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- 06/04/13--05:51: _Christie Faces Big ...
- 06/04/13--06:00: _Watch Senate's Hear...
- 06/04/13--06:04: _The Daily Frame
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- 06/04/13--09:46: _The Tuesday Cutline...
- 06/04/13--12:15: _How is Student Debt...
- 06/04/13--14:24: _Military Calls Sexu...
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- 06/05/13--06:00: _Dispatch: Neighbor ...
- 06/05/13--06:49: _The Daily Frame
- 06/05/13--06:50: _Christie Under Fire...
- 06/04/13--05:51: Christie Faces Big Decision After Lautenberg's Death
- 06/04/13--06:00: Watch Senate's Hearing on Sexual Assaults in Military
- 06/04/13--06:04: The Daily Frame
- 06/04/13--08:00: Syria's Conflict: What Happens if Both Sides Get More Weapons?
- 06/04/13--08:42: Ask The Headhunter: Never, Ever Disclose Your Salary to an Employer
- 06/04/13--09:46: The Tuesday Cutline...a Winner!
- 06/04/13--12:15: How is Student Debt Affecting Your Post-Graduate Life?
- 06/04/13--14:24: Military Calls Sexual Assault 'Like a Cancer'
- 06/04/13--14:50: Live Chat with Jeffrey Brown
- 06/05/13--05:55: Clashes on Rise in Lebanon's Tripoli
- 06/05/13--06:00: Dispatch: Neighbor Against Neighbor in Northern Lebanon
- 06/05/13--06:49: The Daily Frame
New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg's death Monday sets up a series of big decisions for New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie and potentially far reaching political consequences.
Lautenberg had been tending to his health back home, returning to Washington for just a handful of votes this year. The Democrat announced in February he would not seek re-election in 2014. That decision left Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone to battle it out in a Democratic primary next year in hopes of sailing to a general election win.
But given that New Jersey has long been a state that Republicans believe is within their sights for federal elections, and the fact Christie could have national ambitions and is up for re-election this fall, for Garden State voters, the picture is anything but clear.
Christie has the power to appoint a replacement, but he could instead opt to call a special election, Politico reports. The story notes Christie's political "mentor" Tom Kean Sr. could be on the short list.
Insiders expect Christie to name a successor as early as Friday and believe there's no doubt he would choose a Republican. That would mean the GOP would hold 46 seats, while 54 lawmakers would caucus with the Senate Democrats.
Will that person aim to run for a full term or serve instead as a placeholder? Will the candidates who thought they had more than a year to prepare be forced to scramble and run a 2013 Senate campaign? Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report explains the state's laws governing special elections and why voters could see two elections in a row.
Incidentally, it's primary day in New Jersey, but neither Christie nor Democrat Barbara Buono face much opposition and are expected to easily capture their respective party nods in primaries. Christie is so far ahead there's little risk to his appointing a Republican in this blue state.
The New York Times details Christie's challenge:
Mr. Christie, whose popularity soared after Hurricane Sandy, is so eager to avoid appearing on the same ballot as Mr. Booker, according to Republican insiders, that he is considering two alternatives to a November election for Mr. Lautenberg's successor.
Each carries a potential political cost, and the dispute could easily be challenged in court. The option that is being pushed by many in Mr. Christie's own party would be to name a Republican to hold the seat and then delay an election on a replacement until 2014. This would give his national party an unexpected gift: a reliable vote in the Senate -- for a year and a half, at least -- from a state that has not elected a Republican to the upper house in 41 years. But it would also open Mr. Christie up to allegations of sidestepping the electoral process. The alternative, lawyers in both parties said, would be for Mr. Christie to set a primary election as early as August, which would mean a special election in October.
This would leave Democrats in a stronger position to win the seat. Mr. Booker, in particular, benefits from a high national profile and strong fund-raising, though he would be quite likely to face a primary challenge. But it would also open Mr. Christie to accusations that he was wasting some $24 million in taxpayer money by holding those two extra elections ahead of the regular November balloting for self-interested political reasons. He also risks alienating Republican donors, whom he needs to woo. Mr. Lautenberg's death came a few days before Mr. Christie is to attend a meeting of some of the biggest Republican fund-raisers, some of whom believe that Mr. Christie's embrace of President Obama after the hurricane damaged their party's nominee, Mitt Romney.
The story sets up the political trash-talk Christie should expect until he makes his decision:
Some Democrats said they believed Mr. Christie could see his support among Democrats and independents erode if he appointed a Republican to hold the seat beyond November. "I seriously doubt he would want to have to deal with a lawsuit in his own election year, especially a lawsuit that he might lose," said one senior Democratic official who requested anonymity in order to not be seen as antagonizing the governor.
Matt Katz of the Philadelphia Inquirer details Christie's options, including a long list of potential replacements.
In respective statements Monday, the two men who hope to be the next Democratic senator in New Jersey heaped praise on Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran in the Senate.
Pallone called Lautenberg a "moral guidepost on so many critical issues," and said his life "defined public service and what it means to live the American dream."
Booker dubbed the late senator a "true champion" who became "a model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office."
Monday night Gwen Ifill interviewed Herb Jackson of The Record in Bergen County, N.J., about Lautenberg's legacy and Christie's options. Here is the obituary the longtime political reporter penned about the 89-year-old.
Watch their conversation here or below:Watch Video
And don't miss Steve Kornacki's rich tale of Lautenberg's life for Salon.
President Barack Obama will name will name three jurists to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Tuesday, setting up a filibuster showdown. The move will fill vacancies on the panel, which is split with nine justices appointed by Republicans and four by Democrats.
Are President Obama's appointees using secret email addresses?
In his first appearance on Capitol Hill Monday, acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said the agency violated the public trust. The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman sets up the hearing. We will live-stream the next hearing Tuesday as Werfel speaks to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Washington Post's Paul Kane gets inside the fractious House Republican Conference and lawmakers' competing agendas.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., announced Monday she has lung cancer and will begin treatment.
Justice Department officials said they never intended to prosecute journalist James Rosen.
It's Election Day for voters in Missouri's 8th Congressional District.
White House press secretary Jay Carney got a little snarky when presented with House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's slam that he is a "paid liar."
Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe outraised Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the latest fundraising period.
First lady Michelle Obama is hosting a fundraiser for McAuliffe.
Stu Rothenberg identifies two Democratic challengers with, at the very least, candidacies you'll want to watch (with one great Brooklyn accent), as well as a decent shot at unseating GOP incumbents in Congress.
If you thought the ricin investigation couldn't get any stranger, you were wrong.
Emily Heil reminds us that it's intern season in Washington.
NEWSHOUR ROUNDUPIn an unusual split decision, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that collection of DNA samples during arrests is no different from the practice of fingerprinting. Marcia Coyle explains the ruling on the Fourth Amendment case.
We also took your questions about the case on our Facebook page.
Ever wonder whether you -- or your parents -- could be accepting more than one Social Security benefit at a time? Our Social Security expert Larry Kotlikoff addresses that question.
Yes, Gwen Ifill was the answer to a crossword puzzle question.
Christie's 1st 2nd and 3rd choice for senate seat is Tom Kean Sr., Tom Kean Sr. and Tom Kean Sr. But he wants Kean to agree to run in spec— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) June 4, 2013
Overlooked: Frank Lautenberg gave $90k to George McGovern in 1972, and subsequently landed on Richard Nixon's enemies list.— Reid Wilson (@HotlineReid) June 3, 2013
Simone Pathe contributed to this report.
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Top military brass, military lawyers and victims' advocates testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday on the issue of sexual assaults in the military.
Updated 5:23 p.m. ET | Watch Part 1 of the hearing:Video streaming by Ustream Part 2: Video streaming by Ustream Part 3:
The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing at 9:30 a.m. EDT on legislation dealing with sexual assaults. One such measure (S. 967) proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would take all serious crimes including sexual assault investigations in the Armed Forces out of the control of the chain of command and instead have military prosecutors decide which cases to try. The intent is to encourage men and women to report such attacks without fear of retaliation.
Those testifying at the hearing include:
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Read his full statement)
Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the Army (Statement)
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations (Statement)
Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps (Statement)
Gen. Mark Welsh III, chief of Staff of the Air Force (Statement)
Adm. Robert Papp Jr., commandant of the Coast Guard (Statement)
Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, judge advocate general of the Army
Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, judge advocate general of the Navy (Statement)
Lt. Gen. Richard Harding, judge advocate general of the Air Force
Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, staff judge advocate to the commandant of the Marine Corps
Rear Adm. Frederick Kenney Jr., judge advocate general of the Coast Guard
Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Col. Donna Martin, commander, 202nd Military Police Group
Capt. Stephen Coughlin, commodore, Destroyer Squadron TWO
Col. Tracy King, commander, Combat Logistics Regiment 15
Col. Jeannie Leavitt, commander, 4th Fighter Wing
Anu Bhagwati, executive director and co-founder, Service Women's Action Network
Maj. Gen. John Altenburg Jr. (Ret.), chairman, American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law
Additional Documents from the Committee
Related ResourcesCongress and Defense Department officials debate how to reduce sexual assaults in the military: Watch Video
View more of our world and military coverage.
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Models pose in a tableaux vivant, or 'living picture," of Frederic S. Remington's "A Dash for the Timber" during the 81st annual Festival of the Arts Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, Calif. The event features works of art recreated by real people through costumes, makeup, lighting, props and backdrops. Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images.
Shelling in Houla in Syria's Homs province on April 26. Photo by Maysara al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images.
Syria's civil war reportedly has killed more than 90,000 people, and it looks like both sides are on the way to acquiring heavier weaponry, even as the United States and Russia are attempting to bring them together for talks.
The European Union is on track to letting an arms embargo on rebels expire this year. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Russia is supplying the army with anti-aircraft rockets.
These developments are occurring as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are pressing to get both sides to reach a negotiated political settlement at a Geneva 2 convention this month. However, making the situation more complex, the Syrian government says any deal must pass a referendum within the country, and the Syrian National Coalition wants a guarantee before the meeting that Assad will leave office.
What will equipping the rebels and Syrian army with heavier weaponry mean for the more than two-year conflict? We asked several specialists on Syria for their thoughts:
Elizabeth O'Bagy Senior research analyst who specializes in Syrian politics and security at the Institute for the Study of War
Despite the expiration of the EU arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, it remains unlikely that any European countries will actively look to arm opposition forces. Instead, the decision was meant to put pressure on the Assad regime ahead of the upcoming negotiations.
However, the intended pressure seems to have backfired, and instead the decision has in fact allowed for a more aggressive stance from Russia and the Syrian government in moving forward on their own arms contracts. It is clear that while the EU is not ready to arm the opposition, Russia is ready to arm the Assad regime. To this end, the regime's calculated pattern of escalation will continue while the international community struggles to respond.
With the current balance of power on the ground, it is unlikely that the Syrian government will feel enough pressure to bargain in good faith and make concessions during the upcoming negotiations. While undoubtedly an increase in arms to either side of the conflict will escalate the violence inside Syria and could have the potential of fueling a sort of arms race with dangerous consequences, something must be done to create greater military parity on the ground. Negotiations in Geneva will amount to little given the current power asymmetry. Providing weapons to the opposition forces isn't meant to enable the rebels to overwhelmingly defeat the Assad regime, but instead to achieve some military gains on the ground that would make Assad more willing to concede.
Overall, Russia's decision to fulfill its arms contract to Syria means the continuation of Assad's military onslaught, while the lack of a decision by the EU to actively arm the opposition means that the rebels' inferiority on the battlefield will result in the death of Geneva negotiations and the likely dominance of terrorist fighters in Syria.
Joshua Landis Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Oklahoma
More arms will certainly lead to more killing in the short run, but if the Western countries are willing to go toe to toe with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, they can certainly give better arms and provide more lethal air power, which is what the rebels are asking for.
The question is whether the rebels can be trained to use them more effectively than the Syria Army and Hezbollah and whether the rebels can unify to establish a responsible and centrally commanded fighting force. The record of factionalism and infighting among the rebel militias, which some say exceed 1,000 in number, is not reassuring. What is more, the most effective rebel fighting groups are Islamist and decidedly anti-Western. The West has a hard task ahead in distinguishing which forces are "moderate" and in turning them into a unified, dependable and effective fighting force.
Steven Heydemann Senior adviser for Middle East initiatives at the U.S. Institute of Peace
For much of the past year, debate in Europe and the United States about whether to provide weapons to the Syrian opposition has pitted those who argue that increasing military pressure on the Assad regime is needed to change the regime's strategic calculus and compel it to enter negotiations against those concerned that more weapons will simply make things worse.
Until recently, the resilience and recalcitrance of the Assad regime, the spread of violence to neighboring states, and a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis within Syria were eroding resistance to arming Syria's rebels. Among EU member states and in the United States, concerns about arming the opposition faded as conditions on the ground made it increasingly difficult to argue that Western weapons could possibly make things worse.
John Kerry's appointment as secretary of state has upended this debate. Instead of using weapons to increase pressure on the Assad regime and force it to the table, Kerry is holding out the threat of providing weapons in the future as an inducement to the Assad regime to negotiate. Negotiate now, or we'll send weapons later has replaced the position that sending weapons now will lead to meaningful negotiations later.
This is a significant shift. It suggests that the EU's recent decision to permit its embargo on weapons to Syria to lapse will not bring about any near-term change in the current posture of EU states, which, like the U.S., refuse to arm the opposition, at least until it is clear whether Kerry's diplomatic initiative will succeed or not. As a result, the current imbalance in military capacity between the regime and the opposition is only likely to grow, to the opposition's detriment.
Kerry's shift is also very risky. In the past month, the Assad regime has gone on the offensive. With direct military support from Hezbollah and Iran, and with Russia providing diplomatic cover and threatening additional arms shipments to the regime, the opposition has been pushed out of several strategic locations; its hold on others is under attack. As the regime gains ground, and gains confidence, the idea of changing its strategic calculus seems increasingly implausible.
Further, to prevent Western weapons from reaching the opposition, all Assad has to do is participate in a negotiating process, which is easily subject to delay and manipulation -- tactics the regime has mastered -- while continuing to advance on the ground. Since the U.S. and its European allies have not provided any clarity about the conditions under which the U.S. and its European allies would conclude that the negotiations have failed, they risk giving the Assad regime veto power over a Western decision to arm the rebels.
It is not far-fetched to imagine a scenario in which, under the cover of negotiations, the Syrian uprising is gradually repressed by the combined power of the regime and its Lebanese and Iranian allies, using Russian weapons. Are the United States and the EU prepared to accept this outcome?
Andrew Tabler Senior fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute
Russia's supplying of the Syrian regime with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles would make it much more difficult for anyone but the Syrian regime to fly over Syria and directly curtail U.S. and allies options in setting up no-fly or safe zones. It would allow the regime to continue to use the full extent of its arsenal to shoot its way out of this crisis.
The introduction of more weapons to the opposition will be complicated. On the one hand, more light and more sophisticated anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons will make the rebels more effective against Assad's forces and help them push Assad's forces back. The downside risk of this move, of course, is the possibility that such weapons could fall into the hands of Salafist and extremist Islamic groups active in Syria, including Jebhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliate.
But Washington and Europe are not going into this blind. For the better part of a year, Washington and its allies have evaluated and vetted armed groups in Syria. Many of those groups are included in the list of leaders in the Supreme Military Council (SMC), a collection of commanders and other army defectors organized along five fronts throughout Syria. Had this groups been backed last summer, as was originally proposed by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, among others, is likely Assad would be in far worse a position and the more moderate members of the SMC would be in a stronger position.
Unfortunately, Washington dithered far too long and those on the far right end of the Islamist spectrum grew in stature and capability as they came to the Syrian people's aid when no one else would, at least in terms of lethal assistance. Some of those inside the SMC have shifted toward the right as well and have deepening relationships with Salafists and other who could have closer relationships with Jebhat al-Nusra and groups like it.
So what should Washington do? As I argue in "Syria's Collapse", an essay in the July-August edition of Foreign Affairs, Washington should experiment with tried and trusted non-Salafists within the SMC structure, most notably more secular provincial military council leaders who have connections to Washington and have experience dealing with and imposing limits on Salafists and other Islamists. This move, combined with enforcing red lines on Assad concerning chemical weapons and surface to surface missiles and establishing safe zones, are likely to make negotiations with Russia much more fruitful.
It's time Washington realized that the diplomatic track, while important to keep open, is something that is likely to work later rather than sooner in solving the Syria crisis.
Related ResourcesHenri Barkey of Lehigh University and Steve Heydemann of the U.S. Institute for Peace discussed how the international community could collaborate on ending the Syrian civil war in this May 16 PBS NewsHour report: Watch Video
Filmmaker Olly Lambert talked about his travels to Syria including the Orontes River Valley, where Sunnis live on one side of the river and Alawites on the other, in this April 9 interview.
See all of the NewsHour's Syria coverage.
This week, senior correspondent Margaret Warner is reporting from Lebanon on the effects of the Syrian conflict.
By Nick Corcodilos
Photo courtesy of Ojo Images.
In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
Question: I read your article titled "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps," and I agree completely that there is no good reason (from the employee's perspective) to disclose your current salary to a future employer. A competent business should be able to independently assess a prospective employee's worth without being biased by another data point. Judging from your article, however, you may not be aware that employers require salary information.
For instance, online applications frequently make the "current salary" field mandatory. You cannot proceed without entering a numeric value. Human resources representatives almost always ask about current salary during the initial phone interview, and your refusal to follow protocol could end the interviewing.
How should applicants deal with questions that require an answer about current salary? I am confident that applicants who refuse to answer, no matter how professionally, will have little luck advancing in the application process.
Nick Corcodilos: Employers don't really require your salary history to hire you. But many do like to bully you into disclosing private, confidential information that will give them an unfair negotiating position. So they call it "the policy."
I would never, ever disclose my current salary or salary history to a prospective employer even if it means ending the interview process. That is my advice to job hunters.
Employers use online applications for two reasons. One is that they are expedient. Those poor HR staff have no way to process all the millions of inappropriate applications they solicit from people they don't know. The other reason is that automated forms enable them to intimidate you into sharing information that is none of their business. When employers re-brand their rudeness as "policy," many job applicants will go along. But not all.MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: The Ultimate Test of Any College Degree
Ask The Headhunter readers tell me they say no to the salary question without getting kicked out of the interview process. There are plenty of employers who will respect that position; the rest are playing games. What makes you think playing games will lead to a good job and a good salary with a good employer?
The article you refer to is actually a very abbreviated version of my PDF book, "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps." Here are a few tips from the book about how to deal with inappropriate salary requests from employers. The basic idea is, either walk away entirely, or approach from a direction that avoids such silly obstacles.Don't apply for jobs using online forms. Does that sound crazy? It's not at all. Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Eliminate that urge to take the easy way -- avoid the forms. That's how to avoid the salary field! Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Introduce yourself to someone who will refer you to the manager without salary being the first topic of conversation! Politely but firmly decline to disclose your salary history. Substitute this: "I'd be glad to help you assess what I'd be worth to your business by showing you what I can do for you but my salary is personal and confidential, just as the salaries of your own employees are." Lead with your salary requirements. See "How to decide how much you want." While employers have no business knowing your last salary, they have a right to know whether your desired salary fits the range they want to spend. Or... Ask the employer to tell you the range for the position, so that you both know you're not wasting your time. Because a posted position has been defined, the salary should be no secret. (I prefer this approach to the previous one.)
You can take a strong position with any employer by putting it all on the line. Tell the employer, "Look, I won't tell you my past salary because I'd like to have an honest, fair negotiation based on what I can do to make your business more successful. If I can't demonstrate my value, then you should not make me an offer or hire me. We can part as friends. But I'd like to show you how I can contribute enough to your business that you'll want to pay me well to do this job." See "That's why it's called compensation."
That's a friendly, assertive way to continue the interview process. If an employer still demands your salary history, I'd walk away. Don't participate in a one-sided negotiation that is not a win-win proposition.
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?" and "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps."
Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!
Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow Paul on Twitter.Follow @PaulSolman
It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, isn't it? Before we get to this week's Tuesday Cutline winner, here's the original caption to Attila Kisbenedek's/AFP's/Getty Images's photo:
"A young girl rests in a cage as her dogs stand on top of it, waiting for their competition during the World Dog Show in Hungexpo area of Budapest on May 16, 2013. About 17 000 dogs are designated for the world competition from more than 70 countries."
It was "ruff" choosing a winner this week. Most of you implied that these canines were fed up with authority or in cahoots to take over the world. But our winner asked an unanswered age-old question. Congrats Joan Harris! You'll be winning a mug for your caption:
"Who let the dogs out?"
Who indeed? Thanks for playing along everyone. Join us next week for another Tuesday Cutline!
About the Tuesday Cutline: Every other Tuesday, we post a photo. You compose a witty/ funny/ creative caption, submit it by Friday at 5 p.m. ET in the comments section or on the NewsHour's or Art Beat's pages. The following Tuesday we pick one winner. Everyone celebrates.
"How do we make sure that our workers earn the skills and education they need to do [their] jobs?"
That's the question President Obama posed during a press conference last Friday, where he stressed the importance of keeping student loans from doubling in July.
For many, tuition was the decision maker on which school to attend. For others, it was the reason they had to drop out of school. And for those who finished their undergraduate and graduate careers, student debt is a long-term bill to pay.
PBS NewsHour Facebook follower Jeffrey Malone said that "education and tuition is not the problem. The problem is there are no jobs."
It was a sentiment echoed on the NewsHour thread by Singh Law Firm who said, "I am a paralegal and will be in student loan debt for the rest of my life even though I only owe approximately $55,000. The reason is I can't find enough work as a paralegal to pay my bills, let alone my loans back."
Kristy Mooney Graves said she and her husband pay $500 per month in student loans. "We are proud of our education," she wrote. She added that she and her husband "certainly have sacrificed for it."
View more responses below, and join the conversation on student debt and the cost of education in the comments section or by tweeting #EduCost to @NewsHour.
RelatedPresidential Push to Stop Sky-High Student Loan Interest Rates
WASHINGTON -- Military leaders said Tuesday that sexual assault in the ranks is "like a cancer" that could destroy the force, but they rejected far-reaching congressional efforts to strip commanders of some authority in meting out justice.
Seated side-by-side at a long witness table, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of each branch of the military and Pentagon lawyers testified on what is widely viewed as an epidemic of sexual assault plaguing the services.
Outraged by recent high-profile cases and overwhelming statistics, lawmakers have moved aggressively on legislation to address the scourge of sexual assault. They summoned the military brass to answer their questions at a jam-packed hearing.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., challenged the military leaders, telling them not all commanders are objective, with some who don't even want women in their ranks and some who fail to understand the serious of some offenses.
"Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape," Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand has proposed legislation that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. That judgment would rest with seasoned trial counsels who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or above.
Her legislation, which has 18 cosponsors including four Republicans, also would take away a commander's authority to convene a court-martial. That responsibility would be given to new and separate offices outside the victim's chain of command.
She said U.S. allies such as Israel, Britain and Germany have a similar process.
Congress has acted in prior years to ensure the aggressive investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults, said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., but more needs to be done. The committee is considering seven bills to deal with sexual assault.
The problem of sexual assault "is of such a scope and magnitude that it has become a stain on our military," said Levin, who has not endorsed any of the bills.
The military leaders offered no disagreement about the impact on the services.
"Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force - a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force," said Army Gen. Ray Odierno. "It's imperative that we take a comprehensive approach to prevent attacks, to protect our people, and where appropriate, to prosecute wrongdoing and hold people accountable."
While acknowledging the problem and accepting that legislation is inevitable, military leaders insisted that commanders keep their authority to handle sexual assault cases.
"Reducing command responsibility could adversely affect the ability of the commander to enforce professional standards and ultimately, to accomplish the mission," Dempsey told the committee.
The four-star chiefs told the committee they support Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's April recommendation to change the Uniform Code of Military Justice and largely strip commanding officers of the power to toss out a verdict. The change is included in several of the Senate proposals and likely will be adopted by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday in their version of the annual defense policy bill.
But service chiefs expressed concern over making broader changes to the military's legal code that would undercut the ability of commanders to discipline the troops they need.
Voices rising, female members of the committee tangled with military leaders, complaining that the military's reporting process fails to recognize the seriousness of rape, sometimes equating it with incidents of sexual harassment.
"This isn't about sex," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told the panel, but about "crimes of domination and violence."
Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, said a commander's ability to punish quickly, visibly and at the unit level is essential to maintaining discipline within the ranks.
"Without equivocation, I believe maintaining the central role of the commander in our military justice system is absolutely critical," Odierno said.
The Air Force's top officer, Gen. Mark Welsh, said airmen should have no doubt about who will hold them accountable.
"Commanders having the authority to hold airmen criminally accountable for misconduct ... is crucial to building combat-ready, disciplined units," Welsh said.
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2012, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel. While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he cannot overstate his "disgust and disappointment" with continued reports of sexual assaults in the ranks and said they could dissuade prospective recruits from joining the armed forces.
Despite the military's efforts to stop sexual assaults in the ranks, Dempsey said in response to a question from McCain that there are gaps in the way the services screen prospective recruits that could allow an individual with a history of sex-related crimes to join the military.
"There are currently, in my judgment senator, inadequate protections for precluding that from happening," Dempsey said. "So a sex offender could in fact find their way into the armed forces of the United States."
Last week, the Pentagon said the U.S. Naval Academy is investigating allegations that three football team members sexually assaulted a female midshipman at an off-campus house more than a year ago. A lawyer for the woman says she was "ostracized" on campus after she reported it.
In recent weeks, a soldier at the U.S. Military Academy was charged with secretly photographing women, including in a bathroom. The Air Force officer who led the service's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit was arrested on charges of groping a woman. And the manager of the Army's sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., was relieved of his post after his arrest in a domestic dispute with his ex-wife.
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, top Republican on the committee, said he was wary of proposals to restrict the authority of commanders to discipline their troops.
"Fundamentally we cannot abolish sexual assault by legislation alone as you point out. Eliminating sexual assault requires commanders to drive cultural change and achieve accountability," Inhofe said.
The power of a commander under military law to convene courts-martial and uphold or dismiss their verdicts dates back to the Articles of War adopted by the Continental Congress in 1775.
But it wasn't until much later in the nation's history that service members were allowed to appeal a conviction to a higher military court. That access to what Hagel has described as a "robust system of appeal rights" led to his recommendation to take away a commander's power to grant clemency in court-martial cases.
The push by members of Congress to further restrict the authority of commanders stems primarily from a recent case in which Air Force Lt. Gen. James Franklin overturned a guilty verdict against a lieutenant colonel convicted on charges of abusive sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault.
In cautioning against making significant changes to military law without careful consideration, Welsh told the committee that complete reversals of court-martial findings in Air Force sexual assault cases are rare. Franklin's decision is the only one out of 327 cases over the last five years, he said.
Congress and Defense Department officials debate how to reduce sexual assaults in the military.
View more of our world and military coverage.
Forty years ago, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer reporting on the Watergate scandal laid the groundwork for what would become the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, known today as the PBS NewsHour.
Jeffrey Brown interviews ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.
Over the next few months, you will have the chance to chat with the NewsHour's senior correspondents in our live chat series. Learn about the milestone moments in their careers, their start at the NewsHour and their take on the state of media and global politics.
Last week, Judy Woodruff kicked-off our series. This Wednesday, join Jeffrey Brown at 1:30 p.m. EDT for his live chat. Leave your comments below for him or tweet #AskJeff to @NewsHour or @JeffreyBrown.
JEFFREY BROWN: A summer showdown now looms in Washington over filling key federal judgeships. The president set things in motion today with his nominees to take seats on one key appeals court.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I am doing today my job. I need the Senate to do its job.
JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama lashed out at Senate Republicans today for playing politics in delaying votes on past judicial nominations. He did so at a White House Rose Garden event, announcing three nominees to fill vacancies on the 11-member U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It's often referred to as the nation's second highest court, ruling on high-profile cases of national significance.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote. As a result, my judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor. So, this is not about principled opposition. This is about political obstruction.
JEFFREY BROWN: Today marked the first time the president has held an event to announce nominees to any bench other than the Supreme Court.
His choices include Patricia Ann Millett, a D.C. appellate lawyer, Georgetown University law professor Cornelia Pillard, and U.S. District Court Judge Robert Leon Wilkins.
The nominations come as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was threatening to change Senate procedure to eliminate judicial filibusters. Today, though, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Republicans won't go down without a fight.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: We don't intend to be intimidated by him with a constant threat to break the rules in order to change the rules. If that's what's going to happen, we want to know it now, not some other time. Now.
JEFFREY BROWN: WNYC reporter Todd Zwillich:
TODD ZWILLICH, WNYC Radio: Well, by making all three nominations now, President Obama is actually, in a way, teaming up with Majority Leader Harry Reid. He's saying, here are my three judges, and increasing the pressure on Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to either give these nominees and some executive branch nominees up-or-down votes or explain why they won't.
JEFFREY BROWN: Last month, the Senate unanimously approved one of the president's nominees to the D.C. Circuit, Sri Srinivasan. It was the first confirmation to that court in seven years.
The heated debate goes beyond the Capitol to groups who closely follow courts and the judicial process.
We're joined now by Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. She was at the White House today. And Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, which is critical of the president's actions.
And welcome to both of you.
CARRIE SEVERINO, Judicial Crisis Network: Thank you so much.
JEFFREY BROWN: Caroline Fredrickson, let me start with you.
Your group pushed the White House to make these nomination, right, all three at one time?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: That's right, all three at ...
JEFFREY BROWN: Why was it so important?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, this is a really important court.
This is one of the courts that I think people say very frequently is second only to the Supreme Court. And in some ways, it's actually as important or more so, because it decides so many more cases.
And the kind of cases that go to the D.C. Circuit are some of the most significant in our country, including -- including major agency appeals, some of the most important environmental regulations, health care, financial regulations, workers' rights, voting, national security, you name it. The most important cases go to the D.C. Circuit.
And it's critical that it can operate at full capacity so that our nation's justice can be done.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Carrie Severino, one prominent Republican senator, Charles Grassley, has already criticized the president for what he termed packing the court. Explain why filling the vacancies is packing the court.
CARRIE SEVERINO: Well, exactly.
As Caroline said -- I agree -- it's an incredibly important court, but the president is in a situation where there are numerous federal emergencies on the bench. There's a lot of vacancies that aren't done. And instead of filling those vacancies -- he has got 70 percent of the vacancies empty right now -- he's chosen to focus on the D.C. Circuit in what is really a blatant political move.
He wants to fill up that court because his administrative agenda is going to be coming through that court. Right now, the court is perfectly balanced at four Republican and four Democratic nominees, and has one of the lowest caseloads in the country. I clerked in the D.C. Circuit. I can definitely say from experience it's a very low caseload. They end up canceling a lot of hearings because they don't -- or sittings because they don't actually have cases to fill them.
So focus on the places where there are judicial emergencies, not trying to just fill up the D.C. Circuit so it will rubber-stamp his agenda.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK, several things in that. Respond. Go ahead.
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, I have heard this argument many times.
It's sort of Orwellian in many ways, because the reason why the vacancies exist in the other courts is because the Republicans in the Senate have been delaying for so long. And they delay on the front end. They don't send district court nominees to the White House. They delay when they don't send their blue slips -- technical term about the Senate Judiciary and how it processes. But, basically, it's like a permission slip for the Senate Judiciary Committee to actually process district court nominations and circuit court nominations.
And then they delay before they have a vote before the full Senate. And this is a president who's faced the longest delays from Senate Judiciary hearing to the floor vote of any president in history. So I think, yes, of course, there are vacancies.
And I would say the other point is that it was -- certainly, there was a strong push by the Republicans, including Sen. Grassley and the other current members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the leadership, to fill all 11 seats on the D.C. Circuit when President Bush was president, and they succeeded in doing so.
The only change now that we have President Obama and not President Bush.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask you about this, because when you said in your first answer that this is a blatant political move, you called it, isn't in a sense that the way the system works? The president gets to put out his nominees, and one would expect that they might, I don't know, have -- be in alignment with what he thinks?
CARRIE SEVERINO: Absolutely.
A president can nominate the people he expects to line up with his ideology. But these are the same Judiciary Committee members who were saying at the time of Peter Keisler's nomination, for example -- it's amusing the president was saying today one of these nominations has been there ever since it was vacated by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Well, here was there in the Senate while that -- that nominee was sitting there 900 days, didn't even get a hearing. When we talk about judicial nominees having a long period from hearing to confirmation, that's really just cherry-picking one step in what you have accurately characterized as a very complicated process.
Data from the Brookings Institution clarifies that the Obama nominees on average from nomination to confirmation have 283 -- or 240 days. Bush's nominees were 283. So, actually, it's faster if you look at the whole process.
JEFFREY BROWN: But I'm asking you about the principle of it. You have been a clerk yourself in both the court and the Supreme Court. So the principle of appointing -- whether it's a Democrat or Republican, what is wrong -- why is that packing the court?
CARRIE SEVERINO: Well, the D.C. Circuit, actually, those spaces are not really -- at a time we have got a budget crunch, there's actually been a move some of those seats to other courts. It's been done before.
And in terms of the resources spent looking at those nominations, that should be spent on places where there are serious judicial emergencies, not at the D.C. Circuit. This is not a place -- this is somewhere where actually there's more seats than are necessary. Why are we spending our resources there, rather than the courts where you frequently have district judges that have to sit in because there aren't enough circuit judges to hear the case?
JEFFREY BROWN: What about, to your side, that -- the argument that the Democrats often did the same to Republicans?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, so, but ...
JEFFREY BROWN: And we just had Sri Srinivasan. He did get through without -- unanimously.
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Right, to the eighth seat of the 11-seat D.C. Circuit.
And it's clear there's politics in this. It's a political process. But we do have a president who got elected. So, I would remind us again that Thomas Griffith was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, to the 11th seat under George Bush when the case load was actually lower than it is now. And we certainly had economic problems at the time.
I think the only real significant change here is who's the president. And I -- it's hard for me to understand how court-packing now is filling the existing vacancies, when President Bush was capable of doing that. And I would say the Federal Judiciary Conference, chaired by Chief Justice Roberts, just two months ago recommended that all 11 seats of the D.C. Circuit be filled.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just thinking about Sri Srinivasan going through recently, would any of these current -- three new nominees generate opposition or controversy if they were put forward individually, rather than all together?
CARRIE SEVERINO: Well, I think putting them through all together is clearly a publicity stunt on the part of the president and has been ...
JEFFREY BROWN: You think he's throwing it at the Republicans?
CARRIE SEVERINO: I think it was Senator Schumer who said, look, you -- holding up nominations one at a time would be one thing, but this will force them to lay down and decide what they're going to do all at once.
And so it's clearly a strategic move. I think what makes it like court-packing -- we're referencing of course President Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court to get his agenda through -- is the fact that even the president's allies have said the reason we need these people on the D.C. Circuit is not because of workload, but because -- they didn't say not because of workload. They said because we need to have someone who is going to be approving the president's agenda.
And his agenda is moving straight through the regulatory system and going to be going through that administrative process. So that's exactly same thing that President Roosevelt was trying to do when he was packing the court. It's a very similar parallel.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just very briefly, do you expect that this will end in a clash in the Senate over the procedure and the rules?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, no doubt.
But I do have to respond to how court-packing can be filling existing vacancies. That is just so Orwellian, I just -- it can't even ...
CARRIE SEVERINO: Chuck Schumer has used that exact term. Pat Leahy has used that term, so these are -- that term has been used by both sides. That doesn't mean ...
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Not to fill existing vacancies.
But I do think there will be a clash. There's definitely -- Mitch McConnell made it clear today that he is going to fight. And I hope that Leader Reid does the same.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Caroline Fredrickson, Carrie Severino, thank you both very much.
CARRIE SEVERINO: Thanks.
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Thank you.
KWAME HOLMAN: Conservative groups spoke out today about the abuse they say they endured at the hands of the IRS. It was their first appearance at a congressional hearing since the controversy broke.
MAN: Good morning.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans in charge of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee called six organizations scrutinized by the IRS when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Representatives of the groups told of waiting up to three years for their applications to be approved and having to answer questions about their political views.
Becky Gerritson leads a tea party group in Alabama.
BECKY GERRITSON, Wetumpka Tea Party: Government agents made invasive and excessive demands for information they were not entitled to. The individuals who sought to intimidate us were acting as they thought they should: in a government culture that has little respect for its citizens.
KWAME HOLMAN: And John Eastman said the IRS disclosed confidential information about supporters of his anti-gay marriage group, the National Organization for Marriage.
JOHN EASTMAN, National Organization for Marriage: The effort seems to have been designed to subject our donors to abuse, to intimidation and more significantly for our purposes to chill them from donating again so we can keep up the political fight that we're in the middle of.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats joined in criticizing the IRS' handling of the applications, but Washington State's Jim McDermott argued the groups were highly political, so some questions were justified.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT, D-Wash.: None of your organizations were kept from organizing or silenced. We're talking about whether or not the American taxpayers will subsidize your work. We're talking about a tax break.
KWAME HOLMAN: The IRS also faced new criticism for spending. A Treasury Department inspector general reported some 200 employee conferences held by the agency between 2010 and 2012 cost $50 million dollars. That included one training video showing workers dancing and another parodying the 1960s TV show "Star Trek."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie moved today to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat with a special election in October. The seat was held by veteran Democrat Frank Lautenberg. He died yesterday at the age of 89. Christie could have named a temporary replacement to serve through 2014 and finish out Lautenberg's term, but he said that wouldn't be fair to voters.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: There are going to be a lot of consequential things that are going to be decided in the United -- or could be decided in the United States Senate in that 18 months. And I just thought it was too long a period of time for any person to have the sole authority to pick who represents us in the United States Senate.
I believe the people have the right to make that decision. They need to have a voice and a choice.
KWAME HOLMAN: Christie said he will appoint someone to serve as New Jersey senator until the October vote. The governor himself is up for reelection in this year's general election set for November.
A Colorado judge today accepted a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in last summer's mass shooting at a movie theater. James Holmes appeared this morning to enter the plea. He's charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. His action today sets the stage for a long mental evaluation before any trial.
The deputy prime minister of Turkey has issued a partial apology for a crackdown on anti-government protesters. He acknowledged today that police initially used excessive force in raiding a sit-in at a park. But he said thousands of others who battled police do not deserve an apology. Demonstrators were out in force again today in Ankara, but this time, riot police handed them flowers in the same colors as the Turkish flag.
There were new assertions today of chemical weapons use in Syria. A United Nations commission of inquiry reported it has reasonable grounds to believe at least four such attacks have taken place. The commission could not determine who used the weapons. But it did say both government and rebel forces have committed war crimes.
Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro spoke in Geneva.
PAULO PINHEIRO, Chair, Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria: Crimes that shock the conscience have become a daily reality. Humanity has been the casualty of this war. Syria needs not a military surge. Syria needs a diplomatic surge.
KWAME HOLMAN: Separately, the French government said it has confirmed sarin nerve gas has been used multiple times in Syria, at least once by Assad regime forces.
In Egypt, a court sentenced 16 Americans to up to five years in prison for using foreign funds to foment unrest. All worked for nonprofit organizations, and all but one already had left the country. They were sentenced in absentia. The judge also ordered that the offices of several of the nonprofits be closed.
The death toll from floods in Europe rose to at least 10 today, even as floodwaters receded in the hard-hit city of Passau, Germany. Rain-swollen rivers across southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic still were rising in other cities. Thousands of German soldiers were called in to help sandbag and get people out of the flood zone.
Wall Street gave ground today amid questions about how much longer the Federal Reserve's stimulus efforts will last. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 76 points to close at 15,177. The Nasdaq fell 20 points to close at 3,445.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Gwen.
GWEN IFILL: The military's top brass crowded into a Senate hearing room today to defend themselves against charges that they are doing too little to put an end to sexual assault in the military, at issue, who can be trusted to fix the problem.
GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, U.S. Army Chief of Staff: Two weeks ago, I told my commanders that combating sexual assault and sexual harassment within our ranks is our number one priority.
GWEN IFILL: Army Gen. Ray Odierno and the other service chiefs presented a united front on the damage done by sexual assault. But they also opposed any move to strip commanders of authority over prosecuting those cases.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman: As we consider further reforms, the role of the commanders should remain central.
RAYMOND ODIERNO: Without equivocation, I believe maintaining the central role of commander in our military justice system is absolutely critical to any solution.
ADM. JONATHAN GREENERT, Chief of Naval Operations: We have found that successful, effective, and permanent changes in our military are best done through our commanders, the chain of command.
GEN. JAMES AMOS, Marine Corps Commandant: Commanding officers never delegate responsibility. They should never be forced to delegate their authority.
GWEN IFILL: The bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, sharply disagreed.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: Not all commanders are objective. Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the first. Not every single commander believes what a sexual assault is. Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape, because they merge all of these crimes together.
GWEN IFILL: Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill pursued that theme, contending the problem goes much deeper than military leaders comprehend.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-Mo.: This isn't about sex. This is about assaultive domination and violence. And as long as those two get mushed together, you all are not going to be as successful as you need to be at getting after the most insidious part of this, which is the predators in your ranks that are sullying the great name of our American military.
GWEN IFILL: A recent Pentagon study found as many as 26,000 sexual assaults went unreported last year, up nearly 7,000 from 2010.
Gillibrand warned that victims do not believe the chain of command will treat them fairly.
KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: My concern is this: You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases. They're afraid to report. They think their careers will be over. They fear retaliation. They fear being blamed.
GWEN IFILL: But the chiefs argue that if commanders don't decide on sexual assault cases, it could hurt unit cohesion.
Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly questioned Odierno on that claim.
REP. JOE DONNELLY, D-Ind.: Why would a soldier think less of their commander simply because their commander doesn't handle this area?
RAYMOND ODIERNO: I want the commander fully involved in the decisions that have an impact on the morale and cohesion of the unit, to include punishment, to include UCMJ. That's their responsibility. It's not too much responsibility. In my mind, it sets the tone.
GWEN IFILL: But Republican John McCain of Arizona said the problem may already be doing more damage than the military realizes.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: We have to ask ourselves, if left uncorrected, what impact will this problem have on recruitment and retention of qualified men and women? Just last night, a woman came to me and said her daughter wanted to join in the military and could I give my unqualified support for her doing so. I could not.
GWEN IFILL: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, acknowledged the issue deserves much more attention than it received during a decade of war.
MARTIN DEMPSEY: Coming out of this period of conflict, we have got soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen who engage in some high-risk behavior as they come out of the conflict. And so when you tie it all together, I wouldn't say that we have been inactive, but we have been less active than we probably need to be.
GWEN IFILL: Despite their opposition to that key portion of the Gillibrand bill, Dempsey and the other chiefs promised to work with Congress.
So, everyone agrees on the breadth of the problem, but there is no single agreed-upon solution.
Here with two views are Eugene Fidell, a senior research scholar at Yale Law School. He spent his career practicing military law, and is a member of the Defense Department's Legal Policy Board. And retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University Law School.
Welcome to you both, gentlemen.
Gene Fidell, starting with you,what's the correct solution?
EUGENE FIDELL, Yale Law School: I think the correct solution, Gwen, is that it's time to bring the military justice system in general, not simply with respect to sexual offenses, but in general, into the 21st century.
There was a very impressive array of officials at the hearing today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, many of them in uniform. But, if you will forgive me, I want to put up a picture of the person who was sort of the ghost at the banquet. It's this individual. And perhaps you recognize our last monarch, George III, because, in key respects, we're still dealing with a system that was in existence when George III sat on the throne of Great Britain.
We have got to get past the 18th century and get into the 21st century when it comes to who decides which charges are brought against whom at which level of court-martial.
GWEN IFILL: Gen. Dunlap, what's your opinion?
MAJ. GEN. CHARLES DUNLAP, Executive Director, Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, Duke University Law School: I disagree with my friend Gene.
I think we have thousands of years of military history to show that a commander-centric military justice system is what works. And what we also ought to remember is that the United States has the most powerful military in the world, and that's built on the system that we have.
I'm not saying that some changes should not be made in the military justice system, but we shouldn't be giving to anyone other than a commander who has the responsibility, that complex responsibility of preparing human beings to kill other human beings, something which -- for which there's no counterpart in the civilian world, taking away that responsibility for discipline.
Let me tell you something. In the military, if the commander isn't the centerpiece of something, you are taking away the potential effectiveness of the program. It has to be -- it can't be given to some staff officer.
GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you both to weigh in on this, because both of you are talking about the entire military justice system and the importance or the lack of importance for the commander being central to it.
But in these particular cases, these specific cases which were cited at this hearing about sexual assault, in which people, as we heard Sen. Gillibrand say, victims don't trust the commanders, they don't trust the chain of command to pursue what they need pursued.
Is that different from what you're talking about, what happens to the entire military justice system, starting with you Gene Fidell?
EUGENE FIDELL: Look, no system is every going to be perfect. That's something we have to get on the table.
And, indeed, if you look at the civilian system as a model, it, too, has blemishes. On the other hand, it's clear that, in this era, the decision-making as to who gets sent to jail or who gets sent into a criminal trial is a decision that is heavily legal in content and it's made by prosecutors.
And that's in stark contrast with the way the military justice system works now, where commanders, who may have a little more than a couple of weeks' training as they ascend the ladder into the major command billets, have to learn.
That is the work of lawyers. It's the work of district attorneys. It's the work of United States attorneys. And in the military justice system, the person with his or her finger on the trigger in terms of prosecution ought to be a lawyer, not simply an advice-giver, but a decider.
GWEN IFILL: Gen. Dunlap, is Sen. McCain, is Sen. McCaskill right when they say that they -- that women shouldn't feel secure anymore about being in the military because of the way that these charges are pursued?
CHARLES DUNLAP: Look, sexual assault is a terrible crime. It's a terrible crime in the civilian society.
And if you look at the statistics from civilian society, I think that I would hope that young women especially would continue to consider the military. But the fact of the matter is that the military, as the Supreme Court has said multiple times, it is a different kind of society than civilian society. So, trying to build a civilian system into the military for this particular kind of crime is a mistake.
It needs -- commanders need to be the central issue. And the idea of non-legally trained people making these decisions seems to be overlooking the fact that governors and the president issue pardons all the time, and they're not even required to get legal advice, as a military commander is. Military commanders make far more complex -- make extremely complex decisions based on very conflicting matters of fact all the time.
And how they're somehow incompetent to apply rules and so forth and make factual judgments in this area is beyond comprehension.
GWEN IFILL: But what if the person who is in charge of deciding how your case will be prosecuted someone who is also in charge of you? What do you do, Gene Fidell, or what can a member of the armed forces do who fears retaliation? Is that a real concern?
EUGENE FIDELL: Yes, it is a real concern.
Retaliation can have a very corrosive effect on the administration of justice, as well as on unit cohesion, by the way. Unit cohesion is this catchphrase that is dropped in into the conversation, much as it was, by the way, in connection with the now-abandoned “Don't ask, don't tell” policy.
The problem is that a commander may be put in a totally impossible situation. Here's why. Commanders are going to be graded in terms of their own evaluations by their superiors on command climate, one element of which is, how do the genders interact and are women at a disadvantage, for example?
They also have to worry about the welfare of those personnel who have been victimized in one way or another. And they have to worry about the welfare and rights of people who are their subordinates who may get charged with offenses. How do you juggle those things? The only way ...
GWEN IFILL: Let me ask Gen. Dunlap to answer that question.
EUGENE FIDELL: OK.
GWEN IFILL: How do you juggle those things?
CHARLES DUNLAP: Well, commanders juggle multiple things all the time. They're making life-and-death decisions on battlefields.
I do agree that there are rogue commanders out there, but we already have at least three statutory means for the kind of person who feels that they have been wronged by their commander, article 138 already in the UCMJ.
GWEN IFILL: The Uniform Code of Military Justice. I just want people who didn't -- weren't familiar with the title to know what you're talking about.
CHARLES DUNLAP: Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: Go ahead.
CHARLES DUNLAP: We also -- the Congress changed the law in 2006 and now makes it -- or has always been in the UCMJ -- excuse me -- that judge advocates can go around the chain of command and make -- raise things in the senior level of the JAG chain.
And, in addition, there's the inspector generals, which are -- is another statutorily protected option. So there's at least three options where people can go around the chain of command already in the law.
GWEN IFILL: Well, we are going to have to leave it ...
CHARLES DUNLAP: And before we start -- and we should keep in mind that the system in place now, in 2006, there were 34,000 estimated sexual assaults. We're ...
GWEN IFILL: Well, OK.
CHARLES DUNLAP: They dropped to 19,000, a 44 percent drop in 2010. And now we have seen an uptick.
GWEN IFILL: We're going have to ...
CHARLES DUNLAP: We need to understand better why this is.
GWEN IFILL: ... leave that conversation for another time.
Eugene Fidell at Yale Law School and General Charles Dunlap at Duke Law School, thank you both very much.
EUGENE FIDELL: Thanks, Gwen.
CHARLES DUNLAP: Thank you, Gwen.
JEFFREY BROWN: Next: another economic meltdown. That's the dire prediction of a former White House budget director, who argues in a recent book that Wall Street and Washington are broken.
NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has the first of two takes on the government's role in the economic recovery, part of his regular reporting: Making Sen$e of financial news.
PAUL SOLMAN: Libertarian David Stockman has been a controversial figure since he quit the Reagan administration as budget chief in 1985, blaming it for failing to take deficits seriously. He became rich and legally embroiled as a leveraged buyout financier. He faced accounting fraud charges that were later dropped.
Now he's become visible again as author of "The Great Deformation," a hefty screed that attacks the left and right alike. But, mainly, it attacks government economic intervention. It begins with the crash of '08.
Stockman thinks it was long overdue.
DAVID STOCKMAN, Former Reagan Administration Budget Director: That was Mr. Market bringing discipline, bringing resolution to very reckless financial behavior. We should have let it continue. Goldman would have gone down. Morgan Stanley would have gone down. It would have burned out there. It wouldn't have spread to Main Street. The Main Street banks were in good shape. We basically made a mockery out of free markets and financial discipline, and we will never come back.
PAUL SOLMAN: But the theory of the time was that, because large financial institutions were so interconnected with one another, that if one went down, like Goldman, and owed lots of money to lots of others ...
DAVID STOCKMAN: Right.
PAUL SOLMAN: ... those others would go down, and dominoes.
DAVID STOCKMAN: Right. Well, that was the common theory, the contagion effect. There is no economic basis in history for the idea of contagion.
PAUL SOLMAN: Economic historians point to the onset of the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s as evidence of contagion, but Stockman thinks they're flat-out wrong about that, and wrong about the danger, five years ago, of contagion leading to a financial collapse.
Moreover, government, as the lender of last resort, he says, just makes matters worse; we shouldn't have bailed out the banks or AIG.
And you think we shouldn't have bailed out the auto industry either?
DAVID STOCKMAN: No, absolutely not. When we bailed out GM, the only thing we did was move 40,000 jobs from below the Mason-Dixon Line, where they would have been produced in Hyundai plants, or Honda plants, or Toyota plants, or BMW plants, to north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It was all about the Electoral College; it was not about jobs.
PAUL SOLMAN: But it would have been traumatic to Detroit and everybody who had an auto job.
DAVID STOCKMAN: Well, of course. But if we're going to say that Washington will rescue anybody who is big and noisy and threatens a trauma, then we're going to have total socialism, we're going to have an ossified economy, and we're going to have crony capitalism like you have never seen. Money will dominate everything, and we crossed that Rubicon when we bailed out Detroit in 2008.
PAUL SOLMAN: What do you mean exactly by “crony capitalism,” particularly if you're including the United Auto Workers among the cronies?
DAVID STOCKMAN: Crony capitalism tries to get a different outcome than would occur on the market by using the tools and machinery of government.
As long as you want the government intervening at will any time there's an emergency, a crisis, a threat of something going wrong, then money will win, because they will hire the lobbyists, they will hire the lawyers and the accountants, and all the rest of them, and you will get stupid things like Washington bailing out Goldman Sachs, and having Goldman come back within one year with $28 billion of surplus.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, you think our economy, perhaps our society as a whole, is on the one hand wussified -- we can't take any pain -- and, on the other hand, controlled by a group of people in whose interests it is to preserve things as they are?
DAVID STOCKMAN: Sure. It's two sides of the same coin.
The purpose of Washington is to prop up the powerful. If you're running a small business in Indiana, they're not going to bail you out. You have to have size. You have to have clout. Essentially, we have a very unfair system today where the bus drivers are paying taxes, so that we can give Social Security to old people that are rich, and we can bail out companies like G.E. Capital and Goldman Sachs and AIG and all the rest of them that never should have been near the taxpayers' dollar.
So we would have had a serious recession, but no Great Depression, no black hole.
PAUL SOLMAN: But if you were in government then, you would have been willing to roll the dice on it?
DAVID STOCKMAN: Absolutely, because we're in serial bubbles.
PAUL SOLMAN: Stockman blames the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke for inflating bubbles for years by keeping interest rates low. Since the housing bubble burst, the Fed has been fueling the economy by creating money to buy U.S. bonds and mortgage-backed securities.
This is so-called quantitative easing. But, in doing so, says Stockman, the Fed is just inflating yet another bubble.
DAVID STOCKMAN: The problem is that you're creating a system of bubble finance, where interest rates are so low that people can speculate. So what this is, is a gambler's dream.
PAUL SOLMAN: So you think we're cruising for a bruising here?
DAVID STOCKMAN: I think we're doing what Einstein once said is the definition of insanity. He said, if you do the same thing over and over and expect a different result, that's a sign of insanity. We're doing the same thing over and over.
PAUL SOLMAN: As Stockman tells it, low interest rates have created financial markets full of speculators addicted to cheap debt. As a leveraged buyout deal-maker, he was one of them, and became rich in the process.
So, when you were in the midst of all of this, doing leveraged buyouts, you were part of the bubble. Did you think you might be doing something wrong?
DAVID STOCKMAN: I'm not saying there's evil people running around Wall Street. I'm not particularly saying myself was evil, OK?
I'm saying if all of the system is geared towards massive borrowing and speculation on leverage, everyone is going to do it. Now, I had a company that went bankrupt, and as a result of that bankruptcy, I had huge problems for years.
PAUL SOLMAN: You were prosecuted. I mean ...
DAVID STOCKMAN: Yes, but then they dropped the case, OK.
PAUL SOLMAN: They accused you of accounting fraud.
DAVID STOCKMAN: Yes. But it turns out that there wasn't any accounting fraud. It was a company that was way overleveraged in the auto business, an auto supplier.
I had five or six times debt to cash flow on the company. It was crazy, never should have been done. That was reckless. But it was a pretty good wakeup call to me that it was widespread throughout our economy. Why did I have so much debt on the company that I had that went bankrupt? Because I could come to Wall Street and raise it in a half-a-day.
PAUL SOLMAN: Last question. Paul Krugman called you a cranky old man.
And the essence was that you are putting all of your faith in a free market that surely has its own excesses, its own depredations, its own horror shows, no?
DAVID STOCKMAN: No. I think I struck a raw nerve because I said you guys are peddling nothing more than debt, and debt, and more debt, and more money-printing. And it's not sound economics, and it's going to fail. And they didn't like that.
PAUL SOLMAN: David Stockman, thank you very much.
DAVID STOCKMAN: Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we will hear a very different take on this in the coming days from Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Online now, you can get a sneak peak at Krugman's response.
GWEN IFILL: Next: the decline of coral reefs and the connections with rising levels of carbon dioxide.
New reports this week show there were nearly 38 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted around the globe last year. That, among other things, is having a very real effect in places like the Florida Keys.
Hari Sreenivasan traveled there recently and filed this report for our series Coping With Climate Change.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Ken Nedimyer has been diving in the Florida Keys almost his entire life, but the teeming coral reefs that he remembers from his early days of diving are now long gone.
KEN NEDIMYER, Coral Restoration Foundation: It's maybe 20 percent of what it was, in some places 5 percent, from what I remember seeing when I was young.
You know, I remember seeing fields of elkhorn coral that you couldn't see through it, you couldn't see beyond it, and those same areas are all dead, you know, 99 percent dead.
HARI SREENIVASAN: His memory is backed up by the facts. According to data from more than 100 monitoring stations in the Florida Keys, there has been a 44 percent decline in coral reefs over the past 20 years. On many Caribbean reefs, it's even worse. The decline is up to 80 percent over the past three decades.
KEN NEDIMYER: So, there is a lot of things working against coral reefs right now.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The 358 miles of reef along the Florida coast have been struggling to adapt to a wide range of problems, including overfishing and pollution stemming largely from increased human activity.
That's why Ken Nedimyer is mobilizing small armies to help him restore the reefs.
I joined Nedimyer along with a group of ecotourists. These volunteers donate their vacation time, dive in and help reconstruct the corals that support the underwater ecosystems they come to see.
Nedimyer has built underwater nurseries, where young endangered staghorn and elkhorn coral are allowed to mature for more than a year before being replanted on existing reefs.
MAN: This is one of the corals that we planted a couple years ago.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The nurseries have been successful, growing a small forest of elkhorn coral that Nedimyer and his volunteers almost can't replant fast enough.
But there's a bigger challenge these corals face: the impact of increased carbon dioxide in the water. It's what scientists like Chris Langdon of the University of Miami study.
CHRIS LANGDON, University of Miami: And it's enough railroad cars stacked end to end to wrap around the earth seven times. That's how much carbon is going into the ocean every single year.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All that carbon has caused global sea surface temperatures to rise by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Periods of high water temperature cause corals to bleach or expel the colorful algae that live in their tissue, exposing their skeletons.
But the CO2 doesn't just warm the ocean. It also changes the pH levels, which measure the amount of acid in the water and shows they are becoming acidic.
CHRIS LANGDON: What's really and completely unique about what's going on now is the rate of change. And that's what is so difficult for organisms.
Things are incredibly adaptable, but the adaptation rate -- evolution takes time.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Acidification acts a lot like osteoporosis does in humans. But in marine animals, it makes their shells and skeletons brittle. The more acidic the water, the harder it is for corals to grow their skeletons. That leaves them more susceptible throughout their lives to other stressors like disease.
But there is also evidence that it's harder for corals to reproduce when the ocean is more acidic.
CHRIS LANGDON: So, that means, if a coral dies, there is less likelihood that a new baby coral is going to be able to replace it in the future.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Scientists have been running lab experiments to see how coral reefs will react to the dual impacts of increased warming and acidification.
What do we have in these tanks? What is happening?
RENEE CARLTON, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Health and Monitoring Program: We are controlling lights. And then we're also controlling the amount of CO2 that's in the tanks.
So we are pumping in CO2 to elevate it to conditions that are predicted for 2100. We're looking at the growth rates of these corals and we're looking to see how these corals are able to grow under these different conditions.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So these corals are in a way living in the future?
RENEE CARLTON: Yes, that's a good way to think about it. They are essentially living in the future.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It will be a tough future. Langdon finds that when corals are exposed to the expected CO2 levels for 2100, bleaching occurs 50 percent more often.
CHRIS LANGDON: Elevated CO2 can aggravate the sensitivity to temperature. It actually lowers their resistance to elevated temperatures. What that means, in effect, is that they can actually -- they will start to show signs of bleaching at a lower temperature than they would have before.
So the combination of elevated temperature and CO2 is worse than just high temperature alone.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But he adds that there are some coral species that may be able to adapt to high CO2 and that corals can recover if pH levels can be raised, although that's a challenge requiring balancing the acidity locally while also reducing global CO2.
The decline of coral reefs has ecological and economic consequences. Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystem in the world. With more than 500 species of fish living on Florida's reefs, less coral has a ripple effect up the food chain, says Chris Bergh, director of the Florida Nature Conservancy.
CHRIS BERGH, Florida Nature Conservancy: The fish and the lobster and all these other animals that are so important to our economy and for the environment, they depend upon that coral growth and coral reef. And if you have that much of a loss, it really has a cascading impact.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Florida is no stranger to storms, and healthy reefs buffer up to 90 percent of the force of incoming waves, providing shoreline protection to people and property from storm surge and erosion.
Then there's the dollars and cents. More than 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys alone are supported by ocean recreation and tourism industry, which accounts for 58 percent of the local economy and an average of $2.3 billion a year.
CHRIS BERGH: It is the lifeblood of our economy in the keys. We get millions of visitors a year who spend millions of hours out on the ocean diving and fishing on our coral reefs.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Amy Slate's dive resort depends on coral and the divers who come to see them.
AMY SLATE, Amoray Dive Resort: Because we deal so much with nature and with diving, it's probably life or death for my business, I hate to say.
But if the coral reefs thrive and grow, the more wildlife you have and the nicer it will be for everyone, and the more the divers will want to come here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Divers like the volunteers helping Ken Nedimyer rebuild reefs.
KEN NEDIMYER: I think our effort is certainly not the answer. It's a part of the solution. It's doing something. It's buying us time.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Time that maybe is running out for coral reefs in Florida and elsewhere.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Hari's next story is about the impact warmer and more acidic waters have on shellfish. You can preview that and previous reports on our Coping With Climate Change page on our website.
JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight, chasing storms, science, and risk.
The National Weather Service said Friday's deadly tornado near Oklahoma City was stronger than initially reported. Meteorologists now classify it as an EF-5, the strongest ranking possible, with winds of 295 miles per hour. It was also the widest twister ever recorded, 2.6 miles. The storm and subsequent flooding killed 18 people.
Ray Suarez has more.
MAN: Tornado on the ground. Large tornado on the ground.
RAY SUAREZ: A storm chaser sounded the alert Friday evening as the enormous black funnel filled the dark sky just west of Oklahoma City.
Three of those killed were storm chasers themselves, Tim Samaras, 54, his son Paul, 24, and Carl Young, who was 45. They were working for the Discovery Channel. This was all that remained of their truck after it was caught in the open.
A colleague says escape was all but impossible.
BEN MCMILLAN, Storm Chaser: It was a really wild tornado. It was rapidly evolving. There was multiple tornadoes that turned into one larger tornado. And then the larger tornado went one way and then switched directions very quickly and went another way. It was just a really hard storm to track.
RAY SUAREZ: Indeed, this Weather Channel vehicle was picked up by the same storm and hurled 200 yards. Only one of its chase team of three was seriously hurt. It was all testimony to how inherently dangerous this profession is. But another colleague says Tim Samaras was known for his caution.
PAUL STOFER, Storm Chaser: He really knew what he was doing. He didn't chase for the notoriety or the television or selling video. He chased because he genuinely wanted to learn more about severe weather.
RAY SUAREZ: The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., says the men killed Friday appear to be the first scientific researchers to die in pursuit of tornadoes.
RAY SUAREZ: For more, we turn to Howard Bluestein, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. He's done research in the field of active tornadoes.
And, Professor, let me begin by asking what a storm chaser is actually doing. Why do these people ride toward those ominous-looking funnels, when everybody else is trying to get away from them?
HOWARD BLUESTEIN, University of Oklahoma: Well, those of us who are looking from a scientific viewpoint want to get close so we can make measurements with our instrumentation.
Some of us use mobile Doppler radars. For these, we don't need to get too close to the tornado, usually two, three, four, five miles. But the people who want to get very near tornadoes to make measurements of temperature and pressure have to get a little bit closer and leave their instruments in the paths of the tornadoes and hope that the tornadoes come over those instruments.
Tornadoes are so small, relatively speaking, that we need to get very close.
RAY SUAREZ: And there's no other way to gather some of that intelligence besides putting yourself at some considerable personal risk?
HOWARD BLUESTEIN: Well, of course, with the radars, we try to stay a relatively safe distance from the tornado.
But we need the observations, especially to verify theories and to verify computer simulations.
RAY SUAREZ: For some of these people, Professor, is there also an element of thrill-seeking, an appetite for risk that goes along with seeking out these storms and heading right into the face of them?
HOWARD BLUESTEIN: Well, I think, for some of the storm chasers, the amateur storm chasers, not the scientific storm chasers, there's the thrill of the chase.
People are out to get as close as they can, to get the most spectacular video and the most spectacular photographs. And that's very dangerous.
RAY SUAREZ: How do you do the benefit/risk calculation? When you note that there are important things that need to be learned about these storms, about what's going on inside them, how do you balance that against the very possible risk of injury and sometimes death?
HOWARD BLUESTEIN: Well, we know that there are problems in going out and chasing tornadoes, but most of us are -- play it very safe. We try to keep a safe distance from the storm.
But if we can just use our remote instrumentation to make measurements so that someday we will be able to understand exactly what the structure of tornadoes is and to be able to forecast which storms will produce tornadoes and which won't, ultimately, we will be able to save lives. So, in the long run, I think there's a tremendous benefit.
RAY SUAREZ: It's been revealed that the twister that hit El Reno on Friday night was the widest ever measured at 2.6-miles-wide, a tremendous storm.
It took 18 lives, and some of the dead aren't even identified. How do you safely approach a tornado like that? Are there best practices? Are there a set of guidelines for people who are in this game about what to do and what not to do?
HOWARD BLUESTEIN: I don't think there's really a formal set of guidelines.
We operated very safely out there on Friday, and we got east of the storm probably five to 10 miles, and turned our radar on and let the storm come to us. As soon as the storm got within maybe two or three miles, we then retreated and moved on down the road another five or 10 miles.
For the people who go and take pictures and videos, I wouldn't recommend getting within two or three miles from the tornado. That's -- could be very dangerous. And also debris from the tornado can fall well outside the tornado.
RAY SUAREZ: Those people interest me particularly, because with the proliferation of cable television shows, with the open solicitation by local news channels of, you know, show us your own video of the storm, amateurs are encouraged -- people who aren't taking any scientific measurements at all, frankly, they're encouraged to get out there and take the most jaw-dropping pictures.
Would you ask them -- would you want them to stay at home or stay someplace safe instead?
HOWARD BLUESTEIN: Well, I would prefer that most of them stay away.
First of all, there is some benefit to having amateurs out there taking pictures. They send them to the National Weather Service, and the National Weather Service is made aware that there is a tornado out there. They may be in some locations that the scientists are not. And, for that, it's very valuable.
But, right now, it's gotten to the point in which there are too many people out there. We go out and try to make measurements with our radars, and sometimes we can't find a parking space out in a very rural area. Sometimes, we get caught in traffic jams when we're trying to get to another location, and it's very difficult to because there are so many people out there.
Also, there are a few people out there, very few, fortunately, who drive not safely. And so I think the real risk right now is having too many people out there.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Bluestein from the University of Oklahoma, thanks for joining us.
HOWARD BLUESTEIN: Thank you.
Clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites are increasing in Lebanon as Syria's civil war continues.
An injured man stands on the main road of the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood in Tripoli, Lebanon, and looks toward Jabal Mohsen, a predominantly Alawite neighborhood. Alawites are the same sect as Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Many Sunni Muslims live in Bab al-Tabbaneh and support the rebels fighting the Assad regime. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Break from Battle
Sandbags enclose a shisha cafe in Bab al-Tabbaneh. Photo: Saskia de Melker
In the Lebanese neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, people use sandbags to shield their buildings from sniper fire. These children stand in front of a garage painted with the opposition-adopted Syrian flag, showing their support for the rebels. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Children take a break from building the sandbag walls in the Lebanese neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Damaged storefronts line the main road in Bab al-Tabbaneh. Schools in both neighborhoods of Tripoli are closed and many residents have stopped going to work. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Abu Ali Zemar (center), leader of the Alawite gunmen, helps build a sandbag wall in the neighborhood of Jabel Mohsen. "We are preparing the battle could start at any minute," he said. Rumors of renewed fighting were spreading through the neighborhoods on Saturday when the PBS NewsHour visited. By Sunday, clashes began again. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Tanks at the Frontline
Tanks from the Lebanese Army block Syria Street, which separates the largely Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh from the largely Alawite Jabel Mohsen. Photo: Saskia de Melker
A bullet-ridden apartment building in Jabel Mohsen is almost completely abandoned and is being used as a sniper lookout. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Twenty-one-year-old Ziad Habshiti shows pictures of the gun he uses in Bab al-Tabbaneh battles. He wants to avenge the killing of his 13-year-old brother who was shot in the fighting. Photo: Saskia de Melker
Joining the Fight
Aboul Suleman manages a street cafe in Jabal Mohsen, but like most young men here, he also has taken up arms. "This is going to continue until the situation in Syria is settled and when President Assad wins in Syria, this will be over.," he said. Photo: Saskia de Melker
View slideshow of the two Lebanese neighborhoods in Tripoli.
TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- Walk the streets of the adjacent neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen in the Lebanese city of Tripoli and you will find some similarities.
Many businesses are shuttered. Residents have built barriers from sandbags and debris to protect their homes from stray bullets. The streets are devoid of women, but some can be seen peeking from the balconies of their homes. And men, both young and old, gather on the sidewalks carrying guns.
There is a battle raging here that goes far beyond these streets.
"We live day by day. We don't know if you are going to be alive the next so we buy a coffin before we buy a house," said one Bab al-Tabbaneh resident. "This is how we are living here."
In Bab al-Tabbaneh, most residents are Sunni Muslim and support the armed opposition in neighboring Syria. Some young men here have even crossed the border to join the uprising.
Up the hill in Jabal Mohsen, most are Alawite Muslim, a minority group in Lebanon and the same sect as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Dividing them is the aptly named Syria Street.
Sectarian fighting has flared between the two areas since 2008, but the frequency and intensity of clashes has increased over the past two years as the war in Syria has escalated.
May was the deadliest month in the city with 29 people killed and more than 200 wounded. The Lebanese army has moved into the area in an attempt to stop the violence, but there is no indication the violence will end.
"This is going to continue until the situation in Syria is settled," said Aboul Suleman, a young fighter from Jabal Mohsen.
Watch senior correspondent Margaret Warner's report on how the Syrian war is inflaming sectarian tensions in Lebanon on Wednesday's PBS NewsHour. View all of her reports from Lebanon.
Click to enlarge.
A Turkish art group performs in support of protestors Wednesday at Taksim Square in Istanbul. Protests, which initially began over the fate of Taksim Gezi Park, one of the last significant green spaces in the center of the city, have turned increasingly violent as police began cracking down hard on demonstrators. Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie outlines plans for a special election to be held to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of the late Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg.
By calling for a special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Sen. Frank Lautenberg to be held three weeks before his own re-election bid in November, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has opened himself up to charges of political maneuvering from both the left and the right.
Democrats blasted Christie's decision for the estimated $25 million added cost of holding a special primary (set for Aug. 13) and a special election (Oct. 16), while also suggesting the move could affect voter turnout. A high-profile Senate race featuring a Democratic candidate, such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, could have bolstered the prospects of Christie's opponent in the gubernatorial contest, Barbara Buono.
Republicans, meanwhile, would have preferred for Christie to install a GOP senator until November 2014, providing the party an extra vote in the chamber for the next year and a-half, while also giving the appointee ample time to develop a profile in advance of next year's midterm election.
Christie dismissed that idea during a statehouse news conference in Trenton, Tuesday afternoon. "Holding this election in November 2014 is an absolutely defensible legal position, but I don't think it's right," Christie said.
The Republican governor said his determination was not driven by politics, but rather by his desire to have voters in the Garden State select a new senator as soon as possible.
"The issues facing the U.S. Senate are too critically important, the decisions that need to be dealt with too vital, not to have an elected representative making those decisions who was voted on and decided on by the people of this state," Christie said.
The New York Times' Kate Zernike and David Halbfinger highlight the Democratic response to Christie's move:
Democrats immediately accused him of squandering taxpayer money to protect his own political ambitions at a time when the state budget is under severe stress, and some promised to challenge the decision in court.
Party leaders sent around a list of the kind of budget cuts that Mr. Christie could restore with the money to be spent on the special election: $10 million he cut from after-school programs for children in the state's most troubled cities, $8.6 million in tuition subsidies for college students and $12 million in charity care at hospitals. Just weeks ago, they noted, he vetoed a proposal to establish early voting, saying the price -- $25 million -- was too high.
Christie brushed aside such criticism Tuesday. "I don't know what the cost is and I quite frankly don't care," he said. "All of the people of the state of New Jersey will benefit from it."
The National Journal's Josh Kraushaar provides a sampling of the reaction to Christie's announcement from Republicans:
The governor's decision, along with growing GOP expectations that his appointee will be a placeholder, means that the GOP's chance at a pickup now looks like a long shot. But Christie protected his own interests by scheduling a separate 2013 election, ensuring that Booker wouldn't usher a surge of Democratic voters that could hurt Christie's November prospects.
That did little to mollify Republicans with a stake in retaking the Senate next year. While none wanted to be quoted publicly, all dripped with disdain for Christie's decision, calling it self-serving. And several pointed to the fact that holding an extra election one month earlier could cost the state about $25 million--a price tag that could dent his image as a fiscal hawk.
"I think this ends his 2016 chances. It's year after year with this guy," complained one senior Republican official.
While Christie's decision might cause some immediate political discomfort, particularly among partisans, a landslide election victory in November could do a lot to alleviate that pain, and keep him on the front burner as 2016 talks begin to heat up.
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Christie enjoys broad support across the political spectrum, with 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats viewing him in a favorable light.
A Quinnipiac University survey released in late April showed Christie with a 58 percent to 26 percent lead over Buono, and put the governor's overall approval rating at 67 percent.
It's tough to imagine the backlash to Tuesday's decision would be enough to erode that advantage, but if it results in a closer than expected victory in November, that could potentially dimnish his standing heading into 2016.
For now, though, the focus will remain on Christie's next move, which is the naming of an interim senator to fill the seat until October. The governor said Tuesday he would make a decision on that front within days, and that he had not set any "preconditions" in making a choice, either in terms of party affiliation or interest in running for the seat full-time.
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will be Mr. Obama's new national security adviser, after the White House announced Tom Donilon's resignation.
Former White House aide and campaign adviser Samantha Power will replace Susan Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Associated Press reports.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows a majority of respondents doubt the "honesty and integrity" of the Obama administration in three recent scandals. And 47 percent of respondents in a Bloomberg National Poll say the president isn't being truthful about the IRS' scrutiny of conservative groups.
Republican state Sen. Jason Smith easily won Tuesday's special House race in Missouri to replace former Rep. Ann Wagner, who stepped down in January to become president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
First Lady Michelle Obama confronted a protester at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Washington on Tuesday and threatened to leave the event if the person did not stop interrupting her remarks.
Senators, including bill co-sponsoring Sens. Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, cautioned Tuesday that immigration reform does not yet have the votes for passage. Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters, "If we're not able to pass immigration reform in 2013 and it's the GOPs fault, we're dead in 2016."
The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg will lie in repose in the U.S. Senate Chamber Thursday. Politico has other funeral details, including eulogies in New York City from Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill on Tuesday that would require fresh white potatoes to be included as part of the nutritional food program for women, infants and children. NewsHour Coordinating Producer Linda J. Scott reports Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the chair of the Agriculture Committee, hopes to finish work on the measure by early next week.
Bloomberg looks at party breakdowns, and how things get done in state legislatures.
Gallup explains how they got the polling wrong for last fall's presidential election.
Democratic Rep. Ed Markey leads Republican Gabriel Gomez in a New England College poll ahead of this month's Senate special election in Massachusetts.
Mitt Romney's former presidential campaign manager Stuart Stevens' is still in the spotlight.
The Obama administration's roll out of the Affordable Care Act mirrors some grassroots organizing of the president's recent campaign, and Bloomberg News describes Enroll America's controversial tactics to pressure companies for support.
A hacker from California testified on day two of Bradley Manning's military trial that the private confessed to sending classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Conservative groups told Congress at a hearing Tuesday about the information they provided to the IRS, including Facebook postings. One group, the anti-gay marriage advocacy National Organization for Marriage, said the agency leaked its donor lists.
The Texas Republican Party is expanding its outreach to non-traditional GOP supporters, including Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American voters.
Yahoo evaluates the tweetability of the president's speeches.
Britain's attempt to legalize same-sex marriage cleared the country's House of Lords Tuesday.
Performance artists will take to the streets -- and rooftops -- of Rosslyn this weekend as part of a project dubbed SuperNova.
Gwen Ifill reported Tuesday on the Senate Armed Services Hearing looking at sexual assault in the military. She then spoke with Eugene Fidell, a senior research scholar at Yale Law School and retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University Law School. Watch the full Senate hearing here.
Jeffrey Brown looked at the president's move Tuesday to appoint three judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and what it means for the possibility of a showdown over judicial nominees in the Senate.
Paul Solman talked with former Reagan budget director David Stockman about his opposition to bailouts.
Ray Suarez looked at the science and risk of chasing storms.
The NewsHour asked online how tuition factors into people's higher education decisions and about how student debt affects their lives. We've collected the responses here
Our "Ask the Headhunter" columnist advises never to tell a prospective employer your salary history and how to decline when they ask.
Join correspondent Jeffrey Brown for a live chat online Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. EST. You can tweet a question now to @Newshour with #AskJeff.
Nothing distracts like a game of Washington musical chairs.— Matt Apuzzo (@mattapuzzo) June 5, 2013
Your tax dollars wasted: $17k to teach IRS agents how to paint like this: pic.twitter.com/lx0BHiX8bY— Rob Portman (@robportman) June 4, 2013
NJ fed cands ranked by cash on hand: Pallone(D6) $3.7m; Garrett(R5) $2.2m; Booker(D) $1.6m; Holt(D) $797K; LoBiondo(R2) $753K— Herb Jackson (@record_dc) June 4, 2013
Sen. @jeffflake says U.S. political system was built to withstand the foibles of man, "including yours truly."— Dan Nowicki (@dannowicki) June 4, 2013
The real reason Bloomberg is hostile to medical marijuana: it gives people the munchies.— Josh Greenman (@joshgreenman) June 4, 2013
How long before political reporters/watchers finally realize that Christie's #1 priority is always Christie?— amy walter (@amyewalter) June 4, 2013
Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.
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