Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

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

older | 1 | .... | 222 | 223 | (Page 224) | 225 | 226 | .... | 1175 | newer

    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: We return again to the issue of sexual assault in the military, as yet another shoe drops at the Pentagon.

    Margaret Warner has more.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Army announced late yesterday that a sergeant who handled sexual assault cases at Fort Hood, Texas, is being criminally investigated on sex crime allegations. No charges have been filed.

    In response, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to retrain, re-credential and re-screen all military recruiters and sexual assault prevention officers. The latest revelation comes just 10 days after the Air Force's sexual assault prevention chief was arrested on charges of sexual battery. And a Pentagon survey last week estimated that 26,000 military members were sexually assaulted last year.

    Joining me to discuss all this is Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post.

    Craig, welcome back to the program.

    CRAIG WHITLOCK, The Washington Post: Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, first of all, the situation at Fort Hood. Tell us more about what is alleged to have happened, what he is alleged to have done.

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, as you say, no charges have been filed, but criminal investigators from the Army are looking into allegations that this sergeant committed sexual abuse involving multiple women.

    And in one case, they're looking into allegations that he may be charged with pandering. And that's military crime-speak for essentially organizing prostitution. So I think this is a case that not only is it bad enough and shocking enough that a sexual prevention officer was involved in this kind of crime, but I think people on Capitol Hill, lawmakers, are really baffled by this, that someone could be placed in the kind of position that he was.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, of course, the Air Force colonel last week was also in this field. But explain Secretary Hagel's response yesterday, even though there has been a sort of steady drip-drip with these cases. Why did he respond now the way he did with this new program?

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, I think he -- the Pentagon is scrambling to figure out how it should respond. They're realizing this is a systemic problem, not an isolated case by case, that they have a real difficulty here in prosecuting, identifying sexual assault cases, handling victims, making people feel comfortable with reporting these sort of crimes.

    So what he did last night is he announced that the Pentagon is going to retrain, re-screen, re-credential all 9,000 sexual assault prevention officers in the military, as well as over 20,000 military recruiters across the country. And I think the attempt there is to answer -- make sure no other people with problematic backgrounds are in those jobs.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, and you reported, did you not, earlier this week that military recruiters, there have been some cases involving them with very young women.

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: That's right, in a number of cases this year.

    There was a case in Maryland where an Army recruiter was involved in a murder/suicide with a young woman he was recruiting her for the Army. There was a case in Alaska just this month where someone was found guilty, and a Marine jury gave him no jail time. And the Pentagon doesn't track these cases in terms of statistics, so they're scrambling there.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, describe the pressure you talked about that Secretary Hagel is under from the Hill and the outrage and where that may be -- where that's leading potentially.

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, lawmakers have been expressing concerns about sex crimes in the military for a number of years, but these cases, these reports have really fueled their concerns.

    And what I think we're pretty certainly going see is legislative change. The Pentagon has always resisted any change to military law that would take power away from commanders to investigate or oversee these cases. But there's a powerful push on the Hill, particularly among female lawmakers, to make some real changes to military law in that regard.

    MARGARET WARNER: Like Sen. Gillibrand.

    Why -- why are military commanders, and all the way up, I gather, into the Pentagon, so resistant to the idea of transferring, giving the authority to prosecute these cases to military lawyers?

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, that's a really good question, but to answer that, you sort of have to understand military culture a bit.

    The commanders have the power and authority over everything within their units. And they're charged with this very important responsibility of taking care of their people, of overseeing good order and discipline. To take that power away from military commanders, in essence, is a way of saying they were unable to handle this problem, that they can't be trusted with that.

    And I think a lot of them, particularly the honorable ones, are uncomfortable with that. Now, there are others who say, yes, this is a problem. We're not legally trained. We're not judges, that we should hand this off to legal professionals, and that would save them a lot of headaches. And that's the battle we're seeing right now on Capitol Hill.

    MARGARET WARNER: And where is Secretary Hagel on this? I noticed that his spokesman wrote a letter to The New York Times last week disputing the way Secretary Hagel's views were characterized.

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, that's right.

    But I think his views have changed on this chain of command, whether commanders should have the ultimate responsibility for these cases or not. I was there when Hagel was asked last week at a press conference, “do you support this or not?” And he was pretty direct in saying, no, we don't want to take this responsibility away from commanders.

    In just a matter of days, they backed off that. Now, Sen. Gillibrand told me she talked to Hagel after that and she really put the screws to him, and she said that, well, he's listening, he's keeping an open mind. So I think we are seeing some changes in the Pentagon's receptiveness to reform.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post, thank you.

    CRAIG WHITLOCK: Sure thing. 

    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: The investigation into the Boston bombings has sparked a new interest in the use of surveillance cameras in cities around the nation.

    NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels has our report.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Americans are used to being watched on closed-circuit TV. Cameras are ubiquitous, especially in large cities.

    The video surveillance industry brings in $3.2 billion dollars a year, and it's expected to grow quickly, especially after the Boston Marathon bombings. At one business in San Francisco, 22 cameras continually watch employees and guests enter and leave the building and drive their cars into and out of the garage. It's all recorded for future use.

    A guard monitors the cameras in real time, and one night recently, those cameras caught this scene: a woman employee going to her car on the street while a male watches her and starts to follow. As he circles back to her car, for some reason, he sees other vehicles approaching and he makes a quick exit.

    Would the cameras have helped had there been a crime? Could their more obvious presence have prevented one? It's all part of today's debate over surveillance.

    POLICE CHIEF GREG SUHR, San Francisco: So, if you could have a bird's-eye view.

    SPENCER MICHELS: San Francisco's police chief, like many throughout the country, is convinced that cameras can make a big difference. And these days, they are pointing to Boston and the identification of two suspects as an argument to expand their use.

    Chief Greg Suhr has made a controversial plea to the Board of Supervisors for increased camera surveillance of his city, especially along the route of upcoming races and parades, starting by finding what already is in place and what isn't.

    GREG SUHR: We want to map all the cameras up and down Market Street. In Boston, they went through hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of video and were able to make that case in days.

    SPENCER MICHELS: In an interview, the chief told me video evidence is almost expected these days.

    GREG SUHR: Everybody likes video. Juries like video. Investigators like video. Prosecutors like video. And I think, in looking at the Boston Marathon, they made that case off of video.

    So I proposed that we find out what we have, both private and public, along our main parade route and see if we can't identify the blind spots.

    SPENCER MICHELS: What the chief is concerned about right now is security for a series of popular upcoming events, the Bay to Breakers, a colorful footrace from the bay to the Pacific Ocean which attracts thousands of runners and perhaps 100,000 spectators and where backpacks were recently banned. The Pride March that every year features gays, lesbians, transgender, bisexuals in outlandish costumes traipsing through the city before a big audience, demonstrations surrounding the contentious issues of same-sex marriage and immigration, which take place frequently in the Bay Area, and the America's Cup races, this summer in the bay, with thousands expected to watch from the shore.

    The city is gearing up for these events with bomb-sniffing dogs and help from the FBI, but police say they welcome any assistance. For all the cameras on its streets, most in high-crime areas, San Francisco does not allow real-time monitoring of city-owned surveillance cameras. The video can only be viewed afterwards if there's a crime.

    But after Boston, the chief wants to modify that policy for big events. And that has set off a debate.

    GREG SUHR: That would be another set of eyes. I mean, obviously the packages in the marathon were on the ground for a period of time, and they went undetected.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But that's real-time kind of monitoring, which you say that you're not allowed to do.

    GREG SUHR: My ask would be that we go away from the city policy where we don't monitor in real time where we have tens of thousands of people and the crowds along our major parade routes. These events are on television regardless.

    SPENCER MICHELS: After Boston, surveys show that 70 percent of Americans support surveillance cameras as a way to reduce crime.

    HAZEL PAYNE, San Francisco: It's a great thing if you're able to catch somebody on those. I mean, I would have no problems with them. As long as you're not doing anything that is illegal, I don't think there is an issue. And most of the time, I'm unaware that they're even there, so I think it's great.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But not everyone is so comfortable with the chief's proposal.

    SELLASSIE BLACKWELL, San Francisco: I think he's already watching us enough, you know what I mean? Look at all these cameras. Like, me and my brother was just chilling. They watching us over here with the camera. We're just standing on the wall just talking, enjoying the day, and because of the cameras, they said move. So, it can be bad, and racially profiling at the same time.

    SPENCER MICHELS: American Civil Liberties Union attorney Nicole Ozer is also worried about cameras invading privacy in a politically active city where that has long been an issue.

    NICOLE OZER, American Civil Liberties Union: Cameras are ripe for abuse. They're taking footage of people engaged in political protests. Cameras don't prevent terrorism. They don't reduce violence. Cameras didn't prevent or reduce violence in London. They didn't prevent or reduce violence in Boston, and it's essential that we not trade our privacy and free speech rights for just the illusion of safety.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Ozer maintains that San Francisco's cameras installed to prevent crime, like those in many other cities, have not achieved their goal. And she cites a study made by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, led by assistant professor of information Deirdre Mulligan.

    DEIRDRE MULLIGAN, University of California, Berkeley: What we found in San Francisco with respect to this set of cameras is that they didn't have the desired effect, which was really about reducing violent crime.

    And one can imagine, if you deploy cameras, for example, to deal with terrorists, many terrorists are planning to die anyway, right, and the fact that they're being filmed in their moment of martyrdom isn't really going to deter them.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Mulligan contends the police can't rely on cameras.

    DEIRDRE MULLIGAN: You need people on the ground. There are millions of backpacks, right? And knowing when somebody puts down a backpack and whether or not that's a suspicious activity when you're miles away in a camera booth and you have been watching footage for eight hours that day is really a tall order.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Still, in the face of such objections from civil rights advocates, the police chief is not backing down. Chief Suhr sees video technology as promising.

    GREG SUHR: They have cameras now that are so sophisticated that they have video analytics on them where you can say things like, a package cannot be on the ground for more than 30 seconds, and the camera will actually box the item and send off an alert to whoever is monitoring the cameras

    SPENCER MICHELS: That's the kind of techniques they're developing at 3VR. Using computer programs, they can search large quantities of video looking for people, or cars, or objects without someone actually looking at the screen for hours.

    DALE SMALL, Project Manager, 3VR: It would allow you to cut down on your search time exponentially, by the power of 10.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And it's all done by the machine, by the computer?

    DALE SMALL: Yes, that's correct.

    SPENCER MICHELS: I don't have to look for this guy. Oh, there he is, there he is.

    DALE SMALL: Correct.

    Once we have his facial biometric parameters captured, it's indexed within our database. Then we match similarities to that facial profile, if you will, and bring up all the similarities to that face.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And they can do the same thing with suspect cars that are recorded on a given street, using color, size and direction to make the match.

    Joe Boissy, 3VR's marketing officer, says the potential is great.

    JOE BOISSY, 3VR: A computer vision algorithm allows you to understand the pixels, the frames, what's happening in that video, and from that extract the information that you need, such as the facial characteristics, the license plate itself, the color, the height, the age, the gender. Any kind of demographics of individuals can also be extracted from the video.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But warns Boissy, even his company's software can't be expected to work wonders.

    JOE BOISSY: The reality is when you watch "24," when you watch "CSI," you have an ideal situation. I find a guy, going to run facial recognition, find him.

    This is theory and fiction more than reality. The reality is that, in certain conditions, yes, it is easy. With the right lighting conditions, yes, you can do that. But most of the cases, you have situations where are not ideal, but still enough to help you out going into your search in a much faster way.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Meanwhile, San Francisco is already gearing up for the Bay to Breakers race on May 19th. The police won't be able to make any changes by then, but the chief hopes to finish his mapping of surveillance cameras, public and private, by the end of June, when the big Pride Parade marches down Market Street. 

    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: And now we go back to the IRS story.

    Just a few minutes ago, President Obama announced the acting director of the IRS has been forced out.

    He spoke in the East Room of the White House.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: First, we're going to hold the responsible parties accountable.

    Yesterday, I directed Secretary Lew to follow up on the I.G. audit to see how this happened and who was responsible and to make sure that we understand all the facts. Today, Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because, given the controversy surrounding this audit, it's important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.

    Second, we're going to put in place new safeguards to make sure this kind of behavior cannot happen again. And I have directed Secretary Lew to ensure the IRS begins implementing the I.G.'s recommendations right away.

    Third, we will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role. And our administration has to make sure that we are working hand in hand with Congress to get this thing fixed. Congress, Democrats and Republicans, owe it to the American people to treat that authority with the responsibility it deserves and in a way that doesn't smack of politics or partisan agendas, because I think one thing that you have seen is across the board everybody believes what happened in -- as reported in the I.G.'s report is an outrage.

    The good news is, it's fixable, and it's in everyone's best interest to work together to fix it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And we pick up on some of the latest developments and lingering questions in this story.

    For that, we're joined by Josh Gerstein of Politico, who covers the White House specializing in legal and national security issues. He was at today's House hearing. And Paul Streckfus, creator and editor of EO Tax Journal, a weekly newsletter focused on tax-exempt organizations.

    Welcome to you both.

    Well, Josh, clearly, the president felt he had to come out and do something quickly.

    JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico: Yes, Jeff, this is really a White House in firefighting mode today, not just on the IRS story, but on the Benghazi story and as well as this AP leaks investigation.

    Just a clear initiative from the White House to try to put some cold water on all these stories and to do it as quickly as possible, so they can turn the page and get back to some of the policy items on their agenda that they're eager to deal with.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He had said the other day he was waiting -- and the outrage was there, but he was waiting for the inspector general's report. We just heard him refer to that. That came yesterday.


    And this has been a very difficult story, the IRS one, for the White House, because it's not an agency that the White House typically has much control over, for obvious reasons, dating back to the Nixon years. And suddenly they find themselves confronted with a politically volatile controversy at an agency where they stress that they have only two presidential appointees.

    So it took them a while to really get into a proactive mode to try to knock this down.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Paul Streckfus, tell us a little bit about this independence and who's who here, first of all, the acting director who's just left or been resigned, I guess, is the way to look at it.

    PAUL STRECKFUS, EO Tax Journal: Yes.

    I personally feel that it's a loss for the American taxpayers and the IRS that Steve Miller has been forced out. He's a dedicated public servant. There was nothing in the report that said that there was any political favoritism. True, there appeared to be some managerial incompetence, but I'm not sure you force someone out on that basis, especially when that individual might have been -- is and -- probably is in the best position to make the reforms that are needed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, how much independence does the IRS have in making the kinds of decisions about tax-exempt status of the kind that are being -- are so much in focus right now?

    PAUL STRECKFUS: Well, they are supposed to be independent.

    There's -- I believe it's a law that says the White House cannot contact the IRS commissioner or anyone at the IRS directly. Those contacts have to be done through the treasury secretary, Jack Lew. So it's possible that the White House could have some impact, but they'd have to do it through treasury secretary. He would then have to talk to the commissioner. He would then have to talk to his employees.

    Having worked at the IRS, I know that would get out to the public very quickly if that kind of activity was occurring. So it seems to me that much of the talk is about political favoritism, and yet I see very little evidence that there was an intent to go after the tea party groups and let others have a free pass.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what kind of firewalls exist to prevent politics from entering into these kinds of decisions?

    PAUL STRECKFUS: Well, just as I said, the White House is isolated.

    The IRS is very much nonpartisan. Most folks at the IRS are not involved in politics. It's -- from day one, you're told not to favor any particular group or individual. If you were so -- if you were a new employee and you did, someone would quickly come by and say, you know, we cannot be taking positions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that's -- but that's the question, because there is this -- the question of potential rogue -- rogues within the agency. Could it be isolated to a few people, or is there enough oversight that somebody would see this, somebody would step in? Who would that somebody be?

    PAUL STRECKFUS: Well, it could be anywhere on the chain.

    I recall many years ago when I was at the IRS, there were two individuals who actually were able to sort of put their views into action through their position. But the supervisors and others quickly became aware of what was going on, and stepped in, and basically separated them and said, this is not the way we operate.

    I have -- I have followed this area, the exempt organizations area, now for about 40 years, and followed the IRS E.O. function very closely. I see no evidence that anyone there is involved in favoring Republicans over Democrats or vice versa.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right, but even with these revelations about looking at the names of organizations with “tea party,” with other such names?

    PAUL STRECKFUS: Well, that was a mistake.

    But the idea was, in 2010, or whenever these -- that was when the tea party movement started springing up. They then all started sending in these applications. The reality is, tea parties seem to be a lot like many political parties. If that's the case, they belong under Section 527 of the code, not 501(c)(4), but the only reason they're all coming in for (c)(4) is because you don't to disclose your donors.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, clearly, the Republicans -- you were at the Hill today. They see it quite differently, that this was clearly targeting one side, and others were not -- others were essentially getting a pass.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Yes, they view it as intentional targeting.

    And they're angry not only about that, but they believe that the senior IRS officials lied to them. We had a Republican member say that Lois Lerner, who is the head of the Exempt Organizations Division at the IRS, lied to him specifically and lied to his staff.

    And obviously with Holder talking about a criminal investigation into all this, he mentioned that false statement charges are among the criminal statutes that they're looking at in this investigation. So, they're very eager to get to the bottom of it. And I was kind of surprised that Republicans said -- seemed to be satisfied with the notion of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

    We didn't hear talk of a special counsel, not today anyway.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But they are looking at the chain, right, of -- because, again, we're looking at people in a Cincinnati office or in a Washington office. What's the chain? How far does it go?


    I mean, the Cincinnati thing I think is a little bit of a canard, because that handled, as far as I know, all these exempt organizations. So, it just happened to be in Cincinnati. It seems to downplay it as a regional problem. It was really a national problem.

    And they don't believe corrective action was taken promptly enough here. And with something of this sensitivity, that may be why Mr. Miller's resignation was called for. It wasn't his fault that was this was done. In fact, most of it happened on his predecessor's watch, but maybe he didn't act quickly enough and wasn't candid enough with Congress about what was going on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I heard in some of the hearing today when I was listening, there was this question of, is the IRS really independent or not? That's still out there, right? They report to Jack Lew, the treasury secretary. He reports to the president. These are all the questions around it.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: It's officially a Treasury agency, so it's not completely independent. You do have an unusual I think five-year term for the IRS commissioner.

    But these the questions that are swirling, and the Republicans were suggesting, this is not a problem that the president can completely divest himself and wash his hands of. It appears the president and his advisers agree, given the prominence of this announcement tonight, going on national television to announce that he's dismissed the acting IRS commissioner.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's not an end, though, because more hearings.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: No. I mean, it's an effort to throw water on all of this.

    And you will have the ongoing criminal investigation into what happened here. But it's an effort to maybe move this to the inside pages of the newspaper, instead of the front page.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Josh Gerstein, Paul Streckfus, thank you both very much.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Thank you. 

    0 0

    Watch Video

    Social media editor Colleen Shalby sported NewsHour's celebrated HatCam Wednesday as she ran the ACLI Capitol Challenge. Video edited by Meena Ganesan

    Members of Congress, journalists, judges and agency staffers ran on common ground Wednesday morning in the annual ACLI Capital Challenge at Washington's Anacostia Park.

    The PBS NewsHour team, "No Commercials, No Mercy," placed fourth out of 17 teams in the electronic media category. Also present at the 3-mile race was NewsHour's own HatCam. Watch some of the course's highlights captured by the GoPro-connected device in the the video above.

    Find the full list of winners here. Here are a few highlights:

    1st Senator -- Male Sen. Rob Portman Team Portman 24:47

    It's worth noting NewsHour's own deputy political editor Terence Burlij came in alongside the Republican senator, who hails from his home state of Ohio.

    1st Senator -- Female Sen. Kelly Ayotte Galloping Granite Staters 26:44

    NewsHour's Political Editor Christina Bellantoni, the captain of our team, finished ahead of Ayotte by 24 seconds.

    1st Rep. -- Male (Mike Synar Award) Rep. Tom Cotton Cotton Tail Rabbits 17:55

    1st Rep. -- Female Rep. Kyrsten Sinema Hot Mess 25:13

    1st Agency Head - Male Daniel Elliott STB-Surface Transport Board 21:29

    1st Agency Head - Female Leocadia Zak USTDA - Trade Runners 36:00

    1st Fed. Judge -- Male Judge Brett Kavanaugh D. C. Circuitry (U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit) 21:13

    1st Fed Judge -- Female Judge Catharine Easterly Race Judicata (D.C. Court of Appeals) 26:15

    Best Named Team Broken Down by Age & Sex Howard Hogan, Chief Demographer Census Bureau

    2nd Best Name Sciquest Racin' Jeffery Mercis Science Magazine

    3rd Best Name For Boston Inspired Michael Kortan, Assistant Director FBI

    Worst Named Team Swall's Well That End's Well

    2nd Worst Name Hoosier Mama Express Rep. Susan Brooks

    3rd Worst Name Running Stimulates the Census Doug Clift Census Bureau

    Best Spirit NPR

    Winning Teams

    1st Senate Team Team Portman Sen. Rob Portman

    2nd Senate Team The Grassley Panters Sen. Charles Grassley

    1st House Team Cotton Tail Rabbits Rep. Tom Cotton

    2nd House Team Red, White & Blumenauer Rep. Earl Blumenauer

    1st Executive Branch Team Navy's Global Force for Speed U.S. Navy

    2nd Executive Branch Team Full Blooded Intensity FBI

    1st Print Media Team Bloomberg Terminal Velocity Bloomberg News

    2nd Print Media Team CQ RC News Travels Fast CQ/Roll Call

    1st Electronic Media Team FBN: The Power to Perspire Fox Business News

    2nd Electronic Media Team North Capital Challengers NPR

    1st Judicial Team D.C. Circuitry US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

    2nd Judicial Team Expedited Motion D.C. Court of Appeals

    [View the story "Running the Beltway: Worlds Collide as Senators, Journalists Race in Capitol Challenge" on Storify]Running the Beltway: Worlds Collide as Senators, Journalists Race in Capitol Challenge

    Storified by NewsHour· Wed, May 15 2013 20:26:21

    NewsHour spirit was in full-force Wednesday morning, ahead of the 8 a.m. race in Washington's Anacostia Park.This morning, team "No Commercials, No Mercy" (can you figure out where we got our name from?) ran in the #ACLI Capital Challenge race against senators, judges and news organizations, led by our fearless captain Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni7).newshourWhat we learned: D.C. runners have their own sense of humor.Best sign ever. At the ACLI Capital Challenge (a race between politicians and members of the media) Lots of fun! http://pic.twitter.com/TvTFSXkmqENatalie DiBlasioThe signs here are hilarious #ACLI http://pic.twitter.com/mXD1Hk2W6WColleen ShalbyThe race included House and Senate teams from both sides of the aisle:Caught a pic of team @ChuckGrassley at the ACLI Capital Challenge while cheering on team @newshour. http://pic.twitter.com/E7dzPP0YPDAllison McCartneyUp early running to raise money for wounded #veterans @wwpinc at the #ACLI challenge. http://pic.twitter.com/pwNXCiNs93Sen. Heidi HeitkampParticipated in the #ACLI Capitol Challenge run this morning with staff from our DC office! http://pic.twitter.com/c8XLbuo82oMatt CartwrightTeam Lummis kick started the day at the ACLI Capital Challenge.cynthialummisRep. Cotten fastest lawmaker in ACLI Cap Challenge. Ran 3 miles in just under 18 minutesEmily GoodinAlso present were teams from print and electronic media, the judicial and executive branches and other government agencies:ACLI Capital Challenge results: PR'd at 24:47, tied with senator @robportman and helped raise money for @wwpinc!Susannah SniderACLI Capital Challenge 2013 | FacebookFacebookThe Bradlee Fighting Vehicles: 4th out of 33 print-media teams. Journalism is alive. http://www.capitalchallenge.com/2001cabinet/results/2013/2013printmediateamresults1.html #ACLIDan ZakGo Team NASA! #ACLI http://pic.twitter.com/CZigy2gjQFLauren Worley2013 NATIONAL GUARD Capital Challenge Teamngaus1878. @NewsHour staffers raced w/ judges, senators & reporters this morning at #acli. Here, @CShalby w/ #hatcam: http://pic.twitter.com/N7xzOIRVOwMeena

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Now: helping cities better prepare for natural disasters and extreme weather.

    Judy Woodruff has the story

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The damage caused by major weather events in recent years has often been enormous, costly, and led to bigger problems, cities and towns flooded by Superstorm Sandy, electrical power grids taxed beyond their capacity during extreme heat waves, and the flooding caused by both Hurricane Katrina and the levees themselves that were not adequately designed for the storm.

    Scientists say no one disaster linked with climate change, but they also say some may be linked with climate change and the rise in greenhouse gases. Last week, the government reported that carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas, has reached its highest levels in human history.

    Now the Rockefeller Foundation is hoping to spur cities to create new plans to better adapt to the times and to make them more resilient when disaster does strike. The program will allocate $100 million dollars to 100 cities around the world over the next three years.

    We look more closely at that with Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Miami's Mayor Tomas Regalado.

    For the record, the Rockefeller Foundation has been a NewsHour underwriter.

    Welcome to you both.

    Judy Rodin, to you first.

    Tell our audience what you mean by resilience.

    JUDITH RODIN, Rockefeller Foundation: Resilience is really the ability to withstand shocks more effectively and to rebound more quickly.

    So it's a capacity that can be learned. It's built into individuals, to communities, to systems and institutions. And in this era, where we don't know where the next shock, the next type of storm is going to come from, but we know pretty certainly that it's going to happen. Building in the ability to withstand is really a huge preventative effort and very, very needed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have heard so much about sustainability, about preserving the environment, and yet just a few days ago, we heard the carbon dioxide levels are at their highest numbers in human history.

    Does this suggest, what you're doing suggest that the fight to keep the environment from going off the deep end is really over and now it's about surviving the worst?

    JUDITH RODIN: No, not at all.

    And so this starts with the assumption that we have to continue sustainability and mitigation strategies. But it also understands the reality, and once-every-hundred-year storm becoming once-a-week storm somewhere, that so much of climate change that's already occurred is leading to these huge shocks, huge storms, wind, hurricane, tsunami.

    And cities are going to have to adapt to that at the same time that they're building their excellent and overdue sustainability and mitigation strategies as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are some examples, Judy Rodin, of what cities need to be thinking about and doing?

    JUDITH RODIN: Well, cities need to build redundancy. They need to build in the capacity to wall off a piece of a system if it fails, so that the entire system isn't taken down.

    Let's use a smart grid. As I worked on the commission, chairing the commissioner for Gov. Cuomo in the recovery of New York State from Superstorm Sandy, we looked at putting in -- and the governor is recommending this -- smart grid technology.

    And it really does youth both sustainability and resilience principles, because it takes energy from any source, traditional sources, as well as alternative energy sources, and it uses whichever one is both most available and the lowest cost at any single time through a very complicated monitoring system.

    And then it's also able to draw from geographically any part of the system. So if one part goes down, it can draw from another part. So there's a delinking in the networking, as well as redundancy in the system that really does create the resilience that the electric -- that the electricity system is going to need going forward in every city.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Regalado, as mayor of the huge city of Miami, what does an initiative like this mean to you? What would it mean for Miami to be the recipient of one of those grants? What kinds of things would you be able to do that you can't do now?

    MAYOR TOMAS REGALADO, Miami: Well, I think it's important for Miami, and I think it's a great program.

    Miami checks all the boxes, because we are on the coast. Construction has been wild. And we have, like, 70,000 people living right on the edge of the water. So the storm surge, the storms will affect -- you know, we live on the edge from June to November. That's hurricane season, and we haven't had a hurricane since Katrina and Wilma, but we remember those.

    And, so, what do we do with that money? Well, number one, we could have one person, one office dedicated year-round to look at the way to outreach and get through the people and especially to invest in technology. So, when we have a storm, the first thing that happens here in Miami is the electricity goes off. And then we can use that technology to reach out to our first-responders and all that.

    The fire department is the agency in charge of responding to emergency, as you know, and they are in charge of our emergency system. But they have to do other things throughout the year. So, if we could have one office, one person and some money for technology, it will be fantastic, because we will be always prepared.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mr. Mayor, just staying with you, what about the idea -- people have looked at something like this and they say, well, that's typically the function of government, not of the private sector, not of a nonprofit, a foundation, to be doing this.

    How do you feel about accepting money like this from a foundation, if you were to receive it?

    TOMAS REGALADO: Well, you know, there is a new normal now in the United States. After the economy went back, cities have to cut budgets. And it's -- unfortunately, but that that's the way it is.

    So the new thing is to partner with the private sector. And I think that it's important that foundations like the Rockefeller foundations will understand that governments do need help for a specific reason. You know, we are not -- we don't want a million dollars just to add it to the general fund, but for a specific something, going outside our general budget.

    It will be fantastic. And I think that the people would appreciate it, because it is there as a buffer to warn them, to inform them, and to tell them that we are always ready during the year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Judy, go ahead.

    JUDITH RODIN: Judy, this is not just to replace government.

    Certainly, this is not enough money to even imagine doing that. The role of philanthropy is to be leverage and risk capital. And, here, there's going to be billions of dollars in infrastructure that are necessary in cities like the mayor's around the world.

    And our goal is to help and give the technical assistance and the support, so that the cities can really access private sector capital that right now is sitting on the sidelines waiting to invest in this kind of infrastructure in public/private partnerships.

    The mayor has just done a brilliant one in the Port of Miami. And so he knows what the example is, but we have been struck. Even knowledgeable mayors around the United States don't yet know the kinds of technical and policy framework that might be best for their cities to crowd in the private capital and make them partners in building resilient infrastructure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it's a fascinating venture getting under way right now.

    Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Mayor Tomas Regalado, the city of Miami, we thank you both.

    JUDITH RODIN: Thank you.

    TOMAS REGALADO: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, online, we have a roundup of how escalating natural disasters have affected communities across the country. 

    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: dealing with the risks of breast cancer.

    Angelina Jolie's surprise disclosure that she had a preventive double mastectomy three months ago has opened the door to a wider conversation. The 37-year old actress and director announced her decision in yesterday's New York Times, writing: "I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But, today, it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."

    Jolie carries the genetic mutation BRCA1, which places her at a much higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. But how have and how should other women deal with the risks inherent in that surgical option?

    For some expert insight, we turn to Beth Peshkin, a genetic counselor and professor of oncology at Georgetown University, and Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of clinical genetics services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center in New York.

    Welcome to you both.

    So, Dr. Offit, give us a little more elaboration on who exactly is at risk from this BRCA gene that we keep talking about.

    DR. KENNETH OFFIT, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Well, we should first make it clear that this is a minority of women with breast cancer.

    We think only about five percent of women with breast cancer will have this hereditary high-risk form. And those are the individuals who would benefit most from genetic testings. Individuals who are very early age with breast cancer, 30s and the 40s, and we think all women with ovarian cancer should have genetic testing if you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer in your family. Male prostate cancer can also run in these families.

    And individuals who are of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are also at increased risk for this type of hereditary cancer, but it's still a small part of the overall amount of breast cancer.

    GWEN IFILL: Beth Peshkin, when we talk about genetic testing, what does that involve?

    BETH PESHKIN, Georgetown University: Well, the first step in the process is genetic counseling.

    So, for women who are concerned about their risk of cancer, the first step is to get a comprehensive risk assessment, to learn about their personal and family history, and to determine what exactly risk is that they may carry an inherited form of the risk.

    GWEN IFILL: Are there options short of surgery?

    BETH PESHKIN: Absolutely. And I think it's very important for people to understand that there are many different options for women to consider who find that they're at increased risk for breast cancer, including screening, such as early and frequent mammography, breast MRI, other options for risk reduction, including Tamoxifen, as well as the surgical option that we have heard much about.

    GWEN IFILL: But, Dr. Offit, we're not necessarily talking about the same options for ovarian cancer, are we?

    KENNETH OFFIT: Well, that's a very important point.

    And it's probably the most important point, one that we certainly learned when we published our paper at Sloan-Kettering about this. The surgery discussion here is focusing on breast cancer. And, as Beth said, that's an option to discuss. But the ovarian cancer surgery is not an option.

    And we feel that this has to be done in women after childbearing, because we have no means of finding ovarian cancer at an early stage. When we wrote that article, one of the really dramatic findings that we will always remember was that three to four percent of these women, three to four out of 100 who had this preventative ovarian cancer surgery after BRCA tests, had an early curable ovarian cancer.

    And at Sloan-Kettering, I had never seen that until we started doing genetic testing. So while the focus is on breast cancer surgery, your question is right. We want to think about the ovarian surgery first.

    GWEN IFILL: I also want to ask you, briefly, this -- who's paying for this? Is this something that is covered, this kind of radical, almost elective surgery? Is it covered by insurance?

    KENNETH OFFIT: Absolutely.

    And, you know, one of the fears that we have -- Beth will remember -- you know, she was with us in New York when we were first starting all of this. And we were -- we were very nervous the insurance companies would actually discriminate against women, and not -- not only not insure them, but charge them more.

    In fact, the insurance companies have acted the other way, and have paid for the testing. And, in fact, they will even pay for these types of surgeries and the MRIs that Beth just alluded to.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, Angelina Jolie is not the first person to go through something like this.

    But she is drawing a lot of attention to this. So, a woman calls you. I assume that you get a lot of phone calls on a day like today saying, should I be tested? Am I susceptible to this? What is the answer to those questions to people who are sitting home thinking, what about me?

    BETH PESHKIN: The answer is to really consider it as a process of decision-making and to make an informed choice, so people who do have an elevated risk of caring a mutation in one of these genes certainly should consider getting the testing, and then to consider what all of the options are for risk reduction and screening, and also to consider what the emotional implications are for themselves and for their family members, because ...

    GWEN IFILL: If they’re still women of childbearing years, especially.

    BETH PESHKIN: Absolutely.

    And, also, I think it's important to women to remember that the decision that they make soon after they get that information doesn't necessarily need to be the decision that they make in a subsequent time period. So women may opt for screening when they're in their 20s, and choose risk-reducing surgery later on.

    But, as Dr. Offit mentioned, there's a clear recommendation for removing the ovaries by the time women have completed childbearing.

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. Offit, this is also -- it's surgery, but it's tough surgery. So, what are the risks for actually going through this kind of -- we found out after the surgery was done on Angelina Jolie that there was no sign of cancer in her breasts, at least, and now she's going to have that secondary surgery we have been talking about, the ovarian surgery.

    But are there a lot of risks also inherent in choosing the surgery, as opposed to not choosing it?

    KENNETH OFFIT: Well, fortunately, for the ovarian surgery that we discussed, the way we do it in New York is laparoscopically.

    You're in and out of the hospital the same day. And we have really minimal risks. But the breast surgery, it's plastic surgery. And it's not straightforward. But, fortunately, it's fairly safe.

    One of our goals is to try to obviously move away from surgery. And we have been very involved in research here to discover new genetic modifiers that will give women a better idea of what their risk is, even those women that have the BRCA mutations. And we're hoping in the next year to be able to be more precise about giving women these risk figures, so that they can make these surgical decisions.

    GWEN IFILL: Beth Peshkin, how have improvements in breast reconstruction affected people's decisions to have this kind of surgery? Because people originally felt this might be scarring, this might be disfiguring.

    BETH PESHKIN: I think that's it's been a remarkable advancement and has given women a lot of comfort to know that they can often obtain the cosmetic results that they want to, so that they have the quality of life that they're after.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you both before we go, do you think that Angelina Jolie's op-ed in The New York Times, her admission about her surgery and plans for her health, do you think this has provided a teaching moment for something that maybe people hadn't been paying much attention to?

    BETH PESHKIN: Absolutely.

    I think it's opened up a national discussion that's important to have, that femininity and sexuality are not defined only by one's breasts, and that it's a really complete picture of how she feels about her confidence and ability to make decisions that are right for her.

    But I also think the other message is, it's not just the option that she chose, the surgery, but it's the power of genetic testing and personalized medicine. And that's really an important goal, to be aware of family history and get testing when it's indicated.

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. Offit?

    KENNETH OFFIT: Well, it's always admirable when someone in the public eye shares health information to create this type of teachable moment that we're having now.

    I taught for years Cornell medical students the Betty Ford story we remember. And after her diagnosis, the number of mammographic breast cancer diagnoses bumped and lives were saved. And I think this is that same opportunity. Watching this show tonight, some lives will be saved because women, aware of their own family histories, will be inspired to come in to talk to Beth, to talk to us, and to take these actions to detect cancers at a curable stage or to prevent them entirely.

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. Kenneth Offit of Sloan-Kettering in New York and Professor Beth Peshkin of Georgetown, thank you both so much.

    BETH PESHKIN: Thank you.

    KENNETH OFFIT: Thank you. 

    0 0

    President Barack Obama; photo by Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

    President Obama makes a statement Wednesday at the White House. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    To catch you up on the last 24 hours in politics: President Barack Obama canned the man at the helm of the Internal Revenue Service, released 100 pages of emails between intelligence analysts and State Department officials following the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and asked a Senate Democrat to reintroduce a bill to help reporters protect the identity of their sources.

    In other words: a whole lotta damage control.

    "Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it," Mr. Obama said Wednesday evening in a four-minute statement from the East Room of the White House. He was referring to the swelling scandal at the IRS, which put extra layers of scrutiny on conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

    "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives," he said.

    Earlier in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder told members of the House Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department would conduct a full investigation into the IRS' conduct.

    "The facts will take us wherever they take us," Holder said. "This will not be about parties. This will not be about ideological persuasions. Anyone who has broken the law will be held accountable."

    The administration's response came as lawmakers ramped up their demands for answers.

    "My question isn't about who's going to resign. My question is, who is going to jail over this scandal?" House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, declared at a morning news conference.

    Amid the mounting pressure, Mr. Obama huddled late Wednesday with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who asked for and received the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller.

    "This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days, and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation's tax agency," Miller wrote in a memo distributed to agency employees. "I believe the Service will benefit from having a new Acting Commissioner in place during this challenging period."

    Miller said he will officially depart the IRS when his assignment ends early next month. The 25-year agency veteran is scheduled to appear Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee to answer questions about the IRS' actions. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will get the next bite at the apple, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday.

    NPR condensed the treasury inspector general's report into "10 Things We Learned," one of them being that the IRS sat on some applications for as long as three years and expected applicants to respond to its requests for information within three weeks.

    For his part, Mr. Obama will take questions at noon Thursday during a Rose Garden event with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The NewsHour will live-stream the news conference.

    On Benghazi, Mr. Obama is attempting to put to rest the evolution of talking points about whether the events on Sept. 11, 2012, were a terrorist attack -- a story that has involved the press as well.

    ABC News' Jonathan Karl had a big scoop Friday, reporting the talking points had been revised 12 times over the course of a few days. But CNN's Jake Tapper, formerly with ABC, reported Tuesday that reading the emails contradicts that report.

    That's one reason the White House aimed to let people see for themselves. The emails, already given to congressional investigators, are posted in full here.

    The Washington Post's Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung have a helpful explainer. From the piece:

    According to the e-mails and initial CIA-drafted talking points, the agency believed the attack included a mix of Islamist extremists from Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, and angry demonstrators.

    White House officials did not challenge that analysis, the e-mails show, nor did they object to its inclusion in the public talking points.

    But CIA deputy director Michael Morell later removed the reference to Ansar al-Sharia because the assessment was still classified and because FBI officials believed that making the information public could compromise their investigation, said senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal debate.

    Those officials said Wednesday that the e-mails capture a fairly routine conversation between agencies over how to talk about a major event.

    What was most challenging in this case, senior administration officials said, was doing so within days of the attack as intelligence agencies working in a volatile environment were trying to piece together what happened.

    The New York Times has more on the internal divisions the emails lay bare. Politico writes that the email chains "suggest it was the State Department that was most concerned about taking the blame for the attack."

    Then there is the matter of the Justice Department's seizure of phone records from the Associated Press as part of an investigation into leaks about a failed terror plot last year.

    Holder told lawmakers Wednesday that he had recused himself from the probe early on because he was one of the officials who had access to the information that was leaked. But he pledged to review the matter once the investigation was completed.

    "I do think that at the conclusion of this matter, and when I can be back involved in it, that given the -- the attention that it has generated, that some kind of after-action analysis would be appropriate," Holder said.

    The Justice Department's decision to subpoena the records has drawn criticism from lawmakers and news organizations about the impact on 1st Amendment protections. In response, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would support a new media shield law that would provide greater protections to reporters seeking to keep their sources confidential.

    The NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown examined the IRS scandal Wednesday night. Watch that segment here or below:

    Watch Video

    Mr. Obama's statement is here or below.

    Watch Video

    Watch Holder's testimony here.

    Video streaming by Ustream


    Strong from start to finish: Team NewsHour races at the ACLI Capital Challenge.

    Wednesday morning 14 NewsHour runners hit the pavement for a three-mile race to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

    Your Morning Line dynamic duo rounded the halfway mark side-by-side, before Terence blew past Christina to finish strong.

    NewsHour's "No Commercials, No Mercy" team* placed fourth of the 17 teams in the Electronic Media category. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., became the fastest man in Congress, finishing three miles in 17 minutes 55 seconds. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., were the fastest senators. Heard on the Hill has more here.

    NewsHour social media editor Colleen Shalby won the bravest staffer award, wearing our HatCam! from start to finish. We've cut together some video highlights that you can watch here or below:

    Watch Video

    *Yes, the name is inspired by "Anchorman."


    The Wall Street Journal looks at the tech sector's involvement in shaping the immigration bill. Roll Call reports that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants to be wooed on the issue.

    As the House GOP prepares to vote for the 37th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a new congressional budget analysts suggests doing so would "increase the deficit by scrapping the law's taxes, fees and spending cuts," The Hill reports.

    Mr. Obama met with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Wednesday on immigration and budget issues.

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation Thursday that would empower military prosecutors, instead of commanders, to decide whether individual sexual assault cases would be tried. Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is engaing her campaign supporters through emails on the issue. Margaret Warner reported about the issue on the NewsHour.

    A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 43 percent to 38 percent, in the state's 2013 gubernatorial contest. But more voters say Cuccinelli has "the right kind of experience" to be governor.

    Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a moderate Republican who opted against challenging Cuccinelli, formed a group called the Virginia Mainstream Project.

    House Republicans spoofed "Arrested Development" to tweak the Obama administration on the economy. Really.

    Speaker Boehner is attempting to get his members on board with increasing the debt ceiling.

    Sarah Palin has endorsed a candidate, state Rep. Jason Smith, ahead of Missouri's special House election to replace former Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson.

    The Denver Post reports that former GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo is considering a bid for governor next year.

    The clues to Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's political aspirations lie in whom he's talking to. The Republican governor has been consulting governors who became senators. His team expects him to make a decision about running for retiring GOP Sen. Mike Johann's seat within a month.

    Roll Call's Meredith Shiner reports that the House and Senate Press Galleries are getting involved in the phone records story.

    Was Wednesday really the best day for a personal financial document dump? The White House released documents showing the value of the Obamas' assets is between $1.9 and $6.9 million.


    An author looks at what it means to attend law school, and it's not all good.

    Spencer Michels uses this weekend's Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco to explore how cities are using surveillance cameras in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

    Gwen Ifill gets more information on the medical implications of Angelina Jolie's mastectomy.


    You know, Mr. Prez, some of us have 6 pm news programs. #newshour#mayhem

    — gwen ifill (@pbsgwen) May 15, 2013

    Daily Kos was audited by the IRS earlier this year, because we're so conservative, obviously.

    — Markos Moulitsas (@markos) May 15, 2013

    Holder's House Judiciary appearances are like a trip to the Star Wars cantina on a good day. Can't imagine what today is going to be like.

    — Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 15, 2013

    stu stevens says dems shld run against Hillary in '16. does not say if they shld use Orca or not buzzfeed.com/rubycramer/top...

    — E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) May 15, 2013

    @dansagalyn NEVER goes on a shoot without his trusty fanny pack. Cc @elainemgrossman @justinpkennytwitter.com/PJTobia/status...

    — P.J. Tobia (@PJTobia) May 15, 2013

    Carney shows up with pics of himself (!) twitter.com/StevenTDennis/...

    — Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) May 15, 2013

    Moment of bipartisanship -- the 7yo got a letter from the President.Made her day.She'd invited him to dinner.He won't be able to come.

    — Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) May 15, 2013

    My staff & I were proud to participate in the ACLI Capital Challenge this morning! Team name was the Coal Burners. twitter.com/RepShelley/sta...

    — Shelley Moore Capito (@RepShelley) May 15, 2013

    . @newshour online represented on'No Commercials, No Mercy' team at #ACLI race. "We better get best team name." twitter.com/MeenaGanesan/s...

    — Meena (@MeenaGanesan) May 15, 2013

    Caught a pic of team @chuckgrassley at the ACLI Capital Challenge while cheering on team @newshour. twitter.com/anmccartney/st...

    — Allison McCartney (@anmccartney) May 15, 2013

    OH at #ACLI starting line: 'The Attorney General is bugging all the press' bib chips.'

    — Hannah Hess (@ha_nah_nah) May 15, 2013

    I'm gonna buy the CIA a better scanner.

    — Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) May 15, 2013

    Get your tickets now for 6/26 charity softball game. Bad News Babes vs. female Members. bitly.com/girlsbeatcancer

    — Bad News Babes (@BadNewsBabes1) May 15, 2013

    Desk assistants Mallory Sofastaii and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijiFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @tiffanymullonFollow @meenaganesanFollow @ljspbs

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0
  • 05/16/13--09:13: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    Students of the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design paint Chinese artist Liu Bolin, also known as "The Invisible Man," in front of a wall of magazines in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Photo by Bernd Weissbrod/AFP/Getty Images.

    0 0

    Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who returned to Earth this week after four months on the International Space Station, fields questions on Thursday about his time in orbit.

    The astronaut whose unmatched commitment to connecting with the world while in orbit, answered questions from Houston Thursday morning during his first press conference since returning to Earth. Canadian Space Agency Commander Chris Hadfield, arguably the first contemporary astronaut to achieve superstar status (he has nearly a million Twitter followers), spent an hour discussing his four months on the International Space Station, his scientific experiments in space and the perils of adapting to weightlessness and then readapting back to gravity. The trip also affected his health.

    "My blood vessels have hardened," he said. "My cardiovascular system has changed."

    Symptoms of adapting to Earth after four months of weightlessness on the International Space Station include dizziness, a sore body and neck and difficulty walking and exercising, he said. He has to sit down while taking a shower so he doesn't faint, and with no callouses on his hands and feet, he said he felt like he was "walking on hot coals." During the press conference, he wore a G-suit underneath his clothing to coax the blood back up to his head, he told reporters. Even speaking requires adjustment.

    "I've had to change the way I'm talking," Hadfield said. "I hadn't realized I'd learned to talk with a weightless tongue."

    But many of the changes, he said, are similar to what humans undergo as they age, and as he and crewmates "totter around," doctors gain new insights into the human body.

    My blood vessels have hardened. My cardiovascular system has changed. -- Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield

    He spoke of the science experiments in orbit. One involved studying dark matter. Another aimed to improve spinal ultrasounds.

    Especially memorable was his description of his first moments back on Earth, upon landing in Kazakhstan. Suddenly, he said, they looked outside the window, and there was earth and grass where space had been before.

    "As soon as we opened door, and air started coming in, we could smell the prairie, and it smelled of wind and the grass," he recalled. "It smelled of spring. We could smell the grass, but we could also smell the charred spaceship."

    We have more on Hadfield's return to Earth, his musical endeavors in microgravity and his unparalleled social media acumen here. And you can see more of his photographs from the International Space Station, tips on how to eat an apple in space and his attempt to crowdsource vacation spots here.

    And if you haven't yet seen his cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," the first music video ever filmed in space, here it is. Enjoy:

    Support Your Local PBS Station

    0 0

    WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. and Turkey will keep ramping up pressure to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, with his country's civil war having "wracked the region."

    At a news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the White House Rose Garden, Obama says the only way to resolve the crisis is for Assad to hand over power to a transitional government. He says Turkey will play a critical role in that process.

    "We're going to keep increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and working with the Syrian opposition," Obama said. "We both agree that Assad needs to go."

    Obama said the U.S. will continue helping nations in the region deal with refugees with humanitarian aid.

    Erdogan says the U.S. and Turkey have overlapping goals when it comes to Syria. Neither leader mentioned that the U.S. and Turkey remain far apart on just how to handle Syria's bloody civil war.

    Erdogan is visiting Washington just days after two car bombs in Turkey killed dozens in the deadliest terrorist attack there in years. Turkish authorities have blamed Syrian intelligence, and Erdogan has been calling for more aggressive steps to topple Assad's government. Obama extended condolences for what he called the "outrageous bombings" and said the United States stands with Turkey in fighting terror threats.

    But the Obama administration remains reluctant to take the kind of action Turkey would like to see, including establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.

    The disagreement was unlikely to spoil a day of pomp for Erdogan, who arrived at the White House under the flags of a U.S. military honor guard lining the north driveway. He met with Obama in the Oval Office for three hours focusing largely on Mideast security issues, but Obama said they also agreed to create "a new high level committee" to focus on increasing trade and investment between the two countries.

    Erdogan also was being treated to a formal lunch at the State Department lunch with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry before his return to the White House for a working dinner with the president.

    Despite differences over Syria, Erdogan will welcome the opportunity to showcase his close ties with Obama. He arrives after recently marking 10 years in office as a dominant figure in Turkish politics. As much as Erdogan wants the U.S. to exert greater power in Syria, the Obama administration sees Turkey as a critical broker on a host of issues in the region.

    The administration recently negotiated a deal to repair ties between Turkey and Israel, which were severed following a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed. The administration hopes to see an understanding sealed during Erdogan's visit on compensation for the victims of the raid and their families. The U.S. sees reconciliation between Turkey and Israel as critical as it seeks to revitalize peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

    It is also looking for Turkish help in ramping up sanctions on Iran and in cooling ethnic tensions in Iraq. Both Turkey and the U.S. see an opportunity this year to restart talks on the reunification of Cyprus, an issue that is also likely to come up in talks between Obama and Erdogan. Cyprus was split in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in 1983 is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there. Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country.

    Following the recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, Erdogan and Obama also will look to step up cooperation on counterterrorism.

    Finally, the U.S. administration is likely to reassure Erdogan that Turkey will not lose out as the administration seeks a massive free trade deal with the European Union. Obama may also offer praise for Erdogan's initiative to make peace with Kurdish rebels after a nearly 30-year battle.

    Support Your Local PBS Station

    0 0

    By Michael Chwe

    Economist Michael Chwe has written a book called "Jane Austen: Game Theorist." Do you need more of a reason to read this post? Video from Michael Chwe's YouTube channel.

    I'm a specialist in game theory, the mathematical analysis of strategic thinking. Probably the best-known game theorist is John Nash, who received the Nobel Prize in economics and was featured in the movie "A Beautiful Mind."

    I have published mathematical economics papers in journals such as the "Journal of Economic Theory." But my latest book is built around the theoretical insights of Jane Austen. This popular and beloved writer used little mathematics or economics. But Austen's novels, written in the early 1800s, anticipated by more than a century the most fundamental game-theoretic concepts, including the emphasis on choice, the theory of utility, and the theoretical analysis of strategic thinking. In fact, Austen's novels contain game-theoretic insights not yet superseded by modern social science.

    Before going into Austen's theoretical contributions, let me briefly introduce how game theory is used in economics.

    How Game Theory Is Used in Economics

    For most of its history, economics concentrated on the analysis of what it calls "perfectly competitive" markets: markets with a multitude of buyers and a multitude of sellers, with no single firm having any influence over market prices.

    But even back in the 19th century, economists realized how imperfect markets were becoming. This was the era of "oligopoly" -- a "market situation in which producers are so few that the actions of each of them have an impact on price and on competitors." The oligopolists of the era were the industrial giants like Rockefeller's Standard Oil, the American Tobacco Company, and U.S. Steel. Some oligopolies, like Rockefeller's, were partially dismantled, but many oligopolies, old and new, exist today.

    Economists today routinely analyze oligopolies using game theory, once described as the discipline of looking ahead (to what others will do) and reasoning backward (to figure out what you should do in anticipation of what others will do). Game theory's popularity is relatively recent. Its mathematical techniques were pioneered in the 1940s and 1950s by John Nash, John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, although one of the earliest game-theoretic analyses of oligopoly was by Antoine Augustine Cournot in 1838.

    Most economics students are taught first about monopolies and perfectly competitive markets because they are easier to analyze. Analyzing monopolies is not difficult: since there is only one firm, it simply acts in order to maximize its profits.

    Analyzing perfectly competitive markets is not difficult either: each firm only worries about overall market conditions and not specific competitors because no single competitor is big enough to change market conditions by itself. For example, among taco trucks in Los Angeles, each taco truck worries only about the going price for tacos, not about the decisions of any other particular truck; each truck is a "price taker" and takes the going price of tacos as given.

    In oligopolies, however, the situation is more complicated. Each firm must think carefully about its competitors: for example, before releasing a low-cost iPhone for emerging markets, Apple must consider whether its major competitors, Samsung and Huawei, will respond by making smartphones that are even cheaper. Apple must anticipate what Samsung and Huawei will do.

    Of course, many markets are perfectly competitive (the restaurant business is a common example). But I suspect that today most economists would say that oligopolies, in which each firm must worry about each of its competitors, are more typical, or at least more interesting.

    In other words, competition (and cooperation) among firms these days is usually not a matter of "price taking" -- accepting the price that a perfectly competitive market determines by the interplay of supply and demand - but of "price making," a situation that demands strategy. This is where game theory, the mathematical analysis of strategic thinking, comes in.

    How Jane Austen Used Game Theory in her Books

    Might it be useful in understanding Jane Austen? I am not the first to use game theory to approach literature. In 1980, Steve Brams wrote a book using game theory to interpret the Bible. The economists Bertrand Crettez and Régis Deloche have written on coordination in Molière's play "Tartuffe." Ilias Chrissochoidis and Steffen Huck have analyzed the mythic plots of Richard Wagner's operas "Lohengrin" and "Tannhauser."

    But let's stick with Austen. Maybe it's just me, but as a game theorist, I am sensitive to how her characters act strategically in anticipation of the actions of others. For example, Marianne Dashwood in "Sense and Sensibility" seems to indulge in emotional paroxysms, in one case not changing out of her wet clothes, falling ill and almost dying. But, hearing that she is close to death, her one-time suitor Willoughby abruptly visits to tell her that he did indeed have true affection for her, and married someone else only because of money.

    A game theorist might suspect that Marianne broadcasts her suffering anticipating that Willoughby would come back to her or at least acknowledge that he had loved her. Later, Marianne tells her sister Elinor: "My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself."

    I believe that Austen is a game theorist herself, interested in how people make choices and how people anticipate the choices of others. Like any game theorist, Austen's interest is both practical and theoretical.

    For example, what distinguishes game theory, and economics generally, from other social science approaches is its emphasis on individual choice. That's how economists explain behavior. For Austen, choice is an obsession.

    She mentions "the power of choice" and states that it is "a great deal better to chuse than to be chosen." When Fanny Price, in "Mansfield Park," receives the proposal of the rich but smarmy Henry Crawford, her entire adoptive family pressures her to accept, but Fanny heroically resists, telling her uncle Sir Thomas that it is simply her choice: "I -- I cannot like him, sir, well enough to marry him."

    Economists love results that are not intuitive. One such result, which still gives people pause, is that a country technologically worse at producing everything should still trade with a technologically superior country -- as long as it has a comparative advantage in producing one good relative to another.

    Austen loves non-intuitive results too. Fanny Price has an amber cross ornament, a gift from her beloved brother William, but has nothing to wear it with for the upcoming ball. Mary Crawford, Henry Crawford's sister, gives Fanny a gold necklace. Edmund Bertram, the young man whom Fanny really likes, gives Fanny a gold chain. Fanny must choose between Mary's necklace and Edmund's chain. This choice is difficult because Edmund likes Mary, and thus Edmund asks Fanny to wear Mary's necklace in order to show gratitude toward Mary. But Fanny would much rather wear Edmund's chain.

    Fanny is relieved to find that "upon trial the one given her by Miss Crawford would by no means go through the ring of the cross. She had, to oblige Edmund, resolved to wear it -- but it was too large for the purpose. His therefore must be worn; and having, with delightful feelings, joined the chain and the cross, those memorials of the two most beloved of her heart ... she was able, without an effort, to resolve on wearing Miss Crawford's necklace too."

    With this episode, Austen illustrates how in some situations, not having a choice can be better. This is a nonintuitive result well known in game theory. But Austen does it one better. She is so committed to individual choice that she cannot leave it at this: she has Fanny choose to wear Mary's necklace too. Even when it seems better not to have to make a choice, Austen shows that another choice can make things better still.

    Essential to economic theory is the idea of utility: when a person chooses among several alternatives, the economist models this by assigning to each alternative a number corresponding to that alternative's "utility."

    For example, if a person chooses between two houses, one house might be in a better location but have fewer bathrooms, while the other might have a quieter backyard but have higher maintenance costs. Economists assume that when a person chooses among houses, the many aspects of a house in the end reduce to a single utility number.

    People who are not economists might find this strange, but not Jane Austen. Austen consistently argues for commensurability: the many aspects of an alternative are in the end reducible to a single feeling. In "Northanger Abbey," Catherine Morland plans a walk with Henry and Eleanor Tilney but they do not show up, perhaps because of the rain. Thus she decides to go with her brother and John and Isabella Thorpe on a carriage ride. "Catherine's feelings ... were in a very unsettled state; divided between regret for the loss of one great pleasure, and the hope of enjoying another, almost its equal in degree, however unlike in kind.... To feel herself slighted by [the Tilneys] was very painful. On the other hand, the delight of [the carriage ride] ... was such a counterpoise of good as might console her for almost any thing."

    Austen even sometimes uses numbers to quantify feelings: in "Pride and Prejudice," when her sister Lydia runs off unmarried with Wickham, Elizabeth Bennet worries that her love interest Mr. Darcy's opinion of their family will further decrease, and thus "had she known nothing of Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia's infamy somewhat better. It would have spared her, she thought, one sleepless night out of two."

    Non-economists often object that real people surely do not calculate as economists do in complicated mathematical models. But for Austen, calculation is not the least bit unnatural. For example, in "Emma," after Emma and Mr. Knightley reveal the news of their engagement to their friends, they predict together how quickly the news will spread through the town: "they had calculated from the time of its being known ... how soon it would be over Highbury ... with great sagacity."

    Austen has several names for strategic thinking, including "foresight" and "penetration." For example, Mr. John Knightley warns Emma that Mr. Elton might be interested in her, but Emma is certain that Mr. Elton is interested in Harriet Smith. Mr. George Knightley had earlier warned Emma that Mr. Elton would never marry Harriet because of her lack of wealth. After Mr. Elton drunkenly proposes to Emma in a carriage, however, Emma admits to herself, "There was no denying that those brothers had penetration."

    Game theory assumes that a person thinks strategically about others. However, sometimes a person clearly does not. The conspicuous absence of strategic thinking, what I call "cluelessness," is not something modern game theory tries to explain. But Austen does.

    For example, in "Northanger Abbey," General Tilney thinks that Catherine Morland is an heiress and thus invites her to Northanger Abbey to encourage her progress with his son Henry. When General Tilney finds out that Catherine is not wealthy at all, he ritually expels her, sending Catherine home without even a servant to accompany her.

    But this move backfires badly: "Henry's indignation on hearing how Catherine had been treated ... had been open and bold ... He felt himself bound as much in honour as in affection to Miss Morland."

    General Tilney's action only increases Henry's attachment to Catherine, and his sending Catherine home without an escort provides the perfect excuse for Henry to visit her to see if she arrived home safely. During this visit, Henry proposes.

    General Tilney could have foreseen all this if he weren't clueless. He did not think strategically about Henry; he did not consider how Henry would react. "The General, accustomed on every ordinary occasion to give the law in his family, prepared for no reluctance."

    What explains General Tilney's lack of strategic thinking, his cluelessness? Austen offers several explanations. One is that high-status people believe that they should not have to enter into the minds of low-status people, and in fact, not doing so is a mark of their higher status.

    Thus, when a high-status person interacts with a low-status person, the high-status person has difficulty understanding the low-status person as strategic. This is an advantage that the low-status person can exploit. This can help us understand why, for example, after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the resulting Iraqi insurgency came as a complete surprise to U.S. leaders, even though anyone who puts himself in the shoes of an Iraqi commander would easily see the futility of engaging U.S. forces conventionally.

    For a possible example in economics, Clayton Christensen finds that companies that are industry leaders often underestimate the disruptive potential of low-status competitors that start by producing cheap, low-quality goods but gradually improve.

    It might be a while before we know how useful game theory is for studying literature in general. After all, game theory was around for 20 to 30 years before economics fully embraced it. In the meantime, I look forward to more conversations between the social sciences and the humanities. Perhaps in the future, the connections between economics and the study of literature will no longer be considered surprising.

    Michael Chwe is a professor at University of California, Los Angeles who teaches courses on game theory to graduate and undergraduate students. His books include "Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge" and now "Jane Austen: Game Theorist.

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

    0 0
  • 05/16/13--10:53: Around the Nation
  • Here are four arts and culture videos from public broadcasting partners around the nation.

    Premiering Monday on PBS: "Mel Brooks: Make a Noise" on American Masters. In this excerpt, the comic legend explains the difference between comedy and tragedy. (As long as it isn't happening to Mel Brooks, it's funny.) Check your local listings.

    Watch Mel Brooks: The Difference Between Comedy & Tragedy Is... on PBS. See more from American Masters.

    The latest in the PBS Digital Studios series "Blank on Blank": "Wilt Chamberlain on Tall Tales":

    Recently on PBS: "10 Buildings that Changed America": "A state capitol that Thomas Jefferson designed to resemble a Roman temple, the home of Henry Ford's first assembly line, the first indoor regional shopping mall, an airport with a swooping concrete roof that seems to float on air -- these are among the buildings surveyed in this cross-country journey to 10 influential works of American architecture."

    Watch 10 Buildings that Changed America on PBS. See more from 10 Buildings that Changed America.

    From NYC-ARTS' Art Underground: "In honor of the 25th anniversary of the MTA's 'Arts for Transit' Program, NYC-ARTS focuses on Faith Ringgold's 'Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines' at the 125th 2 and 3 stations."

    Watch Art Underground: Faith Ringgold NYC-ARTS | Curator's Choice on PBS. See more from NYC-ARTS.

    0 0

    Watch a live stream in the player above of President Barack Obama's speech at the National Defense University, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday.

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is set to at least partially lift the veil of secrecy surrounding U.S.-directed drone strikes around the world, a key component of counterterrorism strategy, as he outlines the contours of the continuing threat to American security.

    On the eve of the president's speech at the National Defense University, the Obama administration revealed for the first time that a fourth American citizen had been killed in secretive drone strikes abroad. The killings of three other Americans in counterterror operations since 2009 were widely known before a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy acknowledged the four deaths.

    Obama's speech is expected to reaffirm his national security priorities - from homegrown terrorists to killer drones to the enemy combatants held at the military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - but make no new sweeping policy announcements.

    The White House has offered few clues on how the president will address questions that have dogged his administration for years and, critics say, given foreign allies mixed signals about U.S. intentions in some of the world's most volatile areas.

    Obama will try to refocus an increasingly apathetic public on security issues as his administration grapples with a series of unrelated controversies stemming from the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the IRS' targeting of conservative groups and government monitoring of reporters. His message will also be carefully analyzed by an international audience that has had to adapt to what counterterror expert Peter Singer described as the administration's disjointed and often short-sighted security policies.

    "He is really wresting with a broader task, which is laying out an overdue case for regularizing our counterterrorism strategy itself," said Singer, director of the Brookings Institution's 21st Century Security and Intelligence Center in Washington. "It's both a task in terms of being a communicator, and a task in term of being a decider."

    REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt/Handout Pictured is an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. Photo by U.S. Air Force

    The White House said Obama's speech coincides with the signing of new "presidential policy guidance" on when the U.S. can use drone strikes, though it was unclear what that guidance entailed and whether Obama would outline its specifics in his remarks.

    Chief among the topics the speech will focus on, officials said, is the administration's expanded use of unmanned spy drones to kill hundreds of people in Pakistan, Yemen and other places where terrorists have taken refuge.

    Obama has pledged to be more open with the public about the scope of the drone strikes. But a growing number of lawmakers in Congress are seeking to limit U.S. authorities that support the deadly drone strikes, which have targeted a wider range of threats than initially anticipated.

    The president is expected to talk generally about the need for greater transparency in the drone strikes and may allude to the desire to give greater responsibility for those operations to the military. But he is likely to tread carefully on an issue that involves classified CIA operations.

    The U.S. military has begun to take over the bulk of the strikes, replacing the CIA in nearly all areas except Pakistan, according to an administration official who was not authorized to discuss the plans on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity. That shift in responsibility has given Congress greater oversight of the secretive program.

    Obama "believes that we need to be as transparent about a matter like this as we can, understanding that there are national security implications to this issue and to the broader issues involved in counterterrorism policy," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.

    "He thinks (this) is an absolutely valid and legitimate and important area of discussion and debate and conversation, and that it is his belief that there need to be structures in place that remain in place for successive administrations," Carney said. "So that in the carrying out of counterterrorism policy, procedures are followed that allow it to be conducted in a way that ensures that we're keeping with our traditions and our laws."

    In a letter Wednesday to congressional leaders, Holder said only one of the U.S. citizens killed in counterterror operations beyond war zones -- Anwar al-Awlaki, who had ties to at least three attacks planned or carried out on U.S. soil -- was specifically targeted by American forces. He said the other three Americans were not targeted in the U.S. strikes.

    The deaths of three of the four, including al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, were already known. Holder's letter revealed the killing of Jude Kenan Mohammad, who was indicted by federal authorities in 2009 as part of an alleged homegrown terror plot to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va. Before he could be arrested, authorities said, Mohammad fled the country to join jihadi fighters in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

    For months Congress has urged Obama to release a classified Justice Department legal opinion justifying when U.S. counterterror missions, including drone strikes, can be used to kill American citizens abroad. Several lawmakers declined immediate comment Wednesday on Holder's letter or Obama's speech.

    Human rights watchdogs, however, were not immediately appeased.

    Human Rights First legal director Dixon Osburn welcomed the White House's pledge for more transparency but remained "deeply concerned that the administration appears to be institutionalizing a problematic targeted killing policy without public debate on whether the rules are lawful or appropriate."

    "The American public deserves to know whether the administration is complying with the law, and Congress should debate the legal and policy implications of our targeted killing operations," Osburn said in a statement.

    In re-affirming his pledge to close the detention center at Guantanamo, Obama will push in the speech for a renewed effort to transfer its 166 detainees to other countries. Congress and the White House have sparred since Obama took office in 2009 over the fate of the suspects and whether they can be brought to trial on U.S. soil. In the meantime, the detainees have been held for years with diminishing hope that they will charged with a crime or be given a trial.

    An aide to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said lawmakers remain concerned that detainees who are released would rejoin the terror fight. The staff member was not authorized to discuss the issue on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    This week, the Pentagon asked Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo prison. More than 100 of the prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, and the military earlier this month was force-feeding 30 of them to keep them from starving to death.

    Obama was expected to make the case that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has decimated al-Qaida's core, even as new threats emerge elsewhere.

    Against the backdrop of last month's deadly double-bombing at the Boston Marathon, administration officials said Obama will highlight the persistent threat of homegrown terrorists - militants or extremists who are either American citizens or have lived in the U.S. for years. The two Chechen-born suspects in the Boston attacks were raised in the United States and turned against America and its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan only in recent years, investigators have said.

    Like the quandaries of drone strikes and Guantanamo, the rise of homegrown terrorism is nothing new. The Obama administration included homegrown threats in its National Security Strategy in 2010. However, such threats have increased as the power of al-Qaida's central leadership has ebbed - especially after Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistani hideout by U.S. special forces two years ago.

    Singer, the Brookings expert, said Obama's administration has been plagued with making short-term calculations on security issues with long-term impacts. He said the president's speech will serve to gloss over the "ad-hoc" strategies advocated by some of his advisers, and make clear his top priorities for the rest of his time in office.

    Especially with regard to the drone strikes, Singer said, "you have this irony that's played out over the last four years, where one of the greatest speakers of our era has largely remained silent about one of the signature aspects of his presidency."

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0

    Correspondent Gwen Ifill answered questions during a live chat, hosted by PBS' Washington Week.

    Read through the chat below.

    Chat with Gwen Ifill of Washington Week and the PBS NewsHour

    Support Your Local PBS Station

    0 0
  • 05/23/13--09:40: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    A performer participates in the 10th anniversary celebration of the El Salvador Museum of Art in San Salvador. Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.

    0 0
  • 05/23/13--11:14: Around the Nation
  • Here are four arts and culture videos from public broadcasting partners around the nation.


    0 0

    By Martin Weitzman

    No one can say with any assurance what the dollar value of damages would be from the highly uncertain climate changes that might accompany a planet earth that is steadily warming.

    Paul Solman: Are headlines trumpeting the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the earth's atmosphere have now passed 400 parts per million for the first time in something like three million years unduly alarmist? Or are they a timely warning?

    I asked noted environmental economist Martin Weitzman to address the question.

    An expert on the Soviet economy in the '70s and '80s, Weitzman first made news in 1984 with the publication of a book called The Share Economy, an argument for profit sharing instead of fixed wages. Fourteen years later came his paper Recombinant Growth, which revolutionized how some of us understood the enormous potential of technology.

    But for many years, Weitzman has also been working on environmental economics and most recently, in a series of widely cited academic papers, on the economics of global warming; the most famous, on the "Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change."

    Weitzman's central idea is not unlike the legendary bet proposed by the 16th century Catholic French philosopher Blaise Pascal. One way to interpret Pascal's argument: even if you think the likelihood of God's existence is vanishingly small, the cost if you're wrong -- eternal damnation -- is infinitely high. An infinite cost times even a tiny probability is still ... an infinite cost.

    So you make a finite investment by believing in God and acting accordingly in order to avoid an infinite cost. To put it another way, you're obliged, mathematically, to make the investment in belief.

    You might keep Pascal's argument in mind while reading Weitzman. Or think of the "Black Swan" argument of Nassim Taleb: certain events, however unlikely you think they may be, could have such enormous consequences, you just can't take the chance of letting them happen.

    Martin Weitzman: Recently the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) reached an unprecedented level of 400 parts per million. What is the significance of this "milestone"? Does it portend catastrophic climate change? The short answer is no. The long answer is a more complicated and more nuanced maybe.

    The modern era of carefully measuring and recording atmospheric CO2 began with the work of famed scientist Charles Keeling. In 1958, Keeling began to accurately monitor daily CO2 levels atop Mauna Loa, the highest mountain in Hawaii. Keeling chose this location because it was so remote from manmade sources that it would accurately track average "well mixed" CO2 levels throughout the world. Thanks to Keeling's pioneering work we now have a continuous ongoing record of CO2 levels since 1958.

    In 1958, Keeling recorded an atmospheric CO2 level of 315 ppm. Every year since then the Mauna Loa station has recorded ever-higher levels of CO2 than the year before. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have grown relentlessly over the years until they just recently blew past the well-publicized milestone of 400 ppm.

    The 400 ppm milestone is basically just a round number. To see why it might (or might not) be viewed as something unusual, or even threatening, we need to examine a longer record of CO2 levels over time.

    Carbon Dioxide Levels Over Time

    There is a remarkable record of CO2 concentrations preserved in tiny bubbles in Antarctic ice cores going back 800,000 years. These measurements are less accurate than modern Keeling-style instrumental readings, but they are plenty accurate enough to see the big picture clearly. All throughout the past 800,000 years, which encompasses several ice ages and interglacial warming periods, CO2 levels fluctuated in a relatively narrow band between about 180 ppm (during the colder ice ages) to 280 ppm (during the warmer interglacial periods). For about the last 10,000 years we have been living in a warm interglacial period, with CO2 concentrations at about 280 ppm. Then, beginning with the industrial revolution about 1750, CO2 concentrations gradually moved up to Keeling's accurately measured 1958 level of 315 ppm. Since then, as we have seen, CO2 concentrations have grown rapidly to the current 2013 level of 400 ppm.

    So, the current CO2 concentration of 400 ppm is some 40 percent higher than anything that has been attained in the last 800,000 years. The glacial-interglacial cycles began some two and a half million years ago. Scientists estimate that a CO2 concentration of 400 ppm has not been attained for at least 3 million years. This rapid a change in CO2 concentrations has probably not occurred for tens of millions of years.

    The point here is that we are undertaking a colossal planet-wide experiment of injecting CO2 into the atmosphere that goes extraordinarily further and faster than anything within the range of natural CO2 fluctuations for tens of millions of years. The result is a great deal of uncertainty about the possible outcomes of this experiment. The higher the concentrations of CO2, the further outside the range of normal fluctuations is the planet, and the more unsure are we about the consequences.

    RELATED CONTENT Obama's Climate Change Policy

    How Much Warmer Will It Get?

    Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It is by now (and for some considerable time has been) beyond any reasonable doubt that increased levels of atmospheric CO2 lead to increased average temperatures. What is still uncertain and the subject of legitimate debate is the magnitude of this effect: how much CO2 leads to how much warming? Scientists do their best to give a number, but every scientist knows that his or her best number is uncertain.

    Because global warming is uncertain, scientists use a formula to represent both the average degree of global warming and its likely range, as an eventual consequence of some given steady concentration of CO2. The trouble is, each scientist has his or her own favorite variant of the formula. In what follows, I use the "consensus" formula given in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

    For CO2 at the current concentration of 400 ppm, the IPCC formula translates eventually into an average temperature change of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) with a likely range between 1 C (1.8 F) and 2.2 C (4 F). Global average temperatures have already increased by .8 C (1.4 F), so these ultimate temperature values do not look so very scary. Therefore 400 ppm of CO2 maybe does not look catastrophic by itself -- if only we could stay at 400 ppm. What does look very scary, and maybe even catastrophic, is the speed at which we blew right past 400 ppm of CO2, with no visible end in sight -- and what that might portend for ultimate global warming.

    If we were to continue CO2 emissions up to an atmospheric concentration of 600 ppm of CO2, the IPCC formula translates into an ultimate average temperature change of 3.3 C (5.9 F) with a likely range between 1.1 C (2 F) and 5 C (8.9 F).

    If we were to continue CO2 emissions to an atmospheric concentration of 800 ppm of CO2, the IPCC formula translates into an ultimate average temperature change of 4.5 C (8.2 F) with a likely range between 3 C (5.4 F) and 6.8 C (12.3 F). The world has not seen this level of CO2 concentrations for some 50 million years, when crocodiles and palm trees thrived in the Arctic Circle, Greenland and Antarctica were ice-free, and sea levels were many thousands of feet higher than today.

    So, 600 ppm of CO2 looks a lot more worrisome than 400 ppm of CO2, and 800 ppm of CO2 looks a lot more worrisome than 600 ppm of CO2. The significance of just having blown past 400 ppm is that we seem to be on a business-as-usual growth trajectory that brings us to 800 ppm (or maybe even more) within a century from now.

    The key links in the chain connecting increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations to global well-being are the following. Increased CO2 concentrations lead to increased global average temperatures. Increased global average temperatures lead to increased climate changes (and planetary changes, like higher sea levels). Increased climate (and planetary) changes eventually result in increased damages to humans and the planet.

    It is critical to recognize that every link of this chain is full of deep uncertainty that makes it very difficult to answer the question: by how much?

    We have already discussed the first uncertain link from ultimate CO2 concentrations to ultimate global temperature changes.

    As for the second link, there is yet greater uncertainty. What will be the effects of higher temperatures on precipitation patterns? Will monsoon rains be greatly altered? What will happen to Indian or Bangladeshi agriculture? Will dry places in Africa become even drier? Will tropical storms intensify? When will the ice sheets covering Greenland and West Antarctica begin to melt seriously, thereby sharply raising worldwide sea levels? Will basic essential patterns of ocean circulation currents be changed? Will the Amazon rain forest dry out or die back? Will there be large-scale releases of currently contained CO2 and methane (an even more potent greenhouse gas) under melting permafrost, thereby accelerating the process of global warming itself? What about the truly stupendous amounts of methane trapped inside the offshore continental shelves by low temperatures -- might they start to become unstuck by higher ocean temperatures, thereby triggering a vicious global warming circle? What will be the effects of large-scale rapid melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean? What about the unknown unknowns we have not even thought of?

    The Link Between Carbon Dioxide Concentrations and Damages

    The third link, connecting to damages, is even messier to deal with. The higher the temperatures, the more difficult it is to quantify the resulting damages. No one can say with any assurance what would be the dollar value of damages from the highly uncertain climate changes that might accompany a planet earth warmed by an average of more than 3 C (5.4 F). Economists do their best, but such estimates are mostly wild extrapolations from lower temperatures, or are just plain made up. And the higher the degree of global warming, the wilder and woollier are the numbers attempting to represent estimated damages.

    So what is the overall relationship between CO2 concentrations and damages? This is, after all, the ultimate welfare connection we are interested in, but it consists of three highly uncertain links, where the uncertainty in each link increases dramatically with higher CO2 levels. The point is that for higher CO2 concentrations, the relationship to ultimate damages is enormously uncertain. Suppose we tried to express uncertain damages in the same language that we used to express uncertain global warming -- a central average value and a likely range. Then, no matter how it were to be calculated, the likely range of damages would be enormously wide for high CO2 concentrations. For high CO2 concentrations, the upper range of climate damages would represent genuine climate catastrophe.

    Relying on averages may be OK for small amounts of uncertainty. But climate change damages from high levels of greenhouse gas concentrations are enormously uncertain. In this kind of situation, for an economist, abating CO2 emissions is like buying insurance against a catastrophe. We should cut back on CO2 emissions not only to lower the average damages, but, perhaps more importantly, to lower the probability of catastrophic damages. That could imply a lot more CO2 emissions abatement than if we were concerned only about the most likely or average damages.

    Discounting the Costs of Climate Change in the Future

    To add to the complexities and uncertainties, there is the fact that long periods of time are involved. The really high temperatures would likely materialize, if at all, only in the course of centuries. The worse the magnitude of the climate disaster, the more likely is it to occur at a further-off future time.

    One premise of modern economics is that we humans discount the future. This simply means that we value something that happens in the here-and-now -- the present -- more than we value it, right now, if we will only get it in the future. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar a year from now, for example. And that means that a dollar a year from now is worth less, in today's money, than the dollar today.

    We use a discount rate to compare the two -- which is, in the case of money an interest rate. So if the discount or interest rate were 3 percent a year, a dollar a year from now would be worth 3 percent less -- only 97 cents -- than a dollar today. At a 3 percent discount rate, that is the so-called "present value" of a dollar you wait a year to get and spend. And indeed, 3 percent a year is a commonly used discount rate for rewards in the future compared to rewards today.

    It's important to notice that if an ordinary interest rate like 3 percent were used to discount the distant future, the power of compound interest is such that the present value of even very large damages could be made to appear small. A dollar today is worth 3 percent less than a dollar a year from now: 97 cents. Discount that 97 cents by another 3 percent to wait yet another year, and so on, and by the time you repeat the process for about 24 years, a dollar is worth just half what it is today. Wait 50 years and it's worth 22 cents. Wait a hundred years and a 2113 dollar would be worth barely 3 cents to someone living in the present.

    There is a vigorous debate among economists about what interest rates should be used to discount the inter-generational damages from climate change. If we value highly the climate-associated welfare of future generations then we should be using low discount rates -- say 1 percent or less -- which would register the present value of their catastrophic damages as if it were equivalent to a very high level of present damages -- something that must be avoided by action now. If we used market interest rates, which are usually much higher, it could still be the case that catastrophic damages should be avoided by action now if the magnitude of the future catastrophic damages were high enough. So time and discounting introduce new wrinkles, but it could still be the case that what is most worrisome about climate damages is not their average or expected or most-likely mid-range value, but the extreme upper-end values associated with various sorts of catastrophe.

    Once it is in the atmosphere, CO2 remains there for a very long time. Even if CO2 emissions were cut to zero at some point in the future (a very drastic assumption), about 70 percent of CO2 concentrations over the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm would remain in the atmosphere for the following one hundred years, while about 40 percent would remain in the atmosphere for the following one thousand years. This, along with the possibility of bad outcomes, is the argument for keeping CO2 concentrations from reaching very high levels.

    Most people do not realize how difficult it is to stabilize CO2 concentrations. It is not nearly enough to stabilize CO2 emissions, which would cause CO2 concentrations to keep on increasing at the same rate as before. (This is because changes in concentrations are proportional to emissions.) The problem is that if you want to stabilize CO2 concentrations, you have to make drastic cuts in CO2 emissions. This is no easy feat. Yet, unless it is done, we are liable to reach very high levels of CO2 concentrations.

    Global warming skeptics would dispute or minimize the link between CO2 concentrations and temperature increases. Here is yet another uncertainty -- are they or the mainstream climate scientists more right than wrong? But can we afford the luxury of assuming that a small minority of climate skeptics are more correct than the vast majority of mainstream climate scientists? What is the probability of that?

    Admittedly, almost all of the relevant probabilities in this kind of rough analysis are uncomfortably indeterminate. But that is the nature of the beast here and shouldn't be an excuse for inaction. The bottom line is that if we continue on a business-as-usual trajectory, then there is some non-trivial probability of a catastrophic climate outcome materializing at some future time. Prudence would seem to dictate taking action to cut back greenhouse gas emissions significantly. If we don't start buying into this insurance policy soon, the human race could end up being very sorry should a future climate catastrophe rear its ugly head.

    Martin L. Weitzman is Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Previously he was on the faculties of MIT and Yale. He has been elected as a fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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

    0 0
  • 05/23/13--12:23: Two Hours in Moore
  • An American flag stands amid the rubble of the May 20 tornado that tore through Moore, Okla. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson.

    I've driven through Oklahoma many times, usually once or twice a year as my family traveled from our home in Omaha, Neb., to visit relatives in Dallas. And every Valentine's Day, I'd cross through Moore on the way to visit my boyfriend, who was a graduate student in the nearby city of Norman.

    On Tuesday, I returned to Moore, having been given the rare opportunity to join the organization Save the Children on a two-hour tour of the tornado damage.

    The city I'd come to know was unrecognizable.

    Debris was everywhere I looked and yet at first glance it all looked like nothing -- an incomprehensible mass of rubble. But slowly, I began to identify things: an overturned clawfoot bathtub, remote controls, toys, street signs, dishes. A mess of twisted metal was formerly the front end of a BMW; the spot where I stood was once someone's house. Metal guard rails wrapped around the few remaining telephone poles and trees like twist ties. The wall of one home had been sheared off, leaving a bedroom exposed. The sheets were still on the bed.

    Residents silently picked through the rubble, collecting what belongings they could.

    Across Telephone Road was Moore Medical Center. The top floor, which used to house the maternity wing, was gone. Walls of the building had collapsed. Windows had shattered. Dozens of crumpled vehicles were stacked in the medical center's parking lot. Emergency personnel had marked the destroyed vehicles with pink and orange paint to show that each had been searched for victims.

    Sgt. Johnny Hernandez of the Dibble Police Department pointed to a black mark where a car had slammed into the hospital during the storm, blocking the exit door. He was here during the tornado of 1999, too. At least the storm left the pavement intact this time, he said.

    "I think I've seen enough storms for a while," he added.

    During the storm, Derek Thayer, a physical therapy assistant at the medical center, had guided patients to the cafeteria for shelter.

    Watch Video

    Fortunately, the hospital had no storm-related fatalities. Two women went into labor during the tornado; both babies were healthy.

    As I walked through the rubble, I noticed that none of the homes I saw had basements or storm cellars. Moore had also suffered an F5 tornado in 1999 -- that's the most damaging rating on the Fujita scale -- along with large tornadoes in 2003 and 2008. But despite the many storms, fewer than 10 percent of homes in Moore have below-ground storm shelters, according to the city's website. Few homes in Oklahoma are built with basements, due to the area's tough soil, Robert Henson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told the NewsHour on Tuesday.

    After the 1999 tornado, FEMA investment and other grants helped Moore erect new storm shelters: reinforced structures usually made out of concrete and designed to withstand a 2-foot by 4-foot beam slamming into it after traveling through winds exceeding 100 mph. Now the Oklahoma City suburb has 3,170 storm shelters, but the grants have recently expired, leaving low-income families without the option to buy the $2,000 to $3,000 structures, said Elizabeth Jones, community development director for the city. No local or international building codes require any building to have a storm shelter, said Tim Reinhold of the Institute for Business and Home Safety, even in tornado-prone areas.

    This time, nature took its toll on two elementary schools -- Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died during the tornado.

    The leaders of Save the Children have a common complaint about disaster planning: Emergency plans don't always account for the unique needs of children. Diapers, pediatric splints and medication, for example, are often needed and lacking.

    In this case, according to a recent CBS News report, Plaza Towers Elementary had no storm shelter. Jones said that since 1999, some new schools built in Oklahoma have tornado-safe rooms or shelters, but it isn't a requirement. The community is in discussions about making such shelters mandatory.

    "You're playing the odds, trying to figure out where should you require people to do things and where they should it be voluntary," Reinhold said. "At this point, tornado protection is in the voluntary category."

    Support Your Local PBS Station

    0 0

    Watch Video On the defensive over a trio of controversies, President Barack Obama refocused the debate Thursday with a speech laying out his administration's rationale for the use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorism targets abroad.

    WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Thursday defended America's controversial drone attacks as legal, effective and a necessary linchpin in an evolving U.S. counterterrorism policy. But he acknowledged the targeted strikes are no "cure-all" and said he is haunted by the civilians unintentionally killed.

    The president also announced a renewed push to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, including lifting a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen. However, shutting the prison will still require help from Republicans reluctant to back Obama's call to move some detainees to U.S. prisons and try them in civilian courts.

    Obama framed his address as an attempt to redefine the nature and scope of terror threats facing the U.S., noting the weakening of al-Qaida and the impending end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

    "Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror," Obama said in remarks at the National Defense University. "What we can do -- what we must do -- is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend."

    Since taking office, Obama's counterterrorism strategy has increasingly relied on the use of strikes by unmanned spy drones, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen. The highly secretive program has faced criticism from congressional lawmakers who have questioned its scope and legality.

    The president, in his most expansive public discussion on drones, defended their targeted killings as both effective and legal. He acknowledged the civilian deaths that sometimes result - a consequence that has angered many of the countries where the U.S. seeks to combat extremism - and said he grapples with that trade-off.

    "For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live," he said. Before any strike, he said, "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured - the highest standard we can set."

    Ahead of the address, Obama signed new "presidential policy guidelines" aimed at illustrating more clearly to Congress and the public the standards the U.S. applies before carrying out drone attacks. Officials said the guidelines include not using strikes when the targeted people can be captured, either by the U.S. or a foreign government, relying on drones only when the target poses an "imminent" threat and establishing a preference for giving the military control of the drone program.

    However, the CIA is still expected to maintain control of the drone program in Yemen, as well as in Pakistan's tribal areas, given the concern that al-Qaida may return in greater numbers as U.S. troops draw down in Afghanistan. The military and the CIA currently work side by side in Yemen, with the CIA flying its drones over the northern region out of a covert base in Saudi Arabia, and the military flying its unmanned aerial vehicles from Djibouti.

    In Pakistan alone, up to 3,336 people have been killed by the unmanned aircraft since 2003, according to the New America Foundation which maintains a database of the strikes.

    Obama's advisers said the new guidelines will effectively limit the number of drone strikes in terror zones and pointed to a future decline of attacks against extremists in Afghanistan as the war there winds down next year. But strikes elsewhere will continue. The guidelines will also apply to strikes against both foreigners and U.S. citizens abroad.

    On the eve of the president's speech, the administration revealed for the first time that a fourth American citizen had been killed in secretive drone strikes abroad. The killings of three other Americans in counterterror operations since 2009 were widely known before a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy acknowledged the four deaths.

    In that letter, Holder said only one of the U.S. citizens killed in counterterror operations beyond war zones - Anwar al-Awlaki, who had ties to at least three attacks planned or carried out on U.S. soil - was specifically targeted by American forces. He said the other three Americans were not targeted in the U.S. strikes.

    Though Obama sought to give more transparency to the drone program, the strikes will largely remain highly secret for the public. Congress is already briefed on every strike that U.S. drones take outside Afghanistan and Iraq during the war there, Obama said, but those briefings are largely classified and held privately.

    The president said he was open to additional measures to further regulate the drone program, including creating a special court system to regulate strikes, similar to one that signs off on government surveillance in espionage and terror cases. Congress is already considering whether to set up a court to decide when drones overseas can target U.S. citizens linked to al-Qaida.

    White House officials said the president had originally planned to deliver Thursday's speech earlier this month, but it was delayed as the administration grappled with a trio of other controversies, including the attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, the IRS' targeting of conservative groups and government monitoring of reporters.

    Also Thursday, Obama reaffirmed his stalled 2008 campaign promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where some terror suspects are held. Lifting the ban on transfers of some Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen is a key step in jumpstarting that process, given that 30 of the 56 prisoners eligible for transfer are Yemeni.

    Obama halted all transfers to Yemen after the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt of an airliner over Detroit. The convicted bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, trained in Yemen.

    Congress and the White House have sparred since Obama took office in 2009 over the fate of the suspects and whether they can be brought to trial on U.S. soil. In the meantime, the detainees have been held for years with diminishing hope that they will charged with crimes or given trials.

    Obama acknowledged that the politics of closing Guantanamo are difficult, but he made the case that "history will cast harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those who fail to end it."

    Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was open to a proposal from Obama on the future of Guantanamo Bay. But that plan has to consist of more than political talking points, he said.

    "This speech was only necessary due to a deeply inconsistent counterterrorism policy, one that maintains it is more humane to kill a terrorist with a drone than detain and interrogate him at Guantanamo Bay," McKeon said

    This week, the Pentagon asked Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo prison. More than 100 of the prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, and the military earlier this month was force-feeding 32 of them to keep them from starving to death.

    Support Your Local PBS Station

    0 0

    Watch Video Former Airman 1st Class Jessica Hinves' career in the Air Force was cut short after suffering from PTSD stemming from an assault by a fellow airman. This is her story. See the full report of sexual assault in the military on Thursday's PBS NewsHour.

    Jessica Hinves grew up in a military family. Her first stepfather was a Marine. Her current stepfather is in the Army. Her uncle did three tours in Vietnam. When she was growing up, her grandfather, an Air Force mechanic, took her to see Delta planes on the tarmac. Even her babysitter was a former Air Force commander.

    "Since my childhood they taught me every citizen should serve if you could, it's your duty. So I grew up hearing that." Hinves said.

    When she turned 25, she left her job at a vineyard in east Texas and acted on her sense of duty to serve. She joined the Air Force. She had every intention of having a lifelong military career.

    "It was very clear this is your job. This is what you do. You do it well, you train in it. You go up in rank, and you retire in 20 years," said Hinves. "To me it was so easy. It was so doable. I loved it."

    Two days before completing training at Nellis Air Force base, she said she was raped by a fellow service member who she had considered a friend. Despite the trauma she felt, she said she had full confidence at the time that the military would carry out justice. To her surprise, her case was never brought to court. And she was discharged against her will from the military for post traumatic stress disorder.

    "I felt betrayed by my unit, by my brother -- he was like a brother to me -- the legal system, which failed to get my case to court," said Hinves "And in general by military for kicking me out for PTSD. I felt betrayed by (Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld for not fixing it."

    According to the 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact, a 34 percent increase from the 2010 report of 19,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact. Only 3,000 of the 2012 cases were reported to military officials.

    Congressman Michael Turner, R-Ohio, who is introducing new legislation to reform the military structure that deals with sexual assault cases, said the system is set up against the victim.

    "It's almost as if the victims are more afraid of the system than the perpetrators. And so we don't have the prevention aspect, the concern of the perpetrators in a system where they feel like they're not going to be held accountable," Turner said. "And the victims feel like when they do come forward and report it they're putting their career at risk."

    After the assault, Hinves could not return to her old life. And instead of finding support in her fellow service members, she found resentment. She said her unit was angry at her for getting her attacker in trouble.

    "I'm really struggling here, I'm having a hard time getting out of bed, I'm having a hard time sleeping because this one incident that I have relived through investigation, it's never died in my mind. I go to sleep and I think about this, everything reminds me about it." said Hinves.

    Hinves also works to lobby congress to pass legislation that will make the judicial process fair for victims of sexual assaults. And the problem of sexual assault in the military has been getting attention on Capitol Hill.

    "This problem is nothing new. It's been going on for decades. And the military has tried to fix this problem for decades, and they're still failing." said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. "We are asking so much of the men and women who serve in our military, we ask them to have courage, and be braver and even die for this country, we should not be asking them to endure a sexual assault or rape at the hands of their colleagues or commanders."

    Hinves is now working as a resource for men and women who are going through what she went through in the military. Hinves has found a place for her in victim advocacy and activism.

    "It feels good to do things for these people because I never had help. It's good to be that person," Hinves said. "How can i tell somebody "no" when I know I can help them."

    Hinves says she uses social media to connect to veterans and soldiers who share her struggles. And she tells her story in hopes that it can affect change in the military.

    "When victims begin to see justice is being had by victims like themselves, they will have the courage to report. The more accountability and transparency you see within the system, you will begin to change the culture," said Gillibrand.


    Report on Military's Growing Number of Sexual Assaults Draws Presidential Rebuke

    Military Sexual Assault Crisis Prompts Congress to Act

    Survivors Share Experiences of Sexual Assault in the Military

    Support Your Local PBS Station


older | 1 | .... | 222 | 223 | (Page 224) | 225 | 226 | .... | 1175 | newer