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

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  • 05/06/13--05:45: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    People walk among some of the 500 one-meter tall statues of philosopher and revolutionary communist Karl Marx in Trier, Germany. The statues, created by Ottmar Hoerl, are part of an exhibition at the Museum Simeonstift Trier commemorating the 130th anniversary of Marx's death. Photo by Pierre Wolfer via Flickr.

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    A few years ago, Veronika Scott, now 23, set up a coat manufacturing business in a graffiti-covered building in an old Irish manufacturing neighborhood of Detroit. She had a few sewing machines and a drive to help the homeless.

    She wanted to make a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag, originally intended just for Detroit's homeless. But when she presented it at Aspen Fashion Week a year ago, some in the audience asked where they could get their own coats.

    Since late 2010, Scott and her employees -- 10 formerly homeless women who moved into housing only after they started working for Scott's nonprofit company, called The Empowerment Plan, have made more than 1,000 of the coats, which have been distributed for free to the homeless nationwide -- mostly by nonprofits in Detroit and Ohio but also in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Aspen and Philadelphia. This year, she plans to make four times that amount.

    "Everybody told me that my business was going to fail -- not because of who I was giving my product to but because of who I was hiring," Scott said. "They said that these homeless women will never make more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich -- you cannot rely on them for anything. And I know my ladies enjoy proving everybody wrong."

    It started as a class project: a teacher at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit tasked Scott and her classmates with creating a product that would fill a need rather than something faddish. And in Detroit, Scott said, taking on homelessness made sense.

    "Once you start talking to people, no matter what you're doing, whether you're in the public schools or you're on the streets, you are constantly faced with the homeless epidemic."

    So Scott visited a homeless shelter, where many people just out of prison would rotate in and out every eight hours, sleeping in chairs and watching television under the florescent lights. Her first day, Scott showed up intending to interview the homeless there, asking what sort of product she could design that they could use.

    "I remember coming in with sticky notes and a disposable camera and pens and notepad, and I was ready to go," Scott said, adding that when someone switched the TV off for her, "everybody started swearing at me."

    But Scott went back, three nights a week, every week for more than three months, talking to the homeless, designing a coat. "I had so many (school) friends who would come with me for a night and never come back again."

    The final design was a coat that transformed into a waterproof sleeping bag. Scott used three fabrics: a lining donated by Detroit outerwear company Carhartt, a hollow-fiber insulation material produced by 3M and a material called Tyvek, which keeps out water. After the first winter, the homeless in Detroit gave feedback, saying the Tyvek wasn't as durable as it should be, so Scott replaced it with a different material.

    Carhartt CEO Mark Valade met with Scott just before she opened her first workshop and donated the sewing machines in addition to the lining.

    Scott then interviewed job applicants from several area homeless shelters and transitional homes. None of them, including Scott, had ever sewn before, but they got the hang of it and started making the coats.

    Some news organizations covered her project, which brought in donations that enabled Scott to pay herself and her first three employees, and covered the cost of a couple hundred coats.

    Elisha Carpenter, a 37-year-old mother of three and one of Scott's original employees, said she was able to pay for housing after getting the job and appreciated the opportunity Scott gave her.

    "What I really like most about the job is the sincerity of Ms. Scott, because she reaches into the cesspool of homelessness and transitional housing and treatment, and she's steadily pulling people out. ... She tries to find that extra diamond in the rough," Carpenter said. "So it's really a blessing and honor to see somebody who's not being a predator on the homeless or using them for their own game."

    Last year, a San Francisco investor gave Scott about a year's worth of funding, and this year, Scott has raised an additional $300,000 so far toward the goal of $700,000. Investors include Sara Blakely, the founder of the Spanx undergarments company.

    And what about those Aspenites who wanted the coats for themselves? Scott is working on funding a for-profit sister company to design coats for the retail market. She intends to train the homeless to work there as well. The price of the retail coat will incorporate the cost of making a coat for the homeless.

    The coats cost about $55 each, and Scott and her team make about 300 a month. They're hoping to ramp up production to make 600 a month by year's end.

    "We can make a coat in an hour and a half -- we're going to be able to make it faster very soon -- and we can stand up in a market and prove that we can do these things and be competitive," said Scott. "I think we're going to show a lot of people: you think it's outdated to do manufacturing in your neighborhood, but I think it's something that we have to do in the future, where it's sustainable, where you invest in people, where they're not interchangeable parts."

    Slide show by David Pelcyger. The NewsHour's Agents for Change series highlights individuals helping communities solve problems, build businesses and create jobs.

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    2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    An young attendee inspects a rifle Saturday during the 2013 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Houston. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    If there is one thing supporters and opponents of tougher gun laws can agree on, it's that their fight is far from over.

    Leaders of the National Rifle Association told members attending the group's annual convention in Houston over the weekend they would not back down from attempts to strip away their constitutional right to possess firearms.

    "We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about," NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said during his remarks on Saturday. "We must remain vigilant, ever resolute, and steadfastly growing and preparing for the even more critical battles that loom before us," he added.

    LaPierre also sought to link the issue of gun rights to last month's Boston Marathon bombings.

    "How many Bostonians wish they had a gun two weeks ago?" LaPierre asked the several thousand in attendance. "How many other Americans now ponder that life or death question?"

    USA Today's Gregory Korte reports that the NRA board is expected to elect James Porter as its new president Monday. Korte writes that the selection of Porter to replace outgoing president David Keene "is one of many defiant signals" to emerge from the weekend gathering:

    Porter, 64, a lawyer from Birmingham, Ala., who defends gun manufacturers, has been building that outrage his whole life. His father, Irvine C. Porter, was president of the NRA in 1959 -- when the son says the NRA was "a glorified shooting society." At a breakfast Friday, Porter told grass-roots organizers that they are on the front line of a "culture war."

    "He seems to come out of a mold that's much closer to the base than David Keene," said Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Whereas Keene was a "steady hand" for the NRA amid controversy, Porter is "a complete wild card," Horwitz said. "The world's changing around them, and they're hunkering down."

    Gun control advocates, meanwhile, are pledging to forge ahead despite last month's defeat of legislation to expand background checks on most gun sales.

    President Barack Obama included the issue in his speech on economic security in Mexico last Friday, pressing that a stricter U.S. guns policy could help quell arms trafficking into the violence-plagued country.

    Vice President Joe Biden renewed his push for gun control legislation in a Sunday op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, calling on lawmakers to stand up to the NRA:

    For too long, members of Congress have been afraid to vote against the wishes of the NRA, even when the vast majority of their constituents support what the NRA opposes. That fear has become such an article of faith that even in the face of evidence to the contrary, a number of senators voted against basic background checks, against a federal gun trafficking statute and against other common-sense measures because they feared a backlash.

    Today, those very senators are discovering that the political landscape really did change. They are learning that Newtown really did shock the conscience of the nation and that inaction will not be tolerated by Democrats, Republicans or independents.

    Biden pointed to automated public opinion surveys from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, which showed approval ratings for Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., dropped sharply following his vote against the background check measure, while two supporters of the proposal -- Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana -- saw their standing in the eyes of voters improve.

    North Carolina voters said they were 52 percent more likely to support Hagan because of her "yes" vote on the amendment put forward by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, while 42 percent of Louisianans said the same about Landrieu.

    PPP found that Flake's approval rating had fallen to 32 percent in its survey. The freshman senator wrote on Facebook that the approval rating, combined with the public's unhappiness with Congress, put him "just below pond scum," and that his decline may have been due in part to his vote on the Manchin-Toomey provision.

    Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire was the subject of much media attention during a series of town hall meetings last week as she faced scrutiny from gun control proponents over her "no" vote on the legislation.

    It's unclear how much this reaction is anecdotal, especially for Ayotte, and if it will hold or grow to make a difference when an election arrives. Earlier last month, the Gallup survey found only 4 percent of Americans felt guns policy to be the most concerning issue, falling well behind health care, the federal budget deficit and the economy. And as of September 2012, the Pew Research Center didn't even include gun policy when asking about voters' priorities.

    Politico reported last week that the vice president is planning "a new gun control offensive" designed to bolster support for expanded background checks and another proposal to address gun trafficking, which also failed to pass the Senate last month.

    Manchin says he remains committed to the background check issue and hopes the proposal will get a second chance on the floor of the Senate before the August recess. After its initial defeat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "hit pause" on the background check measure, and it's unclear when it will get another shot.

    At least in the short term, gun control advocates are going to have to wait, as the growing debate over comprehensive immigration reform is likely to take up much of the air on Capitol Hill with a series of hearings scheduled this week.


    Reuters reports that members of the House are "still struggling" to write an immigration reform bill, in part because they are hung up over guest-worker programs sought by businesses.

    Senators are expected to file hundreds of amendments to the immigration bill this week before markup begins in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

    The Gang of Eight has outlined tiers of moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and more conservative Republicans whom they'll need for immigration legislation to pass the Senate and be propelled through the House.

    The New York Times previews the challenges Secretary of Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker may face, drawing on written answers she provided to the Times' questions in 2008.

    Bloomberg News headlines "Gore Is Romney-Rich" with this in-depth piece on the former vice president's ballooning empire.

    Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has pulled ahead by 10 points among certain voters in his race against political operative and businessman Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, for the Virginia governor's seat, the Washington Post polls.

    Florida won't expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act because its legislature ran out of time.

    The Center for Responsive Politics fleshes out the spending in the South Carolina 1st Congressional District special election.

    Chris Cillizza of the Post argues that former GOP Gov. Mark Sanford, of Appalachian Trail, trespassing and Alamo-related newspaper ad fame, just might win a Senate seat in South Carolina.

    The aforementioned Public Policy Polling finds Sanford with a statistically insignificant one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the twilight of the race, 47 percent to 46 percent. That includes a potential spoiler from a Green Party candidate polling at 4 percent.

    Because we know you can't get enough of this race, here's the weekend story from Huffington Post's Jon Ward, in which Sanford puts Ward on the phone with his son.

    Really, the elections fun never stops in South Carolina. Biden and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, drew 2016 presidential race attention this weekend for speaking at partisan dinners.

    The Miami Herald explains a change to the presidential primaries in Florida prompted by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

    Alaska GOP Gov. Sean Parnell will seek re-election in 2014.

    In the Massachusetts Senate special election, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey leads Republican Gabriel Gomez by four percentage points in an automated survey conducted by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

    NPR profiles Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., his re-election campaign, dipping poll numbers and appeal to blue collar voters.

    Peter Overby of NPR looks into the lobbying industry and what's taking place in the shadows.

    The Wall Street Journal offers a sneak peek at Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's new signature. It appears he has fulfilled Mr. Obama's requirement that it contain at least one legible letter.

    Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, asked for a routine waiver from disclosing gifts received for his April 20 nuptials.

    Roll Call's Abby Livingston continues her roundup of members of Congress set in fictional works. This edition: Who fits in a children's novel.

    An awesome map of Washington, D.C., property values circa 1879.


    Mark Shields and Michael Gerson, filling in for David Brooks, talked about Paul Solman's intense story about older workers struggling to make ends meet and whether Mr. Obama has the "juice."

    Watch here or below:

    Watch Video

    Author Michael Pollan, long at the forefront of the growing sustainable food movement, talked to Jeffrey Brown about his new book "Cooked."

    Jenny Marder devoted Friday's "Lunch in the Lab" column to the decline in the honeybee population.

    Jason Kane asks, Are You a Work Potato?

    Kwame Holman got Norm Ornstein's take on the Obama "juice" question.


    "John Boehner miraculously photobombs himself" on.tnr.com/13YhYnmtwitter.com/justinjm1/stat...

    — Justin Miller (@justinjm1) May 6, 2013

    I am not the mayor you are looking for RT @dapdunlap81 Happy Star Wars Day! #maythe4thbewithyou

    — Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 4, 2013

    Few people know this was original poster for "Wall Street" MT @buzzfeedandrew Terry McAuliffe on phone holding checks twitter.com/BuzzFeedAndrew...

    — Tucker Martin (@jtuckermartin) May 3, 2013

    Tortilla is a little meh though. RT @newtgingrich: McDonald's grilled chicken mcwrap at 250 calories is both a dollar and pound bargain

    — daveweigel (@daveweigel) May 3, 2013

    Anything less than the best is a felony. In other words, practice makes perfect. cc @cwsoftballgame @... instagram.com/p/Y8F65PIk74/

    — Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) May 5, 2013

    Christina Bellantoni and 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:

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    By Larry Kotlikoff

    Social Security expert Larry Kotlikoff makes the case that the program is $220 trillion in the hole. Counter-expert Alicia Munnell disagrees, and shows how little it would take to fill the hole.

    Social Security Wall Art Photo by Flickr user Fabricator of Useless Articles/Creative Commons.

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

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

    Stephanie Rosen -- Bronx, N.Y.: None of the NewsHour's recent panel of economists seem to consider the most sensible "cure" for Social Security: RAISE the income level on which Social Security is levied (as the New York Times' recent editorial recommended). Isn't this the fairest method?

    Those who are fortunate enough to make higher salaries can likely afford to pay Social Security tax on their higher incomes more readily than every worker having a higher percentage deducted from their salaries for Social Security.

    Larry Kotlikoff: I assume you're referring to this discussion on the NewsHour in mid-April. I cannot, of course, comment on why the various panelists did not comment on your (and the Times') supposed fix for the huge Social Security shortfall as we move ahead in time.

    However, I can comment on it myself -- and have. In fact, your question has been posed before on The Business Desk. Please see this column: "Why Not Raise the Social Security Payroll Ceiling and Other SS Questions".

    The essence of my answer was and remains simple: raising the ceiling on taxable earnings for Social Security would cover only about 60 percent of Social Security's long-term funding shortfall, using an infinite time horizon. Also, the system is already more progressive than most people realize due to its highly progressive benefit schedule. So looking just at the highly regressive nature of the tax itself is not quite fair to high earners.

    Paul Solman adds: I too answered this question last summer. At the time, I laid out in somewhat greater detail the financial ramifications of raising the ceiling, as I had in a broadcast story in 2005. So too did Jared Bernstein on The Business Desk in his post "Solving for Solvency: A Menu for Closing Social Security's Long-Term Budget Gap."

    Whatever one thinks about fairness to high earners, a discrepancy between Larry's numbers and the others' needs to be explained. Most people project the Social Security deficit no further ahead than to 2075; at the outside, to the next 75 years. Larry projects the shortfall from here to eternity. His calculation of the deficit is therefore larger than the number others come up with. As a result, by Larry's reckoning, removing the ceiling on taxable income would presumably (or conceivably) cover less of it.

    Recently, I put a question to another great expert on retirement finance and Social Security, economics professor Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. I asked about the economic implications of Americans working past the traditional age of retirement:

    Paul Solman: When Larry Kotlikoff says that we have a shortfall in terms of what we promised and what we are going to take in of something like $220 trillion dollars, if you buy that number or even if it's a lower number, this is still a drop in the bucket?

    Alicia Munnell: So when I'm talking about Larry Kotlikoff, whom I love, I need to separate some things that I agree with him on and some things that I don't agree with him on. I agree with him that the effect is small but I think going around and using this $200 trillion dollar number is not very helpful at all because big numbers happen over a long period of time and other stuff also happens over a long period of time.

    Paul Solman: Changes, you mean?

    Alicia Munnell: We have benefit commitments, but we also have people earning longer and payroll taxes being paid for longer and perhaps at a higher rate. I find the most useful way to think about the deficit to Social Security is in terms of the payroll tax. So, how much would the payroll tax have to be raised to solve the problem for 75 years, which is the Social Security's planning horizon, and how much would it have to be raised to solve it for infinity? And for 75-year time horizon, the number is 2.36 percent.

    Paul Solman: So right now the payroll tax for Social Security is 12.5 percent, split between employer and employee. So it would have to up to something like 15 percent?

    Alicia Munnell: Yes. Half. Right. So that's 1.2 percent more from you and 1.2 from the employer. Now think about that number. We recently had a payroll tax cut of two percentage points and I couldn't even tell. And then they raised it again by those same two percentage points and again I couldn't tell. I think some low earners felt it, but there wasn't jubilation when it happened and it wasn't cataclysmic when it went back. From the employee's perspective, the change that we're talking about is half of what we just went through in terms of this payroll tax cut and then increase.

    And that's if you say I'm going to solve this whole problem just by raising the payroll tax. If you do anything else -- raise the taxable wage base or do any number of things -- the amount you need to raise from the payroll tax becomes smaller. I think that's a more sensible way to think about Social Security's finances than this $200 zillion trillion dollar shortfall.

    To be fair, 75 years is only part of the story because we have an increasing ratio of retirees to workers and so when the 75 year period moves forward, you lose a year of surplus, you pick up a year of deficits. So if you just solve the problem for 75 years, it's not enough. To really solve it, you've got to have something like a 4 percent increase in taxes, 2 percent for you, 2 percent for the employer. But it I think solving it for 75 years would be just fine and all those numbers are manageable.

    Larry Kotlikoff responds: First, the infinite horizon projection is not my number. It's calculated by Social Security's Office of the Actuary and reported each year in table IVB6 of Social Security's annual Trustees Report.

    Second, I love Alicia at least as much as she loves me. But she surely knows that there is no economic basis for looking out any fixed number of years and saying that's far enough.

    The reason economic science doesn't let us look out just 75 years is not only that it ignores the benefits Paul's grandchildren are being promised. The real reason is that nothing in economic science tins down how governments must label annual receipts and payments. Consequently they have complete leeway to choose accounting that pushes recognition of the underlying problem into the distant future while not changing the problem whatsoever. The infinite horizon Social Security shortfall does not suffer from this problem. Moreover, looking out just 75 years repeats the sin Alan Greenspan committed back in 1983 when he and his famous Greenspan Commission claimed to fix the system for good. As you may have noticed, they didn't.

    Jim, Inglewood, Calif.: My partner's mother is an unemployed 62-year-old divorcee. She is bilingual and used to work as a travel agent and has been trying to find work for the last three years -- without success. She has no income, no savings, no car and no retirement and is currently sleeping on our couch. I was told that she can take early retirement from Social Security based on her earnings, and then, when she turns 67, she can switch to her former husband's Social Security. Her former husband had a much higher income and he is currently 58 with no plans to retire early. Is that a possible solution for her?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Not a fun scene. Your partner's mother can begin her retirement benefit now and when her ex reaches age 62, she can collect an excess spousal benefit based on his work record. Given that she is otherwise penniless, this is probably the best strategy.

    Herbert King: I will be 62 on Oct. 8, 2013. When can I apply for my Social Security?

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can start collecting your retirement benefits when you reach age 62, but please realize: they will be only 75 percent of what their value would be were you to wait until full retirement age, which is 66 in your case. And they will be roughly 57 percent of what they'd be were you to wait until 70 to collect.

    (Our other Social Security expert, Jerry Lutz, adds: You would first be entitled to benefits for November 2013. You could apply as early as July 2013, and your first check would be due to arrive on the second Wednesday of December, 2013.)

    Laura Kaplan, Northport, N.Y.: My husband and I lost everything during the economic downturn of 2008-2009. He has been sick for a few years and is now residing in a nursing home. He is 77 and I am 59. It took over a year to get him on Medicaid. He was already receiving his Social Security.

    The Social Security checks are still being deposited every month into our joint account. I called the nursing home and was told that his costs are now covered by New York Medicaid. Does this mean I can keep receiving his Social Security checks? Why would they keep sending them to our account if they are supposed to go the nursing home?

    Larry Kotlikoff: I am terribly sorry for your situation. Life, as we just saw in Boston, is a terrible game of roulette -- Russian or American -- and we can only survive by grasping at momentary joys, no matter how small.

    I am surprised that Medicaid is not taking your husband's Social Security check to pay, in part, for his nursing home costs. I think you had better check with Medicaid. I wouldn't advise taking the risk that they'll surprise you one day with an unmanageable bill for past overpayments.

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

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    This is the first of two PBS NewsHour reports on hexavalent chromium, a chemical found in U.S. drinking water and the agency charged with regulating it. This report aired on March 13.

    There is nothing more frustrating for a reporter than posing legitimate, reasonable questions to a representative of a federal agency and, in response, being told to talk to the hand.

    Such was the case when David Heath of the Center for Public Integrity and I did our spadework for our investigative stories in March on failings at the Environmental Protection Agency in the way it vets science -- and scientists -- who make decisions on acceptable levels of toxic chemicals in our environment. (Here's the Center for Public Integrity's latest story and in-depth investigation on the subject.)

    Despite repeated attempts to get anyone at the EPA to agree to an on-camera interview, all I got in reply was a short statement from an agency PR flack.

    In this second report, Miles O'Brien asks why federal regulations on chromium-6 have been delayed, despite evidence showing its possible links to cancer.

    So it was gratifying -- and yet still a little maddening -- when that same flack sent me word that the EPA is changing the way it does business by letting the public have a little more visibility into its machinations.

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    As we reported, scientists who were tapped to decide how to update the old standard for safe levels of hexavalent chromium in drinking water were compromised by clear conflicts of interest.

    On Friday, in the wake of our investigation, the EPA announced changes in the way it will be doing business to ensure that its own conflict-of-interest policy is not circumvented.

    The new oversight, the agency said in a press release, "will ensure that contractors follow all existing conflicts of interest guidance and requirements."

    According to the press release, the agency will now publish the names, principal affiliations and resumes of candidates being considered for future peer review panels. "EPA will now ensure that the public has the opportunity to review and comment on a peer review panel's composition when influential scientific documents are being considered," the release said.

    Wow. Imagine that; an arm of our government is deigning to let us all see and evaluate how they do business.

    I sure wish that wasn't a news flash.

    (function() { document.getElementById('cpi_widget').innerHTML = '' })();

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  • 05/06/13--08:47: Weekly Poem: 'Ward'
  • By Karen Holmberg

    When the East is gold leaf beaten so thin the sky's pale violet shows through, I go to my garden to check the progress of its labors. The peony's fist has widened its fissure in earth. I stoop to assist, unkinking its wrist, unfolding the wad of maroon tissues snipped with half-moons, triangles, and blades. Partly in pity, in part for relief, the world gave me two daughters to distract me from my own death dread, that I might relax my hold on her, the way you give a baby the transparent nipple, the vinyl infant to mother. When the nurse handed me my first, I kissed the lip curled in a sob of dismay, already possessed. Then I rolled back the sleeve of her gown and saw fingers wizened from being too long in the bag of waters, unfurled the fist to find a shredded blister in her palm, slits in the whitened, drowned skin revealing tissues so thin they took their color from blood, the palm lines a crimson M as if gouged with a stick. How privileged I was in that maternity ward, able to believe the distance of her death, that I could keep for life what had entered the world through my body's gates. That it would never be my temple and cheek grinding the sand, my teeth bared in agony near the small hand, the palm still enfolding loosely the stripped twig, the skin of the fingers livid, abraded, taken to great age in a single day by the mother who gives to us, and gives to us, then wrenches away what we love in her vast wave.

    Karen HolmbergKaren Holmberg's first book, "The Perseids," won the Vassar Miller Prize and was published by the University of North Texas Press; her second book, "Axis Mundi," won the John Ciardi Prize and was published by BkMk Press earlier this year. She is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Oregon State University.

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    "Covering Watergate," a PBS NewsHour special report, will air May 17.

    Forty years ago, in the summer of 1973, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer led public broadcasting's gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings -- co-anchoring all 250 hours of the proceedings, and launching the beginnings of what the PBS NewsHour is today.

    On May 17, PBS NewsHour presents a special report looking back at the scandal that transformed American politics and journalism and ultimately ended a presidency. In it, MacNeil and Lehrer recount their memories after some of the more gripping moments in the hearings and explain how their partnership and expansive coverage changed not only the face of television journalism, but also their lives.

    As we ready this retrospective, we want to hear from you -- our viewers, those of you who spent the summer of '73 watching John Dean and Alexander Butterfield testify, or even those of you who learned of Watergate's impact much later.

    How did the Watergate scandal and hearings affect your life or the way you perceived government or the media? And, what do you think Watergate's effect was on the nation?

    Fill out this Public Insight Network form with your written memories or comments.

    You can also call our oral history hotline at (202) 599-4PBS and share with us your story in a voice mail. Please be as specific and concise as possible. The call will cut off after three minutes.

    Plus, we'll continue the conversation on Twitter where you can engage with other members of the NewsHour audience.

    Tweet #CoveringWatergate

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    We'll showcase some of your stories here on our website when the special airs on the broadcast May 17 and we revisit a scandal and process that captured the country four decades ago.

    May 17, 1973 marked the start of the Senate hearings that would eventually lead to President Nixon's resignation.

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    More than one million babies a year die on the day they are born according to a new report released by the international nonprofit Save the Children. The report ranks 186 countries based on the chances a baby will survive the first day of life.


    Luxembourg is the safest country in the world for a baby to be born, according to Save the Children’s first-ever "Birth Day Risk Index." Fewer than five babies die a year on their birth day.

    The “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Gwenaël Piaser, via Flickr


    About 74 percent of pregnant women do not get any prenatal care in Somalia. And 1 in 16 women die during pregnancy or childbirth.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Katie Drew/Save the Children


    Singapore is the second safest country in the world to be born, according to Save the Children. The country’s first-day mortality rate is fewer than 0.5 per 1,000 live births, and 100 percent of women in Singapore give birth in a health care facility.

    Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Gwenaël Piaser, via Flickr


    The Democratic Republic of the Congo was ranked the worst country in the world to be a mother, and the second worst country in which to give birth, according to Save the Children’s 2013 Mother’s Index. More than 48,000 babies died on the day they were born in 2011.

    Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Save the Children


    In Estonia, women face only a 1 in 25,000 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth. And new moms there are entitled to 140 days of paid maternity leave at 100 percent of their salary.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Melody Tan via Flickr


    Over half of all births in Mali are not attended by a skilled health personnel. And 1 in 8 women gives birth alone.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Joshua Roberts, Save the Children


    Ninety nine percent of all women in Cyprus receive prenatal care and virtually all births are attended by skilled personnel.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Leonid Mamchenkov via Flickr


    The average female life expectancy in Sierra Leone is only 49 years. One in 23 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. In 2011, 11,200 babies died during the first month of life.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Save the Children


    Sweden’s government-funded health care system covers the cost of maternal care. The country has one of the world’s best parental leave policies -- families are given a total of 480 days of paid maternity or paternity leave per child.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: Frisno Boström via Flickr


    About 2,500 babies died in Central African Republic on their birth day in 2011. Nearly 70 percent of girls are married before they turn 18.

    The international nonprofit Save the Children's “Birth Day Risk Index” ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life. Click here to read PBS NewsHour's full report. Photo: UNICEF | Pierre Holtz

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    U.N. peacekeepers monitor the Lebanese-Israeli border at a point overlooking an Israeli settlement, in southern Lebanon on Monday. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

    An Israeli airstrike on a military research facility near Damascus, Syria, last weekend killed 42 Syrian soldiers, reported the Associated Press, and raised the specter of the Syrian conflict pulling in more regional players.

    In general, Israel has had a "hands off" role in the Syrian conflict, but it also doesn't want weapons to fall into the hands of those who might harm Israel, said Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The strikes by Israel, which reportedly occurred Friday and Sunday, appeared to be targeting weapons that were stored in Syria but meant for use by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has sided with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    There's a risk of growing border instability and of weapons stockpiles falling into the wrong hands, which in Israel's eyes is Hezbollah, said Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for the Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live.

    And in Syria's eyes, Israel's actions constitute a "declaration of war," Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad told CNN.

    "We dealt with this on several occasions, and we retaliated the way we wanted, and the retaliation was always painful to Israel, and they will suffer again," he said.

    Past Strikes

    In January, Israel struck a truck convoy within Syria that was carrying missiles or missile parts to Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based. PBS NewsHour senior correspondent reported from Jerusalem on the airstrike and tensions between Israel and Syria and Hezbollah:

    Watch Video

    In September 2007, Israeli jets also bombed a partially built nuclear reactor in Syria. Syria has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty but is able to construct nuclear facilities as long as they're used for civilian energy and non-weaponry purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May 2011 that the facility was "very likely" a nuclear reactor, according to the BBC.

    The 2007 attack was more discrete, Israel denied it and Syria basically agreed to ignore it, said Michele Dunne, director of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. But last week's strike shows the actions of others in the region, including Hezbollah and Iran, are becoming more overt and that Syria is becoming increasingly lawless, she said.

    Israel also might be trying to send a signal to Iran that it could strike that country's nuclear facilities, too, said Dunne.

    It's not clear how much coordination there was between Israel and the United States in last week's airstrike, but it still raises the question of whether the United States would let Israel take the lead with Iran and its nuclear program, she added.

    The airstrikes came as U.N. human rights investigators said Syrian rebels have used the nerve agent sarin in their fight against the government, Reuters reported. Rebels and the Syrian government have accused each other of using chemical weapons, which are banned under international law.

    Carla Del Ponte, head of the commission, also said Sunday that the commission has found no evidence that the Syrian government is using chemical agents. But White House spokesman Jay Carney cast doubt on that assessment Monday afternoon, saying, "We are highly skeptical of suggestions that the opposition could have or did use chemical weapons. We find it highly likely that any chemical weapon use that has taken place in Syria was done by the Assad regime. And that remains our position."

    Related Resources:

    Timeline of the Arab Spring

    Complete Syria coverage

    We'll have more analysis on Monday's NewsHour. Additional reporting by Daniel Sagalyn.

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    Americans still pay more than twice the price for health care than most other developed countries, but the sticker shock has come with a bit of good news in recent years: Costs are rising more slowly.

    "Exceptionally slowly," as the authors of a new Health Affairs study put it. Between 2009 and 2011 -- years that included and immediately followed the recession -- health spending grew at about 3 percent per year. That's down quite a bit from the 5.9 percent increase seen in the previous 10 years.

    Most health economists agree it's a good thing, but they diverge on why the dip occurred and even more so on how long it will last. If the slowdown was tied to job loss and benefit changes that shifted more costs to insured Americans during the economic downturn, then overall health costs may surge again once the economy picks up.

    But according to Michael Chernew, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, that's only part of the story. By studying more than 10 million employees of large firms who kept their coverage during the economic downturn, Chernew and his co-authors found that many employees' out-of-pocket costs increased as their employer-sponsored plans became less generous between 2007 and 2011. Even so, that dip in "generosity" -- and the accompanying apprehension by some to seek health care services -- only accounts for about a fifth of the decrease in health costs, the study concluded.

    And that could mean that something more systemic and perhaps long-lasting is at play in reducing U.S. health costs. Chernew joined the NewsHour late last week to discuss the Health Affairs study and what it might tell us about ever-inflating U.S. health costs.

    NewsHour: Michael Chernew, thank you for joining us. Tell us briefly what you were hoping to accomplish here.

    Chernew: We tried to address the explanation that the slowdown in health care spending was "just because people were losing their jobs." And the way we addressed that is by looking at a bunch of people that didn't lose their jobs. We also tried to address another explanation, that "coverage was just becoming less generous." And it is true that over this time, health insurance coverage was becoming less generous.

    But we found that amongst people who retained their coverage, the reduction in generosity only accounted for 20 percent of the spending slowdown. So we concluded that whatever has been going on transcends job loss or generosity declines. It made us more optimistic than we otherwise might have been that the slowdown in health care spending might persist.

    NewsHour: So if not job loss or shifting benefits, what do you think might account for the slowdown?

    Chernew: I think the most likely things going on would be a general change in the rate of introduction and adoption of new technologies and a general change in the culture of practice amongst health care providers -- hospitals, physicians and the like. I perceive personally that over the past five years, there's been a particular focus of the provider community on addressing the issues of health care spending growth. And our results are consistent with that. I should also emphasize that the data doesn't show that health care spending was dropping, only that it was rising at a lower rate, so that's a very important distinction.

    NewsHour: What particular practices are doctors and other health care providers putting into place that might account for the drop?

    Chernew: Well I think it's just greater attention to medical spending and greater attention to their use of particular medical services. Some of the things that might be going on could relate to the introduction of new drugs and drugs coming off patents. Other things that could be going on are changes to particular technologies. An example of this type of cultural change would be the American Board of Internal Medicine's Choosing Wisely campaign, where the medical community itself has been trying to identify medical services that might not be needed. And by reducing their utilization, you can not only help slow the rate of spending growth, but it's also possible you can improve the quality of care.

    NewsHour: A decrease in new technologies may be a good thing for slowing down health costs, but if we're not adopting these technologies, could that ultimately be a bad thing for our health care system?

    Chernew: First of all, we did not look specifically at technologies, so I was speculating beyond the evidence in our study. That said, it is certainly the case that as we begin to develop a sustainable health care system, we do have to worry a lot about the incentives to innovate and the rate of innovation. And perhaps more importantly, we have to strive to innovate those services that are of high value but not adopt services that might be wasteful. And it's clear that a lot of technology is wonderful; some not so much. The challenge is to figure out which is which.

    NewsHour: Do you think this slowdown will persist?

    Chernew: I guess I have two personal thoughts. The first one is I am cautiously optimistic, but certainly our evidence and frankly the other evidence I've seen is far from definitive about what's going to happen in the future. It's much easier to examine the past than the future. But I personally am cautiously optimistic that there really has been a change in the culture surrounding the practice of medicine that will ultimately put us on the path toward a sustainable health care system.

    The second one is that I think it's really important that people not interpret our findings to imply that we have solved our problems and we should all go home. I think that it's important to understand that we should try and eliminate waste from the health care system whenever it exists, regardless of the underlying trends in health care spending are, and that continued efforts and vigilance will be needed to extend our success. Although we found results consistent with the idea that there were structural changes going on, we believe we still have to continue our efforts to develop a little more efficient health care system and to adopt incentives to promote continued delivery of high-value but fiscally sustainable care.

    NewsHour: Finally, what's your prediction about how the Affordable Care Act will play into all of this?

    Chernew: Most analysts, me included, predict that spending will go up because you have a greater number of people with coverage and access is improved. On the other hand, the Affordable Care Act has put in place a number of structures that I think in the long run will contribute to developing a more efficient health care system. They've made some changes to Medicare that I think have a potential to be successful.

    Again, I think there's a lot of work to be done in that area, but there's certainly the potential for successes. We've adopted certain types of new payment models and other types of innovation that have made changes in the private sector in terms of the exchanges and competition and things like that. So there's a lot in the Affordable Care Act that I think has the potential to really help improve the health care system but in the near term, I think the prudent assessment would be that health care spending would rise simply because you're bringing a lot more people into the system. It might not rise per beneficiary, but national health care spending overall will probably reflect the greater number of people in the system.

    NewsHour: Michael Chernew, thank you so much for joining us.

    Chernew: Thank you.

    Top photo by Don Bayley.

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    This video was shot and edited by Terence Burlij.

    Voters in the coastal 1st Congressional district of South Carolina will decide on Tuesday whether the state's former governor, Mark Sanford, deserves a second chance in politics.

    Sanford, who once held the seat, is locked in a tied race with Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Democrat best known as comedian Stephen Colbert's sister.

    To get a primer on the race, I chatted in our newsroom with Jon Ward of the Huffington Post. He spent several days in the Palmetto State and outlined each candidate's final pitch to voters.

    Busch is running on a pro-business platform, but has positions that might be out of the mainstream in this strong Republican district. That said, Sanford's standing has declined with voters, thanks to his very public affair and his ex-wife's allegations of trespassing.

    "All the polls show it's a dead heat," Ward said.

    Ward wrote over the weekend about the strange moment when Sanford put him on the phone with his son.

    And yes, Busch is Colbert's older sister.

    Related Content:

    Special Elections Will Test Democrats in Mass., Sanford in S.C.

    Possible Candidates Prime Up for House Races in Illinois, South Carolina

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @CBellantoni

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Israel today played down a weekend of airstrikes that hit Syria. The Syrians, in turn, threatened to strike back, but there were no signs of new hostilities in the offing.

    On Syrian state television today, images of the smoldering remains of a military complex near Damascus. It was hit early Sunday by airstrikes attributed to the Israeli military, the second in three days. Israel didn't officially claim responsibility, but senior officials there said the targets were advanced Iranian missiles being shipped to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

    Israeli leaders warned again Sunday that Hezbollah must not obtain -- quote -- "game-changing weapons."

    UZI LANDAU, Israeli Minister of Tourism: It's vital for the security and the stability of the Middle East that no weapons of mass destruction will spill over to the hands of terror organizations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A similar Israeli strike last January apparently targeted anti-aircraft missiles that were being shipped to Hezbollah.

    On Saturday, President Obama told Telemundo that Israel has the right to protect itself.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will let the Israeli government confirm or deny whatever strikes that they have taken. What I have said in the past -- and I continue to believe this -- is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Israelis have insisted they are not taking sides in the Syrian civil war, but the regime of President Assad quickly condemned the latest attacks.

    OMRAN AL-ZOUBI, Syrian Information Minister: The Israeli invaders committed a blatant act of aggression against Syria. The Syrian military has the right and responsibility to protect its country and people from any form of infringement either at home or abroad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Iran joined in, warning that Israel is -- quote -- "playing with fire." And a Syrian opposition group also criticized the Israelis.

    RAJAA AL-NASSER, Syrian National Coordination Body: This aggression is an aggression against all Syrian people with all its forces. We call on the international community to prevent the Israeli enemy from using the internal situation in Syria to accomplish its goals.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There were no new airstrikes today. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to China for an official visit, even as Beijing called for restraint.

    HUA CHUNYING, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson: We think the current situation in the region is complicated and sensitive. China has attached great importance to it. We oppose the use of military force and believe any country's sovereignty should be respected.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The weekend strikes came as the U.S. and the international community wrestled with what to do about possible chemical weapons used by the Assad regime.

    Carla Del Ponte a leading member of the U.N. commission investigating the issue, said Sunday there is evidence that Syrian rebels have used sarin gas. But the full commission said today it has reached no conclusions on the issue.

    And, at the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney cast doubt on Del Ponte's claim.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: We find it incredible, not credible, that the opposition has used chemical weapons. Obviously, that's a matter that's under investigation, but, you know, we think that any use of chemical weapons in Syria is almost certain to have been done by the Assad regime. But any use would be a red line crossed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All of this as The New York Times reported the U.S., Britain and France have been secretly discussing the use of airstrikes in Syria.

    To some, including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the weekend's developments suggested Syrian defenses wouldn't be much of an obstacle.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: The fact is, we are capable of taking out their air on the ground with cruise missiles, cratering their runways. And to allege somehow that the United States of America can't do that means we have wasted a hell of a lot of taxpayers' dollars.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For now, it was unclear what happens next. The Israelis deployed Iron Dome rocket batteries to the north of the country in case the Syrians try to retaliate. But a top Israeli commander played down the possibility, saying there are no winds of war. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And for more, we're joined by Michele Dunne, director of the Atlantic Council's Center for the Middle East. She previously served in the State Department and the National Security Council staff. And Steve Clemons, who writes on foreign affairs as editor-at-large at The Atlantic magazine.

    Michele Dunne, let me start with you.

    What is behind Israel's strikes into Syria? What are they after?

    MICHELE DUNNE, Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East: The Israeli strikes intended to eliminate missiles that were shipped from Iran to Hezbollah to be put into Lebanon, because these missiles would have brought about a qualitative change in Hezbollah's capability.

    Particularly, they have much more precise targeting ability than the missiles that Hezbollah currently has in Lebanon, and they also can carry a bigger payload, so do greater damage inside Israel if they were used.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you see it as a fairly narrow or limited project or effort?


    And this is the second time that Israel has done this. Israel carried out an airstrike previously against some other missiles that were on their way to Hezbollah. This, of course, though, was a larger attack. It was inside Damascus and the Damascus area. It caused significant casualties, more than 40 Syrian soldiers killed.

    And I also think there's a broader message that Israel is sending. It has a specific objective, but I think also to send the message to Iran that Israel is serious about enforcing its red lines.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Steve Clemons, what do you see going on here, specifically this weekend with Israel?

    STEVEN CLEMONS, The Atlantic: Well, I think Michele Dunne characterized it absolutely correctly.

    Israel has shown substantial restraint through this period of civil strife and conflict inside Syria, and saw that it -- there may be substantial missiles being transferred to Hezbollah. And they took action to stop it.

    What's interesting to me and I think disconcerting is, we're beginning to see the blurring of state lines and the potential for a broadening of the war. Even though Israel may not want that -- and I think that Israel has tried to be surgical and to remain calm -- broadly, we have to begin asking, what does Assad want and what is he threatening?

    And I think, to some degree, whether it's Turkey, Lebanon, other players, broadening the conflict outside, beyond Syria's borders, is a card that he may be beginning to play. And I think that's something we should be concerned about in Washington.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, where do you see that? Where do you see that blurring of the lines?

    STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, we see it in the cross-border military conflict with -- in some areas of Turkey. We have seen it as -- you have begun to watch the Saudi, the Qataris, and the Emirates begin to worry about what may be coming after the regime.

    They are also calling and advising and trying to interact with people inside the Syrian state government, the bureaucracy, not to leave, if there is a collapse of Assad, because they're worried about the internal dimensions of a, you know, somewhat Salafist, extreme Islamist takeover inside the country.

    So, you have got a lot of players in the neighborhood who are beginning to become much more involved and engaged. And one of the things Assad has been promising in much of his rhetoric is to beware that this could become much more complicated. You have got three million Kurds inside Syria who find common cause with Kurds not only in Iran and Kurdistan, but also in Turkey.

    And so there's a lot of dimensions to this conflict that don't stay neatly within the borders of Syria at all.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask ...

    STEVEN CLEMONS: And I think Israel's attack, while sensible and important for Israel, is a manifestation of a potential broadening of the conflict regionally.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask you, Michele Dunne, is Israel, do you think, calculating that it can do this and not bring on retaliation or some further spillover effort? Do you think that is possible, or is that what we may see now?

    MICHELE DUNNE: Well, first of all, I agree with Steve that this conflict is metastasizing.

    And it is spreading to other states in the region. I don't think that Israel wants that to happen. I do think they were taking what they thought was an opportunity. They had obviously had through some methods spotted these missiles and thought this is their opportunity to get rid of these missiles before they get into Lebanon.

    And they are -- they do seem to be calculating. We saw press leaks that they were calculating that both the Syrian government and Hezbollah are too heavily occupied to really focus on retaliating against Israel and that Iran also probably doesn't want to take on Israel at this point.

    JEFFREY BROWN: By the way, do we know whether they are consulting with the U.S.? Does the U.S. know ahead of time when Israel does something like this? Do we know?

    MICHELE DUNNE: I don't know exactly whether -- whether they did or not. I would be surprised if there had not been some advanced notification to the United States.

    I don't know how much time. And probably the Israelis would have already decided that they were going to do this, not so much asking the U.S. permission, as informing the U.S. that they were going to do it. But that's just a guess.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Steve Clemons, in what ways might all this affect the U.S. position here? We saw in our setup piece, for example, Sen. McCain saying, well, look, this -- and others have said this, that this shows at least that the Syrian air defense can be breached fairly easily.

    STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, I think there are two sides of another line.

    There are some like Sen. McCain and former Sen. Lieberman, Lindsey Graham and others, that are calling for a much more robust involvement of the U.S. with no-fly zones and a kind of engagement somewhat similar and more robust as we saw in Libya.

    There are others who are worried that either the shipment of heavy arms, deeper engagement in this conflict, that you don't have the same tipping-point opportunities that the U.S. had in Libya to completely change the on-the-ground realities, and thus there's a worry that this could be a slippery slope to a much deeper kind of engagement with heavy costs to the United States.

    And in -- my sense that what Barack Obama would like to see and is not getting as an option is a way to have a small footprint intervention that changed this. And so I think that the interesting thing is to watch the caution with which Israel has been behaving, the surgical way in which it took out these weapons. I imagine that's exactly the same kind of thing that the United States would like to do with securing the chemical weapons in one way or another, and not turning this into an effort against the broader Assad regime and making the U.S. as a principal player inside Syria's civil war.

    So I think what's interesting about McCain and others is that they'd like to see these initiatives around chemical weapons lead to a broader occasion to topple Assad. And I think that the White House is positioning itself, if it does take action, to be only as narrowly focused on the chemical weapons and not really to become more deeply engaged in trying to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime.


    Of course, the question, Michele Dunne, is, is that possible? Can the U.S. stay that focused on the chemical weapons? And a lot of talk now about the president having put himself in something of a box with his red line language.

    MICHELE DUNNE: No, Jeff, I don't think that's possible.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You don't?

    MICHELE DUNNE: No, because from what I understand, to actually secure the chemical weapons on the ground is something that would take more than 10,000 troops, and it's not something that can be done remotely.

    Now, what the United States could do remotely -- you have heard Sen. McCain speak of cruise missiles and so forth -- is perhaps ground the Syrian air force, so make it more difficult for chemical weapons to be delivered by aircraft. But that doesn't secure the chemical weapons themselves.

    That would have to be done either by the Syrian rebels who are there on the ground, perhaps after the overthrow of the al-Assad regime, or by some fairly large-scale foreign intervention. So I think that the administration, the U.S. administration is now seeing that the costs of inaction have started to outweigh the costs of action.

    And I think they're looking at a variety of options, including arming the rebels, including doing something to ground the air force. There is already a forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command in Jordan being positioned to take action of one kind or another.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    All right, Michele Dunne and Steve Clemons, thank you both very much.

    MICHELE DUNNE: Thanks, Jeff.

    STEVEN CLEMONS: Thank you.

    RAY SUAREZ: Online, you can find more analysis of Israel's motivations and a timeline of major developments in Syria.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: New trouble erupted in Iraq today, as bomb blasts in and around Baghdad killed at least 10 people. In one attack, two car bombs blew up in a street in the suburb of Husseiniya. Another went off outside a restaurant at lunchtime. Violence has spiked in Iraq following a security crackdown on a Sunni camp last month.

    In Afghanistan, the weekend marked one of the deadliest in the last year for U.S. troops. Seven were killed in attacks on Saturday. Five died in a roadside bomb in the south, and two others were killed when a soldier with the Afghan national army turned his weapon on U.S. soldiers. About a week ago the Taliban announced its new spring offensive, including an emphasis on insider attacks.

    Authorities in Bangladesh banned new rallies as clashes between police and hardline Islamists spread. At least 20 people were killed. Overnight, protesters blocked roads with burning tires, demanding that blasphemy against Islam be outlawed. Police fired rubber bullets and beat some protesters in the streets. Meanwhile, the death toll in the collapse of a garment factory rose to 675. Crews continued digging in the ruins of the building.

    A friend of the Boston bombing suspect has been released from federal custody. Robel Phillipos was charged last week with lying to investigators about visiting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room after the bombings. He will remain confined to his home until his trial. Meanwhile, the question of what happens to the remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the other bombing suspect, remains unresolved. So far, no place in Massachusetts will accept the body for burial.

    The Senate moved today to let states charge sales tax for purchases made over the Internet. Currently, sales tax applies only when the online company has an actual store or office located in a given state. Retailers have lobbied in favor of the bill, but it's expected to face opposition in the House.

    On Wall Street, stocks edged up and down. The Dow Jones industrial average lost five points to close below 14,969. The Nasdaq rose 14 points to close near 3,393.

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

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    RAY SUAREZ: We turn to the intersection of business and politics.

    The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision wiped away limits on corporate and labor union campaign spending. Corporations do not have to disclose donors for issue campaigns, but the Securities and Exchange Commission may change that rule.

    A group of law professors has asked the SEC to adopt a rule requiring public companies to disclose money donated for politics to shareholders. So far, their petition has garnered over 500,000 comments, more than any in the agency's history, and SEC officials have indicated they will consider the proposal.

    What is each side arguing?

    We're joined by Robert J. Jackson Jr., a Columbia University law school professor who helped write the original petition, and Paul Atkins, a former SEC commissioner. He's the chief executive of Patomak Global Partners, a financial services consulting firm.

    And, Paul Atkins, today, if Acme Company wants to use corporate funds to support a specific issue around, let's say, election time, do the shareholders have to be told in any way?

    PAUL ATKINS, Patomak Global Partners: Well, I mean, it depends on exactly what that is.

    Corporations right now, if they're giving to political campaigns, they have to disclose what they do through PACs or that sort of thing, if it's done through other sorts of groups, not necessarily something that depends on what the actual facts are there.

    RAY SUAREZ: Professor Jackson, what would your proposal to the SEC require corporations to do?

    ROBERT J. JACKSON JR., Columbia University Law School: Our proposal would require all public companies to tell their shareholders whether and how they have spent shareholder money on politics, and in particular, the kinds of donations that are made to intermediaries, such as the Chamber of Commerce and other large organizations that today exist largely for the purpose of conveying corporate money into politics.

    Those kinds of donations would have to be disclosed to the investors. And the basic principle underlying the petition is that this is investors' money. And for that reason, they should know how the corporation has gone about spending it.

    RAY SUAREZ: You know, Paul Atkins, the shareholders, if you want to bother to look at the annual report, there's sometimes pages of agate type with tiny figures on it, but you're required to be told about matters facing the company routinely, executive compensation, audits, board members. Why not tell them this?

    PAUL ATKINS: Well, Ray, what this comes down to, first of all, is, as far as the SEC goes, is whether or not the information is material.

    And that's what guides the -- from the Supreme Court cases and from SEC rules and even from the statute that authorizes the SEC to require disclosure, it comes down to, what's material. What ...

    RAY SUAREZ: And for the purposes of this conversation, what is -- what does material mean?

    PAUL ATKINS: Material means for a shareholder to decide whether to buy, sell or hold that particular stock, and so whether it will change the total mix of information that the shareholder has.

    And shareholders have been confronted with these questions through a lot of shareholder proposals time and again, 100-some companies this year and last year as well. And over and over, shareholders vote overwhelmingly against it. Why? Because it's not material. And it doesn't really matter to them.

    This is not about disclosure. This is about special interests pushing to try to have information disclosed in public, and then to use that information against corporate management and directors to try to get them not to engage in -- we're not even talking, as I said before, about the politics of political campaigns, but against -- to try to have them not engage in political advocacy.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor Jackson, apparently, there's already a legal standard here. And you heard Paul Atkins explain that these payments might not be material. What's your reply?

    ROBERT J. JACKSON JR.: Well, two points about that I think are important.

    First is we have no way to know whether the spending is material in the way the commissioner has described because there's no disclosure of these payments. So, it's absolutely impossible for anybody to know with certainty whether or not they're material enough in terms of financial significance to meet the standard he has described.

    But second, and much more importantly, there are lots of ways in which information can be made material to investors. It can be material because of the amounts. But they can also be material because of what they represent. And I would say that corporate spending on politics has unique, expressive significance that goes far beyond the bottom line of the corporation.

    That's why, for example, executive compensation is required to be disclosed. Even though it might not be material in terms of amount, shareholders have made clear that they care about this information and want to have it. For the same reason, there's no real basis for concluding that shareholders -- corporate spending on politics is likely not to be material.

    And, to the contrary, I think shareholders have good reason to care about it. And the evidence shows that they do.

    RAY SUAREZ: How can you judge materiality if the access is opaque, if you can't see the figures?

    PAUL ATKINS: Well, even -- well, first of all, if it's material to any particular company, the rules already will require that that amount be disclosed.

    And, in fact, in the actual rules that govern how the financial statements are made up, it even would say that it would have to be broken out if it's a material amount in the context of that particular corporation.

    And to Professor Jackson's point, even if you take all of the money that's given to these C-4 sorts of associations and it comes to how many other hundreds of millions of dollars, even if it all comes from corporations and not from labor unions and other things like that, it would still be immaterial in the whole context of all public company spending in the United States.

    RAY SUAREZ: But is materiality an objective standard?

    PAUL ATKINS: Yes, it is.

    RAY SUAREZ: Or is there subjectivity to it, if I'm a shareholder and money that's not going into capital investment, that's not going into paying me dividends, is going into furthering political aims that I may support or I may detest?

    PAUL ATKINS: Well, about 30 years or so ago, Thurgood Marshall wrote an opinion for the Supreme Court in which he basically set out the seminal test for materiality. And it is what a reasonable shareholder would judge to be important for -- in judging the total mix of information available to him or her to decide whether or not to buy, sell or hold that particular company's stock.

    So it is an objective test in the way the law is done. And so the other things with respect to executive compensation and other sorts of disclosure like that that the professor cited are all things that have to do -- they have been long in the SEC's history of disclosure that deal with the board and things like that.

    RAY SUAREZ: Professor Jackson, can your petition survive that test involving whether or not these amounts are material?

    ROBERT J. JACKSON JR.: Absolutely, it can.

    And with all due respect to the commissioner, the executive compensation rules that require disclosure of relatively small amounts for large public companies were only really expanded in 1992, many decades after Thurgood Marshall wrote the opinion he's describing.

    The fact is the SEC has plenary discretion to determine what is material. And what they have said very consistently over the years with respect to executive compensation, with respect to decisions where directors have a financial interest in the transaction, with respect to disclosures about the director's oversight of risk, all of these recent disclosures have been held by the SEC to be material because it's clear that investors are interested in this information.

    And in the case of political spending, it could not be more clear that investors want this information. The shareholder proposals requesting that companies publicly disclose their spending on politics is by far the most common corporate governance proposal at public corporations today.

    And I will tell you that the executive compensation rules that were expanded in 1992, when the SEC did that, they gave as a reason shareholder interest. And the shareholder interest in this subject far exceeds the shareholder interest in executive compensation.

    Because these amounts have expressive significance that have nothing to do with the bottom line, and because it would be fully consistent with the SEC's precedents, I think it's very clear that the materiality standard provides no bar at all to the SEC adopting these rules.

    RAY SUAREZ: Professor Jackson, Mr. Atkins, we will watch the evolution of this issue. Thank you both.

    ROBERT J. JACKSON JR.: Thank you very much. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Next: how one public school in New England is taking a different approach to teaching, immersing students in an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving.

    Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters, which produces education stories for the NewsHour, has our story.

    JOHN TULENKO: On a crisp fall morning last October, King Middle School in Portland, Maine, invited eighth graders to what it calls a kickoff, the unveiling of an in-depth project that would be at the center of nearly all the students' courses for the next four months.

    PETER HILL, King Middle School: So, I want to direct your attention to this slide. This is called earth at night.

    JOHN TULENKO: Science teacher Peter Hill set the stage.

    PETER HILL: There are certain parts of the world that use a ton of energy. Along with that, 25 percent of the world's population doesn't have electricity in their home. But enough solar energy hits the Earth every hour to supply the entire world's energy needs for a year.

    So we need to design tools that can capture all that sunlight that's hitting our Earth or capture all that wind power that's sitting out in the Gulf of Maine. We need to -- wait for it -- revolt.

    JOHN TULENKO: Hill handed the students an ambitious assignment to fulfill by the end of the project.

    PETER HILL: You're going to create a device that captures natural energy and transforms it into something that's useful for people in some part of the world.

    LIVA PIERCE, King Middle School: I was like, I can't do that.

    JOHN TULENKO: Taking all this in was Liva Pierce.

    LIVA PIERCE: That's -- that's way too much. I don't know the first thing about electricity. I don't know the first thing about windmills. I am totally going to fail. I was like, there's no way that's going to happen.

    JOHN TULENKO: Emma Schwartz:

    EMMA SCHWARTZ, King Middle School: First of all, I can't build anything, and I have never handled a screwdriver in my entire life or an electric drill. Like, this isn't going to work.

    MAN: So I want you to think about the big picture here.

    JOHN TULENKO: Projects that take students into uncharted territory are at the heart of teaching and learning at King. Though it's a regular public school, this approach, called expeditionary learning, is unusual, but could be just the kind of education students need in a rapidly changing world.

    This expedition began with a design challenge.

    NAT YOUNGRIN, King Middle School: We're building robots that are made to collect resources, which are Ping-Pong balls.

    JOHN TULENKO: Nat Youngrin and his classmates were building their robots from kits that allow for an almost infinite number of possibilities.

    NAT YOUNGRIN: You can do whatever you want to make them do this, but they have to be able to go out, get Ping-Pong balls, and bring them back. I made mine completely sound-controlled. And you can control it to turn and move back to your base.

    STUDENT: This one has to be much longer.

    JOHN TULENKO: Working in teams, students spent four weeks perfecting their robots in a class called tech-ed.

    Gus Goodwin is the teacher.

    GUS GOODWIN, King Middle School: This kind of really hones in on engineering. What is the design process? They have to program a robot, build it, tinker with it, and get it to work.

    JOHN TULENKO: Liva Pierce, who at the kickoff had feared failing, seemed to embrace robotics.

    LIVA PIERCE: We made this wide thing that, when it goes forward, will catch the balls. It's pretty hard.

    STUDENTS: Let's go, chipmunks! Let's go! Let's go, chipmunks! Let's go!

    JOHN TULENKO: Just before Thanksgiving, students put their creations to the test at a school competition dubbed Robo-Wars.

    Nat Youngrin's robot started well enough and stalled. The room was too noisy for its sound controls.

    NAT YOUNGRIN: Oh, my God.

    JOHN TULENKO: As for Liva Pierce, her team finished second.

    The objective for all the students was that this activity would somehow bring them closer to designing an energy-generating device of their own.

    MAN: The robot competition was really successful.

    PETER HILL: Kids are really -- I think they have internalized the design process. They know it's an ongoing process. They know they need to engineer their designs and constantly revise and get feedback. And so we're on our way.

    JOHN TULENKO: By early December, students were on to the second leg of their journey: learning the science and social issues that would be at the heart of their invention.

    And the path teachers choose to take students there? An eight-week-long interdisciplinary study of wind power.

    Science teacher Peter Hill:

    PETER HILL: We started with the wind turbine. How do these things create electricity? And we took apart a motor and we said, well, there's magnets and wires in here. How do magnets and wires interact to generate electricity?

    JOHN TULENKO: To make the learning go deeper, in tech-ed class, students built working model wind turbines.

    GUS GOODWIN: The criteria for this project is a wind turbine that is stable and sturdy. It has to generate at least one volt of electricity, and the other piece is we want it to be creative, outrageous, ingenious, and inspirational.

    JOHN TULENKO: The politics of wind power was the subject in social studies.

    Emma Schwartz:

    EMMA SCHWARTZ: The point is to find a place where it would be good or possible to have a wind turbine, to see what the environmental impacts might be if there's a bunch of huge like turbines in the area.

    MAN: You get those discussions around, what is a sense of place, and what is scenic beauty, and how do you alleviate that issue?

    JOHN TULENKO: Next, Mark Gervais' students will argue for their turbine in a persuasive essay addressed to local officials. But for their life-improving invention, students would need to know about faraway places. In English class, they read "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," the autobiography of William Kamkwamba of Malawi, Africa.

    STUDENT: He managed to build a wind turbine, power his house, and he did it with, like, a book and some trash.

    EMMA SCHWARTZ: They went through this awful famine, and that was really shocking to me that he can go through all that and still have hope.

    STUDENT: That was -- that was a really big theme in the book, like, if you really just try and you don't really stop, no matter kind of what's in your way, you will just -- you will eventually get there.

    JOHN TULENKO: Inspired by the book, students like Liva Pierce pushed ahead with their own model wind turbines.

    LIVA PIERCE: I had a lot of struggles with my turbine. And I said, you know what? I'm going to make this generate more than a volt. So I made a whole new set of blades. That worked a lot better. But then I heard about other people that were getting -- like, I hear you got six volts. And I was like, oh, I have got to get more than that.

    JOHN TULENKO: After eight weeks and three new sets of blades, Liva and her classmates' wind turbines were finally ready. And King Middle School staged another competition.

    LIVA PIERCE: The more I got into it, the more I just couldn't stop. I was steadily increasing, which is really, really good.

    JOHN TULENKO: Each turbine's electrical output was captured by a computer. Liva's topped out at 5.9 volts.

    PETER HILL: In the team competition ...

    JOHN TULENKO: And when the final tallies were announced?

    PETER HILL: Give it up for the winners: Lobsters.

    JOHN TULENKO: Her team finished first.

    By February, students had reached the final stage of the project: creating an energy-generating device that improves people's lives.

    PETER HILL: As a team of teachers, we brainstormed, what are 10 things that really need to get solved in the world? We came up with purify water, light a room at night, charge a cell phone, stuff like that, just to kind of get kids rolling, just give them a little push to get the creative juices flowing.

    JOHN TULENKO: The assignment was to create a technical drawing. Emma Schwartz designed a light.

    EMMA SCHWARTZ: I call it the Rub-a-Dub Scrub. It's a sponge that generates light, which you might think, oh, my God, everyone is going to get electrocuted. But, no, I'm going to make sure no one gets electrocuted. As you can see, there's like a little dome with lights at the top. There's scrubbers on the bottom.

    The scrubbers are attached to magnets, which spin around wires. When you rotate it on dishes, the scrubbers rotate. That creates the electrons to flow. And that generates electricity.

    JOHN TULENKO: Liva Pierce created a crank flashlight.

    LIVA PIERCE: It will have UVB, UVC, and a regular light. UVC kills bacteria in water.

    JOHN TULENKO: Her UVB light in supposed to draw insects away from people.

    LIVA PIERCE: And it will have off, regular, water, bugs. And I'm calling it the EcoBright.

    JOHN TULENKO: For the final event of the project, parents were invited in to hear all about the students' inventions.

    EMMA SCHWARTZ: The Rub-A-Dub Scrub takes the usually wasted rotational kinetic energy of washing dishes.

    This is, like, live showing what you're learning to other people, which kind of gives you something more back, I think.

    LIVA PIERCE: And you have to be clear and concise. Giving presentations is so important, because it really arms you with skills that you will need later in life.

    EMMA SCHWARTZ: Just think if washing dishes could be fun.

    JOHN TULENKO: Like Emma's invention, the students' creations will go no farther than the drawing board. What's more, as they move on to new subjects and new grades, they may forget the particulars of amps and electrons. But some things, they will remember.

    EMMA SCHWARTZ: Through this expedition, I have learned how to communicate with other people to make something happen. And I think that's what changed me most.

    LIVA PIERCE: Before this expedition, I kind of always thought of myself as, I'm good at writing and I'm good at reading, and that's what I'm good at.

    This expedition has completely changed my idea of science. Science is doing and science is building, and science is creating.

    JOHN TULENKO: What makes this school a success? It's not because of any charter status. It's a regular public school. It's not because it caters to some students over others. It's diverse with open admission. The secret, as we saw it, was relevance.

    LIVA PIERCE: Usually, in school, you learn about things that are happening in the world that are bad. In social studies, you might learn about an earthquake. But I feel that schools shouldn't just be about learning about problems. I think they should be about solving them, because if you aren't learning about how to solve problems, then what will you do when you're out of school?

    JOHN TULENKO: The expeditionary learning approach is growing and can be found in 161 schools nationwide.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there's one for all of you who write in asking for positive stories in our world.

    And, tomorrow, we will have another look at new ways to engage students in science and promote problem solving, when Spencer Michels reports on the opening of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. 

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    RAY SUAREZ: Now to a new wrinkle in the gun debate tied to ever-speeding advances in technology.

    For the first time, this weekend, a plastic gun created by a 3-D printer successfully fired a real bullet. That success, starring on its own promotional video, has stirred up many questions and concerns about its potential impact.

    The world's first fully functioning 3-D printable handgun is the brainchild of Cody Wilson, a University of Texas law student. Dubbed the “Liberator,” it's fashioned from 15 plastic parts created on an $8,000 dollar three-dimensional printer. The technology is already commonly used in various industries.

    A printer lays down melted polymer filaments layer by layer according to precise digital blueprints to form solid plastic objects. That means the Liberator would be undetectable to airport security screeners and therefore illegal. The only metal in the gun is the common household nail used as a firing pin and a six-ounce piece of metal added to ensure the weapon is detectable to comply with current law.

    But there are other questions. Wilson's nonprofit gunned advocate group, Defense Distributed, is publishing the design files online, so anyone in the world can download the blueprints and print a Liberator, all of this without a background check or any serial number.

    The group is also developing 3-D printable components for high-capacity automatic weapons. It posted video of test-firings earlier this year. 

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    RAY SUAREZ: More about this technology, the man behind the project and the questions this all raises from Andy Greenberg of Forbes. He's been covering this story and was in Austin when Cody Wilson first tested the gun.

    And, Andy, now that this threshold has been crossed and we know it can be done, I guess the first question is whether it's hard for regular people to do.

    ANDY GREENBERG, Forbes: I think it is actually pretty difficult for now.

    The machine that Cody Wilson and his -- his cohorts used was an actual -- was an $8,000 dollar used very high-tech Stratasys 3-D printer. So this isn't the kind of $2,000 dollar MakerBot, like the kind of Apple tool of 3-D printers that people are getting excited about today. This is a more industrial machine.

    But this is really -- the story is about the future. It's only going to be a couple of years before what Wilson is doing is affordable for regular people.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, you were there. You watched it being used. It didn't blow up in his hand or shatter into plastic shards.

    Is this a sturdy, reliable, reusable firearm, or a one-and-done kind of weapon?

    ANDY GREENBERG: Well, it actually does seem to be fairly durable.

    I have watched videos of a 3-D printed barrel being fired 10 times without cracking. And I did see Cody Wilson fire his Liberator handgun twice, once with a remote trigger pull with the string and once by hand. And it didn't explode or crack those times either.

    But it's unclear whether this is, you know, a durable weapon. I think the key thing to remember, though, is that it has a barrel that can be swapped out. So, you can print a new barrel in just a couple of hours. And he showed me that he had kind of a case full of barrels. It would be really simple to kind of print out four or five of these and have them ready to go.

    So, even if the barrel of this homemade weapon is deformed and doesn't work, you can -- you always have another one ready. That's part of the danger of this gun.

    RAY SUAREZ: If you remember the last big round of speculation about plastic weapons, it really focused a lot on their indetectability in magnetometers and other kinds of screeners.

    But this time, it's the do-it-yourself-at-home aspect that's getting more attention, isn't it?

    ANDY GREENBERG: I think that -- I think that that's warranted.

    The fact that Steve Israel and Chuck Schumer, these two congressmen, are focused on the undetectability of the weapon I think kind of misses the point. They're trying to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act to prevent this. But, in fact, it's not the fact that this gun is plastic and can't be detected by a metal detector that makes it dangerous. It's the fact that anyone can create it in the privacy of their garage with a couple of clicks and some software and a download from the Internet.

    Anywhere that there's a computer and an Internet connection, there's the promise of a gun. That's exactly what Cody Wilson said to me. He's focused, as the name of his group implies, on the distributed nature of this weapon, the fact that it circumvents gun control, not that it circumvents metal detectors.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, what exactly is his motivation? You touched on it briefly, but does he want more people to have guns? Is his problem really with the attempt to know who has them and who doesn't? Where does he come from?

    ANDY GREENBERG: I think that Cody would be happy to see more guns in Americans' hands.

    But his ultimate goal, I believe, and he has told me, is the dissolution of the U.S. government and governments around the world. He's an anarchist and a radical libertarian. And I think he sees this exercise of making a gun printable as kind of a demonstration of ways that the technology can circumvent the law, can circumvent -- to make the government irrelevant, until it just kind of disappears, or at least kind of he wants to carve out a kind of space where technology prevents the states' hands from controlling what people do.

    And I think he's on his way with this gun.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, from what you have seen, the fact that it's makeable by the user, it's got no serial number, it's got no known signature to law enforcement, no background check necessary, is he living out his dream just by making this Liberator?

    ANDY GREENBERG: I think he's on his way.

    Just a couple of months ago, Defense Distributed, this group, was focused only on creating magazines, ammunition magazines, which are basically a box with a spring inside, or components of rifles. Now they have created an entirely 3-D printed gun.

    And we only know what -- we can only speculate what they will do next. And I think that this gun is going to become more resilient, more usable over time, and more easily accessible by regular people with just a click and a couple of swipes of a mouse.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, he's inserted a piece of metal to make it comply with current law. But isn't that something of a fig leaf? Does this kind of weapon, minus that piece of metal, which becomes optional if you're making it at home, make gun laws obsolete?

    ANDY GREENBERG: Well, Cody is very clever.

    He's a law student at the University of Texas. And his strategy has been what he calls over-compliance. He wants to do what he's doing in an absolutely legal way, and yet enable people to do illegal things. So, he's kind of untouchable. And his strategy has been to insert this chunk of steel into the prototype.

    That's the one he's been testing. But, in fact, if you print it at home, there's no guarantee that -- or there's no need for you to put that metal in it. It serves no purpose. There is a steel nail in the gun, but that's -- you can buy that at any hardware store.

    There's this other chunk of -- the six-ounce chunk of metal that he inserted only to kind of make it comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act. But, as you said, that's a fig leaf. Anyone who prints it at home has no requirement to include that metal in the gun and render it detectable by metal detectors.

    RAY SUAREZ: Andy Greenberg of Forbes magazine, thanks for joining us.

    ANDY GREENBERG: Thank you very much. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And, finally tonight, we turn to Poland, where there's a familiar controversy surrounding new energy exploration.

    Our story is part of a collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and comes from special correspondent Steve Sapienza.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Northern Poland, a rustic region of freshwater lakes, forests and villages, and thousands of feet below the surface, a potential fortune in natural gas trapped in shale rock. Energy companies are already drilling here, using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial method of gas extraction imported from the United States.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We believe that there's the capacity technologically to extract that gas in a way that is entirely safe. And what we want to do is to be able to share our expertise and technology with Poland.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Since 2010, a U.S. State Department initiative has quietly promoted the development of shale gas resources in countries like Poland.

    Exploration drilling sites like this one offer the promise of a shale gas boom in Poland. But many residents who live near the drilling sites feel that the gas companies and their government have left them out of the decisions that could crucially impact their way of life.

    GRAZNYA MAZANOWSKA, Poland: We are Strzegowo, a small rural community. Behind us, there is a new investment, a gas rig.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Last June, the unexpected arrival of drilling operators sense local residents like Graznya Mazanowska scrambling for information.

    GRAZNYA MAZANOWSKA: We discovered what it was when some workers who weren't local started building an access road. And there was no information provided to us by local authorities.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: About 30 energy companies, both state-owned and international, are operating in Poland. While the majority of Poles support shale gas exploration, residents who live near the drilling sites say they want it safely extracted.

    GRAZNYA MAZANOWSKA: We are not against shale gas, but we want to enforce that the company's compliance with our laws and to ensure that the most important things, the water and the environment, are preserved. We are going to be here long after the company is gone.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Hydraulic fracturing was developed in the United States. The process involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to fracture the shale rock and release the gas. Fracking is credited with sparking a U.S. energy boom, creating jobs and lowering energy prices.

    Yet the process has also raised questions about water contamination and air pollution that are under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency. In Europe, France and Bulgaria have banned fracking due to environmental concerns. However, the Polish government recently eased drilling regulations. It’s banking on shale gas to boost Poland's economy, reduce dependence on Russian gas imports and cut energy prices.

    So far, early exploration efforts in Northern Poland have been met with resistance and suspicion by locals. Last August, a gas company subcontractor visited Ed Sawicki, seeking permission to survey for shale gas on his 340-year-old family farm.

    EDWARD SAWICKI, Poland: He left some papers with me to sign. The top one was a blank form. But I looked at the one underneath, which had a handwritten note on it, "Oral permission granted."

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Sawicki soon discovered his neighbors had signed the papers, claiming they were promised free gas and oil.

    EDWARD SAWICKI: I get grants as an organic former from the E.U. How is it possible for someone to drill for gas on land that had been certified as organic and dedicated for organic farming?

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Worried the family farm was hanging in the balance, Sawicki took his frustrations public.

    EDWARD SAWICKI: I got this idea to use a wall of my barn to protest against shale gas exploration in our area. I have lost faith in self-governance on all levels, whether it's the county, county councils or mayors. There's no point in voting, because nothing has changed since the communist era.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: In its quest for shale gas, Poland hopes to emulate the U.S. model.

    But there are big differences, says energy expert John Banks of the Brookings Institution.

    JOHN BANKS, Brookings Institution: You have some very significant infrastructure constraints to taking advantage of shale gas in a region such as Poland. You also have differences where regard to the mineral rights.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: U.S. landowners own the rights to the gas and oil below their land. Not so in Poland, where the state owns everything 50 centimeters and below.

    JOHN BANKS: If you don't own the mineral rights, then you don't have as much skin in the game. And therefore you might be more inclined to not promote or support shale gas development.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: A gas drilling pad sits 300 meters from farmer Mieczyslaw Rutkowski's fields.

    MIECZYSLAW RUTKOWSKI, Farmer: We live in an elevated area. The soil is very weak and permeable. We often experience droughts.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Fracking typically uses between two million and five million gallons of locally sourced water per well.

    MIECZYSLAW RUTKOWSKI: I suspect that with the depletion of groundwater, we will have a very serious problem. I keep looking at this horrible rig and wonder whether it will pose a threat to us. We would like to see some assurances from the government that we are going to be compensated in case of some ecological disaster that will impact our livelihoods.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: The government says, should a drilling accident occur, local residents have the right to sue the drilling company.

    MACIEJ WOZNIAK, Poland Ministry of the Environment: The farmer has the ability to defend his rights at the court. And that's -- sometimes, it is obvious that it will find a way finished in court. But that's democracy, right?

    STEVE SAPIENZA: The Polish government sees a future where shale gas revenues fill state and local coffers and Polish consumers have lower energy bills.

    MACIEJ WOZNIAK: The Polish economy will make money by reducing gas prices thanks to national production.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: So far, Polish residents have seen little direct benefit from the drilling rigs in their midst.

    GRAZNYA MAZANOWSKA: We are very skeptical about any potential benefits to our community. They promised employment, but everybody realizes that only expert workers with special training can be employed here.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: Gas companies have just started to explore concessions that cover nearly one-third of Poland's territory. This all but guarantees more Polish citizens will come into contact with gas exploration efforts in the years to come.

    JOHN BANKS: In Poland, you're talking about a much more densely populated area, as opposed to, say, some of the basins in the Western part of the United States. And I think you will find that having a big impact on the progress of shale gas production.

    MARCIN ZIEBA, Polish Exploration and Production Industry Organization: We don't have, the country, so long history within the shale gas operation and even exploration. So this educational part of the process should be treated with extreme caution.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: If exploration is to move forward, drilling operators will need the support of local communities, says Marcin Zieba, spokesperson for the shale gas drilling operators in Poland.

    MARCIN ZIEBA: There are plenty of myths that are circulated among the local communities.

    And the role of the operators should be to dispel such myths and to give the real picture of how hydraulic fracking works, that maybe the amount of chemicals used during the fracturing is not that significant. Maybe these substances used during hydraulic fracturing are not that dangerous as some of the materials throughout the Internet try to show.

    STEVE SAPIENZA: For now, the Polish government and gas drillers face the challenge of pursuing valuable energy deep in the earth without fueling dissent above ground.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That report was a collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Calkins Media. You will find a link to their special report on this issue on our website. 

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    One million babies die each year on the day they are born, according to a new study released by the international nonprofit Save the Children. In their annual "State of the World's Mothers" report, the organization examines global newborn day-of-death data, and ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life.

    A baby born today in Somalia (at the bottom of the list) is 43 times more likely to die on her first day than a baby born in Luxembourg (at the top of the list). The U.S. ranked 68th on the list with 11,300 babies dying the day they were born in 2011.

    Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles in India in 2013.

    The report points out that overall mortality rates for children 5 and under have dropped dramatically since 1990, from 12 million to less than 7 million deaths a year. But newborn health hasn't received the attention it deserves, according to Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles. "In the developing world, a baby's first day is the most dangerous day of life," Miles said. "When you look at childhood survival, we've made tremendous progress. But if we want to get to zero preventable deaths, we have to address the newborn piece."

    Miles spoke with the NewsHour after returning from a recent trip to India, where more than 300,000 babies die on their birth day -- the most of any country in the world.

    "I met a mother in one of Delhi's largest slums who had recently given birth to her fourth child, a little girl," Miles said. "She gave birth in her tiny home with a traditional birth attendant who didn't know what to do when the baby wasn't breathing. They tried rubbing and slapping her, but she died an hour after birth. If the mother had gotten to the hospital, that baby would have lived because they had basic resuscitation devices."

    A baby in Nepal after application of CHX to her umbilical stump. Photo courtesy of Save the Children.

    In fact, the report highlights four low-cost medical products, including resuscitation devices, which Save the Children says could save one million newborns a year.

    The other tools include antenatal steroid injections to delay preterm labor, antiseptic chlorhexidine (CHX) to prevent umbilical cord infections, and injectable antibiotics to treat infections.

    The report also ranks the best and worst countries to be a mother based on five indicators: education, income, women's political representation and the chances a mother and her baby will survive.

    Save the Children is enlisting the help of several celebrity moms, including Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Connelly, to raise awareness and financial support for newborns and their mothers around the world. They recently released this YouTube video titled "First Moments."

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