently on television. The NFL has been working with an organization to try to address homophobia in sports. The NHL a couple of weeks ago announced working with an organization to make things better for an openly gay athlete in its sport.

    So, I would think that, at least from an executive level, a lot has been done to address this issue and to make things more comfortable or more tolerant for an openly gay player to exist in the locker room. But with that being said, no locker room has what has happened in the NBA. And if Jason is resigned, the other leagues have a lot of catching up to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, LZ GRANDERSON, ESPN columnist, thanks so much.

    LZ GRANDERSON: Hey, thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, online, we have reaction from the athletes from the NBA and other major sports leagues. That's on our Rundown.

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    GWEN IFILL: In Washington today, a group of Holocaust survivors returned to the capital for a day of remembrance, reminding younger generations of past horrors and of future challenges.

    Ray Suarez reports.

    RAY SUAREZ: Under a steady rain, thousands of came to mark the 20th anniversary of the dedication of a museum built as a constant reminder of one of history's greatest crimes, Nazi Germany's murder of six million Jews.

    MAN: Time is an all-important factor in the thinking and planning of mankind.

    RAY SUAREZ: Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler led Germany and its collaborators first to systematically persecute, then attempt to eliminate European Jewry.

    Today's ceremony brought together more than 800 Holocaust survivors and more than 100 military veterans who took part in liberating Europe and the death camps. But there probably won't be too many more gatherings like this one. It's almost 70 years since V.E. Day. Even those who were liberated as children are in their 80s and '90s.

    Natalie Gonenn-Rendler is one of those child survivors from Poland. She recounted what she remembers seeing she was just three years old.

    NATALIE GONENN-RENDLER, Holocaust Survivor: A little baby was crying. And the German yelled in German, "Stop the baby from crying." That's what he yelled, you know? How do you make a baby stop crying. She couldn't stop the baby from crying. He grabbed the baby, sat the little baby down. It was a fence around it, too, yes, a spiky fence. The blood was gushing all over. That's what I saw at three years old.

    RAY SUAREZ: It was on another rainy, windy day in 1993 that President Bill Clinton and Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel dedicated the nation's Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    ELIE WIESEL, Nobel Laureate: For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.

    FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: This museum is not for the dead alone, nor even for the survivors who have been so beautifully represented. It is perhaps most of all for those of us who were not there at all, to learn the lessons, to deepen our memories and our humanity, and to transmit these lessons from generation to generation.

    RAY SUAREZ: Now 20 years later, under a massive tent, the same two men called on the world to prevent future genocides from happening.

    ELIE WIESEL: You are now the flag bearers. It's in your memory that inherits ours. Our memory will live in yours. Remember that, young people, that now you have an ideal, not only an idea, but ideal, the ideal of saving whatever the past has to offer for the future, and its heroes and also its victims.

    FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Make sure that as direct memories fade away, that the records, the pictures, and the stories never die, to make sure that we will always be able to come here to remind us that no matter how smart a people are, if you have a head without a heart, you are not human.

    RAY SUAREZ: The museum has seen more than 35 million people pass through its doors since it opened just off the National Mall. It's full of audio and video testimonials from survivors, a model of the gas chamber at Auschwitz, artifacts from victims' lives, like the stack of shoes they took off before being put to death in the gas chambers, and the faces of those who were killed in Hitler's genocide.

    The museum's director, Sara Bloomfield, said the museum's core mission is to educate, but it's also about helping prevent future genocides.

    SARA BLOOMFIELD, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: Evil is not an eradicable disease. It will be here forever. Human beings will face future genocides. And our responsibility is to do for future victims of genocide what the world failed to do for the Jews of Europe in the 1930s and '40s.

    RAY SUAREZ: Ninety-two-year-old Henry Hirschmann is both survivor and a veteran. He fled to America from Germany as a teenager and ended up going back as a young G.I., where he walked through the barracks at Dachau. Now he tells his story to schoolchildren.

    HENRY HIRSCHMANN, Holocaust Survivor: We're talking about history. And I constantly hope -- and something that I told my two children as they were growing up, I said, can't you love one another? It's a lot easier than hate. And if that transformed itself to the people in this world to love one another, I think it would become a better world.

    RAY SUAREZ: There are other Holocaust memorials and museums around the world, like Israel's Yad Vashem and Berlin's memorial built in 2004.

    And just last week, Canada announced plans to build a memorial in Ottawa, the only former Allied nation without one.

    GWEN IFILL: You can watch videos from today's ceremony online, including speeches from President Clinton and Elie Wiesel. Find those on our YouTube page. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now our look at how social media affects and infects the world we live in.

    NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni is here with the Daily Download team.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: We learned last week that a tweet can send markets crashing in a matter of minutes. How can news outlets protect themselves from hacking? And how difficult is it to stop something once it goes viral?

    We discuss the issue now with two journalists from the website Daily Download. Lauren Ashburn is the site's editor in chief. Howard Kurtz is Newsweek's bureau chief and host of CNN's “Reliable Sources."

    Lauren, Howie, thanks for being here.

    Last Tuesday, we saw that the Associated Press sent out this tweet to 1.9 million followers. What exactly happened here?

    LAUREN ASHBURN, Daily-Download.com: Well, the tweet as you can see here says: "Breaking: two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured."

    Everybody went crazy online. It was retweeted 1,800 times to the Associated Press' almost two million followers. And after that, we saw a drop in Standard & Poor's, in the stock market.

    HOWARD KURTZ, Newsweek/CNN: And $136 billion lost. Of course, most after that rebounded in the seven minutes that it took for people like me to start rushing over to the White House and find out there were no explosions and for the Twitter to suspend the Associated Press account, which obviously had been hacked, which we all suspected.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: And which the AP then put out a correction, saying this did not actually happen.

    LAUREN ASHBURN: They said this is a bogus AP tweet, which I thought was very short and tight.

    HOWARD KURTZ: And yet AP had some indication that somebody was trying to break into the system.

    LAUREN ASHBURN: They did earlier. And they had actually sent out a warning to all of the 2,000 journalists plus all of the other people who work at the AP saying someone is trying to phish or get into our system. Do not click.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: And the phishing scams, this happens when somebody might send you a link that looks like an article. In this case, it was Washington Post and Reuters articles. And then if you click on it, it's asking for your data.

    HOWARD KURTZ: Exposes your password.

    What with underscores I think, Lauren, is the way that Twitter has become threaded into the fabric of our society. It's now OK, according to the government, for companies to deliver what is called market-moving information through their Twitter feeds. Bloomberg News terminals, which many traders rely on for those split-second trades, now include Twitter.

    If there's a hack, if there's a false tweet -- and we saw this with China hacking into the New York Times website.

    LAUREN ASHBURN: We saw it with "60 Minutes" as well.

    HOWARD KURTZ: Right. It's almost becoming the new normal.

    And it cannot only put out false information to the whole world in the blink of an eye, but can affect the stock market.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: What are the consequences here? What are we seeing to sort of curtail this potential problem?

    LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, this really goes to the power of social media.

    We need tighter password restrictions. And a lot of sites have things that are called two-step verification. Twitter doesn't. Two-step verification means that you have to get your password from a different place. So it has to be sent to your phone. And so there's actually two steps in creating a password and getting that password.

    HOWARD KURTZ: Twitter now looking into adopting that.

    This is a black eye for Twitter, no question about it, even though it wasn't Twitter's fault. Tomorrow, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is going to have a hearing tomorrow because as we mentioned the billions and billions of dollars that are traded on sometimes false information if there are hackers involved on how to tighten up the system, how this can be prevented from triggering a run on stocks.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, and this all comes as it shows people are more engaged than ever on social media online. We have this new Pew Research Center study that we have been taking a look at here. What is it telling us how about people engage on social media?

    LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, we have seen a big increase from the last political election to this one. And we have a graphic to show exactly how that is happening.

    People are posting political articles on social media at a much greater rate. It has been 28 percent this election and it was 11 percent in 2008.

    HOWARD KURTZ: And friending a political candidate has also jumped from four years ago to last year.

    This is great because social media is such an efficient and fun and vibrant way of putting out information. But as that hack last week underscores again, you have got to be wary, whether you are a consumer, whether you are a journalist, or whether you are somebody who has got a few dollars in the stock market.

    LAUREN ASHBURN: But you also have to understand that as social media is growing and growing so rapidly that the back end of all of these organizations need to catch up and put in tighter security controls.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Right. We have seen that from the media to the stock market, you know, the world market, and now to politics, of course.

    Thank you very much, Howard Kurtz, Lauren Ashburn, Daily Download.

    HOWARD KURTZ: Thank you.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Online, you can find a number of resources that can help you protect your accounts and our how-to guide for what to do if you are hacked. That's at NewsHour.PBS.org.

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: how technology has changed the foods we eat.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our book conversation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Human eating habits have changed more in the past century than in the previous 10,000 years. In the U.S., Americans are consuming double the fat, 3.5 times more sodium, 60 percent more sugar and infinitely more corn and soybeans than in the year 1909.

    One culprit, processed food. About 70 percent of our calories come from them. It's a topic of a new book by former New York Times business reporter Melanie Warner called "Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal."

    Melanie Warner joins me now. Thanks for being with us.

    MELANIE WARNER, "Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal": Yes. Thank you for having me.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, first of all, define processed food, just so we're all on the same page.

    MELANIE WARNER: Yes, it's a term that is thrown around a lot these days.

    I like to think of it as a processed food is something that you could not make at home in your own home kitchen with those same ingredients. So, you could apply to packaged food. You can apply to fast food. And I think that's a good -- good benchmark.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you did this kind of interesting experiment. You wanted to see how processed food sort of devolved or what their shelf life was. And what did you do? Explain this to the audience.

    MELANIE WARNER: Yes. It was something that I came upon a number of years ago where I started wondering about expiration dates on packages, food in the supermarket.

    Pretty much every package has an expiration date on it somewhere. And I wondered, what would happen after this date came and went? Would the food good bad? Would it start smelling? So, I just started collecting some food and keeping it in my -- then it was an apartment and to see what happened. And, eventually, I would open it and everything would be fine. Nothing -- there would no mold, no bad smell.

    So, over time, I just collected. I became curious, well, what would happen if I tested other kinds of foods? And I got -- I started collecting fast food and all kinds of other supermarket products, frozen meals, kid’s meals, Pop Tarts. You name it. My office was filled with the stuff.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what should have been a very smelly area wasn't smelly.

    MELANIE WARNER: It wasn't very smelly at all.

    It was in my office and I was still able to work there. There were a few exceptions, but for the most part, none of it molded, started smelling bad or otherwise decomposed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And you say in your book that while science and technology has made it easier to process foods, our bodies have not evolved at the same pace. Explain that.

    MELANIE WARNER: Yes. That's correct.

    We have had an enormous amount of technological innovation in the last 100 years. Technology has merged with -- with food production in a way that few of us, I think, realize, but the way our bodies process food is stuck somewhere in the Stone Age, when we were eating very different foods, obviously.

    This causes enormous problems, because the foods that we're eating, our bodies are really not designed to handle. And it causes all kinds of health problems.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there some sort of scientific data that says we don't have the enzymes or what is happening in our bodies when this processed food hits it?

    MELANIE WARNER: Well, you can look at different things; you can look at different ingredients.

    Certainly, if you take sugar, the effect that sugar has on our bodies is -- can be somewhat disastrous if it's overconsumed. Metabolically, it causes our blood sugar to spike. And you a lot hear about people getting insulin-resistant. And it just -- it messes up the whole blood sugar dynamic when we consume too much sugar.

    And then you can talk different about things like fats and vegetable oils. And we're overconsuming those. And that's having problems for our arteries and our vascular system and our heart.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Some of these preservatives, the food industry is going to come back and say in fact it's because of the preservatives, it's because of the fortifying things with vitamins and minerals that we are maybe even going to have a chance at feeding the seven billion people that are on the planet. So, we kind of need this science, we need this to feed everybody.

    MELANIE WARNER: Yes. I would argue that that is not the only way we can feed people and that's not the best way to feed people.

    You look at, do we really want the rest of the world adopting our diet of eating processed food, where we're eating 70 percent processed food? And our health statistics are abysmal. We're supposed to be a great country, and we're 37th in life expectancy globally around the world.

    So, I just don't think that that is a solution for feeding the rest of the world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, after having written this book and knowing this much about processed foods, what is your diet like? What are you cutting out? What are you including?

    MELANIE WARNER: I think it's -- I want to stress that I'm not arguing for a world without any processed food, zero processed food.

    I think it's a matter of rebalancing our diet so that instead of 70 percent of our food coming from highly processed products, maybe it's something like 30 percent or 20 percent, or whatever is right for an individual. So, that's the way I try and eat. I do eat processed foods. I do serve them to my kids. I'm a working mom.

    So, I try and have a balance. And when I do serve processed foods or eat processed foods, I try and seek out the best choices, the ones that don't have as many ingredients, that don't have artificial ingredients, so the less processed of the processed choices.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, examples would be?

    MELANIE WARNER: Like, for instance, I don't buy a boxed mac and cheese anymore for the kids, because I thought, why I do want to be feeding them powdered cheese or liquid cheese, instead of the real thing? To make it at home is relatively easily. So, I have become just a little bit more skeptical and discriminating.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, the book is called "Pandora's Lunchbox."

    Melanie Warner, thanks so much for your time.

    MELANIE WARNER: Yes. Thank you. 

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    By Larry Kotlikoff

    If you outlive your life expectancy, economist Larry Kotlikoff says you will want the highest possible Social Security check. If you don't, you won't need one.

    Image by Tetra Images/Getty Images.

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

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

    Joe Ruthenberg -- Vista, Calif.: How many years will it take me to recover passed over benefits if I wait until age 70? At age 66, I will receive $1,512. At age 70, $2,119 per month.

    Larry Kotlikoff: You seem to be thinking something like, "Gee, if it takes me 15 years to break even after waiting until 70 to start collecting and my life expectancy is only 82, it doesn't make sense to wait." This is not the right way to think about waiting to collect. The reason is that you won't die precisely at 82 or whatever your life expectancy happens to be.

    Look at the actuarial tables used by Social Security (though they figure to underestimate longevity, since they date from 2007 and life expectancy has grown since).

    Here are the 2007 projections for the ages at which you might make a Social Security decision, 62 to 69. The first column is age; the second, the odds of your dying in the next year at that age, if you're a man. The third column lists the number of years of life expectancy left, on average (again, for men). The next two columns provide the same data for women.

    62 0.013 19.4 0.008 22.3

    63 0.014 18.7 0.009 21.5

    64 0.015 17.9 0.010 20.7

    65 0.017 17.2 0.011 19.1

    66 0.018 16.5 0.012 19.3

    67 0.020 15.8 0.013 18.3

    68 0.021 15.1 0.014 17.6

    69 0.023 14.4 0.016 16.8

    In other words, if you are a woman who has just turned 66, the odds of your dying in the next year, knowing nothing else about you, are .012, or about 1 in 80. Your life expectancy is 66+19.3 = 85.3. But that's an average. In other words, half of all 66-year-old women will live to less than 85 but fully half will live to be even older.

    Now suppose you live to 100. Here's the line from the Social Security's actuarial table; again, from 2007, the latest year available:

    100 0.362 2.1 0.311 2.4

    So even a centenarian can be expected to live another two years. Such a person will have lost big time from taking benefits early: as much as several hundred thousand dollars, in today's money.

    But, you are probably asking, what if you wait to collect and do happen to die early? The way I think of it, you will be in heaven, where you won't need money. So I just can't see the downside of waiting in order to protect yourself from the worst case scenario, namely, living to your maximum age of life and in the process, out living your savings.

    Therefore, unless you have no other sources of income and really can't wait until age 70, please do wait. (By the way, I'm assuming you are single and have no access to spousal benefits from a former spouse. Otherwise, my answer might be different.)

    John -- New Hope, Penn.: I am 69 and two months; my wife is 62 and eight months. We have a 22-year-old daughter in college. How can we structure any income from Social Security at this point to help pay for tuition, etc.?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Technically, you can file right now for your retirement benefit and suspend its collection, then wait until 70 to start collecting it at its highest value. Doing so would let your wife immediately begin to collect her excess spousal benefit (half of your full retirement benefit less 100 percent of your wife's full retirement benefit), based on your work record -- assuming there is an excess, that is.

    BUT, should she do this, your wife would be forced to collect her own retirement benefit as well. Both her excess spousal benefit and her retirement benefit would then be permanently reduced because she would be collecting them before full retirement age.

    If your wife waits until full retirement age, however, she can collect her full spousal benefit (equal to half of your full retirement benefit) and then wait until age 70 to collect her own maximum retirement benefit. At 70, it will be roughly 65 percent larger than were she to take it now. So much depends on how badly you need the money now, compared to how worried you are about outliving your savings. You may need to use available software to determine which option is best.

    MORE SOCIAL SECURITY ANSWERS Why You Should Never Wait Until After 70 to Take Social Security

    Jim Neal -- Kansas City, Mo.: My wife is the primary earner and is 10 years younger than I am. I just turned 60, so I'm trying to get a handle on the best way for us to deal with Social Security. I haven't worked for about 20 years and the most I ever made was around $50,000 annually. My wife, on the other hand, currently makes nearly double that. We have no children and while I was previously married, it was a long time ago and lasted only a few years. My current marriage is still going strong after 20 years. There are some bills we'd pay off if I were to take Social Security early, but we certainly don't need the money to live on. We just want to figure out the best way to maximize both of our Social Security benefits. Look forward to hearing your advice.

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can't collect a spousal benefit until your spouse files for a retirement benefit, which she can't do before reaching age 62. So your best option may be to take your own reduced retirement benefit starting at 62 and then take your spousal benefit starting at 72 or later, when your wife files for her retirement benefit.

    Alternatively, waiting until you reach 70 to start your retirement benefit may be best. You need to use software or consult a financial advisor to compare this and other options.

    Ken Luedtke -- Richfield, Wis.: Would the little adjustment on Social Security make any difference?

    Larry Kotlikoff: I assume by "little adjustment" you mean switching to a chain-weighted index formula to determine Social Security's cost of living adjustment. That one change would probably lower the inflation adjustment by 0.3 percentage points per year: not a big deal in the short run, but it will be significant over time. That's why it's opposed by those who worry about less well-off Americans reliant on Social Security.

    J. Post -- San Carlos, Calif.: I started taking Social Security at my full retirement age, 66. My husband started spousal benefits the same year. That was two years ago. He makes more than me but I also make a good living. Should I suspend my benefit now at age 68 and start up again at age 70? Should he suspend and take spousal benefits too?

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can't suspend a spousal benefit, so that option is not available. But it does make sense for you to suspend your own retirement benefit and start it up again at 70 at a 16 percent permanently higher level.

    Eileen Brieaddy -- Florence, S.C.: I was misinformed about getting benefits when my husband died years ago and now understand I could have gotten widow benefits. Since the Social Security misinformed me, can I still file for back money for me and his stepchildren?

    Larry Kotlikoff: From what I understand, if you have documentation of this, you can. Here's what my colleague Jerry Lutz has to say:

    She could file a claim now, and request that a deemed filing date be established based on misinformation. If the new claim she files is disallowed, she would have the right to appeal the decision. Here is the reference from Social Security Online.

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

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    Ed Markey; photo by Freddy Wheeler/WEBN-TV via Flickr

    Rep. Ed Markey faces Rep. Stephen Lynch in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Photo by Freddy Wheeler/WEBN-TV via Flickr.

    The Morning Line

    Six months ago, Massachusetts voters were in the middle of one of the fiercest Senate battles of the election season. They ousted Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who had surprised the nation and delighted the tea party, in a January 2010 special election that temporarily put the brakes on a health care reform bill on Capitol Hill.

    When President Barack Obama chose then-Sen. John Kerry to be his new secretary of state, it at first seemed like Massachusetts residents would be in for another wild ride. But Brown opted against another bid.

    The action in the strongly Democratic state is happening in Tuesday's primary.

    Two members of the Bay State's all-Democratic congressional delegation are facing off, with Rep. Ed Markey favored to defeat Rep. Stephen Lynch. When he stepped forward with a bid, Markey got a wave of Democratic endorsements, including from members of the Kennedy family. He also had a fundraising advantage.

    The Boston Marathon bombings dramatically reshaped the last few weeks, forcing the candidates to suspend campaigning and pulling even more attention away from what was already looking to be a low-turnout contest. Officials expect 550,000 people will turn out for the Democratic primary and 200,000 for the Republican primary.

    Lynch raised his profile over the last few weeks, joining authorities at news conferences related to the bombings and investigation, but on Monday he scrapped his final campaign appearances due to a stomach bug.

    The GOP side is anyone's guess, with a competitive race between businessman Gabriel Gomez, state Rep. Dan Winslow and the former ATF acting director Michael Sullivan.

    Sullivan is the favorite of tea party groups but is seen as less electable than Gomez or Winslow. Gomez made headlines by asking Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint him to replace Kerry and promising he wouldn't run in the special election if he got the job. (Patrick chose William "Mo" Cowan instead. We profiled Cowan here.)

    The race has attracted $2.2 million in outside spending, the Associated Press reported.

    Christina recently spoke with WGBH's Adam Reilly and MassINC Polling Group's Steve Koczela about the field on both sides. Watch that conversation, which took place before the bombings altered the race, here.

    Politico has five things to watch in Tuesday's primaries.

    The Boston Globe sets the scene by noting the competition lies fully in the Republican contest. There's still plenty of time for a Republican comeback ahead of the June 25 special election. But the Democrats are favored here to keep Kerry's seat in their column.

    In another twist, a race that should never have been competitive has turned into an all-out slugfest in South Carolina. Here's a little primer on next Tuesday's contest:

    When GOP Gov. Nikki Haley selected then-Rep. Tim Scott to fill retiring Sen. Jim DeMint's seat last winter, Republicans were confident the 1st Congressional District would remain in its column when voters chose a replacement. When former GOP Gov. Mark Sanford jumped into the race to reclaim the seat he once held, it at first seemed as if he'd face a difficult primary. But Sanford cleared the field easily in a runoff.

    On the Democratic side, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a non-politician and administrator at the Clemson University Restoration Institute, had little chance to win over the conservatives in the coastal district. She had celebrity ties, and her brother, comedian Stephen Colbert, got his pals to host fundraisers on her behalf. She also attracted national attention and plenty of free publicity.

    But things went south for Sanford when his ex-wife, Jenny, declined to help with his campaign or endorse him. And it got worse when she accused him of trespassing on her property. Republican campaign officials responded by opting against spending any more money on the race. And Democrats are spending more to try and flip this Republican seat.

    Since then, the campaign has gotten nastier.

    In their only debate of the election Monday night, Sanford and Busch sparred over spending. Busch even zinged Sanford about his 2009 trip to Argentina to meet his mistress -- the same trip he had claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and that contributed to the end of his marriage.

    "When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take the money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose," she said.

    "She went there, governor," one of the moderators said. Sanford didn't respond.

    And Politico noticed a website bought a billboard using Sanford's affair to sell its services.

    Tuesday's Massachusetts contest has little of the drama of South Carolina's election next week, but both serve as reminders that in politics, the road ahead is often unpredictable.


    On Monday, Christina spoke with Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of the Daily Download about the implications of last week's Associated Press Twitter hack, which sent the stock market tumbling and news organizations' tech teams soul-searching.

    "This is a black eye for Twitter, no question about it, even though it wasn't Twitter's fault," Kurtz said.

    The hack occurred April 23 just after 1 p.m. ET, not long after AP staff received a phishing email masked to look like it was from a colleague. Hackers broke into the news organization's Twitter feed, and from it announced that explosions at the White House had injured President Obama. The AP corrected the tweet with this tweet at 1:25 p.m. ET, and the stock markets recovered by 1:45 ET. NPR reported the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The incident may have flown by in under an hour, but it raised questions about how news organizations should gird themselves from future attacks. USA Today spoke with journalism scholars on how news organizations should shore up online security. National Journal pointed out that companies should test employees' ability to recognize phishing email.

    In short, teaching adults not to fall prey to spam links and account phishing is similar to teaching children not to talk to strangers. A developer created a page called "Is my Twitter password secure," one of the funniest and simplest ways to teach people how not to get phished.

    That's not all -- Twitter is working on its login design to add a two-step process when a user tries to enter from a new device, Ashburn pointed out.

    All of this heightened vigilance is shaded by a busy month in online security news. The Securities and Exchange Commission opened up social media platforms as ways traders can get information from companies, and the Bloomberg Terminal, the omnipotent trading platform on Wall Street, added tweets to its data service. Last week, Reuters fired well-known social media editor Matthew Keys, who later appeared in court to plead not guilty to charges he helped Anonymous hack Tribune Company sites.

    Kurtz noted that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission meets Tuesday with "a couple of dozen high-frequency traders to discuss whether there should be additional safeguards to protect against the effects of social media on markets," according to the New York Times.

    Watch the Daily Download segment here or below:

    Watch Video


    Best friends Jim DeMint and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., now seem at odds over Rubio's position on immigration, the New York Times reports.

    Texas GOP Rep. Sam Johnson: an unlikely immigration reform negotiator. And Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs in.

    Mr. Obama's advocacy for campaign finance reform has lagged since the White House has failed to make appointments to election-related leadership positions, the Washington Post notes.

    The FBI is interviewing "associates" of Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family about his cozy relationship with major donor and Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams.

    Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's wife stars in the first statewide political ad of the gubernatorial race.

    Democratic Rep. Gary Peters will run for the Michigan Senate seat that will be left vacant by retiring Sen. Carl Levin.

    The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday it's not wrong for Virginia to limit its Freedom of Information policies to in-state residents.

    The Supreme Court chose not to hear a case in which Alabama would have defended its controversial immigration law.

    The AP's Thomas Beaumont notices the potential problems brewing for Republicans in Senate primaries in West Virginia and Georgia.

    Authorities said Monday a white powder was found in a letter sent to the office of Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York. It later tested negative for harmful substances.

    Two Democrat representatives believe legalizing marijuana could help cut the federal deficit.

    A New York Post column on Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's intentions for 2016 forced him Monday to address whether he'll run for president. He says Hillary Clinton's decision on entering the race will have no bearing on his own.

    Joshua Dubois for the Daily Beast dispels the myth that Washington is a godless place by examining the spiritual sides of a number of people in power.

    Oh, Joe! Vice President Joe Biden told Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at an event last weekend that he would do anything to help Graham win re-election in 2014. That includes campaigning for him, or against him: "I assure you I will rip your skin off for you, and I expect a thank-you note."

    Second thoughts on Bush v. Gore? Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

    San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is looking to boost his city's joint 2024 Summer Olympics bid with Tijuana, Mexico. So he's calling in Mitt Romney.

    Sarah Palin could run for U.S. Senate, or at least the Tea Party Leadership Fund is attempting to draft Alaska's former governor to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in 2014. "Do the words 'Senator Sarah Palin' excite you? If we do our job, they could become reality," writes Todd Cefaratti in an email to supporters. "As Karl Rove and the 'Republican' campaign establishment prepare to spend hundreds of millions defeating the Tea Party in primaries next fall, campaign insiders know what they're really afraid of--they're not afraid of gaffes, they're not afraid of weak candidates, and they're not afraid of losing."

    $23,646. That's the taxpayer cost of a multi-country trip taken by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, according to Roll Call.

    Libertarian Darryl W. Perry is "pledging to be the first White House hopeful to accept Bitcoin, the online currency currently en vogue in tech and libertarian circles."

    If you enjoy using a computer, take a moment and thank the late Kenneth Appel.

    The Netherlands has a new monarch after Queen Beatrix abdicated to pass power to her 46-year-old son, Willem-Alexander.

    We've heard George Washington's Mount Vernon will make a special appearance on the "Amazing Race" season finale this Sunday.


    Gwen Ifill moderates a discussion with Brian Bieron of eBay and the National Retail Federation's Rachelle Bernstein about a proposal to allow states to charge sales tax on items bought online.

    Jeffrey Brown interviews ESPN's LZ Granderson about Jason Collins becoming the first NBA player to publicly come out as gay. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner notes Collins' connection with former Rep. Joe Kennedy, who encouraged Collins to come out. Mr. Obama phoned Collins on Monday with kind words. And if you haven't read Collins' Sports Illustrated essay, here it is.

    Elise Garofalo, Ellen Rolfes, Rebecca Jacobson and Justin Sciuletti have a heartwarming video piece on runners hitting the pavement in honor of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

    There's still time to enter the NewsHour's science rap contest.

    Hari Sreenivasan talks with the author of a new book about processed foods.

    Ray Suarez reports on the 20-year anniversary of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.


    #mapolivotes RT @carlwbz: Dan Winslow casts his ballot in Norfolk... He says he is optimistic. #wbz#masen#mapolitwitter.com/carlwbz/status...

    — David S. Bernstein (@dbernstein) April 30, 2013

    As of today, all FEC commissioners are serving expired terms bloom.bg/ZhiUjk

    — Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) April 30, 2013

    Big Garbanzo awaits its Marcia Angell takedown: "Sabra financially supports chickpea research at Virginia State." on.wsj.com/12WRQKz

    — Sasha Issenberg (@sissenberg) April 30, 2013

    When history of U.S. gay rights is written, past 12 months will be large focus. Just one yr ago this week Biden backed gay marriage on #MTP

    — Chris Donovan (@chrisdonovannbc) April 29, 2013

    Played golf for the 1st time since Oct on Sun. I broke 100 and had a birdie. Great way to relax before the start of a big week.

    — Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) April 29, 2013

    From Feb 09 - Jan 2013, IGshave reported 4,246 complaints of wrongdoing associated w/ #ARRA funds recovery.gov/Accountability...#accountability

    — Recovery.Gov (@RecoveryDotGov) April 29, 2013

    Politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijiFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @tiffanymullonFollow @meenaganesan

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    By Nick Corcodilos

    Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

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

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

    Question: Can you please summarize the Ask The Headhunter (ATH) job hunting strategy and explain the main differences between ATH and the traditional approach to job hunting? Thanks.

    Nick Corcodilos: I've been holding back this question (and my reply) for a good occasion, and I think this is it.

    On Tuesday, April 30 at 1 p.m. ET, I am participating in a live Ask The Headhunter Chat on PBS NewsHour's website. I've invited our audience to pound me with in-your-face questions for an hour, about the most daunting problems and challenges you face when job hunting (and, if you're an employer, when you're recruiting and hiring.)

    Let's take your questions one at a time.

    ASK THE HEADHUNTER LIVE Join Nick for a live chat at 1 p.m. EDT April 30.

    Here's Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell. Because I can't explain all these tips in detail in one column, I've included plenty of links to related articles. I hope you find this summary a helpful resource whether you attend today's chat or not.

    1. The best way to find a good job opportunity is to go hang out with people who do the work you want to do -- people who are very good at it.

    Insiders are the first to know about good opportunities, but they only tell other insiders. To get into an inside circle of people, you must earn your way. It takes time. You can't fake it, and that's good, because who wants to promote (or hire) the unknown? Start by identifying an online (or in-person) professional community where you can meet people who do the work you want to do. Join, participate, and start contributing to the dialogue.

    (Here's another angle on how to get in the door: "Meet The Right People."

    2. The best way to get a job interview is to be referred by someone the manager trusts.

    Between 40 and 70 percent of jobs are filled that way. Yet people and employers fail to capitalize on this simple employment channel. They pretend there's some better system -- like job boards. That's bunk. If companies took more of the money they waste on the big job boards and spent it to cultivate trusted personal contacts, they'd fill more jobs faster with better hires.

    There is nothing more powerful than a respected peer who puts her good name on the line to recommend you. Deals close faster when the quality of information is high and the source of information is trusted. There's nothing easy about earning such a referral--you must actively cultivate relationships with people close to the managers you want to work for. Like it or not, you already know that this is how managers select most of their new hires. Be the person an insider recommends. But getting recommended means knowing "The Right Way to Get Coached."

    3. The best way to do well in a job interview is to walk in and demonstrate to the manager how you will do the job profitably for him and for you. Everything else is secondary (or a total waste of time).

    Don't believe me? Ask any good manager, Would you rather talk to ten job applicants, or meet just one person who explains how she will do the job to boost your company's profitability? I have no doubt what the answer is. But it's up to you to research and study the business (not just the job description) before you approach the boss.

    Here's the cold truth: If you can't do that, you have no business in the interview. The good news is, when you're prepared on this level, and when you've chosen a job carefully enough that you are willing to do such preparation, you will have virtually no competition. (For more on this, please see "The New Interview."

    4. The best way to get a headhunter's help is to manage your interaction for mutual profit from the start.

    Hang up on the unsavory charlatans who are dialing for dollars, and work only with headhunters who treat you with respect from the start. (How can you tell the difference? Read "How to Judge A Headhunter.")

    Instead of "pitching" yourself to a good headhunter, hush and listen patiently to understand the headhunter's objective. Proceed only if you really believe you're a match. Then show why you're the headhunter's #1 candidate by outlining how you think you can do the job profitably for his client. Headhunters adopt candidates who make the headhunter's job easier, and who help the headhunter fill the assignment quickly. (Surprise: If you follow suggestions 1-3 carefully, you won't need to rely on a headhunter.)

    That's Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell. If you wonder whether it really works, take a look at comments from people who've tried it: "Thank You, Masked Man."

    What's the main difference between Ask The Headhunter and the traditional approach?

    It's pretty simple. The traditional approach is "scatter shot." You blast away at companies with your resume and wait to hear from someone you don't know who doesn't know you. Lotsa luck. (ATH regulars know that I never actually wish anyone luck, because I don't believe in it. I believe in doing the work required to succeed.)

    ATH requires careful aim. You must thoughtfully select and target the companies and jobs you want. It takes a lot of work to accomplish the simple task in item three above. There are no shortcuts. No one can do it for you. If you aren't prepared to do it right, then you have no business applying for the job, and the manager would be a fool to hire you. (This approach is detailed in the PDF book, "How Can I Change Careers?", which does double-duty for anyone who wants to stand out in the job interview. See the link at the end of this column.)

    I'll leave you with a scenario that illustrates why the traditional methods don't work well. You walk up to a manager. You hand her your resume -- your credentials, your experience, your accomplishments, your keywords, your carefully crafted "marketing piece." Now, what are you really saying to that manager?

    "Here's my resume. Now, you go figure out what the heck to do with me."

    Managers stink at figuring that out. You have to explain it to them, if you expect to stand out and to get hired. Do you really expect someone to decipher your resume and figure out what to do with you? America's entire employment system fails you every day because it's based on that passive mindset.

    The most potent job candidate keeps the resume in her pocket and says to the manager, "Let me show you what I'm going to do this job to make your business more successful." Then she outlines her plan -- without giving away too much.

    Your competition is the person who can do that in a job interview, whether she learned this approach from me or whether it's just her common sense. Long-time ATH subscriber Ray Stoddard puts it like this:

    "The great news about your recommendations is that they work. The good news for those of us who use them is that few people are really willing to implement what you recommend, giving those of us who do an edge."

    I hope these "nutshell" tips and today's Ask The Headhunter Chat help you get an edge in this difficult job market. We will continue to discuss the details of the methods outlined above in upcoming columns.

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

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

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

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    Click to enlarge. Photo by Thierry Zoccolan/AFP/Getty Images.

    Even Jedis have to go. Well, maybe not Darth Vader, since he's more machine than man. Maybe his suit is outfitted like an astronaut's suit for that purpose. Or maybe he just uses the Force. Write a caption to the photo above, and we'll send a NewsHour mug to the author of our favorite one. May the Force be with you.

    How it works: Every other Tuesday, we post a photo. You compose a caption, submit it in the comments section below or on NewsHour Art Beat's Facebook page by 5 p.m. ET Friday.

    We'll announce the best caption on Art Beat the following Tuesday and send the winner an official NewsHour mug. The tiebreaker for similar or identical entries will be earliest time of submission.

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    Nowadays, you don't have to go very far to find some decent live comedy. You don't even have to leave your house. Check into your Twitter feed and you'll find a show. Writers like Kelly Oxford and comedians like Jenny Johnson have launched their careers out of Twitter, and otherprofessionalfunnypeople use their 140 character tweets to practice their routines or offer insight into their lives.

    So when Twitter and Comedy Central reps met back in October, the idea to launch a comedy festival solely on Twitter "snowballed in the middle of the table," according to Fred Graver, head of television at Twitter (which is a department that actually exists).

    Graver knows comedy. He's written for National Lampoon, David Letterman and Jon Stewart among many others.

    "With comedians, there's a new golden age on Twitter," he said.

    The week-long #ComedyFest will include live-tweeting from more than 50 comedians, including Key and Peele and the creators of "South Park." Comedy Central's resident roastmaster Jeffrey Ross will roast people based on Twitter profile alone. And 86-year-old comedy giant Mel Brooks tweeted for the first time, nudged along by Carl Reiner and Judd Apatow, during Monday's opening event.

    "The 2,000 year-old man is going to get on Twitter!" Graver said, referencing Brooks' and Reiner's 1961 skit.

    Mel Brooks' first tweet:Untitled-1.jpg

    Comedy Central has been a part of this evolving landscape of comedy from the get-go. Walter Levitt, the head of marketing at the cable channel and one of the organizers of the festival, points out that Comedy Central was the first to incorporate a hashtag on the television screen, via a Donald Trump roast in 2011(#trumproast, in case you were wondering).

    "By definition, social media is a two-way conversation," Levitt said.

    It's a conversation that Nikki Glaser, one of the festival's featured comedians, is trying to embrace. Glaser, who stumbled into comedy during her freshman year of college, got one of her first big breaks during the fourth season of "Last Comic Standing." She'll join 17 other comedians this week to live tweet during her Comedy Central special, "The Half Hour."

    "I think jokes, for me, start as one-liners. It's a way for me to get it down to the funniest elements, which is 140 characters," Glaser said, adding that she likens Twitter to an "open mic."

    We'll be following the festival this week on Art Beat and will be updating this post with some of our favorite routines. Follow the events using #ComedyFest.

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    Linebacker Austin Box of the Oklahoma Sooners takes a break during a game in 2010. Box died of an accidental prescription drug overdose the following year.

    Austin Box "gutted through" pain. Even after a bad blow to his back that ruptured a disc, the linebacker for the University of Oklahoma Sooners played through the pain that lingered after rehab.

    He was upbeat, alert and seemingly at the top of his physical game on a three-day trip to St. Louis with his father in 2011. But the day after they returned, Austin was found unconscious in a friend's home. He died after being taken to the hospital, at age 22.

    The toxicology report showed five different pain medications and an anti-anxiety drug in Austin's system -- a cocktail that ended up stopping his heart.

    In the months that followed, Craig Box, Austin's father, couldn't help thinking back over their trip to St. Louis for signs of an addiction. "I saw nothing that gave me any indication that this was an issue," he said -- no sign that his "all-American" son was about to become part of an increasingly American statistic.

    Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled nationwide in recent years, rising from 4,030 deaths in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010. According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 125,000 lives were lost in the last 10 years to legal drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin and methadone.

    In fact, deaths from prescription painkillers, or "opioids," as they're also known, now outpaces those attributed to heroin and cocaine combined.

    But the problem runs deeper still. For every overdose death from prescription painkillers, the CDC estimates there are:

    10 treatment admissions for abuse 32 emergency department visits for misuse or abuse 130 people who abuse or are dependent 825 people who take prescription painkillers for non-medical use

    How did America's drug problem shift from the streets to the medicine cabinet so quickly?

    On Tuesday's PBS NewsHour broadcast, health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser travels to Oklahoma -- the No. 1 state for prescription painkiller abuse -- to talk with the Box family about how Austin may have become hooked on prescription drugs and how he was able to hide the addiction from his family. She also sits down with the CDC's Frieden to hear more about the scope of the problem nationwide and what might be done about it.

    In the meantime, the CDC has compiled a list of 10 things you should know about prescription drug abuse. Questions? Leave them in the comments section below, and a CDC official will try to answer them on the NewsHour's website in the days ahead.

    Top 10 You Should Know About Prescription Drug Abuse, According to the CDC

    1. Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than motor vehicle crashes.

    Drug overdoses killed more than 38,000 people in 2010; about 105 deaths per day. Of these deaths, prescription painkiller overdoses killed 16,500 people; about 45 deaths per day. "Prescription painkillers" refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.

    2. Enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate each American adult every four hours for one month.

    The amount of painkillers being prescribed is growing significantly. In fact, the quantity of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors offices was four times higher in 2010 than in 1999.

    3. Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade.

    The number of prescription painkiller overdose deaths is now greater than the number of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. And the number of deaths from prescription painkillers is growing fast. The number of deaths from prescription painkillers increased from 4,030 deaths in 1999 to 16,651 deaths in 2010. This means that prescription painkiller overdoses killed four times as many people in 2010 than in 1999.

    4. Roughly one in 20 people in the US reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons in the past year.

    A big part of the prescription drug overdose problem is non-medical use of prescription painkillers -- using drugs without a prescription, or using drugs just for the "high." Most people using drugs without a prescription obtain them from people they know, who originally got them from doctors.

    5. You can help prevent prescription drug overdoses.

    Steps you can take include the following: - Use prescription painkillers only as directed by a health care provider. - Store prescriptions drugs in a secure place and dispose of them properly. - Do not sell or share prescription painkillers with others. - For people who think they have a prescription drug abuse problem, please contact 1-800-662-HELP to find treatment resources.

    6. The prescription drug overdose epidemic can be stopped through effective public health interventions.

    In addition to the things you can do at home to keep yourself and your family safe, there are also community and state-wide strategies that help prevent prescription painkiller overdoses. These include programs and policies used by health care providers, insurers, and states. Learn more about effective public health interventions.

    7. States can start or improve prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and use Patient Review and Restriction (PRR) programs.

    These programs can help stop this epidemic, improve the coordination of care for patients, and ensure appropriate care for high-risk patients. Find out more about PDMPS and PRR program.

    8. States can enforce policies aimed at reducing drug diversion, abuse, and overdose.

    States can pass, enforce and evaluate pill mill, doctor shopping and other laws to reduce prescription painkiller abuse. Learn more about which state policies show promise in reducing prescription drug abuse and overdose.

    9. States and communities can enhance access to substance abuse treatment.

    Effective, accessible substance abuse treatment can reduce overdoses among people struggling with dependence and addiction. Learn more about substance abuse treatment.

    10. Health care providers should use evidence-based clinical guidelines and practices to promote safe and effective use of prescription painkillers.

    The following guidelines can help:

    Screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems. Prescribing prescription painkillers only when other treatments have not been effective for pain. Prescribing only the quantity of prescription painkillers needed based on the expected length of pain. Using patient-provider agreements combined with urine drug tests for people using prescription painkillers long term. Talking with patients about safely using, storing and disposing of prescription painkillers.

    Do you have questions about prescription drugs? Leave them in the comments section below, email them to us onlinehealth@newshour.org or send us a tweet @jasokane. A CDC official will try to answer your questions on the PBS NewsHour website in the days ahead.

    Related Content

    Top 10 Things CDC Says You Should Know about Prescription Drug Abuse

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    Low Earth Orbit is the region of space within 1,200 miles of the Earth's surface. It is the most concentrated area for orbital debris. Photo by NASA Orbital Debris Program Office.

    On a January night in 1997, Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Okla., was strolling through the park with friends when she saw a flash of light stream across the sky, and then, bam!, a shard of metal the size of a soda can nailed her on the shoulder. It was debris that had apparently detached from a disintegrating Delta 2 booster rocket while falling back to Earth. And it made Williams the only person known to have ever been struck by falling space junk. Since the object wasn't heavy, it startled, but didn't harm her.

    It's a little known fact that approximately once a week, a large object like a defunct spacecraft or a rocket body falls out of space and plunges back to Earth, likely landing in the ocean, or a vast area like Siberia or the Canadian outback. And smaller objects are falling from space back to Earth daily in a fiery descent. The Antares rocket for example, which launched on April 21, crashed back to Earth on Saturday.

    "About once a year, we'll find piece of spacecraft or a rocket body that survived reentry," said Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris.

    While this cascade of raining space junk sounds menacing, the objects actually pose little risk to humans. Smaller objects usually burn up during reentry and no one object, Johnson said, poses a larger than 1 in 10,000 risk to humans.

    The Department of Defense has a space surveillance network that tracks tens of thousands of man-made objects in orbit, including the biggest baddest pieces of space junk out there. These are the 23,000 objects bigger than a baseball, or 10 centimeters or larger in size. And scientists also monitor the objects falling back to Earth.

    "We track, on average, two to three objects reentering the Earth's atmosphere each day," said Defense department spokesperson Lt. Col. Monica Matoush.

    Flying through space at about 7 miles per second, these objects can wreak havoc on a spacecraft or satellite. And they're potentially harmful to an astronaut doing a spacewalk. The Defense department sends out warnings of large objects in the trajectory of a spacecraft or satellite about three days in advance.

    Then there are the smaller ones - the half million 1 centimeter objects and the 100 million 1 millimeter objects.

    "Small objects can do a lot of damage to a spacecraft if it's not adequately protected," Johnson said. "But the shielding is such that we can defend against objects up to 1 centimeter."

    Critical components of the International Space Station, for example, are shielded to withstand debris up to 1 centimeter. Once or twice a year, Johnson said, NASA will maneuver the entire 400-metric ton space station to avoid massive space junk barreling toward it. They also perform so-called "collision avoidance maneuvers" with the 1,100 operational robotic spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.

    With these shields protecting against smaller objects and the Defense department monitoring the larger ones, it's the in-between pieces -- the 5 centimeter objects -- which pose the greatest threat, Johnson said.

    On Feb. 10, 2009, the Iridium 33 satellite collided with the defunct Kosmos 2251 satellite at a speed of 26,000 miles per hour, creating 2,000 additional pieces of space debris. And in 1996, a piece of space debris collided with the Cerise satellite, tearing off a portion of the satellite's gravity-gradient stabilization boom, damaging the spacecraft.

    "If a 5 centimeter piece of debris were to hit any spacecraft, it could cause very severe damage and loss of the mission," Johnson said.


    From NPR: The European Union is banning three popular pesticides, in hope of restoring populations of honeybees

    Cicadas clean themselves using... dew drops?

    President Obama tells this epic Civil War joke at the National Academy of Sciences 150th anniversary celebration. Buzzfeed has the video.

    From the Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Why so many adults have lost the ability to digest milk.

    3D Printer Makes Tiniest Human Liver Ever

    This is Discover Magazine's third post in a series on a simulated Mars mission. Five scientists and engineers are isolated on a Hawaiian volcano, sent by NASA to study how food for astronauts may be improved. Turns out faced with unappetizing dried meals, astronauts eat less, and lose weight, posing stamina and performance problems. Find the first post here.

    Congress is debating major changes to the $7 billion a year that the National Science Foundation spends on basic research.

    From New Scientist: "Mind reading can be as simple as slapping a sticker on your forehead. An "electronic tattoo" containing flexible electronic circuits can now record some complex brain activity as accurately as an EEG. The tattoo could also provide a cheap way to monitor a developing fetus."

    Rebecca Jacobson, Tom Kennedy and David Pelcyger contributed to this post.

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    According to a 2010 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 7 million people in the United States -- or 2.7 percent of the population -- annually abuse prescription drugs. This abuse primarily occurs when people take medication not prescribed to them or take their own prescription drugs at a higher dosage than recommended by their doctor.

    The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into three categories: Opioids (pain relievers), depressants and stimulants. Below is a breakdown of each category, compiled using the latest statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:


    Medical use: Prescribed to provide pain relief unattainable through over-the-counter pain killers.

    Frequency of Abuse: 5.1 million (out of 7 million Americans who abuse prescription drugs)

    Commonly abused drugs in this category:

    Vicodin/acetaminophen/hydrocodone (generic)

    OxyContin/oxycodone (generic)

    Desired effects: Pain relief, euphoria

    Potential negative side effects: drowsiness, sedation, weakness, dizziness, nausea, impaired coordination, confusion, dry mouth, itching, sweating, clammy skin, constipation, lowed or arrested breathing, lowered pulse and blood pressure, tolerance, addiction, unconsciousness, coma, death (risk of death increased)

    Also, specifically for oxycodone: muscle relaxation/twice as potent analgesic as morphine; high abuse potential


    Medical use: Reduction of anxiety and/or insomnia.

    Frequency of Abuse: 2.6 million (out of 7 million Americans who abuse prescription drugs)

    Commonly abused drugs in this category:

    Xanax/alprazolam (generic)

    Valium/diazepam (generic)

    Desired effects: Reduced anxiety, lowered inhibitions, sedation, feelings of well-being

    Potential negative side effects: Slurred speech, poor concentration, confusion, dizziness, impaired coordination and memory, fever, irritability, lowered blood pressure, slowed breathing, tolerance, withdrawal, addiction, with an increased risk of respiratory distress and death when combined with alcohol


    Medical use: Temporary improvement of alertness, focus, and productivity which may not exist due to disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder. May also be prescribed to relieve anxiety and/or improve patients' mood.

    Frequency of Abuse: 1.1 million (out of 7 million Americans who abuse prescription drugs)

    Commonly abused drugs in this category:

    Adderall/amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (generic) Ritalin/methylphenidate (generic)

    Desired effects: Feelings of exhilaration, increased energy, mental alertness

    Potential negative side effects: Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism, reduced appetite, weight loss, nervousness, insomnia, seizures, heart attack, stroke

    Also, specifically for amphetamines: rapid breathing, tremor, loss of coordination, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness/delirium, panic, paranoia, hallucinations, impulsive behavior, aggressiveness, tolerance, addiction

    Also, specifically for methylphenidate: Decrease in blood pressure, digestive problems, loss of appetite

    Do you have questions about prescription drugs? Leave them in the comments section below, email them to us onlinehealth@newshour.org or send us a tweet @jasokane. A CDC official will try to answer your questions on the PBS NewsHour website in the days ahead.

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    On Tuesday's PBS NewsHour, we revisit the hot-button issue of abortion, and debate its move from federal courts to state governments. Our guests are Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

    They both wrote op-ed columns for us. You can read Ilyse's below and Charmaine's here.

    Ilyse Hogue is the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

    They're a sitcom cliché: the nosey neighbors who think your business is their business. On TV, they're a punchline. In real life, they can be a real threat.

    Anti-abortion extremists are the ultimate nosey neighbors. They don't think your private medical care should be your business alone. They want a say in what you and your doctor decide when it comes to planning your family. Right now, these meddling busybodies are waging a fierce campaign to limit your right to safe abortion care. And in many states across the country, they are winning, and putting your health -- even your life -- at risk.

    For example, in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a law that could effectively ban abortion in the state if federal protections were removed. That's right -- all abortion, with no exceptions to protect a woman's health and no exceptions for survivors of rape. And the law doesn't stop there. If protections were reversed, it could ban stem-cell research and even in vitro fertilization, which would prevent some women, who desperately want children, from doing so.

    North Dakota has just banned abortion as early as six weeks. Six weeks: that's before many women even know they've become pregnant. Imagine finding out you're pregnant and discovering your options have already been taken away. It's almost enough to make the legislators in Arkansas, who overrode a veto to enact a ban on abortion at 12 weeks, seem reasonable. (They aren't. Not by a long shot.)

    But if any state resembles the sitcom cliché of a nosey neighbor, it has to be Virginia. After a very long fight, they made permanent a series of ridiculous regulations aimed solely at abortion providers with one goal and only one goal: shut them down. The regulations -- which abortion opponents claim are to protect women's health -- target such medically "critical" subjects as the number of parking spaces or the hallway width.

    The busybodies who push these laws don't care about the number of parking spaces outside the abortion clinic, and they don't care how wide the hallways are. Anti-abortion politicians only care about one thing: preventing women and their families from getting the safe abortion care they need. It's time to tell the nosey neighbors to stop meddling in our personal, private decisions.

    Ilyse Hogue is the president of NARAL Pro Choice America and a columnist for The Nation.

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    On Tuesday's PBS NewsHour, we revisit the hot-button issue of abortion and debate its move from federal courts to state governments. Our guests are Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro Choice America.

    They both wrote op-ed columns for us. You can read Charmaine's below and Ilyse's here.

    Charmaine Yoest is president of Americans United for Life.

    For many years after the Roe v. Wade decision, common sense regulations of and restrictions on abortion were not permitted, and news of pro-life bills being introduced or enacted during state legislative sessions was as rare as a Haley's Comet sighting.

    Today, it is the norm.

    In fact, in the 40 years since Roe erased the abortion laws in all 50 states -- making abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason -- state legislators across the country have diligently worked to return legal protections to women and girls. In recent years, momentum on behalf of protecting innocent human life has never been stronger, evidenced by the fact that states now routinely pass large numbers of new pro-life laws annually.

    The pro-abortion industry think tank, Guttmacher Institute, recently reported that in 2011, lawmakers passed a record-breaking 122 provisions, followed by the second-highest number ever passed, 92 provisions in 2012.

    Americans United for Life (AUL), the legal architects of the pro-life movement, has been at the forefront of this effort. The core of AUL's state-by-state strategy revolves around promoting commonsense, protective measures, developed in model legislation that policymakers can use as a template to guide their efforts at the state level.

    On the 40th anniversary of Roe earlier this year, Gallup detailed an increasingly pro-life America. "While the issue remains highly divisive, there's been a 32-point turnaround in those labeling themselves 'pro life' versus 'pro choice' in the national Gallup Poll since the mid-1990s," noted The Columbus Dispatch.

    One reason for the public's increasing support for new life-affirming laws is illustrated by the case of Kermit Gosnell, whose Philadelphia "house of horrors" abortion clinic was responsible for multiple deaths and where conditions were so deplorable that the first responders to the facility had to leave and come back in hazmat suits to protect their own health.

    These unsettling horrors strengthen the argument that state legislation is urgently necessary, common sense and lifesaving. Women and girls are suffering in modern-day "back alleys" run by the abortion industry with little to no oversight, regulation or accountability to their patients or to the communities where they are located.

    The Gosnell situation is not unique. Over the last three years, at least 15 states have initiated investigations into abortion clinics and individual abortion providers for providing substandard patient care -- poor care that, in some cases, has resulted in women's deaths. In response, over just the last three years, eight states have enacted new comprehensive abortion clinic regulations or made significant improvements to existing regulations.

    Popular bills at play right now across the country include those regulating abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers, engaging parents or guardians in abortion surgery decisions for young girls and ensuring that sexual predators are not using abortion to cover up their crimes, requiring life-saving ultrasound tests before dangerous procedures, and requiring medical care for infants born-alive as a result of a botched abortion.

    The U.S. Constitution does not give abortionists the right to maim and kill women and girls in substandard clinics. Increasingly, the public and legislators are acting on the truth that commonsense limits on abortion are necessary to save lives.

    Expect to see more protections for women and girls in future headlines.

    Dr. Charmaine Yoest is president and CEO of Americans United for Life.

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    GWEN IFILL: President Obama marked the first 100 days of his second term today using a news conference to demand action on his agenda, from Guantanamo to guns.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    QUESTION: Do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?

    PRESIDENT PRESIDENT OBAMA: If you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly.

    KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama joked and jabbed in the White House Briefing Room as he pressed the point that he's no lame duck and that he will keep pushing his priorities.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: We understand that we're in a divided government right now. The Republicans control the House of Representatives. In the Senate, this habit of requiring 60 votes for even the most modest piece of legislation has gummed up the works there.

    Despite that, I'm actually confident that there are a range of things that we are going to be able to get done.

    KWAME HOLMAN: For instance, he said he believes Congress will approve sweeping immigration reform. And he insisted he hasn't given up on closing the prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, as he vowed to do in his first presidential campaign.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Congress has balked at transferring detainees to the mainland U.S., but more than half of the 166 captives now are waging a hunger strike for better conditions and an end to years of legal limbo.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don't want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can.

    But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this? I'm going to go back at this. I've asked my team to review everything that's currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively. And I'm going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that's in the best interest of the American people.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Likewise, the president said it's not in the country's best interest to keep the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's slowed our growth. It's resulting in people being thrown out of work. And it's hurting folks all across the country.

    And the fact that Congress responded to the short-term problem of flight delays by giving us the option of shifting money that's designed to repair and improve airports over the long term to fix the short-term problem, well, that's not a solution.

    KWAME HOLMAN: And that was a recurring theme, Mr. Obama arguing that the failure to address Guantanamo or budget problems or gun violence lies squarely on Congress' doorstep, as he told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jonathan, you seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That's their job.

    KWAME HOLMAN: By the same token, the president accused Republicans in Congress and statehouses of obstructing his health care reform law. He acknowledged some glitches, but said they don't affect most people.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Despite all the hue and cry and sky is falling predictions about this stuff, if you've already got health insurance, then that part of Obamacare that affects you, it's pretty much already in place. And that's about 85 percent of the country.

    What is left to be implemented is those provisions to help the 10 to 15 percent of the American public that is unlucky enough that they don't have health insurance.

    KWAME HOLMAN: While much of the 48-minute White House news conference dealt with domestic policy and tensions with Congress, the questions also turned abroad, the main focus, the ongoing conflict in Syria and signs that Bashar al-Assad may have used chemical weapons against the rebels.

    President Obama indicated he's ready to consider military options if the case is proved.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened.

    KWAME HOLMAN: In short, he said the American people and the world expect him to make sure he's got the facts before acting.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in a position where we can't mobilize the international community to support what we do. There may be objections even among some people in the region who are sympathetic with the opposition if we take action. So it's important for us to do this in a prudent way.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Late today, The Washington Post reported the president now is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian rebels. The account said a final decision is likely within weeks.

    As for another security threat, the Boston bombings, the president said so far it appears the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI did their jobs in the months leading to the attacks.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: The FBI investigated that older brother. It's not as if the FBI did nothing. They not only investigated the older brother; they interviewed the older brother. They concluded that there were no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity. So, that much, we know.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Still, the president promised a thorough review of whether sensitive intelligence was missed. 


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