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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: what a high- tech future may mean for your standard of living, personal privacy and how governments deal with their citizenry, a big subject, to be sure.

    But those visions are the focus of a book called "The New Digital Age" by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and his co-author, Jared Cohen, who recently worked at the State Department. He's now at Google as well.

    I sat down with them in Washington recently.

    Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, welcome to the NewsHour.

    ERIC SCHMIDT, Google: Thank you for having us.

    JARED COHEN, Google Ideas: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you describe in the book connectivity, technology as a force for good, something that's going to improve the quality of human life. How can you be so sure?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: You know, we're going from a time when people had almost no information to the whole world being fully interconnected, with all the world's information available to another five billion people who are joining us.

    That means they will solve their medical problems, their health problems, obviously, economic problems. It will make the world safer. It will help our exports and the globalization that is going on around us. But there are issues. But, overwhelmingly, it's a good thing.

    JARED COHEN: Well, if you think, 57 percent of the world's population lives under some kind of an autocracy.

    Those 57 percent of the world's population in the future will have more choices, more options. They will be able to be witnesses with their smartphones in the face of atrocities. They will be more empowered than at any other time in human history. Now, as Eric mentioned, that is not necessarily a silver bullet answer to all the world's problems, but it is an important change that is going to take place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, of course, there is the dark side. And you spend a lot of time in the book writing about it. We have been forcefully reminded of it in the last few weeks with what happened to Boston, two young men who, thanks to the Web, to the Internet, were able to not only have their ideology converted, but also to get information on how to make bombs.

    What about that side?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: So, my question, of course, is how many plots were foiled before that of others whose activities were seen by the police before they did something terrible?

    And, indeed, the problem of the sort of the lone -- the lone young man who has been radicalized is not a fully solved one. But with this technology, we can detect this kind of behavior. We can give these people choices. We can get them educated better. And I believe that there will be fewer such attacks as a result. We will foil more of them in the future. Thank God the Boston police did such a good job.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean by finding them ahead of time and ...

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Finding them ahead of time, by seeing what they're doing.

    It's very, very difficult to do the kinds of things that these people were trying to do, and ultimately were successful, without leaving a digital track.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you still have, Jared Cohen, these terrorist jihadist websites which are so easily available. They're now proliferating, we're told, by the thousands out there.

    JARED COHEN: Well, I like to compare and contrast this to the old model of back-alley religious madrassas, where extremism is preached in the tribal areas in Pakistan, maybe the slums of Riyadh, where there's no opportunity for a counternarrative to emerge, where there's no visibility into where radicalization is taking place.

    If people are trying to radicalize at-risk young people, you would much prefer them doing it out in the open, where it can be challenged, where it can be seen by everybody from law enforcement to just citizens that oppose it. And the diversity of opinions cannot be escaped, even in the most radicalized environments, when the entire world is online.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, you have -- Eric Schmidt, you have repressive governments who look at all this, in free-flowing information, people feeling empowered, and they see it as a threat, whether it's a country like China or North Korea or any other number of countries where leaders want to keep control over what's going on in their country.

    ERIC SCHMIDT: You know, this shift of -- the shift has a bias, and that bias is an empowerment bias. It empowers the citizen of a country.

    And a sort of rough -- rough balance emerges in a democracy, where the more empowered citizens have a better say in what the government is doing. The government changes its policies and so forth. But in an authoritarian government, one which is not held accountable by its citizens, the citizens just get more unhappy. Their expectations get higher. They know more about the corruption, as they define it, that goes on in their government, and it becomes a significant threat to these governments.

    They will try to block the Internet. They will try to slow it down. Indeed, 35 countries now are blocking Google in one form or another, and it's a constant problem for us and I'm sure for other Internet companies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And particularly in, say, a country like China, where you have, what is it, over two billion people, a government determined to keep control of the information. Not only that, there's all the cyber-spying that is going on, snooping into what Western governments and businesses are doing. Where do you see that headed?

    JARED COHEN: Well, it's important to understand there's three things that China is really doing right now.

    They're stealing intellectual property. They're restricting the civil liberties of their population. But, internationally, they're also testing the waters to see what they can get away with in terms of nefarious cyber-activity.

    But there's a larger point here, which is, one, China is certainly not the only country -- country doing this, but the vast majority of the world's technological infrastructure has not yet been built. And for states that are coming online, many of which are autocratic, they have two options. They can build it based on open principles or built it based on closed and autocratic principles.

    And there's only so many countries whose companies have the ability to build that infrastructure. We have to ensure that the rest of the world comes online with technology that is conducive to the free flow of information. Otherwise, it is going to be difficult, and, otherwise, the autocrats will have an extra edge.

    ERIC SCHMIDT: And a situation where the Internet is balkanized, literally blocked, becoming piecemeal, is one which doesn't serve the interests of the United States, doesn't serve the citizens of the world. It may serve the governments, but it ultimately means less information, less freedom, less markets, less trade, less innovation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's broaden this out and just talk about individuals as they're affected by this brave new world of a hyper-connected Internet technology.

    Eric Schmidt, is there even going to be such a thing as privacy?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Well, of course there is.

    And privacy becomes more important in this new interconnected world because we need privacy. We all -- everyone wants it. And I think you're going to have to fight for it, that it's going to be important, right, to say, I want my privacy, I don't want the government snooping on me for this reason or that.

    I'm not as worried about the mature Western countries, which have a history of privacy legislation. But I'm very worried -- we talk a lot about this in the book -- about countries that don't have a history of privacy or individual rights. In a country that is sort of a police state, the notion of personal privacy is sort of a foreign concept.

    So, when they get all connected, the governments will then put in snooping software, they will track everybody under the guise of police and normal activities, without any civil liberties protections.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But in terms of here in the United States, I mean, people -- you already see a generational divide, don't you, on this question of privacy?

    JARED COHEN: Well, it's interesting that you mention generational, because one of the things -- Eric is -- you have one author who is a parent, the other author who is maybe an aspiring parent.

    And so one of the things we have done in the 30-plus countries we traveled to for this book is talk to a lot of parents about this issue of online privacy and security. And whether you're in the United States, or in Asia, or in Africa, parents are observing that their children are coming online earlier and faster than ever before.

    And our logic is, when it comes to protecting privacy and security, you have to start younger and younger. Parents need to literally talk to their kids about the importance of online privacy and security years before they even talk to them about the birds and the bees.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the -- and this is kind of connected to this, Eric, is the loss of human contact.

    The more we do everything in front of a screen or in front of a handheld device, a smartphone, the less person-to-person connection there is. How much does that worry you?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: So, this was an issue when the telephone came out. If you go back to the history of communications, everyone has had this concern. Yet, humanity has flourished during this period.

    So, it looks to us like the connectivity of these devices and so forth amplify human communication. They allow you to get more things done. But we don't see people spending less time with their loved ones as a result. They may just share it a little bit with their distractions that are going on, but there's an off button for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your message to folks who are out there, some very comfortable with technology, others literally frightened of it, feeling that they are way behind when it comes to understanding where we are?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: The good news is that, in my professional career, computers have gone from being essentially impossible to use to being very, very useful at many, many tasks.

    You think about the ease of use with which you can watch a video, answer a question, sort of navigate, the new mobile phones and tablets are just so much better than anything that preceded them, and that's going to continue. Eventually, these devices will become very good at anticipating -- this is, again, with your permission -- the things that you care about.

    You will carry them around. They will make interesting suggestions. They will become sort of your best digital friend and make your life fundamentally better.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, thank you very much.

    JARED COHEN: Thank you.

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch more of our conversation online, where we discuss what it will mean when the poorest people in the most remote regions of the world gain access to the Web.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, a grizzly addition to early American history.

    Founded in 1607, Jamestown was America's first permanent English settlement. The Virginia Company of London established the colony 60 miles north of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, naming the site “James Fort” after England's King James I. But life there was anything but easy. Historians believe the settlers arrived during the worst drought in 800 years.

    And disease, starvation, and conflicts with nearby Native Americans plagued the colonists. Accounts from the time tell of residents forced to eat dogs, cats, rodents, and even shoe leather to fend off starvation. And it appears it was even worse than that.

    Researchers have now revealed evidence of cannibalism in the remains of a 14-year-old girl found in a trash pit at the colony site last summer.

    Forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley says cut marks on the cheekbones and skull of the girl they have named Jane support the theory she was butchered after her death for consumption.

    DOUGLAS OWSLEY, Smithsonian Institute: From my experience working with prehistoric skeletons, where I have seen postmortem, meaning after-death, processing of remains, this is absolutely consistent with what we see in cannibalism and those types of cases.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How Jane died remains unknown, but researchers say there was no evidence of murder.

    In all, some 80 percent of the colonists and members of a relief fleet sent from England died before the situation stabilized in 1610. 


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And joining us now is William Kelso, director of archaeology at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project. He directed the team that unearthed the young woman's bones and is author of the book "Jamestown: The Buried Truth."

    Well, thanks for joining us.

    Now, there have been written accounts of cannibalism in the past, right, so is this something you were specifically looking for?

    WILLIAM KELSO, Jamestown Rediscovery Project: Well, there are written accounts.

    There are actually six from six different people, but they're all very enigmatic, and they're hard to follow. And I personally didn't really believe that they were that true, because I thought they were making political statements back to the sponsoring Virginia Company to send more supplies, but the fact that we have those, and now we have the forensic evidence, and also the archaeological context where we found these remains in a layer of soil that we can date to what was called the starving time of 1609-1610.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As to the evidence, fill in the picture a little more that lets you know it is definitely cannibalism. What are the signs that make this so clear-cut?

    WILLIAM KELSO: The marks, the cuts that are on the cranium, the skull -- and these are the things that Dr. Owsley has pointed out -- are -- all add up to someone wouldn't make these marks unless they were removing soft tissue and the brain from the skull.

    And there are just scores of sawing-like cut marks where you know that the only reason that they could be there is to remove the flesh.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What -- we said that we don't know much about -- well, we don't know how the young woman died. What do we know about her? What can be said?

    WILLIAM KELSO: Well, we don't know her name.

    We have named her Jane, as in Jane Doe, because -- to give her some kind of a personality, but we don't know her name because the ships that came in 1609 that brought several women, there's not a list of their names. But we can know something from the fact that most of them that came were either the daughters of gentlemen or would be maid servants.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, so what is the -- what is the significance for you of something like this, as you're looking at this long-term project of trying to figure out what happened there? Is this a big surprise? Is this a major step to know sort of, I guess, how serious it was at that time?

    WILLIAM KELSO: Yes, that's certainly true.

    And it has had quite an impact on me. I think that archaeologists can deal with material culture artifacts and get some feeling for the people, but it's when you come face to face with something like this. In my case, I have a much more of -- empathy for the situation they were in, and the fact that Jamestown came so close to failing.

    And I think the course of American history from that point on, from this first permanent English settlement, would have been quite different had it failed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, fill that -- are we still learning more about what that winter was really like and how -- what a close call it really was?

    WILLIAM KELSO: Well, I think so right off, because there are these accounts that you can take as a grain of salt sometimes, but now I'm convinced.

    This is -- this happened. And to be reduced to that level of starvation is hard for a modern person to even imagine. But I think now we can, because here is conclusive proof, I feel, that that took place.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what's the next step for you? Or what are you -- what's the next thing that you're most concerned to look for?

    WILLIAM KELSO: Well, we are still excavating in a cellar room that became a kitchen or a bakery site down below ground.

    Now, that level, that layer that was -- of soil that Jane's remains were found in, of course, that's been excavated. But there's the floor levels of the kitchen. And we just started yesterday and more today uncovering those layers. Now, I don't expect to find more of that situation, because the layers above is where we found it. But we can learn a lot about the starving time from what was thrown around in that cellar, and it's quite a thick layer.

    And the site is open to the public. They can see us do these excavations right up front and close. So we're sharing our moment of discovery with the public as we do our research.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. William Kelso on the archaeological discoveries at Jamestown, thanks so much.

    WILLIAM KELSO: Thank you, Jeff. 


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    President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images

    President Obama told a really funny joke after he strolled to the podium at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last weekend.

    After noting that he was played on by a rap song in addition to the customary "Hail to the Chief," he cracked: "How do you like my new entrance music? Rush Limbaugh warned you about this -- second term, baby."

    The leader of the free world was suggesting that all bets are off in his second term. No more races to run. No more critics to please. Fasten your seat belts.

    This, of course, could not be farther from reality. The week that followed his humorous turn yielded a constant stream of evidence to the contrary.

    If you doubt that life has become only more difficult for Barack Obama, you need look only to three conflicts that show how complicated it can be for a president to treat his second term as if there is nothing to lose.

    Syria

    Less than a year ago, the president said it would be unacceptable to have a situation in Bashar Assad's Syria "where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people." Then, last week, it became clear that something very close to that was indeed happening.

    None of the alternatives are appetizing. Putting boots on the ground is a nonstarter. No-fly zones are more complicated, expensive, and labor intensive than they seem. Arming the rebels so they can overthrow Syria's leader sounds appealing, but no one is completely certain the weapons won't end up in the wrong hands.

    So does President Obama get a pass on making a tough decision just because he's in his second term? Of course not. We could detect the uncertainty in the president's voice when he was asked about it during this week's press conference.

    "If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence," he said, "then we can find ourselves in a position where we can't mobilize the international community to support what we do."

    Rock, meet hard place. Here's another:

    Guantanamo

    One of the first actions Mr. Obama made after he was sworn into office in 2009 was to decree that the Guantanamo Bay detention center -- home to terrorism's hardest cases -- be closed. The idea was to employ the simple stroke of a pen to fulfill a promise he'd made repeatedly when running for president in 2008.

    Once again, easier said than done. Not only does Guantanamo remain open, but it has now become a stubborn flash point, as dozens of prisoners protest their incarceration by staging a hunger strike.

    The president broke his almost total silence on one of his most notoriously broken promises by pledging, when asked, to relaunch his effort to close the prison camp. Meanwhile, prisoners are being force-fed to keep them alive.

    "I don't want these individuals to die," the president said with obvious frustration. "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?"

    As with his other second-term sticky wickets, the president must wait on others to act. If lawmakers believe Guantanamo's prisoners present a national security threat (and many do believe this), what would change their minds now? And how can the Obama administration convince other nations like Yemen to take their citizens back? There is no obvious shift in attitudes on either front.

    Which brings us to:

    Budget politics

    The White House is walking a fine line here. It needs to prove that the across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect earlier this year are hurting the economy and should be reversed. But in pointing out the harm, the president and his allies must avoid looking a little too gleeful that flights are delayed, Head Start programs have been scaled back and housing vouchers have been slashed.

    No one likes to hear "I told you so," especially Congress. So the president has to continue his slog toward a grand bargain, pacifying Democrats and wooing Republicans. The people charged with executing his policies have to embrace good housing news and pray for better employment news. And when Washington grinds to its periodic halt -- as it will -- he must do the best he can to distance himself from the fray.

    The list of dilemmas is long. Immigration reform is still possible, but it is not a slam dunk. Obamacare is law, but not universally embraced. Gun legislation is stalled, and it's not yet clear that stirring the pot in lawmakers' home districts will unstick it.

    So welcome to your second term, Mr. President. It's a good thing that rap music intro was played for a laugh.

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

    A man paints his son's face Wednesday in preparation for the Grebeg ritual in Tegallalang, on the island of Bali, Indonesia. During the ritual, young members of the community parade through the village with painted faces and bodies to ward off evil spirits. Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images.


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    Is Vice President Joe Biden contemplating a run for the White House in 2016?

    The Morning Line

    There are still roughly 1,000 days before voting gets underway in the 2016 presidential primary process, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the political headliners appearing at dueling Democratic and Republican Party dinners in Columbia, S.C., Friday night.

    Vice President Joe Biden will address the South Carolina Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner and is also expected to attend Rep. Jim Clyburn's "World Famous Fish Fry."

    Just two miles away, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will speak at the South Carolina Republican Party's Silver Elephant Celebration honoring Jim DeMint, who late last year stepped down from his U.S. Senate seat to become president of the Heritage Foundation.

    Cruz's appearance has fueled speculation that he might be lining up a presidential bid for 2016. Last year's keynote speaker at the event was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another potential GOP contender.

    Earlier this week the National Review's Robert Costa reported that Cruz was considering a possible bid. The senator responded to the story on Facebook, calling it "wild speculation."

    An aide to Cruz told the Dallas Morning News that the senator's presence at Friday night's banquet was to honor DeMint.

    "This is for Senator DeMint, and that's why he's going," Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said.

    Rubio, meanwhile, has raised his profile by championing the bipartisan immigration reform bill that he helped craft with seven other members of the Senate. He defended its elements Friday in the Wall Street Journal's op-ed pages. In the piece, he addresses the criticism coming at him from people who view the measure as offering undocumented immigrants "amnesty":

    And for those who believe the road ahead for illegal immigrants is too generous or lenient, Congress will have a chance to make it tougher, yet still realistic. No one has a right to violate the immigration laws and remain here with impunity. Finding a sensible way to resolve our illegal-immigration problem must include penalties that show the rest of the world that it really is cheaper, easier and faster to immigrate to the U.S. the right way.

    Of course, there are those who will never support immigration reform no matter what changes we make. Even if we address every concern they raise, they will likely come up with new ones. They have a long list of complaints but typically never offer a solution of their own.

    Rubio closes by going after the politics at hand: "[D]efeating it without offering an alternative cannot be the conservative position on immigration reform. That would leave the issue entirely in the hands of President Obama and leave in place the disastrous status quo."

    The Washington Post's Philip Rucker raises the curtain on Biden's visit to the Palmetto State, which holds critical early primary contests for both parties.

    For Biden, who, his family and advisers say, is weighing whether to run in 2016, several paradoxes are at work. He is beloved by grass-roots Democrats, but mainly as the avuncular No. 2 to Barack Obama. From the South Carolina Lowcountry to the Iowa heartland, there are no signs -- none yet, at least -- of a "Draft Joe" movement. "There just isn't," said Sue Dvorsky, a former head of the Iowa Democratic Party.

    The Democratic women's group EMILY's List, meanwhile, is laying the groundwork to make 2016 another history-making election. Enter "Madam President."

    As Terence wrote Thursday, the group unveiled its campaign to elect the first female president of the United States, the same morning a new poll found former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic Party's nomination in 2016.

    "I have to say, there is one name that seems to be getting mentioned more than others," EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock told reporters. "We do not know if Hillary is going to run, but we are hopeful that she may."

    (Speaking of female candidates, Schriock also suggested she might run for the Montana Senate seat being vacated by veteran Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who is retiring.)

    If all this weren't enough, C-SPAN on Friday is starting Road to the White House 2016.

    As we've noted a few times, yes, it's early. But when it comes to presidential politics, it's really never too early to speculate.

    LINE ITEMS

    Biden told law enforcement officials Thursday that he plans to stump around the country for expanded background check legislation -- a plan he hasn't cleared with President Barack Obama.

    Politico also reports that Organizing for Action, Mr. Obama's legislative advocacy arm, couldn't effectively target opponents of expanded background checks because its field staff consisted mostly of volunteers.

    Voting for the background check amendment that failed in the Senate has boosted homestate support for Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., according to a poll Thursday from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

    In the Washington Post, Sandhya Somashekhar examines how some states are scrambling against a deadline over changes to Medicaid.

    Rhode Island became the 10th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriages.

    While in Mexico, Mr. Obama said he backed the FDA's decision to allow girls over the age of 15 over-the-counter access to the morning after pill.

    Longtime Gitmo beat reporter Ryan Reilly delivers a detailed, long read about the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And the Washington Post delivers a similar essay about conditions at the detention center.

    Meanwhile, the former chief prosecutor in Guantanamo Bay military commissions, who resigned in 2007, is calling on Mr. Obama to close the prison.

    Hawaii Democrats now officially have themselves a Democratic Senate primary.

    Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill abolishing the state's death penalty, making it the 18th state to do so.

    Michael Shear looks at all the vacant positions in the Obama administration.

    Stu Rothenberg previews how Democratic and Republican strategists will respond to an Elizabeth Colbert-Busch win in South Carolina's first district primary on Tuesday.

    Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in Denver on Thursday and told students that the Boston Marathon bombings highlight the sensitivity of racial profiling.

    The Republican group focused on rapid response has a new Tumblr. It has looks at the Virginia governor's race here and here.

    Reuters profiles the mail center for Congress, an undisclosed location 10 miles from Washington where employees "in protective garb go envelope by envelope through millions of letters destined for the Capitol to thwart mail-borne bioterrorism threats like the recent ricin scare."

    The National Review's Robert Costa reports Doug Stafford is leaving his role as chief strategist in Rand Paul's Senate office to run the national political operation for the Kentucky Republican ahead of a potential 2016 presidential bid.

    Reporter-Producer Katelyn Polantz is in Berkeley, Calif., for the next few days. Follow what she's learning at the immigration fellowship.

    BuzzFeed wonders if Batman was a member of Congress who would he be?

    First there was Mr. Obama's joke at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner about having a drink with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Then McConnell responded. And now there's this.

    Send your haiku to Mars.

    NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

    The day after the Department of Justice announced it would repeal a federal court's ruling lifting the age restriction for over-the-counter access to the morning after pill, Jeffrey Brown spoke with NPR's Julie Rovner about the decision.

    With Mr. Obama south of the border, Judy Woodruff talked with Shannon O'Neill and Diana Negroponte, senior fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations and Brookings Institution, respectively, about the president's priorities and the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

    In Gwen's Take, Gwen Ifill points to three conflicts that show "how complicated it can be for a president to treat his second term as if there is nothing to lose."

    Presidential candidates from 2012 are not alone in having outstanding campaign debt, reports the Center for Public Integrity. They've got company from as far back as 1984.

    Kaiser Health News explores Arkansas' plans to privatize its Medicaid expansion and how the model could be adapted in other states.

    TOP TWEETS

    Fire shuts down Labor Department building, but the jobs report is unaffectedbit.ly/YrL1kC

    — Talking Points Memo (@TPM) May 3, 2013

    .@bloombergtv lands a Warren Buffettintvw at his Cake Island Office in anOmaha strip mall twitter.com/frankncarlson/...

    — Frank Carlson (@frankncarlson) May 3, 2013

    Warren is in the house.

    — Warren Buffett (@WarrenBuffett) May 2, 2013

    Poll finds opposition to hipsters is highest among hipsters. RT @ppppolls: We are doing a poll about hipsters

    — Josh Barro (@jbarro) May 2, 2013

    Sequester battle shows short term weakness for Ds, long term weakness for Rs cookpolitical.com/story/5662

    — amy walter (@amyewalter) May 3, 2013

    Power-hitting at the Bad News Babes practice for the Congressional Women's Softball game instagram.com/p/Y2VMClEzkr/

    — Frank Thorp V (@frankthorpNBC) May 3, 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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    President Obama addressed the press on April 30 about his first 100 days in office, which have led to questions over whether GOP and White House refusal to compromise is bigger than any political agenda. Photo by PBS NewsHour.

    Congress expert Norm Ornstein has been resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute for many years. But after he co-wrote a book last year arguing the Republican Party has been taken over by its extreme right wing and refuses to compromise with President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Ornstein an "ultra, ultra liberal" on the Senate floor.

    "Of course that's going to be the sort of thing that would be said," Ornstein said, "but I'm looking at this from a perspective of history."

    Ornstein long has said polarization now afflicts both major political parties, but he believes it is most pronounced among Republicans.

    "What has been obvious for a long time is this is not just partisanship or partisan polarization. It's tribalism: if he's for it, we're against it," Ornstein told PBS NewsHour from his office six blocks from the White House.

    It's a theme Mr. Obama often cites, as well.

    "They're worried about their politics," the president said of Congressional Republicans during his news conference Tuesday. "Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They're worried about primaries."

    Last month, the president suffered his biggest legislative loss of the new term when all but three Senate Republicans voted down his call for expanded background checks for gun purchases.

    On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey -- a Republican who sponsored the measure -- told newspaper editors in his state, "In the end it didn't pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it."

    Some pundits and politicians say the polarized atmosphere means the Republican-controlled House will block any of Mr. Obama's major second-term initiatives.

    Ornstein doesn't necessarily disagree. But he does dismiss those who say the answer for Mr. Obama -- or any president - is to twist arms to get his way with members of Congress or to schmooze them with trips aboard Air Force One or movies at the White House.

    "The building of the relationships is secondary to having people who are willing to communicate and ultimately deal with you," Ornstein said. "If you don't have that then I don't care how many times you have them over for drinks or dinner or ball games or movies or take them on Air Force One or whatever -- you get nowhere."

    The president has held two dinners with GOP senators who he apparently believes he can communicate with. Ornstein says after the first one, senators reported they learned from him that he'd be willing to lower the cost of living adjustment for Social Security payments -- using so-called chained CPI -- as a concession to the GOP in budget negotiations.

    "This was something he had said publicly numerous times, had written before, and you had several of those senators saying, well, we didn't know that," Ornstein said.

    "They didn't know it because the things they read and the shows that they listen to had radio silence on it. So having this dinner where he could tell them directly something that they in effect had been censored from hearing - not from any overt way but just because of what they pay attention to -- has value. And it may be that building those relationships could make a difference."

    And that could result in successes for the president in this term.

    "I'm actually confident that there are a range of things that we're going to be able to get done," Mr. Obama said at the news conference.

    Ornstein says the route to that success is the one the president seems to be taking -- through the Senate.

    "I see a number of Republicans in the Senate, including some who voted against him on the gun bill, [who have] a general desire to do something about the longer term problems of Medicare and Social Security and a willingness to give up some [tax] revenues in return," Ornstein said.

    "The only strategy he could pursue that's a reasonable one is pick out Republicans in the Senate who fancy themselves as not just soldiers in the GOP army but as problem-solvers and let them know he really is ready to take some risky steps and move on things they care about. I think there's a chance you could get 60 votes in the Senate for something that might involve up to another trillion dollars -- half of that in [new tax] revenues broadly defined and half of it from Social Security and Medicare. If you could get 60 votes -- maybe even 70 votes -- at some point you're going to put pressure on the House to bring it up for a vote."

    Ornstein concluded that it's not done yet: "If he managed to get some of those things and even saved the prospect of some kind of tax reform emerging out of it, that's a heck of a record for a second term."

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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    By Paul Solman

    Watch Video

    More than 4 million Americans remain out of work for more than six months now. And for those 55 and older, it takes at least a year on average to find work, longer than any other age group. Fifty-five-year-old software developer Geoffrey Weglarz, who has been unemployed for two years, explains why being a jobless single dad can be a blessing, but a costly one.

    There is no doubt: the economy is "recovering." You see it in the GDP numbers, where growth has reached its long-term trendline: 2.5 percent. You see it in the housing market, characterized as "surging," with prices up in every major city - on average, 9 percent higher than a year ago. You see it in the stock market, as high as its ever been.

    With the release Friday of the job numbers for April, you see it in the unemployment numbers. For a change, both monthly surveys -- of employers and of households -- agree: the economy added at least 165,000 jobs last month and 114,000 more jobs than had previously been reported for February and March.

    But then how is it, you may ask, that the official unemployment rate, known as "U-3" in government parlance, barely budged and remains at 7.5 percent?

    How is it that our own far more inclusive measure of unemployment and underemployment, the "U-7," is down a tick but still weighs in at a whopping 16 percent?

    U-7 includes everyone in the government's U-3: everyone who said they wanted a job and had looked for one in the past 4 weeks. It also adds everyone who said they wanted one, hadn't looked in the past 4 weeks, but had in the past year. (These people are included in the government's most inclusive statistic, U-6). But we also add people who hadn't looked in the past year but still said they wanted a job and would take one. Finally, we add people working part-time, but say they are looking for full-time work, like "consultants" I know, who may have worked only one hour in the week the government survey taker came calling, but are still tallied as officially "employed."

    Here is my Solman Scale breakdown of the numbers for April:

    How can it be that, were we to compare today's number to unemployment as reckoned in the past (by adding working age Americans who would probably be unemployed, but are instead drawing disability -- more than 8 million, or in prison -- more than 2 million) we would still be near historic post-World War II highs? (See our NewsHour report on the undercounting of unemployment).

    How can it be that, that in a "recovery," and by the narrowest (U-3) definition, 9 percent of Latinos, 13.2 percent of Afro-Americans, and 24 percent of teenagers are unemployed, meaning they looked for work in the past week but didn't find even one hour's worth?

    How can it be, finally, that 4.4 million Americans continue to be out of work for 27 weeks or more and for those 55 or older, it takes a year, on average, to find a job?

    That's the topic of our segment on PBS NewsHour on the Friday evening broadcast as we introduce viewers to a range of capable, earnest and articulate older workers who simply haven't been able to find a job. One of them, 55-year-old software developer Geoffrey Weglarz, who has now taught himself video production, has an especially poignant story to tell.

    We met Weglarz at "The WorkPlace," a cutting-edge job training center in Bridgeport, Conn. Weglarz told us he'd been unemployed for 711 days. How did he know the exact number? Turns out he keeps a spreadsheet tracking the 481 jobs he's applied for in the last two years. In the top corner is a tally of the days since he lost his job in April 2011.

    Weglarz spoke heartrendingly of the financial and emotional challenges of long-term unemployment, as you can see in the excerpt from our interview at the top of this post.

    (We contacted Weglarz on Thursday to follow up and see if he had since gained employment. His response: "Still no job, but getting a little freelance video production work.")

    Tune in to PBS NewsHour on Friday for the full story. Watch a live stream of the broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on our Ustream channel or check your TV listings for your local PBS station's schedule.

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


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    Honeybee colonies are dying at a rate of 30 percent a year, according to a new government report. Photo by Flickr Creative Commons/ Cygnus921.

    Update: 4:30 p.m. ET | A new government report on the decline of honeybee colonies in the U.S. stresses that no single cause is responsible for the spiraling losses. Instead, it's a complex mess of factors that includes exposure to pesticides, lack of food source for the bees and a variety of pests and pathogens. The report was released jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the EPA on Thursday.

    "There is no quick fix," said May Berenbaum, head of the entomology department at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during a press conference that day. "Patching one hole in a boat that leaks from everywhere isn't going to stop it from sinking."

    Honeybees pollinate a long list of crops, including almonds, blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, soybeans and alfalfa seed. Some $20 to 30 billion of U.S. agricultural production is dependent on honeybee pollination, according to Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. And one-third of the nation's bees are dying each year, according to the report.

    There are eight to 10 common viruses, fungal pathogens, bacterial pathogens and a parasitic mite contributing to the deaths, said Michelle Flenniken, a microbiologist and professor at Montana State University, who studies honeybee pathogens.

    "Mites are a pathogen themselves," she said in an interview. "Young mites eat the blood of developing honeybee larvae and cause damage to the larva. They also bite the bee and transmit viruses." The report calls the parasitic mite Varroa destructor "the single most detrimental pest of honey bees."

    Whereas Europe announced efforts this week to ban a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, considered by many to be a critical culprit in honeybee deaths, the U.S. has taken no such steps.

    "There are non-trivial costs to society if we get this wrong," said EPA's Jim Jones during the press conference, when asked if the U.S. planned to take steps to ban the pesticides. "As a matter of policy, we let science lead our regulatory decision making. We want to make sure we make accurate and appropriate decisions."

    It's been seven years now since the massive honeybee die off began. But honeybee colonies have been in a gradual decline for decades. The population has dropped from 6 million in 1947 to 3 million in 1990 and stands at about 2.5 million today. One single crop, almonds in California, now require over 60 percent of all managed colonies.

    Large areas that specialize in one agricultural crop like corn or almonds can pose a risk to the insects by providing a limited food source. And studies have shown that well nourished honeybees live longer, said Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m.

    Her group provides free mustard, buckwheat and sweet clover seeds to targeted farmers to plant additional groundcover for the bees. They encourage almond growers, for example, to plant the seeds on canal banks and roadways where honeybees can forage in the months before the almond crops flower.

    Two years ago, we aired this report on the honeybee decline by NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels. He talked to beekeepers who are feeling the brunt of the decline and scientists using honeybee DNA to investigate viruses, parasites and bacteria.

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    QUICK BITES

    A Boy and His Atom. The world's smallest stop motion film.

    And behold, the making of that movie:

    Speaking of space junk, which we've covered this last week, NASA has just released rare details of a near miss between a space telescope and a disused Cold War spy satellite, reports the Register.

    More coverage on space debris here.

    NASA seeks haikus to send to Mars.

    Chinese scientists have created a new hybrid bird flu virus that merges the highly transmissible swine flu (H1N1) with the highly lethal bird flu (H5N1), Wired reports. The new virus passes easily between guinea pigs, not humans. The research revives worldwide debate around this approach, described here on the NewsHour.

    NASA has a very cool video of a solar flare erupting from the sun. Space.com reports.

    NOT SAFE FOR LUNCH

    Why Shark Embryos Eat Each Other up in Utero. From Discovery News.

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  • 05/03/13--09:07: Are You a Work Potato?
  • Two-thirds of American office workers experience pain on the job and a quarter expect it. Not from physical exertion but the opposite -- too much hunching, sitting, clicking and staring at screens. According to a recent study from the American Osteopathic Association, the average "work potato" misses the equivalent of three days on the job each year simply because they don't move enough.

    Dr. Rob Danoff, an osteopathic family physician in Philadelphia and a spokesman for the association's "Break Through Your Pain" campaign, answers our top three questions below.

    It's a pretty good phrase, "work potato." Who qualifies?

    Danoff: Anyone who sits most of the time at work. Whether you're an executive or you're answering phones, we found that over 70 percent of people in this poll - which is over 1,000 people - sat five or more hours per day. That means we're sitting for almost a quarter of our waking lives and that's really bad for our health. It can lead to weight gain and deconditioning of your muscles. And if your desk isn't arranged properly, it can also lead to low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and wrist pain. If you don't have a comfortable chair or you don't have armrests, that's going to put more stress on your shoulders and your neck muscles, and also put more pressure on your arm and your wrist.

    Your study found that a lot of it's tied to extreme laziness. What did you find?

    Danoff: Here's something that's really disturbing -- over 2 in 5 would not even consider getting up from their desk if they needed to talk to their colleagues. They'll text, they'll call, they'll email, but they won't get up. Nine in 10 of the people we surveyed said that they would be willing to do stretches or similar exercises during work but they choose not to do it. They just sit.

    So what can "work potatoes" do to improve their health?

    Danoff: A few things:

    Get up. Every half hour, get up. Stand, stretch, roll your shoulders, maybe walk over to one of your colleagues, walk over to get paper from the printers. Every half hour. Some people might say, 'Oh, it's wasting time.' But no, because if you're in pain from sitting or you're uncomfortable, you're less productive.

    No. 2, make sure you have a good chair that is comfortable, that has lower back support and that leans back a little bit for your upper back. This way, you're leaning slightly back. Also make sure you have good armrests and that your hands are flat and even with your keyboard so you're not hurting your wrists.

    You want to make sure you have both feet flat on the floor. The longer you cross your legs, the more lower back pain you can have. Crossing your legs puts so much strain on your back that it's almost like wearing high heel shoes for the whole day.

    You also want to keep the computer keyboard straight ahead, with the top of the monitor at eye level, so you're not straining your neck or moving it up or down or side to side.

    Finally, make sure to avoid the mousetrap. By that, I mean make sure your wrist isn't up or down when you're typing on the keyboard. You want it to be even with the rest of your arm, which is resting on an armrest.

    If you have pain at work, don't just mask it with taking pills. On the American Osteopathic Association's website, we have a desk makeover section to help you arrange your desk and tips to help you decrease your pain. There's also something there to help you describe your pain to your doctor so they can help you rearrange what you do to try to prevent it. Because if you don't stop the pattern of pain, it will become chronic. And once that pain pattern sets in, it's hard to break.

    This conversation was lightly edited for clarity. Photo by GSO Images.

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    U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Photo by Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images.

    Ambassador James Dobbins will be the new special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Friday. It won't be unfamiliar territory for the career diplomat.

    Among other roles, Dobbins (pictured at right) was special envoy to Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He oversaw the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia and NATO intervention in Kosovo, according to his biography on RAND Corporation's website, where he now works as director of its International Security and Defense Policy Center.

    Dobbins replaces Marc Grossman who came out of retirement to fill the position after the previous representative, Richard Holbrooke, died in December 2010. Grossman said last fall that he was leaving to return to private life. His deputy David Pearce served in the interim.

    As special representative, some of Dobbins' major issues will include trying to negotiate a settlement in Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdraw from the country.

    On the March 11 PBS NewsHour, Dobbins told senior correspondent Judy Woodruff why he thought the U.S. should retain some sort of role in Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal:

    "I mean, clearly, if we had no role in Afghanistan, we would have no way of coping with al-Qaida either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. All of the attacks on al-Qaida in Pakistan today are conducted from Afghanistan. So we have an interest in retaining some role. We see a very modest, small role for the United States," he said.

    You can watch his full interview:

    Watch Video

    He also spoke a year ago about Afghanistan's readiness to take over security responsibilities after the U.S. departure:

    "It's only by essentially forcing a level of independence and autonomy that they're going to develop the skills necessary to survive without the large American and NATO presence. They're not ready in many respects. On the other hand, they're much more numerous than their opponents. They're much better equipped than their opponents," he said.

    Watch the full May 2012 interview:

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    Dobbins will not need Senate confirmation to fill his new post.

    View more of our World coverage.

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    "Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America." There are many assumptions, questions and provocations in the title of an essay in Harper's Magazine by poet Tony Hoagland, who clearly has a thing for great titles: Among his books of verse are "Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty" and "What Narcissism Means to Me."

    Hoagland teaches at the University of Houston, and I talked to him by phone earlier Friday:

    JEFFREY BROWN: The beginning premise here is that something needs saving, that we have a problem. What's the problem you are trying to address?

    tony-hoagland-448_utility_thumb.jpgTONY HOAGLAND: The problem in many ways is something that poetry has struggled with for a long time, especially in the 20th century. The misimpression that many people have, the misapprehension that poetry is something that they're not clever enough for or that poetry belongs to high culture or that it's so sensitive and emotional in nature that it's impractical in the real world, that is has nothing to do with mechanics or science or money or making a living. The first illusion that any poet has to dispel, I think, is that poetries is for sissies, or that poetry is for people who are specially qualified when in fact American poetry is one of the great populist bodies of culture in the world, in the history the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You yourself have tackled that in some ways through humor and wit and, I guess, writing about real life and not highfalutin stuff?

    TONY HOAGLAND: Sure, I think that that's one of the ways that poetry wins attention and readership is through its daring and its irreverence and its contemporariness. I don't think there's anything outside of the reach of poetry, nothing that poetry can't expand and unpack and emphasize or nuance in some interesting, challenging ways.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What comes through in the essay is the canon and the way it's taught is part of the problem. So you're proposing, in a sense, a new canon?

    TONY HOAGLAND: Yes, I think that the way people are drawn into poetry or perhaps into any art form is by a contact, a random contact sometimes, or an educational contact, with something that's extremely contemporary. And at that point the art becomes something that is organic to culture and to perception and to the ability to think about the moment that we live in or simply that it articulates feelings and contradictions in human nature and inner circumstances that are just especially contemporary. That that moment is crucial. So a canon should begin in the present, it should be absolutely contemporary. After somebody is inoculated, after somebody sort of recognizes that this is a living art form, a living breathing art form that is in a very dynamic, elastic relationship with the moment that we live in and with ourselves, then they will read backwards. I think that's a natural process. Anthologies shouldn't begin with Chaucer; they should begin with something like Billy Collins or Terrance Hayes or Lucille Clifton, and then they should progress backwards.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You pick any example you want from this. The way you've structured this, at least in the essay form, is to say poetry teaches the ethical nature of choice and then you give an example of a poem, poetry respects solitude and self-discovery. Give me us an example.

    TONY HOAGLAND: Ok, I'd be happy to. I'll start off with an example from a poem by Linda Gregg called "Bamboo and a Bird." For me, this is a poem about the mysterious pleasure of loneliness, something which is not often advertised. The speaker is in a subway late at night.

    In the subway late at night. Waiting for the downtown train at Forty-Second Street. Walking back and forth on the platform. Too tired to give money. Staring at the magazine covers in the kiosk. Someone passes me from behind, wearing an orange vest and dragging a black hose. A car stops and the doors open. All the faces are plain. It makes me happy to be among these people who leave empty seats between each other.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you're proposing this reaches people in a way that the poems that were typically taught don't.

    TONY HOAGLAND: I think so. I think it's a wonderfully unpretentious, lucid capturing of a moment that we all can recognize. And there's just a pleasure in recognition of the world that we live in. And then, also, there's a feeling tone underneath it and there's an intelligence which isn't assertive, but which offers us the chance to hold that moment in our hands and say, 'Look at this moment, how unusual it is that the poet says, 'It makes me happy to be among these people who leave empty seats between each other.' There's 'Too tired to give money.' Those are not look at me moment. It's not a poem that laments loneliness or tiredness or poverty. It says that there's a secret pleasure in the individuality, in self-enclosure, and so that's not a truth that is popularly represented. It's sort of off the map. It doesn't connect with any kind of utilitarian economic motive. It's not something you can test for, but when it's held up to us and we can examine it, we think, 'Yes, it's true. Loneliness is a strange kind of pleasure and I often take pleasure in it.'

    JEFFREY BROWN: You use that word utilitarian. I mean, I sort of see you wrestling, and you come out and say it here, wrestling with the notion that you're making a case for poetry that connects with people, that can kind of give them something in their lives.

    TONY HOAGLAND: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But at the same time you don't want to just say, 'Oh, poetry is all about utility, this is all just a help you in various ways.' That's not it either.

    TONY HOAGLAND: That's right. That's not it either. And you're sort of catching me in a kind of a paradox, because I am making an argument for the value of poetry in daily life, in the minds of every American citizen, especially young ones. I'm absolutely making an argument for that. I think that the skill of being able to tolerate ambiguity, of being able to embrace loneliness, being able to observe the paradoxes and the hypocrisies and the ironies of the world, I think those are enormously useful survival skills. But at the same time I'm arguing that utility is the wrong way to look at this stuff. This is my Trojan horse of utility. I'm trying to get in the gates of American culture and then let poetry loose inside the walls of the city.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So let me ask you finally, how would you make this happen? You have line near the end where you say, 'I'm only waiting for the president to give me the go ahead,' I guess, to make your 20 poems in the courses of America. But realistically how would you make something like this happen?

    TONY HOAGLAND: Well, one thing we haven't really addressed is how poetry got dropped out of the school system. It only takes one generation to lose knowledge and to lose the will to transfer that knowledge and to transmit that knowledge. All it takes is one generation of poetry not being taught in the schools and not being sort of represented with the vitality and the lucidities that it actually has, with the life force that it has. So a couple of generations of English teachers, probably since the '70s, have not been introduced to poetry for a lot of reasons. Because our culture is amnesiac, because we forget faster than we remember or than we learn. My idea is that teachers find out about poetry again, and maybe that's by a restructuring of anthologies, maybe it's through a sort of cry in the wilderness, like this essay is making. Maybe it will be word of mouth. It's all quite random. You can't herd culture in one direction or another, but you can try. I truly believe that it only takes one or two poems to sort of wake up readers and to make them recognize that this is not something to be intimidated by, but it's something to be an advocate for and it's something to find out more about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I bet and I would imagine that we've raised curiosity here about your 20 poems. We only heard one, but we'll put a link on our site so people can go and see what you are proposing. The essay in Harpers is "Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America." Tony Hoagland, thanks so much.

    TONY HOAGLAND: Thanks a lot, Jeffrey. Good to talk to you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And thank you for joining us again Art Beat. I'm Jeffrey Brown.

    You can read Tony's Hoagland's essay in Harper's here.


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    Suicides now kill more Americans each year than car crashes, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    In 2010 alone, 38,364 killed themselves in the United States -- 4,600 more than were killed in motor vehicle accidents. It's a statistic CDC Director Dr. Thomas Friden summed up in a single phrase: "Far too common," he said -- especially among middle-aged Americans.

    Between 1999 and 2010, the suicide rate for U.S. adults between the ages of 35 and 64 jumped a full 28 percent, from nearly 14 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 18 per 100,000 in 2010. Particularly startling increases were seen among whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives. Meanwhile, the rates for those between 10 and 34, as well as those 65 and older, did not change significantly during that period, the CDC reported.

    On Friday evening's PBS NewsHour broadcast, Frieden will join Ray Suarez to discuss why the middle-age Americans are taking their lives at such alarming rates. In the meantime, here's a visual representation of the trend among 35- to 64-year-olds:

    Among the CDC's other key findings:

    The greatest increases in suicide rates were among people aged 50 to 54 years (48 percent) and 55 to 59 years (49 percent).

    Among racial/ethnic groups, the greatest increases in suicide rates were among white non-Hispanics (40 percent) and American Indian and Alaska Natives (65 percent). Suicide rates increased 23 percent or more across all four major regions of the United States.

    Suicide rates increased 81 percent for hanging/suffocation, compared to 14 percent for firearm and 24 percent for poisoning.

    Firearm and hanging/suffocation were the most common suicide mechanisms for middle-aged men. Poisoning and firearm were the most common mechanisms for middle-aged women.

    Check back here Friday evening for the NewsHour's full report.

    Top photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images. Charts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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    Author and journalist Michael Pollan is more than just another writer extolling the virtues of fresh, locally produced and sustainable food. His work has been at the forefront of a growing movement, with his books and articles regularly spotlighting the long process that brings our food from the field to our table -- sometimes with less-than-savory stops along the way. Now, in his new book, "Cooked," he explores how we can best transform raw ingredients into delicious meals prepared at home.

    Growing up, "we had a home cooked meal four or five times a week," Pollan told PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown, recounting his own childhood. "I could count on sitting down to dinner."

    But more and more, Americans outsource their cooking, either by eating out at restaurants, getting fast food or buying pre-made, packaged meals in the freezer aisle. The decline of actual cooking has had serious consequences for health and the land, Pollan argues.

    "If we outsource all of our cooking to corporations, they will only buy from big companies, big farms. They are not going to buy from small farms," Pollan said. "So the continuation of [the local or organic food] movement ... depends on people continuing to cook or reviving a culture of cooking."

    "The decline of everyday home cooking doesn't only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities, and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world." -- Michael Pollan, author of "Cooked"

    His book explores various cuisines and techniques, including fundamentals like bread, barbecue and fermentation. Pollan visited many kitchens around the world, belonging to chefs from all walks of life, where he discovered how much can be observed about the natural world from inside the kitchen. Among his teachers were Sister Noella, a Connecticut nun who makes cheese in wooden barrels, and Hyeon Hee Lee, a Korean woman who taught Pollan her family's traditional kimchi recipe.

    Michael Pollan reads an excerpt from his new book, "Cooked," in which he tells the story of how he learned to make kimchi, the difference between "tongue taste" vs. "hand taste" and the cook's role in developing flavor.

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    Tune in to PBS NewsHour on Friday for the full story. Watch a live stream of the broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on our Ustream channel or check your TV listings for your local PBS station's schedule.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Solid job growth in April and positive revisions to previous months. Today's Labor Department figures eased worries about the U.S. economy.

    In all, the economy added 165,000 jobs last month, primarily in the private sector, retail, restaurant and health care industries. The stronger-than-expected hiring helped reduce the nation's unemployment rate a modest 0.10 percent to 7.5 percent, the lowest level since December 2008.

    A further key element of today's good news: dramatic revisions upward in the number of new jobs created in February and March by a total of 114,000. With the revisions, February payrolls increased to 332,000 jobs, while March gains stood at 138,000.

    White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Alan Krueger said the hiring numbers reflect an improving job market, in spite of federal spending cuts from the sequester, which he took the opportunity to criticize.

    ALAN KRUEGER, Chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisers: Today's report and other data coming in shows the resilience of the U.S. economy. The economy is healing from the scars of the great recession, but there's a ways to go. We're not back to full health. And we could put more people back to work more quickly if we had more sensible fiscal policy coming out of Washington.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For its part, Wall Street celebrated today's news, with the Dow Jones industrial average crossing at least for awhile the 15,000 mark for the first time ever. By day's end, the Dow had gained 142 points to close just under 14,974, an all-time high. The Nasdaq rose 38 points to close at 3,378. For the week, the Dow gained nearly two percent; the Nasdaq rose three percent.

    And for a closer look at today's numbers, we're joined once again by Lisa Lynch, Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. She's a former chief economist at the Labor Department.

    Well, welcome back.

    So, first, a general reaction first to today's numbers? What do you see?

    LISA LYNCH, Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University: Sure, Jeff.

    Well, it was a good report, certainly better than what many had expected and a marked improvement from the report we saw last month. We -- as you summarized in the report leading up to this, we saw the unemployment rate falling, but for all good reasons, because we added more jobs in the economy, as opposed to people dropping out of the labor market.

    We saw the percentage of people who are out of work for six months or more dropping down to 37.4 percent. It was over 40 percent a year ago. It's still high, but that was an improvement. We saw wages up 1.9 percent, keeping pace with inflation. That's good news.

    And with those monthly revisions to the prior two months, we're now averaging on a three-month moving average basis over 200,000 net new jobs in the economy. That's taken care of people coming into the labor market.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. No, I just want to ask you about the revisions, because they're very large revisions, and I think it's hard for people to understand. How and why does that happen?

    LISA LYNCH: So, the Bureau of Labor Statistics goes out and contacts a sample of employers around the country and asks them what's happening to their employment numbers.

    And then they also realize that when the economy is improving, you're going to have new firms being created that they won't have in their data set. So they model or they impute a value of new jobs for those new employers. And then what happens is that employers get back to them, some with a delay, and they make revisions to the numbers.

    For the prior month, they will they release a preliminary number and they will do two revisions of that number in the next few months, and then at the end of the year they will go back and they will have data for all employment, not just a sample, and they will make a final round of revisions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, does that raise the -- does all that raise the question of how much we should pay attention or trust any one particular monthly number?

    LISA LYNCH: Well, that's why every economist you have ever talked to has always said it's important to look at three months' moving averages and never put any -- too much weight on any one employment report.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK, well, that's good advice. We will always take that.

    Now, potential downside in these numbers, a lot of jobs were of the low or moderate paying and part-time work as well.

    LISA LYNCH: So we saw an increase of over a quarter of a million people that were working in part-time employment who wanted full-time employment.

    We also saw the length of the workweek decreasing. And, you know, we saw that a lot of the jobs that were added were in sectors like temporary employment, the retail sector, restaurants and bars that are typically lower paying and less likely to have benefits associated with them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Can you see any discernible evidence of impact from the sequester at this point? What can be said?

    LISA LYNCH: A lot of people we're sort of looking for the fingerprints of the sequester in today's report.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    LISA LYNCH: And I think it's hard to sort of say with any kind of certainty that you see the impact of that. The fact that more people were in part-time employment, but who wanted full-time employment, that might reflect something of the furloughs, but many of the furloughs that the government agencies are putting in place won't really come into play until next month's report.

    I think what's harder to pull out from this, but is real in the economy, is the fact that the government isn't making as many purchases, for example, in the defense industry. So that means when we see no growth in employment and manufacturing, part of that is linked to the fact that with the sequester the government is not buying as many of those products.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just ask you in our last minute to put your college dean hat on, which you probably never take off anyway, right?

    LISA LYNCH: That's right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you got a lot of students. Students are about to graduate or they're about to try to look for a summer job. What are you telling them? What do you see for them?

    LISA LYNCH: So, you know, the bad news here is that for the fifth consecutive year in a row, they're walking out into a job market that is still pretty grim.

    The youth unemployment rate for 16-to-24-year-olds is over 16 percent. I mean, it was worse in 2010, when it was close to 20 percent. But what I tell our students is that they have to look at the job market as their fifth course that they take every semester. They have to increase the networking that they're doing. They need to be geographically flexible.

    They have to take every informational session they can, not miss an opportunity, and it's going to be harder for them to find a job, but there are jobs out there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Lisa Lynch, thanks so much.

    LISA LYNCH: Thank you, Jeff. 


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    KWAME HOLMAN: A fast-moving and fast-growing California wildfire reached the Pacific Ocean today. And so far, firefighters have it only 10 percent contained. The gusting winds and hot, dry weather of yesterday gave way to cooler breezes today, but the Springs fire still forced thousands out of their homes.

    CARSON DOHAN, California: The fire was really close to us, and we decided to just water our house down. And then it got dark out and we couldn't breathe because of the smoke, so we just left.

    WOMAN: We just lost everything, our spa, my cat. Everything is gone.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Overnight, the blaze grew to more than 15 square miles as unseasonable Santa Ana winds blew toward the coast at 20 to 30 miles an hour with gusts up to 45.

    CAPT. MIKE LINDBERRY, Ventura County Fire Department: Our field moistures are already up to the levels they should be in July. We're having Santa Ana events in May, which is -- an event like this is -- it hasn't happened in my career. I think we may be looking at a very significant fire season.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The brush-fueled fire first erupted early yesterday near Camarillo, Calif., 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. And smaller fires raged east of L.A. in Riverside County. The skies around the city last night were lit up with a molten glow.

    MAN: It's just amazing to see how many fire -- fire trucks going up and down, and they're doing a good job. We're just hoping that everything will be OK.

    KWAME HOLMAN: After damaging homes, R.V.s and closing a university, the fire today tracked south to the Pacific, crossing the Pacific Coast Highway and moving toward a Naval base.

    MAN: Ready for water!

    KWAME HOLMAN: Nearly 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground today, and tankers dumped water and retardant from the air.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ordered customs officials to check the validity of all international student visas in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The order came in an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press. The checks are effective immediately and mark the first U.S. government security change related to the bombings.

    A student from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the bombing suspects was allowed back into the U.S. without a valid visa in January.

    The surviving suspect in the Boston bombings told officials the original date for the attack was the Fourth of July. Law enforcement officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, as the investigation is ongoing. They said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he and his brother finished the pressure cooker bombs earlier than expected, so switched their target to the Boston Marathon.

    In Pakistan today, gunmen killed the lead prosecutor investigating the assassination of the country's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali was shot at least 13 times in Islamabad as he was driving to court. His car was riddled with bullets. The gunmen fled in a taxi and on motorcycle. Ali was prosecuting militants jailed in connection with Benazir Bhutto's 2007 death in a gun attack and suicide bombing.

    President Obama made an urgent appeal for immigration reform during a visit to Mexico City today. At least six million Mexicans are believed to be living in the U.S. illegally. Today, the president told a crowd of college students he's convinced that, working with Congress, they can overhaul the U.S. immigration system this year.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The immigration system we have in the United States right now doesn't reflect our values. It separates families when we should be reuniting them. It's led millions of people to live in the shadows. It deprives us of the talents of so many young people, even though we know that immigrants have always been the engine of our economy, starting some of our greatest companies and pioneering new industries.

    KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama also conceded the root of much of Mexico's violence is the demand for illegal drugs in the U.S. The president also acknowledged that most guns used to commit crime in Mexico come from the U.S.

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


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There's been a stunning increase in the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans. The finding is part of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that spells out how much suicide is a growing public health concern in the U.S.

    Ray Suarez has more.

    RAY SUAREZ: The analysis looked at data compiled over a little more than a decade, a period ending in 2010 that included the financial crisis and the great recession. In 2010, there were more suicides in the U.S., 38,000-plus, than there were fatal motor vehicle accidents.

    Most disturbing, that spike among the middle-aged, a 28 percent rise overall, a 40 percent jump among white Americans, and among men in their 50s, suicides increased by more than 48 percent. Guns remained the leading method used in all suicides, followed by poisoning, overdoses and suffocation.

    Some perspective on all this from Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC.

    And, Dr. Frieden, the Morbidity and Mortality Report is a pretty technical document. But, from reading it, can you tease out what stressors might explain this tremendous spike in the number of people taking their own lives?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: We don't know what specifically is causing it, but the trend has been consistent, and if anything our numbers would underestimate the gravity of the problem.

    And, of course, even one death from suicide is a terrible tragedy and many of them are preventable. We know that in times of financial stress, there's generally an increase in suicides. We also know that this is a generation that grew up at a time when they expected more than some have been able to achieve in their lives, and also that they're stressed with what their kids are going through and what their parents are going through, so in some ways, the sandwiched generation.

    And, furthermore, they have access to things like prescription opiates that can be so deadly and that are a big part of an increase like this.

    RAY SUAREZ: So does this trend happen to coincide with higher use and abuse of prescription medication?

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: We have seen an increase of almost 500 percent in deaths from prescription opiates. Some of those are unintentional overdoses and some of those are suicides.

    As more prescription opiates have been prescribed, more of them have been abused and more people have died, either intentionally or unintentionally, from prescription opiates.

     

    RAY SUAREZ: And what about abuse of non-prescription drugs, illegal or illicit drugs? Have we seen -- do we know whether those deaths are intentional from things like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine?

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, one thing that's quite striking is that, today, there are more people who die from prescription opiates than from heroin and cocaine combined, so a major problem.

    And one thing that also isn't always recognized is that alcohol is a significant contributor to depression and to mental health problems. That binge drinking and problem drinking can really exacerbate mental health problems. So for people to cut down, never more than four for men, never more than three for women at one sitting, makes a big difference.

    There's a lot that people can do to take care of themselves and to take care of their families and friends to reduce the risk of suicide. But we know that this is a challenging problem, and for the families dealing with suicide of a family member, it's devastating.

    RAY SUAREZ: A big part of the CDC brief, Doctor, is prevention. And I'm wondering how you craft a response to these numbers when you see in certain groups that the problem is acute, among more elderly women, among white men of a certain age. You see a number that pops out like that, what do you do in return?

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: We think about what works, what really makes a difference.

    Now we put things into two broad categories. The first is social connectedness, being involved, whether it's book clubs or walking clubs or with family or friends or teams or sports. Being involved with others, it makes a big difference. And the second are caring for your mental health.

    And I would highlight three particular areas: treatment, physical activity, and avoiding excess alcohol and drugs. For each of those things, there is something that everyone can do to be healthy or help others being healthier in terms of their mental status.

    RAY SUAREZ: But can people in the health care professions be warned by these numbers to be on the lookout for people who may be entering a stage where they may have suicidal thoughts, where they may have the means or the access to the kind of things they might use to end their lives?

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: It's very important that doctors and other health care workers are aware of the risk of suicide and are attentive to clues or hints that patients can give.

    Study after study shows that many patients who commit suicide had seen a health care professional in the preceding month. And often there was a warning sign. So it's important for doctors and others to ask about depression, to ask about thoughts of suicide, and to refer people or provide treatment right away, because treatment does make a difference.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, Dr. Frieden, I hear what you're suggesting, but at the same time, this is the sort of thing that someone does often in a way to mask things that are going on in their lives.

    For a clinician, aren't these things kind of hard to root out? Aren't these things kind of hard to watch for, these precursors to an attempt of suicide?

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: Actually, there are important things that doctors can do and other health professionals can do to open the dialogue.

    Often, patients want to talk, asking about depression, asking about feelings of hopelessness, asking, frankly, if patients have had thoughts of hurting themselves. It's been shown that asking that doesn't increase the likelihood that patients will hurt themselves, but it greatly increases the likelihood that doctors will be able to help the patient.

    RAY SUAREZ: And we can do that in a way that doesn't seem intrusive or, let's say, is appropriate for a medical professional to do?

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: It's very important that all health care professionals become more comfortable with mental health issues. Addressing mental health issues just as naturally as we address physical health issues is really important.

    We say that someone has a broken leg, but they are depressed. There's something about mental health issues, mental health problems that create attitudes that often lead us to make it more difficult to talk about those conditions. But mental health problems are health problems, and health care workers need to address them.

    RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Thomas Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control.

    Thanks for joining us.

    THOMAS FRIEDEN: Thank you for putting attention to this important issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There is a national suicide prevention hot line if you know someone who is in distress. That number is 1-800-273-TALK.

    And, online, we have more on the CDC's report, including charts that break down the numbers. 


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And now back to the jobs picture.

    Despite the good news in today's employment report, nearly two million Americans 55 and older are still out of work.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at the continuing struggles of the long-term jobless in their 50s. It's the latest in an occasional series on older workers and part of his ongoing reporting Making Sen$e of financial news.

    JOE CARBONE, President, The WorkPlace: I don't want you to think for a minute that I'm somebody who doesn't understand what unemployment is like.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Joe Carbone runs the WorkPlace, a job training center in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    JOE CARBONE: I was unemployed once for eight-and-a-half months. I used to drive 20 miles to do a little grocery shopping so I wouldn't meet anybody who would be able to look at me and ask, “Did you get a job yet?” So, I know what it can do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Given the empathy that Carbone and his staff convey, it's no surprise that the unemployed flock here for emotional support.

    WOMAN: I have been on the Internet daily, all day, eight hours a day. I can't find anything.

    PAUL SOLMAN: These folks have all been unemployed long-term, and as you may have noticed, most are 55 and older. There's been lots of talk about the improving jobs picture of late, and especially today, when the official unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent, the lowest since 2008.

    Our own more inclusive measure of the un- and under-employed is down to 16 percent, the lowest since we started tracking it in 2010. But in Bridgeport and at job fairs around the country, the reality is brutal for the more than four million Americans who remain out of work six months or more.

    For those 55 and older, it takes about a year on average to find work, longer than for any other age group.

    JOE CARBONE: They're carrying a double whammy, not just the long-term unemployment, but they're 50 and older. It makes things that are bad even worse.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, how much of a factor is age in explaining the stunning long-term unemployment numbers? We assembled a group of the jobless to ask them bluntly, is your age the reason you can't find work?

    FRANK RENDE, Seeking Employment: Beyond a shadow of a doubt. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fifty-nine-year-old facilities manager Frank Rende lost his job four years ago.

    FRANK RENDE: We got here in the first place because we were in the highest salary range. We were the first to go. We're going to be the last to come back.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Software developer Geoffrey Weglarz, 55, has been looking for two years.

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ, Seeking Employment: I have applied for 481 jobs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But none of them have panned out?

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: None of them have panned out, no. They think that anybody over a certain age is going to be used up.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Longtime admin assistant Debora Ducksworth, on the hunt since '09, says that, paradoxically, experience is now a negative.

    DEBORA DUCKSWORTH, Seeking Employment: I have 30 years of experience, and you will see something that says, we want you to have X-amount of skills, but we only want you to have no more than two years of experience.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And all they're trying to do there is screen you out?

    DEBORA DUCKSWORTH: Exactly. And now I'm thinking, I'm going to be 60 in October. Is anyone ever going to hire me?

    ALICIA MUNNELL, Boston College: We actually did a survey a few years ago where we asked H.R. types how they viewed older workers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Economist Alicia Munnell says the human resource managers were skeptical of workers like those in Bridgeport.

    ALICIA MUNNELL: They said they worried about their ability to learn new things, about their physical stamina and basically how long are they going to stay. And, so, it's -- when you looked at the whole picture of their assessment of older workers, you really wouldn't go out of your way to hire one.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And there's another reason an employer might be loath to hire an older worker: If things don't work out, will they be sued?

    Mary Corbin thinks age is the reason she was let go a year-and-a-half ago.

    MARY CORBIN, Seeking Employment: No one under 50 was laid off, and it was a large amount of people. In the package that they gave everyone, they emphasized, for signing the package, you will not come back and sue us for age discrimination.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And you couldn't afford to not take the severance?

    MARY CORBIN: Right. I did finally sign the package, because I needed that income to take care of my family.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, according to Alicia Munnell, employers may simply think they're protecting themselves.

    ALICIA MUNNELL: We have these age discrimination laws that may have a perverse effect, in the sense that you get -- you're really locked in once you hire an older worker. You can't fire one, so why hire one to begin with?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Event planner Patty Ford has been on the market about a year. She's 57, but:

    PATTY FORD, Seeking Employment: My resume only has 10 to 12 years of experience on there.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why?

    PATTY FORD: Because that was what I was advised to do, because you don't want people to know how old you are.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Geoffrey Weglarz does the same thing.

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: I cut it off at a certain point. Earlier in my career, I was an actor. So, my career in business, in technology starts 15 years later than they would assume just out of college.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Are you are you passing for someone younger?

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: Yes. There was one time when I was coming in for a face-to-face interview. And the H.R. recruiter saw me, assumed who I was, and his face -- I could just see his face almost fall when he saw me and how old I was. After that, I pretty much got pushed through two of the people I was supposed to talk to. The other three got busy, and I couldn't see them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, as you're saying that, everybody here is nodding. You have all been through that?

    FRANK RENDE: You can just sense, you know, that you're losing your audience.

    DEBORA DUCKSWORTH: It's like, I'm going to give her maybe a half-an-hour of my time, but, you know, they're stressing because they really don't want to give you that time at all.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Recruiter Nick Corcodilos runs a website for job seekers and also writes the weekly "Ask the Headhunter" column for our Making Sen$e site. Look, he says, an employer can have legitimate concerns about older candidates.

    NICK CORCODILOS, AsktheHeadHunter.com: The employer's just trying to figure out who can actually get the job done. So, there are some older workers -- probably a lot -- who simply don't have the skills or the wherewithal to do a certain kind of job. There, it's up to the worker to go out and bring themselves up to speed and do it in an aggressive way, do it as quickly as possible.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Moreover, from the firm's perspective, says Alicia Munnell, you will probably get more bang for your buck with a younger hire.

    ALICIA MUNNELL: People's salaries go up every year for cost of living and some promotions and productivity growth. And they get more expensive on the health care front just because they have more ailments.

    And most of the studies show that people's abilities peak around age 40 and then sort of decline gently thereafter. So, you have this mismatch of sort of rise in compensation, steady at best productivity, and it makes older people not look like such a good deal.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That may be why so many older workers are given lower pay if and when they are rehired. Bank executive Mike Leahy was unemployed for two years before he finally found work as a branch manager at a small bank. He took a pay cut of 15 percent.

    MIKE LEAHY, Bank Executive: That wasn't unexpected. I was so grateful for an opportunity in a job that I had done before because I really was one of those guys, I really wasn't sure what was going to happen.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Do you think that once you're out of work for six months, a year in your case, two years, that you're damaged goods?

    MIKE LEAHY: I absolutely believe that the fact that you are not working now and you're of a certain age is the issue.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Leahy got the job through The WorkPlace program platform to employment, which matches long-term unemployed with firms that have openings.

    MIKE LEAHY: I wake up every day and, believe it or not, I am thrilled to be going to work. I don't think I'm going to lose that for some time. I may not lose that for the rest of my working career, because I know now how fragile this is.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fragile, a good word to describe any job these days and the finances of those who for a long time haven't had one, like Geoffrey Weglarz.

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: I have gone through my savings. I have gone through my 401(k).

    PAUL SOLMAN: Completely?

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: Completely. My unemployment last check is next week. I have about $2,000 dollars to my name, and, after that, I don't know.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And you don't know how you're going to make that up?

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: I have no fallback position. I'm behind on my mortgage. I'm on food stamps, and I'm on financial hardship for both electricity and for gas.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And without that, you would be without electricity and gas?

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And without food stamps, you wouldn't have enough to eat?

    GEOFFREY WEGLARZ: After the unemployment runs out, probably.

    PAUL SOLMAN: When The WorkPlace's Joe Carbone hears stories like this, he wonders why more isn't being done to help.

    JOE CARBONE: We have got special programs here for veterans, and we should, for people with disabilities, and we should, you know, for dislocated workers, and we should. We see a new population that are unemployable because of the length of their unemployment occurring during the worst recession since the Great Depression, and we're just ignoring them, ignoring them.

    I can't tell you what that does to me. I love this country so much, but I can't imagine that we would ever leave any of our citizens, any of our brothers and sisters, to be part of a process that's declaring them hopeless. And that's what's going on.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A grim assessment for the millions of long-term unemployed still looking for work in a growing economy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Online, Geoffrey Weglarz, the man we heard who's gone through his savings and 401(k), talks more about being a jobless single dad. Plus, Paul Solman has his take on today's employment report. You will find that on our Making Sen$e page. 


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is off tonight.

    So, gentlemen, we had good jobs numbers today, but you listen to that report just now from Paul Solman, and it makes you angry, doesn't it, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: It does.

    You look at Geoffrey Weglarz, who has 481 job applications, interviews, and no job. I mean, the long-term unemployment -- unemployed in this country, more than four million out of work for six months, Judy, there's been a study done of employers looking at resumes. And if your resume comes in and they're the same, and Michael has not been working for a month and I haven't been working for seven months or 11 months, and we have identical resumes, the employer will go to the person who's worked most recently.

    There's almost a stigma that attaches. It becomes a terribly vicious cycle. When you're out of work, you remain out of work, and obviously the problems that were cited of, you're expected at a -- younger workers are more flexible in salary. They're more flexible supposedly on training or employers are willing to invest the time and the money in training.

    I mean, it's a terrible, terrible dilemma, and that's a terrible waste of human capital. I thought Joe Carbone was just elegant on the subject of you cannot leave fellow Americans like that behind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does it say about our country that this is happening?

    MICHAEL GERSON: It says that whenever we see the stock market at high levels and we see ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We broke a record today.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Right, exactly -- and we see the overall job numbers, we need to look a little deeper.

    This is a case where we have a bifurcation, where people who are in the stock market did pretty well today.

    MARK SHIELDS: That's right.

    MICHAEL GERSON: But, if you look at our long-term employment situation, this is not a good time to be in the job market.

    Our work force participation is very low. Long-term unemployment is very high. We have what's been called the plow horse economy. It's going forward, but very slowly. It's not creating jobs in the way that need to be created. We are now still in the longest period of below three percent growth in the American economy since the Great Depression. This is not a good time to be in the job market, even if it's a good time to be in the stock market.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what should be being done right now that isn't being done? Or is there -- is this just something we stand by and watch helplessly?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, this is the argument about doing -- what about the deficit and what about spending?

    And the argument that I would make is that it's not in any way affecting the long-term well-being of the country economically to spend money to get people trained, to get them jobs, to employ them. I mean, that is in the good of the country and it's in the long-term solvency of the greater country and the greater good.

    And I just -- I think there's not, I mean, there really isn't a master plan or a major plan right now or major ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's not even being talked about.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, it points to a disconnect in our politics where we have a lot of people who are concerned about jobs. We don't have a lot of politicians talking about job creation.

    Now, Republicans bring something, a little different emphasis to that issue, and Democrats, you know, and maybe both are necessary, job training, preparing people, giving them the social capital that's necessary to compete in a free economy, but also macro-policies that increase the level of growth in our economy, which both of them seem to be necessary in this circumstance.

    But, right now, if you look at the headlines, I'm not sure that we're having that discussion. There's a significant disconnect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the discussion is around cutting the budget.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there are arguments for cutting and doing something about the debt, but it does get you to the debt vs ...

    MARK SHIELDS: Not to be a complete downer, after Paul's piece and the preceding piece on suicide -- I mean, there is some good news.

    We have had 38 consecutive months of private sector growth. Judy, we have had -- the unemployment rate is down from 7.9 at the beginning of the year to 7.5. And to quote Mark Russell's advice, to those whom see the glass as half-full, get a smaller glass.

    We really -- there is good news. Now, the bad news is -- we have just heard it -- on the long-term unemployment, and it's sobering. It would take 16 more months of growth that we have now to get back to where we were in the number of Americans employed in Dec. of 2007. That would be Sept. of 2014. That's almost seven years.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Just to get back level?

    MARK SHIELDS: Just to get back at that level. And that's not even accounting for the millions of people who have come into the work force since then.

    And in all fairness, December 2007 were not the good old days. I mean, that was a period of very slow economic growth. And, so, you know, there's -- it is sobering.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, meanwhile, what we're talking about here in Washington -- at least what some people were talking about was the president, Michael, held a news conference. And I guess the most memorable line was, he was asked does he still have the juice to get what he needs done in Congress? And he found himself in a position where he was denying that he was politically dead.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Right.

    Well, we tend to exaggerate these moments. After his reelection, it was going to be a new progressive era. We were going to do all these major projects. Now he's at a low point, particularly after the sequester battle and after the defeat of gun control legislation. And it looks bad.

    And I think it was a bad press conference for him. You're in a -- you know, you're not in a good position when you're denying that you haven't experienced your political demise. That's not a strong position to be in. I think what disturbed supporters of the president was the way he's reacting to this right now.

    You know, a president is judged by his achievements, not the reasons he didn't achieve, OK? And when you're talking about the reasons you're not achieving, it's very defensive. And that's what the president did in his press conference. He talked about how difficult it is and why he's not making progress.

    And I think that people looked at that and thought that, you know, that's not the way that you respond or other American leaders have responded in low points that come in every presidency.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What else could he have said?

    MARK SHIELDS: I would just -- I would add this, Judy.

    The expectations were high, Barack Obama, the first and only American president since -- since Dwight Eisenhower six decades ago to get more than 51 percent of the vote in successive elections. That's a major achievement. So, expectations were high.

    And Michael is right. The sequester and the gun control votes were stinging defeats for the president and disappointments for his supporters. I thought the press conference was a disaster. I thought it was a disaster, because he brought to it no energy, no zest for battle.

    We judge presidents on results. We judge presidents on whether, in fact, they enforce their will upon the Congress. And -- but it's always in the results. We're not interested in how they do it. We're interested in what they do. George Bush got things done in the Congress by enlisting a totally united Republican Party and picking up a couple of outlier Democrats to pass his legislation.

    Bill Clinton angered his own party by triangulating, by reaching across the aisle, angering the left of his own party. Right now, what Barack Obama has to confront is that the Republican Party in Congress is what it is. It's a congressional party. It's not interested in national elections.

    They have lost, the Republicans. Five of the last six national elections, they have lost the popular vote. They are not competitive at this point. And so they are a congressional party, just as between 1968 and 1992, the Democrats were a congressional party. They got wiped out in presidential elections

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you're saying he can't count on them to work with him?

    MARK SHIELDS: He can't. What he has got to figure out, he has got to figure out how to go around them, how to pick off some of them, whether you do some with seduction. You do others with coercion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you did have that comment, Michael Gerson, this week from Pat Toomey, the senator from Pennsylvania ...

    MICHAEL GERSON: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... saying the reason many in his party didn't go along with the gun control compromise was because they didn't want to do something to help the president.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Was obstruction.

    I would add to that. I think that's true. I think you have a connection between obstructionism, structural things that have to do with polarization in American politics, and some weak presidential leadership on some of these issues. I think all those things are consistent with one another.

    But I do think there are real risks for just Republicans opposing things ...

    MARK SHIELDS: I agree.

    MICHAEL GERSON: ... for the reason that Mark talked about.

    Republicans right now have some positive goals they have to do to return to competitiveness as a national party. They have to appeal to new demographic groups. They have to appeal to blue-collar aspiring voters. They have to modify their tone on some social issues in order to compete. And if you're just opposing the president, you're not making progress on these other issues. This is -- the rubber will hit the road for Republicans on immigration. If the Senate comes out with a bill and passes it with 60 or 70 votes, which is possible, and not certain, but possible, the House will then face this choice. They will be standing on a precipice.

    Do we block immigration reform in America, or do we come up with enough Republicans, with enough Democrats to pass this thing? And it will be a defining moment for Republicans, whether they really want to pursue that obstruction strategy.

    MARK SHIELDS: I agree.

    But I would just remind, Democrats between '68 and '92, they lost 49 states in 1972 in the presidential election. They lost 49 states in 1984. They lost 44 in 1980, but they kept their congressional majority. They were in control of the House all that time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: While they were losing nationally.

    MARK SHIELDS: So they became a congressional party.

    They weren't opposed to their national ticket, but the national ticket didn't win. They were still the chairmen of their committees. And that's exactly where the Republicans are right now. What they're worried about -- and Michael is right I think in the scenario about immigration -- but if I'm sitting there as a House Republican and Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah have generated a lot of grassroots opposition to immigration, and I'm worried about a primary challenge as a House Republican in my district on this issue, then they're not going to go along.

    I don't care if it passes the Senate by 65 votes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where does this go from here? On gun control, Republicans were not prepared to go along.

    In the last week, gun control advocates have been out there at the grassroots level giving senators -- Kelly Ayotte, the Republican in New Hampshire, giving her a hard time, questioning her vote. Could Republicans be moved to change their position on some of these issues because of ...

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think that the -- I think there's been a backlash, but a relatively minor one, on the gun issue. And particularly if you're in certain parts of the country, you don't feel much pressure on this. And Ayotte may to some extent in New Hampshire. That is a more divided state.

    But I really do believe that the immigration issue for Republicans, just looking at the numbers, that most people, including people like Ryan and Rubio and others, understand that this is an existential problem.

    MARK SHIELDS: Ryan does. Rubio is a little bit foot in both camps.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, but I think because he wants to leverage role to be positive.

    MARK SHIELDS: OK. OK.

    MICHAEL GERSON: But I do think that they realize that this is not just an option.

    If we -- if Republicans fail this test, they may cease to be a national party for a long time. And I think that political reality could filter in. And I hope so.

    MARK SHIELDS: On gun control, Judy, this is the first time that there's been an adverse reaction to having voted against the NRA, whether it's Kelly Ayotte, whether it's Kay Hagan in North Carolina, who's in a tough race, who cast a difficult vote, and her numbers have gone up. Jeff Flake in Arizona, his numbers have gone down. The same thing has happened in Alaska with Murkowski and Begich.

    Now, that's impressive. But what you have got to the do if you're on the gun safety side, you have got to go into those states and work for Kay Hagan. You have got -- in other words, you have got to say, you have taken a tough vote. We're going to -- in this for the long run, not just for one week of town meetings.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear you both.

    And I had hoped to end on a really up note, but it wasn't to be. Next time.

    MARK SHIELDS: OK.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thank you both. 


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, what are you having for dinner? Where did it come from? And, most relevant to our topic today, did you prepare it, cook it, yourself?

    Michael Pollan has been exploring all things food in a series of books. His latest is "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation." I sat down with him recently.

    Welcome to you.

    MICHAEL POLLAN, "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation": Thank you. Good to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You are making a big claim in this book that cooking has not only a history that tells us a bit about who we are, but that it even has a kind of ethical side to it.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: It does, actually.

    Well, to paraphrase Wendell Berry, cooking is an agricultural act. You know, what you decide to cook, whether you decide to cook has an enormous bearing all the way along the food chain, back to the land. The reason we industrialized our agriculture to the extent we did is because we had industrialized our eating.

    The fast food industry basically revolutionized farming all the way back to what we grow and how we grow it. And this new renaissance going on of small farms that you see at the farmer's markets is really supported by people who are cooking. I mean, you know, what's for sale at the farmer's market? Raw ingredients, by and large.

    JEFFREY BROWN: New renaissance, but at the same time, the availability of so much that allows us to get away without dealing with it, right?

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Yes. Well, we have -- there's no question that our food economy has changed dramatically in the last several decades, so that half of the money spent on food in America is going to food that's cooked outside your home, being prepared by food service, restaurants, home meal replacements in the supermarket freezer cases.

    And the rates of cook having plummeted in America. They have fallen by half from 1965.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the obvious question -- and you wrestle with it in the book -- is sort of, why bother, right?

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: If I can have access to so much even good healthy food without having to prepare it myself, never mind all the junk food that's there, why bother cooking?

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, it's a question for a lot of people, and a lot of people are conflicted about it.

    It is something you can outsource very easily and fairly cheaply. But I would quibble with you that you can get healthy food outsourced. In general, you know, the most important question about your diet is who is cooking it. If you're letting a corporation cook it, the odds are you're not getting healthy food. They just don't cook very well.

    They use lots of salt, fat and sugar. They buy the cheapest possible raw ingredients, and then they have to dress it all up with lots of additives, because the food was cooked so long ago and so far away. So one of the -- and they cook differently than you do, in that they make -- they specialize in those labor-intensive foods made with cheap raw ingredients.

    The French fry is a classic example. Right? They can make French fries so efficiently that you can have them twice a day, no problem. And a lot of Americans do. Try making French fries at home. It's a lot of work and it's a big mess. And you won't do it more than once a month, which is probably about how often you should eat French fries.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the most amazing phenomenon of our time, I think -- and you do write about it -- you call it the cooking paradox.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That we watch so much -- that cooks, chefs are celebrities, that proliferation of all these programs about cooking, that we end up watching more than we actually cook ourselves.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Yes.

    The average American today cooks only 27 minutes a day, puts that much time into preparing food, four minutes for cleanup. Your average Food Network show is 30 minutes or an hour.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why do you think this happens?

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, to me, it was a very important clue about the importance of cooking, because there are many things in our lives we have outsourced and we haven't looked back, sewing our clothing, changing the oil in your car.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: We're very happy to outsource that and, OK, that's fine.

    Cooking is different. I think people have very strong feelings about cooking. We all have memories of being in the kitchen when our mom was preparing a meal or our grandmother and watching those alchemies unfold and that wonderful smell and the feeling of love as she presented the thing she worked hard on.

    So I don't think we're quite ready to let it go. And I think that's one of the reasons we're obsessing about it. The mystery is, why don't we do it? And I think a lot of people feel daunted. It's -- one of the interesting things about those cooking shows is they don't actually motivate you to cook. They make it look too hard.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I think my favorite line in the book is about those shows, where you say, I don't need to point out that the food you watch being cooked on television is not food you get to eat.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thanks for pointing that out.

    You felt the need to ...

    MICHAEL POLLAN: People need to be reminded.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: You know, it looks scary. There's knives flying and fountains of flame and a time clock. And that's not really what cooking is about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the book -- and we're not going to go into all the -- but you divide it into classical categories of fire, barbecue, water, cooking in pots, air, baking, and earth, right, various forms of fermentation.

    And you make yourself a sort of food -- a cook-to-be tourist, I guess, or not tourist, but ...

    MICHAEL POLLAN: A student, apprentice.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Student, yes, yes.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: So what I did was a found a master of each of -- I divided cooking into these four big important transformations. These are the common denominators of anything you would make.

    And then I looked for masters in each one, and I apprenticed myself and learned at their feet. And the book is really the story of my education.

    You know, I'm willing to call it reporting, but it was really just fun. And I have never had more fun working on a book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But were you coming at it -- I just wonder if people would be surprised at you're -- you're sort of presenting yourself as a non-cook.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Naive.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A naive cook.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, I did cook before. I didn't just learn how to cook. But I didn't cook with much care or thought or curiosity.

    And I cook with a lot more conviction now than I ever did before and a lot more knowledge. I understand the science at stake. I understand the history behind what I'm doing. And so I would just say I'm a more comfortable cook now as a result. This was a labor of gaining confidence in the kitchen to me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what lessons did you take that you can help others think about this from the masters ...

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, you know, we are -- we're internally conflicted when we go in the kitchen. There's always something else we could be doing. We could be taking a run. We could be watching TV. We could be reading.

    And we have -- we set up this conflict, because it is optional now. It's no longer obligatory to cook. And, for me, what I learned is something from one of my teachers, Samin Nosrat, who taught me the arts of cooking in water. And she said the key to cooking is patience, practice, and presence, being there, and that when you chop an onion, just chop an onion. Don't fight it. It's a Zen ...

    ... really.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is Zen, yes.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: And as I learned to do that, I found it's incredibly therapeutic to cook.

    We make time for things that we value. We get to the gym because we know how important it is to our sanity and our health. My premise here is that cooking is just as important to your sanity and your health, and that the most important thing about your diet is that activity, whether it's cooked or not.

    So learning how to be in the kitchen and not fight it and realizing what a pleasure it is -- I mean, this book really was my falling in love with cooking as a way to spend time. And that was the revelation to me, that just how satisfying -- it's its own gratification.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    When you chop an onion, just chop an onion.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Just chop.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    We're going to continue talking some of your experiences. We will do that online. And I hope people will go to that later.

    For now, the new book is "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation."

    Michael Pollan, thanks so much.

    MICHAEL POLLAN: Thank you, Jeff. 


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