Articles on this Page
- 06/12/13--15:38: _Singapore Looks Sky...
- 06/12/13--15:45: _Era of Online Shari...
- 06/12/13--16:40: _Interactive: The Re...
- 06/13/13--06:00: _The Lengthening Lis...
- 06/13/13--06:20: _Live Coverage of Su...
- 06/13/13--06:22: _Early Debate on Imm...
- 06/13/13--08:43: _Share Your Thoughts...
- 06/13/13--09:04: _How I Stumbled Into...
- 06/13/13--10:09: _Remembering Doug Ba...
- 06/13/13--11:19: _China Needs Milk an...
- 06/13/13--11:40: _Heading Back to Wor...
- 06/13/13--13:15: _In India, Farmers P...
- 06/13/13--14:13: _Gwen's Take: Unders...
- 06/13/13--15:02: _U.S. Says Assad Reg...
- 06/13/13--15:03: _Wildfire Near Color...
- 06/13/13--15:06: _News Wrap: Deadly E...
- 06/13/13--15:11: _Supreme Court Unani...
- 06/13/13--15:12: _Struggling Farmers ...
- 06/13/13--15:28: _Though Acceptance f...
- 06/13/13--15:37: _California Prepares...
- 06/12/13--15:38: Singapore Looks Skyward to Take Farming in New Directions
- 06/12/13--16:40: Interactive: The Retirement Crisis Is Real
- 06/13/13--06:00: The Lengthening List of Iran Sanctions
- 06/13/13--06:20: Live Coverage of Supreme Court Decisions Thursday
- 06/13/13--06:22: Early Debate on Immmigration Plan Exposes Senate Fissures
- 06/13/13--09:04: How I Stumbled Into My Encore Career
- 06/13/13--10:09: Remembering Doug Bailey
- 06/13/13--11:19: China Needs Milk and California Has Too Much. Is It a Match?
- 06/13/13--11:40: Heading Back to Work After Retiring
- 06/13/13--13:15: In India, Farmers Pick Heartier Seeds Over Those With High Yields
- 06/13/13--14:13: Gwen's Take: Understanding Washington More/Hating Politics Less
- 06/13/13--15:02: U.S. Says Assad Regime Has Used Chemical Weapons Against Rebels
- 06/13/13--15:03: Wildfire Near Colorado Springs Is Most Destructive in State History
- 06/13/13--15:06: News Wrap: Deadly Explosion at Chemical Plant in Louisiana
- 06/13/13--15:11: Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Human Genes Cannot Be Patented
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we resume our weeklong look at food security and how climate change is affecting what we produce and how we eat.
Tonight, special correspondent Sam Eaton reports from Singapore, where the challenge of feeding a growing population is pushing the concept of urban farming to new heights.
It's part of our series “Food for 9 Billion,” in partnership with Public Radio International's "The World," Homeland Productions, American Public Media's Marketplace, and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
SAM EATON, Homelands Productions: Singapore has one of the highest population densities on the planet. More than five million people crowd into this small wealthy island city. Land here comes at a premium, forcing people to expand up, rather than out. And it's not just office towers and apartment complexes that are reaching skyward. Singapore now has one of the world's first commercial vertical farms. It's called “Sky Greens.”
Jack Ng the founder of Sky Greens.
JACK NG, Founder, Sky Greens: This is the framework, is a greenhouse.
SAM EATON: Fifty-year-old entrepreneur Jack Ng, an engineer by training, is the farm's owner and designer.
Translucent structures nearly four stories tall line the property. On the inside, automated towers of vegetables rotate like ferris wheels in slow motion between a nutrient-infused bath below and the sun above. Ng says each tower is powered by a gravity-fed water wheel. It's an ancient technology with a modern twist.
Ng says one of the biggest benefits of this closed loop hydraulic system is how little energy it consumes.
JACK NG: Electricity we use in Singapore is three dollars per month for this full tower.
SAM EATON: That's three dollars a month to run this entire tower, or about the same amount of electricity used in single 60-watt light bulb.
JACK NG: You can try the lettuce.
SAM EATON: Yes.
JACK NG: OK. You can. It's fresh.
SAM EATON: Eating local freshly picked greens is a luxury in Singapore. With just 250 acres of farmland left, the city grows only seven percent of the produce it consumes. That may be an extreme case, but it represents a looming problem facing cities all over the world, says Columbia University ecologist Dickson Despommier.
DICKSON DESPOMMIER, Columbia University: We're going to reach a tipping point really soon where traditional agriculture can no longer provide enough food for the people living on the planet.
SAM EATON: He says producing enough food for the 3.5 billion people living in cities today requires an amount of land twice the size of South America.
DICKSON DESPOMMIER: That would be OK if we could stabilize our population at seven billion. But that's not going to happen.
SAM EATON: Despommier believes that 80 percent of the world's population will be living in cities by 2050, making today's challenges seem trivial by comparison.
DICKSON DESPOMMIER: The question arises, can we supply enough food for everybody on the planet, including a growing urban population? And I think we can. And I think we can do it by empowering people in the cities to grow food right there.
SAM EATON: Sky Greens' vertical farm offers one example of how that may be possible, not just technically, but also economically. The system is 10 times more productive per square foot than conventional farming. It also takes a lot less water, labor and chemical inputs.
LEE SING KONG, Director, National Institute of Education: Singapore is currently looking very much into urban production.
Dr. Lee Sing Kong directs Singapore's National Institute of Education.
LEE SING KONG: I think, eventually, urban factories for vegetable production will take place in place of electronic factories in Singapore.
SAM EATON: But Lee says visit any Singapore restaurant and you can see just how far the country is from being self-sufficient.
LEE SING KONG: If you look at the plate of food on the table, say vegetables, it could come from China, it could come from the neighboring countries of Indonesia or Malaysia, or it could come in terms of salad greens as far off as the U.S. and the European countries like Holland.
SAM EATON: Maintaining that supply of food from so many foreign sources is a monumental task. Every night, hundreds of trucks enter Singapore from Malaysia and beyond, unloading their cargo of fruit and vegetables at this central wholesale market.
From here, the food is loaded onto smaller trucks and delivered throughout the city before sunrise.
More than 90 percent of the food in Singapore's grocery stores like this one comes from foreign countries. That makes local urban produce like Sky Greens a premium novelty for customers. But, to some, it's much more than that. It's an insurance policy.
SAM EATON: Supermarkets buy food from dozens of other countries as a defense against climate-related disruptions in the global food chain. But the National Institute of Education's Lee Sing Kong says even that may not be enough to guarantee a steady food supply in the future.
LEE SING KONG: We do anticipate the need for our own production to a certain level of self-sufficiency. I think the government has set a target, initial target of 10 percent to 20 percent of our need. And if we can achieve that, I think there will be a great feat.
SAM EATON: Singapore recently invested $20 million dollars in a fund to boost domestic food production through new farming technologies like Sky Greens. But Lee says incentives alone aren't enough. First, he says, high-rise farming needs to be cost-competitive.
LEE SING KONG: Whatever we produce in Singapore must compete with the prices of vegetables coming into Singapore. So that's why the government in Singapore is now encouraging and emphasizing models of urban farming that can really not just increase productivity, but also lowering cost of production.
SAM EATON: Sky Greens' owner, Jack Ng, says he's confident he can compete. Three years into his experiment, he says his operating costs are only a quarter of what it would cost to run a conventional farm.
And since he's local, his transportation costs are also minimal, making his fresh lettuce and Chinese cabbage price-competitive with mass-produced cheap imports. But, most importantly, Ng says they taste better. He says the same-day freshness of his greens is a real selling point.
JACK NG: My customers keep on asking us, can you produce more? Can you supply more?
SAM EATON: Ng has raised $28 million dollars in public and private money to more than quadruple his capacity over the next year-and-a-half. And in fast-rising Singapore, that seems like a smart investment.
GWEN IFILL: You can see a photo essay of Singapore's gardens online -- and, tomorrow, how California's dairy industry is changing global trade.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we come back to the surveillance story. Just how much information do we routinely disclose about ourselves online? And how do we feel about that?
Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.
JEFFREY BROWN: And for that, we're joined by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. He is co-author of the new book "Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think." Kashmir Hill is a senior online editor and writes the technology and privacy column "Not-So Private Parts" at Forbes.com. And Jules Polonetsky is director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank that promotes responsible data practices.
Well, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, I want to start with you. Before we get to the NSA explicitly, I would like you to describe briefly the world of big data that you have been writing about. What does it mean? How and where does it affect all of us?
VIKTOR MAYER-SCHONBERGER, Co-Author, "Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think": Well, big data is our ability to really see at a large scale what we couldn't see at a small scale.
And big data is all around us. If we search online with Google, that's big data. If we ask Siri on our iPhone, that's big data. The book recommendations on Amazon, the video recommendations on Netflix, that's big data. If Bing Travel tells us whether or not a ticket price goes up or down most likely over the next couple of days, that's big data.
But it goes beyond the Internet companies. We see it when airlines that make predictive repair and maintenance on their jet engines or when inflation rates are being announced almost in real time, not by government officials, but by a startup company out of Boston that monitors online price data points. So, big data is really everywhere.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, Kashmir Hill, we have talked on this show at different times about this issue, privacy issue, in the context of Facebook, Google various -- various times. How much do you think people are aware of this big data world that we're talking about?
KASHMIR HILL, Senior Online Editor, Forbes.com: I think people are thinking about this a lot these days, and privacy has become something very interesting to people, in part I think because they're on Facebook and they're sharing so much information.
And everyone has a smartphone and they're downloading apps that are sharing a lot of information about them, from where they are, their location information, to who their contacts are. So I think people are thinking about it a lot. But a lot of people are also aware of the benefits of big data.
So I think people are often giving up that information knowing that they're going to get something in return. So there's a lot to think about right now in terms of if the trade-offs are worth it and when it's too privacy-invasive for people.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Jules Polonetsky, pick up on that. Continue, because there are pluses, there are minuses. Have you seen an evolution in how much people are even aware and responding to what's around them?
JULES POLONETSKY, Director, Future of Privacy Forum: People are clearly aware, but they don't always think about in the terms of data or privacy.
All they know is Amazon recommended a book and it turns out it seems to be based on what other people are buying, and they kind of like that. They like that Netflix can recommend and make their queue easier and smarter.
But when you sit back and you say, well, do you like it that everybody knows everything about you, well, then that sounds a bit scary. And so I think the challenge is, how do we get the benefits? How do we solve diseases because we're better able to analyze lots of health data? How do we figure out what schools are really working by analyzing what actually works for particular students?
All of those things are going to perhaps make our planet smarter, the way IBM sometimes argues smarter planet. But every one of those ...
JEFFREY BROWN: In the best of all worlds.
JULES POLONETSKY: In the best.
But each of those things can also come with a big negative. Will people profile you, discriminate against you? Will the government predict that you're going to be a criminal in a way that frightens people? So we have to get this balance between big data and big risk right, or we're in for a lot of debates for the next couple of years.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, just so -- so now to bring in the NSA revelations, we see these -- this polling data right afterward that at least suggests that a majority of Americans are relatively comfortable with what's going on. How do you fit that into the kinds of concerns we're talking about?
VIKTOR MAYER-SCHONBERGER: Well, I think we don't know all the facts yet.
And I think the American public is just making up its mind right now. A significant portion may be comfortable now, but as more information becomes available, that might shift. The situation is still fluid. And I have seen a survey that said that about 40 percent of the people in the United States are uncomfortable.
What really this points towards is that this is early days and what we need to have is a public debate about the pros and cons, as Jules said, and that public debate could be the positive outcome of that NSA situation.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just to stay with you for a moment, you have been looking at this for many years. Are you sanguine? Are you concerned? Are you coming out on one side or the other?
VIKTOR MAYER-SCHONBERGER: I am quite concerned, but I'm not so much concerned about the surveillance aspect than about how big data can be abused for predictions, predictions about future behavior.
And if we use these predictions to then punish people, to penalize them, not for what they have done, but what they're only predicted to do, then we are on a slippery slope towards "Minority Report," and that keeps me up at night.
JEFFREY BROWN: "Minority Report" meaning the old movie that showed data coming into our lives, right?
Kashmir, let me ask you, how much of this do you think is generational? Because it's often talked about younger people who are coming up in a world where they just live online and they're very comfortable giving out a lot of data.
KASHMIR HILL: One thing that's been interesting to see as this plays out -- there's always will be all these different polls, and some say that young people care less about privacy and others say that they care more.
But what's been interesting about what we're learning about the NSA is some people are shocked by it, but some people have been told for so long that everything we do is tracked, we're giving out all of this information in the way that we live today when we walk around with a smartphone that is tracking us all the time, and we create these dossiers about ourselves on Facebook, that it seems that some people are just used to this and aren't as surprised because they thought it was happening already.
So it's interesting kind of what happens in terms of expectation of privacy, as you tell people over and over again they have no privacy and then when it's confirmed, they're not -- they're not surprised by it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that's an interesting way of thinking about it, Jules Polonetsky.
Is there a difference when it's national security, as opposed to Amazon telling me what book I might want?
JULES POLONETSKY: The same solution, frankly, is needed in both these areas. And that's transparency.
The companies say, trust us, we just want to sell you stuff, you have nothing to worry about. The government says, trust us, we're just trying to catch terrorists. But you know what? This is too important to just trust. And we might trust today's government, and who knows what happens tomorrow? So we need transparency.
We need to know that someone is watching the watchers. Finally, the civil liberties board has been appointed and they're going to be taking a look into this. The Obama administration has a bunch of open chief privacy officer roles that need to be filled at the Department of Justice, at Homeland Security.
We need to know that if data is being collected for terrorism or if it's being collected to invent the next great new product that there are people scrutinizing, humans, not just predicting who the next criminal is, but scrutinizing and making sure that the risks are being minimized and avoided.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you see, briefly, that -- any signs that the public is where things are going, public pushing back against privacy concerns or getting more comfortable?
JULES POLONETSKY: I think we have been seeing -- you know, this is obviously a great explosion, but we have seen pushback when Facebook has made moves that the public didn't like, when Amazon has made moves, when Apple's made moves.
We haven't seen this giant uprising of people debating and calling Congress. But I think consumers in this day and age have the tools to make quick decisions, and, if companies aren't careful, they will be making them.
JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly from you, Victor Mayer-Schonberger, same question. Do you see any beginnings of a pushback or are people getting more comfortable?
VIKTOR MAYER-SCHONBERGER: Well, just the sheer fact that Google and Facebook and Microsoft were so quickly reacting to this situation by announcing that they want the federal government to permit them to make public the numbers -- the number of times they had given access to government agencies shows that these companies really care about consumer trust and they care about losing that.
They're afraid of losing that. And that shows to me that trust is brittle. And if it is not maintained, if it is not cared for, it may erode very quickly.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Jules Polonetsky and Kashmir Hill, thank you, all three.
More people are working well past traditional retirement age. Is retirement as we know it a thing of the past? How long are we likely to work?
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat cruises past an oil tanker off the port of Bandar Abbas, southern Iran, on July 2, 2012. Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images.
By Toni Johnson, and Robert McMahon, editor for the Council on Foreign Relations
With concern mounting over Iran's nuclear ambitions, some lawmakers and policy advocates see sanctions as the best option to halt Tehran's uranium enrichment program.
Since 2010, the United States and international partners have ratcheted up sanctions as reports surfaced of the country's progress on potential nuclear weapons capability, although the regime regularly denies such a goal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has been issuing regular statements of concern in recent years, and in a June 2013 speech Director-General Yukiyo Amano said Iran's progress in uranium enrichment and heavy water projects was in "clear contravention" of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Since early 2012, the United States has led a campaign to accelerate the pace of sanctions, focusing on Iran's energy and financial sectors. The EU also has imposed sanctions on oil purchases from Iran. Overall, sanctions have sharply cut back oil exports, isolated Iran from international banking systems, and contributed to a big drop in the value of its currency. But a debate over the efficacy of these sanctions persists because Iran has continued to pursue its nuclear program.
The long list of U.S. economic and political sanctions against Iran has roots in the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis. On Nov. 14, 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared an emergency and ordered a freeze on all Iranian assets "which are or become subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."
Additional sanctions were imposed when, in January 1984, Iran was implicated in the bombing of the U.S. Marine base in Beirut, Lebanon. The United States added Iran to its list of countries that support terrorism (in this case, the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah), banning U.S. foreign aid to Tehran, and imposing export controls on dual-use items.
Concern over Iran's nuclear program surfaced later, and the following areas are targeted by significant U.S. sanctions:
Weapons development. The Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act (Oct. 23, 1992) calls for sanctioning any person or entity that assists Tehran in weapons development or acquisition of "chemical, biological, nuclear, or destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons." Subsequent nonproliferation orders include the Iran-Syria-North Korea Non-Proliferation Act, and Executive Order 13382 (PDF), signed by President Bush in June 2005.
Trade and investment. On April 30, 1995, President Bill Clinton announced a comprehensive ban on U.S. trade and investment in Iran, a move codified by Executive Order 12959 (PDF). In March 2010, President Barack Obama, like George W. Bush, renewed Clinton's executive order banning U.S. trade and investment with Iran. In a series of new steps taken in late spring 2013, the Obama administration added to the growing list of sanctioned dealings, expanding its blacklist of Iranian petrochemical companies and targeting Iran's automotive industry for the first time (because some parts are believed to have dual uses for equipment used in nuclear infrastructure). However, the administration lifted the sanctions that barred sales of consumer communications equipment and software to civilians to help them circumvent official controls.
Nuclear materials. The Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ISA) was aimed at denying Iran access to materials to further its nuclear program by sanctioning non-U.S. business investment in Iran's energy sector. While the act has been seen as a blueprint for possible actions aimed at foreign support of Iranian weapons development, in practice the measure has proven largely symbolic. Kenneth Katzman, an Iran analyst at the Congressional Research Service, writes that successive U.S. administrations from 1998 until 2010 "hesitated to confront companies of partner countries" and did not make any determinations of ISA violations in that period. But the Obama administration, he writes, "has used ISA authorities to discourage companies from continuing their business with Iran." In May 2013 the departments of State and Treasury imposed sanctions -- including a visa ban on corporate officers -- under the Iran Sanctions Act and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 against the Ferland Company of Cyprus and Ukraine.
Financial dealings. The U.S. Treasury Department administers a vast array of financial sanctions against Iran, from bans on the importation of gifts over $100 to laws barring financial dealings with Iranian entities. Efforts to ban Iranian banks from accessing the U.S. financial system have also increased in recent years. In November 2011, the United States designated the entire Iranian banking regime as potentially aiding and abetting terrorist activities, but the measure fell short of sanctioning the country's central bank. President Obama also issued an executive order in November 2011 targeting Iran's oil revenue by stopping foreign financial institutions from conducting oil transactions with Iran's central bank, which handles most of the country's oil payments. In March 2012, in a move required by Congress to implement the new sanctions, the president certified that the global oil market was strong enough to support the loss of Iranian oil. The new measures put pressure on heavy importers of Iranian oil such as South Korea, India, Turkey, China, and South Africa. Japan and several EU countries have been given exemptions, and many of the others have reduced their oil trade with Iran. Meanwhile, among the administration's June 2013 steps was an executive order that seeks to devalue the rial even more by penalizing foreign banks that trade or hold the currency.
Assets. Following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, President Bush authored Executive Order 13224, freezing the assets of entities determined to be supporting international terrorism. This list includes dozens of individuals, organizations, and financial institutions in Iran. Over the years, Washington has sanctioned dozens more individuals and Iranian institutions, including banks, defense contractors, and the Revolutionary Guard Corps. In October 2011, the Treasury Department added five Iranians, including four senior officers of the IRGC's elite paramilitary Quds Force, to this list for plotting the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States. It also added Iranian commercial airline Mahan Air for providing financial, material, and technological support to the IRGC and Quds Force. The IRGC-Quds Force was also listed in Executive Order 13572 (PDF) of April 2011 aimed at blocking properties of individuals and entities for supporting the Syrian regime's human rights abuses and suppression of anti-government protests. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators in May 2013 proposed further legislation that seeks to cut off Iranian access to roughly $60 billion to $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves held in foreign bank accounts.
Refined gasoline. In July 2010, President Obama signed into law a measure aimed at penalizing domestic and foreign companies for selling refined gasoline to Iran, or for supplying equipment in Iran's bid to increase its refining capacity. In signing the measure, Obama declared the act, H.R. 2194, "a powerful tool against Iran's development of nuclear weapons and support of terrorism. China and Russia quickly opposed the unilateral U.S. measure on grounds that the move -- aimed at closing loopholes in the U.N. sanctions regime -- could hurt their business interests while undermining diplomatic overtures to Tehran.
The EU has imposed a number of tough sanctions. The EU began embargoing exports of oil from Iran on July 1, 2012, contributing greatly to a drop in exports to about 1.25 million barrels, or half of the 2.5 million barrels it exported daily in 2011, according to the nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Research Service. Those exports dipped to 700,000 barrels per day in May 2013, according to industry sources cited by Reuters.
In June 2010, the European Union enacted measures similar to those approved by the U.S. Congress that ban investment and assistance to Iran's energy sector, and a series of prohibitions was placed on European firms doing business in the country. The EU also added to its list (PDF) of designated individuals, companies, banks, and organizations targeted for asset freezes. In response to a touch IAEA report in November 2011, the UK and Canada also imposed new sanctions similar to U.S. restrictions on the activities of Iran's central bank. And in May 2013, Canada's foreign affairs minister John Baird announced a range of new measures including a ban on imports and exports from Iran that added 82 new entities to an existing list.
The U.N. Security Council has wrestled with imposing sanctions on Iran since 2006 due to Iran's failures to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements and its continuing uranium-enrichment activities. In December of that year, the council approved the first of four binding resolutions authorizing bans on exports of nuclear, missile, and dual-use technologies; limiting travel by dozens of Iranian officials; and freezing the assets of forty individuals and entities, including Bank Sepah and various front companies. The measures also call on states to refrain from business with Iran, and authorize the inspection of cargo carried by Iranian shippers. In June of 2010, the Security Council issued a fourth round of sanctions under Resolution 1929 -- putting the squeeze on Iran's Revolutionary Guards-owned businesses, its shipping industry, and the country's commercial and financial service sector. Efforts to push through a fourth round of economic noose-tightening at the United Nations, while successful, were nonetheless complicated by resistance from Russia and China, which are linked to Iran by important economic and political interests.
Navigating the Road Ahead
Experts are divided on the effectiveness of sanctions as a tool to force rogue states to abandon their weapons programs. In the cases of Libya and Iraq, many analysts note the role economic sanctions had in inhibiting the development of weapons programs (though in the case of Iraq, the full extent of their effectiveness was not known until after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003). But sanctions, and their impact on the Iranian economy, were clearly an issue on the mind of the country's elites ahead of June 14, 2013 presidential elections. The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said ahead of the polls that candidates should "pay due attention to the economy which has turned into a scene of imposed challenge with aliens [Western powers]", the Financial Times reported.
Washington hopes that squeezing Iran's economy will pressure the country's leadership to alter course on its nuclear program. U.S. officials in mid-2013 said sanctions were having a significant impact on the Iranian economy, particularly sectors like energy and shipping, said U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen. News reports have shown that the cost of doing business with Iran has become so onerous that many firms are dropping their transactions entirely. Iranian officials have continued to dismiss sanctions as ineffective, but some have also said lifting them should be a major point of any new talks. In April and May 2012, Iran met with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (P5+1) to discuss its nuclear program. However, those talks have yielded little movement on either side. Whether these sanctions will deter the nuclear program remains up for debate.
The Supreme Court could make landmark rulings on three major issues this month, weighing affirmative action in higher education, the Voting Rights Act section 5, and California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which both involve same-sex marriage.
That regular ritual of a justice reading decisions from the bench begins at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday. SCOTUSblog's live blog, below, starts at 9:30 a.m EDT.
For NewsHour coverage featuring National Law Journal correspondent Marcia Coyle, visit our Supreme Court page.Live blog of opinions June 13, 2013
A U.S. Border Patrol agent keeps watch near the San Ysidro port of entry near San Diego, California. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
A day after 82 members of the Senate joined together to vote in favor of moving forward with a comprehensive immigration plan, the debate on the floor of the chamber Wednesday signaled that finding common ground on proposed amendments would not be so easy.
The verbal altercation that best reflects the challenges for lawmakers going forward came as Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., both members of the so-called Gang of Eight that crafted the legislation, tangled with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, over his measure to strengthen the border security elements of the bill.
Cornyn's amendment would require the government achieve a series of security targets, including full operational control of the U.S.-Mexico border, which he defines as a 90 percent apprehension rate of illegal border crossers, before a pathway to citizenship be made available to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.
"Without a border security trigger, immigration reform will be dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. My amendment provides such a trigger, the 'Gang of Eight' bill does not," Cornyn said.
Schumer charged Cornyn's proposal would create a situation where a path to citizenship would be "possibly yes, possibly no," a result the New York Democrat called "unacceptable."
McCain, meanwhile, criticized his GOP colleague for claiming the amendment, which includes thousands of additional border security personnel, would not add to the overall cost of the bill. "There is a finite amount of money authorized," McCain said. "It's simple first-grade mathematics."
"No border is ever going to be sealed," McCain added. He said the goal should instead be to get to a point where the American people "have confidence" in the system so that lawmakers can move forward with the rest of the legislation.
The Arizona lawmaker also pushed back on accusations from some Republicans that supporters of the legislation were intent on defeating any changes to the bill. McCain called such charges "patently false," saying the bill was not "written on golden tablets."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, backed the proposal last month when it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Wednesday he expressed concerns about the direction of the measure.
"There are a lot of people on this side who would like to vote for a final bill," Hatch said. But the Utah Republican said his support would be contingent upon the adoption of four amendments he introduced, including provisions to ensure the payment of back taxes by newly legalized immigrants, and mandating a five-year wait period after people become permanent residents before they can receive health care tax credits.
Hatch said he was "laying down the gauntlet" with those amendments. "Unless we address these four issues I believe this bill is designed to fail," he said. "If we can pass this bill with these amendments, it would go a long way. ... If this is going to be a political exercise, count me out."
While the policy was the focal point Wednesday, the process for holding votes on amendments also became a point of contention, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid objecting to GOP demands that changes be held to a simple majority standard.
The Nevada Democrat accused Republicans of ignoring their own requirements for a 60-vote threshold on legislation. "When it works to their advantage, they do away with McConnell rule. What is the McConnell rule? 60 votes on everything," Reid said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, accused Reid of obstruction by setting a 60-vote requirement, and said it suggested "the fix is in" to pass the bill in its current form.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., meanwhile, urged his colleagues to take a more deliberate pace with consideration of amendments, saying lawmakers "can't just throw up a bunch at the beginning" before people have had time to "digest" them.
Unable to resolve their differences, lawmakers shelved plans to hold the first round of votes on five amendments Wednesday. Whether they can recover some of the comity from Tuesday will likely determine whether votes will occur Thursday.
Off the floor Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said that he and fellow supporters of the immigration reform bill "are still on the hunt for votes" in the Senate.
NewsHour Coordinating Producer Elizabeth Summers reports that the Gang of Eight member said although he is "very confident" the measure will get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, more support is necessary to build momentum. "We can pass this out with 60, 61, 62," he explained to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, "but that doesn't do us much good in the House."
There is also outside pressure building on Congress to act. The Service Employees International Union went live with a new series of pro-immigration reform radio ads in Spanish. The labor union says they are spending at least $1 million on the positive campaign urging the Senate to pass the bill.
Watch Kwame Holman's short report on the day's activities here or at 53 seconds in below:
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that he disagrees with those who refer to the Senate immigration bill as a form of amnesty. "I will debate anybody who tries to suggest that these ideas that are moving through Congress are amnesty. They're not," Ryan said during a forum on immigration reform. "Amnesty is wiping the slate clean and not paying any penalty for having done something wrong."
National Journal's Rebecca Kaplan reports that Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has decided to work with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., on a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. Labrador had previously been part of a bipartisan group of House lawmakers negotiating a comprehensive plan, but dropped out last week over differences related to health care for undocumented immigrants.
CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell announced Wednesday he is retiring in August after 33 years in the intelligence business.
The head of the National Security Agency told Congress that surveillance programs have halted terrorist threats.
NewsHour Coordinating Producer Linda J. Scott reports that Mary Wilson, the longtime Motown star and member of the "Supremes," will perform Thursday during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol to honor Rep. John Dingell as the longest serving member of Congress. Vice President Joe Biden also will also be in attendance to honor the Michigan Democrat, who has served 57 years and five months.
Education columnist Ben Wildavsky points out that no matter how the Supreme Court rules on affirmative action this month, the decision won't affect many colleges with not-that-selective admissions.
Speaker John Boehner said he will back his House Republicans' version of the farm bill.
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on his bill that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said that "the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." His comments came in response to a Democratic amendment to include exceptions for rape, incest and health of the woman. The Democratic provision was defeated and Franks' measure passed on a party-line 20 to 12 vote.
Democrats seized on the remarks as the latest example of the Republican Party's "extreme" views when it comes to a woman's right to choose. "Sadly, this is not the first time we've heard something like this from a Republican," Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, alluding to comments last fall from Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin about "legitimate rape."
The GOP nominee in the Massachusetts Senate special election, Gabriel Gomez, slammed Franks for the comments. "I think that he's a moron and he proves that stupid has no specific political affiliation," Gomez said in an interview with ABC News.
"Ed's one of you," Mr. Obama told supporters on Wednesday at a rally for Rep. Ed Markey, the Democratic candidate in the June 25 Massachusetts Senate special election. Recent polls show Markey running ahead of Republican Gabriel Gomez, but the visit by the president signals Democrats believe the contest is still up for grabs.
Huffington Post gives a face and voice to those affected by gun violence.
Politico's Hadas Gold writes about a new NRA ad targeting Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was once an ally of the gun rights group.
The New York Times has a tough profile of mayoral candidate and former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Sen. Flake apologized for his son's Twitter feed.
Rookie Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., is the Republicans' match for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., in Thursday's Congressional Baseball Game. National Journal's Ben Terris has everything you want to know about the rivalry. And of course, that's if the game happens in the wake of the derecho storm bearing down on Washington Thursday afternoon.
Check out George H.W. Bush's birthday socks.
There's a reason House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., had Domino's on his 50th birthday.
Ben and Jerry's is getting political.
NEWSHOUR ROUNDUPBehold! New Adventures for Older Workers, a team effort multimedia project led by Vanessa Dennis and Elizabeth Shell.
And as Paul Solman reports, older workers working longer is a boon for the economy.
Christina attended Question Period on Parliament Hill in Canada, and asks in this column, wouldn't it be better if our own members of Congress insulted each other more often?
Jason Kane proves in detail why trees are important.
Top NewsHour officials and Gwen Ifill responded to a Baltimore Sun columnist who criticized the program.
Everyone's posting pictures of socks to celebrate George H.W. Bush's b-day. Even Nancy Pelosi. http://t.co/XiDmb1volW— Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) June 12, 2013
Double take - Rand Paul cloned? He's simultaneously on CNN and Fox. But wait:He's wearing a different shirt & tie twitter.com/jonkarl/status...— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) June 12, 2013
OK. This is awesome. Obama'sburger order hanging on the prep line in Charlie's kitchen.campl.us/pgsj— Michael Levenson (@mlevenson) June 12, 2013
Meena Ganesan, Katelyn Polantz and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.
Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.
Follow the politics team on Twitter:Follow @burlijFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @tiffanymullonFollow @meenaganesanFollow @ljspbs
Photo courtesy of Flickr user dullhunk/ Alex Bateman at the Sanger Institute.
Can someone else patent your genes? No, according to a closely watched ruling from the U.S. Supreme court Thursday morning.
The Court ruled partially for Myriad Genetics, Inc. Its unanimous decision found synthetically produced genetic material can be patented, but that genes extracted from the human body, known as isolated DNA, do not merit the same legal protections.
The NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown examined some of the issues in the case in April, when the Court heard oral arguments.Watch Video
Shortly after the decision, SCOTuSblog's Lyle Denniston broke down the larger implications:
Pronouncing what may seem like a patent truism, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that biotech researchers have to create something to get monopoly protection to study and apply the phenomenon. Because Myriad Genetics, Inc., "did not create anything," the Court struck down its patent on isolating human genes from the bloodstream, unchanged from their natural form. Because Myriad did create a synthetic form of the genes, however, that could be eligible for a patent, the Court concluded.
The decision was a major blow to a company that believed it had a right to be the sole user and analyst of two human genes that show a high risk, for women found to have them in their blood, of breast and ovarian cancer. But the ruling will give medical and scientific researchers, and family doctors, greater opportunity to help women patients discover their potential vulnerability to those types of cancer.
In a way. the ruling was a silent tribute to screen actress Angelina Jolie, who recently gained huge notoriety not for her acting but for voluntarily having her breasts surgically removed after discovering that she had the threatening genes in her body. She, of course, was able to pay the high cost of that test; now, women of less means will be able to afford it, and that was a key motivation for challenging Myriad's patent rights.
What do you think? Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision that biotech companies must "create" something to patent it? Do you think the decision may stifle important research in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
By Paul Solman
Retired economics professor Mary Huff Stevenson leads a Zumba Gold ® class at the Brookline Senior Center outside Boston. Photos by Amara Cohen.
Professor Emerita of Economics (University of Massachusetts, Boston) Mary Huff Stevenson is an exceptionally astute old friend with whom I used to meet regularly in the '80s and '90s to discuss economics.
She helped me understand that economic inequality, however unfair and undesirable, might be a sustainable condition in America: the better-off transacting largely with one another and leaving a large swath of Americans increasingly out of the picture. She pointed out that more education might not change the situation, but simply mean that everyone moved ahead a step, not that anyone moved ahead in line. She schooled me on research she had done during a fellowship year on the impetus for the mass library movement in 19th century America: to distract and pacify the restive working classes.
Stevenson has long been a champion of the less fortunate -- teaching them, teaching about them. During her decades at UMass, she co-authored two books with noted Northeastern University economist Barry Bluestone -- "The Boston Renaissance: Race, Space and Economic Change in an American Metropolis," (Russell Sage, 2000) and "The Urban Experience: Economics, Society, and Public Policy" (Oxford, 2008) with additional co-author Russell Williams.
She also starred, with Nobel laureate economist Robert Solow and founding father Benjamin Franklin, in a video I presented some years ago to explain the concept of "opportunity cost." In an earlier version, which I can't find online, she played the role of my psychotherapist.
Professor Stevenson, with whom I graduated Brandeis University in 1966, no longer teaches economics, but something called Zumba Gold ®. It is her encore career. And so, with our most ambitious online effort to date -- "New Adventures for Older Workers" -- debuting this week, Thursday seemed the right time to offer Stevenson's account of her transition.
Mary Huff Stevenson: I was an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston for 40 years, and I'm now in my encore career as a fitness instructor focusing on older adults and those with physical limitations. It's an unlikely path for someone whose childhood nickname was Supey, short for Superklutz. Growing up, I was never athletic, never a cheerleader, never had dance lessons. The only evidence that I enjoyed moving around at all was that when I got home from school I'd turn on the TV to watch American Bandstand, and I'd try to imitate all the new dance moves I'd seen there.
Around the time I turned 50, I realized that although I was fortunate to be in good health, I should not take this for granted. I joined a gym where I walked on a treadmill and worked out with machines and free weights. However, I injured my shoulder while lifting a suitcase and had to stop the strength training while I was getting physical therapy. Bored with just the treadmill, I wandered into an aerobics class. It was a class in the Nia Technique ® , and I was captivated by it.
Nia is an eclectic form of exercise that borrows from martial arts such as tai chi, taekwondo, and aikido; healing arts such as yoga, Alexander Technique, and Feldenkrais Method; both modern and jazz dance and the free-spirited moves that Isadora Duncan might have done. Nia is done "your body's way," so when all the other shoulders in the class were moving, mine wasn't, and that was perfectly fine. The shoulder healed, but I never went back to the free weights. Through Nia, I'd reclaimed that energetic teenage girl who enjoyed twirling around her living room.
I knew from my years of teaching economics that a good way to really understand something is to teach it to someone else. That was my motivation for doing the intensive training required of all Nia instructors. And when I began to envision my students, I realized that I would have the greatest impact on other older adults. From there, it became a question of how best to reach them. Knowing that Nia might not appeal to everyone, I got further training to teach Zumba Gold ® (a version of the Latin rhythm exercise class modified for older active adults) and Ageless Grace ® (a seated exercise format that uses 21 unique tools to promote lifelong movement with comfort and ease).
I currently teach classes at senior centers and at a gym for people over 50. I think I am helping older adults to remain physically and mentally agile. As a senior, I know I'm benefiting. Although this transition can be read as a story of dramatic change, it is also a story of continuity: I've been teaching my entire adult life -- the subject matter is just different.
It doesn't happen often. But every once in a while, you meet a person who carries the human equivalent of sunshine around with them. It's the guy or girl who always seems to be smiling -- if not outright, then just beneath the surface. And not in a goofy way, but rather as if they love life and what they're doing and have decided not to let the gremlins throw them off course. My friend Doug Bailey, who died this week at the age of 79, was like that. I never had a conversation with him, over the course of more than thirty years, when he didn't have a piece of good news to share. He was one of the most upbeat people I've ever known.
He refused to accept the idea that entire generations of Americans would grow up and be repelled by the thought of a life in public service.
What may surprise you is that he spent his life in politics. Given the partisanship and negativity that define today's political arena, it's hard to imagine. But Doug got his start when things were different, when candidates could be moderate Republicans (as most of those he supported were), or conservative Democrats, and still get elected to office. This was back in the 1960s and '70s when Republicans such as New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, and Sens. Charles Percy of Illinois, Howard Baker of Tennessee and Richard Lugar of Indiana were running for election and re-election. Doug Bailey worked for all of them, and for President Gerald Ford in his re-election campaign of 1976.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, whose gubernatorial campaign Bailey worked on in that era, told the National Journal in an interview this week, "He cared about every person he met and every issue he tackled."
President Ford's close loss to challenger Jimmy Carter was hard on Doug, but what caused him to leave campaign work altogether, he later told friends, was the negative tone politics started to take on in the 1980s. He went on to create the Hotline, a pioneering daily newsletter on campaigns and candidates, and later to launch a succession of projects aimed at bringing the two parties together, searching for the increasingly elusive common ground between the far left and the far right.
But what I remember best about Doug Bailey was his passion for getting young people turned on to politics. He refused to accept the idea that entire generations of Americans would grow up and be repelled by the thought of a life in public service. When I first talked to him in 2005 about a rough plan for a documentary project, traveling around the United States and profiling the group that has come to be known as "millennials," no one was more enthusiastic than Doug.
He put me in touch with the surprisingly large national network of young people he knew -- all leaders, many then still in college; at the same time, he urged me not to forget to talk to young people who were not in school. In 2007, when the project was over, after two documentaries and other reports had been aired or published, he urged me to do a sequel. Since then, and as recently as this spring, he's had one idea after another about how to engage young people in public life. In the hundreds of tweets that popped up after word spread of his death, there were scores from young folks he mentored.
My remembrance of Doug Bailey and the things he taught me about politics and being a good person - thecankicksback.org/remembering_th...— Nick Troiano (@NickTroiano) June 11, 2013
I was lucky enough to know the amazing Doug Bailey, whose enthusiasm & support of young people was contagious. RIP. bloom.bg/11S6gHh— Nisha Chittal (@NishaChittal) June 10, 2013
1st my Dad, now my Mentor: RIP Doug Bailey, who intro'd me to new media, encouraged my doc dreams.A patriot is gone politi.co/19iQyOr— Dan Manatt (@DanManatt) June 11, 2013
Hotline founder Doug Bailey has passed away. We'll miss his wit, his wisdom, and his incredible love of politics -- nationaljournal.com/blogs/hotlineo...— NJ Hotline (@njhotline) June 10, 2013
Doug was not only really smart; he was wise. He believed politics was meant to help people and to make this a better country, and he thought political people should work together to make that happen. He never gave up on the idea. We honor his legacy by not giving up either. Doug Bailey is survived by his wife Pat, their children Ed and Kate, and a grandchild.
Ray Souza at his dairy farm in Turlock, Calif. He's seen neighboring dairy farms go out of business because they can't afford production costs. Photo courtesy of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Editor's Note at 3:25 p.m. ET: The broadcast report, originally slated to air on Thursday, is postponed.
California dairy farmers are pumping out milk at higher rates each year to try to make a profit in light of the rising associated costs of corn and soy used in cow feed.
Meanwhile, milk and cheese are becoming more in demand in countries such as China with its growing middle class.
It's a natural fit: California is looking for more markets for its milk, while China is seeking more sources for its increasing appetite for dairy.
"We know a lot of these markets in China will grow 10 or 20 fold over the next few decades. By being there now, we can be at the start of that growth," said Ross Christieson, a consultant for the California Milk Advisory Board, in the next "Food for 9 Billion" report airing on Thursday's PBS NewsHour.
But reporters Serene Fang and Susanne Rust find it's not necessarily a match made in heaven.
Some say the increased production is taking a toll on California's environment. Dairy farmers in California are packing more cows onto their property, which create more greenhouse gases, while manure used to fertilize cropland is tainting waterways.
"Already, California communities are overwhelmed by the amount of air pollution that comes from these facilities. The effect on groundwater is really unacceptable," said Brent Newell, an environmental lawyer with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, in Fang and Rust's report. "So continuing to produce milk to put on a ship and ship across the Pacific Ocean to China, to satisfy some kind of growing demand in China for dairy products, really makes no sense at all."
More in the Food for 9 Billion Series:
The "Food for 9 Billion" series is a PBS NewsHour collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Public Radio International's The World, American Public Media's Marketplace and Homelands Productions.
Video shot and produced by David Pelcyger.
After 12 years working for the federal government, Charles Smith III took an early retirement. Two years later, at 63, he's back working part-time as a produce clerk for $10 an hour to support his daughter in college.
"I'm not going to let this girl graduate with $80,000 worth of debt. That's insane," Smith explained.
Smith is part of a growing trend: folks heading back to the workforce after they retire (or putting off retirement indefinitely). Many, like Smith, do so for financial reasons. Others, to make themselves feel useful or for the sheer joy of it.
So, is retirement as we know it a thing of the past? How long are we likely to work? We have spent the past year looking at the factors -- demography, economics and just plain personal preference -- that help explain what's happening to the American workforce as it ages in our special project, New Adventures for Older Workers.
Farmers in the Ganges River delta in Eastern India. All photos by Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions.
When a cyclone hits India, the sea-drenched soil can remain salty for years. Farmers are finding new high-yield rice seeds are not withstanding the salty onslaught as well as seeds developed more than a century ago.
In the next "Food for 9 Billion" report, Sam Eaton travels to Eastern India to find out how the Ganges River delta, packed with more than 4 million people, is faring four years after Cyclone Aila hit the region.
Vegetables are difficult to grow now, farmers told him, and the only rice that can grow is the salt-tolerant variety developed for the area long ago.
Nonprofit organizations are working to reproduce more of these heartier, traditional seeds that can handle more extreme environments but were replaced with high-yielding varieties in the 1960s, Eaton reports.
"I have more than 200 varieties, some of which can withstand drought and can yield something on zero irrigation," said scientist Debal Deb, who works in one of the seed development labs. "Some varieties which can withstand 12-feet-deep water for three months and the stem will elongate and still give some yield."
Some scientists are concerned, however, that the traditional seeds won't produce enough to feed a growing population. So the genetic engineering continues.
Watch Eaton's full report on Thursday's PBS NewsHour.
More in the Food for 9 Billion Series:
The "Food for 9 Billion" series is a PBS NewsHour collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Public Radio International's The World, American Public Media's Marketplace and Homelands Productions.
My friend Judy Woodruff's blog about the passing of Doug Bailey, a legend in political journalism, prompted me to flash back five years. On June 13, 2008, she was the one to call and tell me of the sudden passing of our mutual friend Tim Russert of NBC News and moderator of "Meet the Press."
Somehow, it still shocks me to write those words. Tim was a mentor, an encourager, a political nerd with a passion for getting questions answered, and a fine man.
We could not have known when he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 58 that his absence would leave such a big hole. Sunday mornings are not the same. Election nights are not the same. Somehow, he made regular folks understand Washington more, and hate politics less.
Here is something important you need to know about Tim Russert: On the night Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, even a casual viewer could tell Tim was beside himself with the joy of watching history unfold before his eyes. In that slightly over the top, nearly hokey way that characterized his love of election nights, he simply could not get enough.
I mention Tim often when I speak before college audiences and community groups now. His name still resonates, five years later. They remember that he favored low-tech white boards over high-tech touch screens. They recall that, although he got his start in politics working for Democrats, he was respected by partisans of all stripes. People like me better because I knew him.
In an age of Twitter and talk show attacks and counterattacks, humanity tends to get lost.
I remember that at his funeral mass at Washington's Holy Trinity Catholic Church, which occurred in the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain arrived and sat side by side.
I miss Tim personally, but I also miss the qualities he came to represent. He might have barked a question at a guest, but it was always in the service of pressing for the answer. He may have been slightly wacky about his beloved Buffalo Bills, but he was also bonkers about his son, Luke.
In an age of Twitter and talk show attacks and counterattacks, humanity tends to get lost. We forget that most of the lawmakers we elect have more in common than not, or else they would not have sought these jobs. We lose sight of the fact that most journalists are honest and hard-working, not just mining the Internet for click bait.
A personal story: I came to know Tim when, as a reporter for the New York Times, he would invite me to join the "Meet the Press" roundtable to discuss the week's news. After a time, he lured me to NBC News full time, promising to give me all I needed to succeed in the scary world of broadcast television. He had concluded by that time in his executive career that it was easier to teach someone television than to teach them how to be a good reporter. He was right about that.
A few years later, when PBS came knocking, he urged me to do something scary once again -- to seize the opportunity to host "Washington Week" and report for the NewsHour. He was right about that too.
Judy writes that Doug Bailey was not only smart, he was wise. I can say the same about Tim. We could all use a much heftier serving of that in those who lead us, and those who chronicle them.
Read more about Tim, and see a great snapshot of him with his oil painting doppelganger, in this remembrance posted by his longtime producer Betsy Fischer Martin.
Above photo: Gwen Ifill with Tim Russert in 1999.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Two major stories tonight.
We begin with a late development about the war in Syria. The Obama administration has concluded the Syrian government has utilized chemical weapons in its fight against rebels. That word came late this afternoon from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
In a statement, he said: "The Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale, against the opposition multiple times in the last year." The statement said U.S. found no evidence that rebels have used chemical weapons.
White House officials said in response to the findings President Obama has decided to provide new military support to the rebels, but they gave no details.
The confirmed death toll in the Syrian civil war has grown to nearly 93,000. The U.N. Human Rights Office reported the new figure today. It said, on average, nearly 5,000 people are being killed every month.
And U.N. human right chiefs Navi Pillay said the actual death toll may be much higher.
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Civilians are bearing the brunt of widespread violent and often indiscriminate attacks, which are devastating whole swathes of major towns and cities, as well as outlying villages.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The war has also driven more than a million Syrians to take refuge in other countries and millions more are internally displaced.
JEFFREY BROWN: And the other major story today, for the second year in a row, Colorado is under assault by an out-of-control wildfire. Today, there was word of widespread losses and warnings of perhaps even worse to come.
SHERIFF TERRY MAKETA, El Paso County, Colo.: We have, right now, 360 homes that are complete losses.
JEFFREY BROWN: The news came from Sheriff Terry Maketa in El Paso County, Colo. The count of homes burned nearly quadrupled in 24 hours, and it could go higher still.
TERRY MAKETA: We have 79 addresses that we could not verify for numerous reasons, either accessibility, downed trees, or the fire activity disrupted the assessment and we were unable to send cars in.
JEFFREY BROWN: The fire sprang to life Tuesday and spread across 94,000 acres, fueled by high winds and hot, dry conditions.
Some homes survived initially, only to be consumed when shifting winds blew flames back on them. Today, the fire was burning out of control in the Black Forest, a heavily wooded area northeast of Colorado Springs. It's not far from the site of 2012's Waldo Canyon fire. That blaze one year ago this month engulfed 347 homes, killed two people and led to more than $350 million dollars in insurance claims.
So far, there have been no deaths or injuries in the Black Forest fire, but more than 38,000 people have been forced from their homes.
WOMAN: I'm not sure if my house is lost. I just don't know.
MAN: We took photographs. Things that we can't replace, we brought with us. Other than that, we're saying fire insurance has a reason for it.
GEORGE GONZALES, Fire Victim: It's terrible. We have our motor home here, so we're just -- we're going to be leaving here pretty quick, but we don't like it. Our other neighbors are here too.
JEFFREY BROWN: As the fire spread today, mandatory evacuations spread to Colorado Springs, affecting some 1,000 homes. Firefighters and authorities, including the National Guard, say they're throwing everything they can at the inferno, including two C-130 cargo planes outfitted to drop slurry retardant from above.
LT. COL. MITCH UTTERBACK, Colorado National Guard: I almost want to say, here we are again. We learned a lot last year from Waldo.
JEFFREY BROWN: But hundreds of homes are still in jeopardy, and Sheriff Maketa says their fate depends largely on how the wind blows.
TERRY MAKETA: We are watching the weather conditions very closely, and wind is probably our number one threat. It is what has been the game-changer. It is what has changed the conditions.
JEFFREY BROWN: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has declared emergencies for the Black Forest blaze and another fire sixty miles to the southwest at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. That one has burned 20 structures. Still another fire sparked by lightning Monday is burning in the state's Rocky Mountain National Park.
KWAME HOLMAN: One person died and at least 73 people were injured in Louisiana today when a chemical plant exploded and caught fire. Amateur video showed a thick plume of smoke rising from the facility 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The plant produces highly flammable gases, ethylene and propylene. There was no immediate word on what sparked the explosion.
Revelations of extensive surveillance by the National Security Agency already are doing damage. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation made that claim today, backed up by some in Congress. It was the latest in the uproar over the NSA's data collection on phone calls and online communications.
FBI head Robert Mueller told a House hearing the leaks have done significant harm to national security by putting terror suspects on alert.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI Director: There are persons who are out there who follow this very, very, very, very closely. And they are looking for ways around it.
One of the great vulnerabilities that terrorists understand is their communications. And any tidbit of information comes out in terms of our capabilities and our programs and the like, they are immediately finding ways around it.
KWAME HOLMAN: At the same time, Mueller tried to calm privacy concerns, saying the collected telephone data can be used only within strict limits.
ROBERT MUELLER: The program is set up for a very limited purpose and a limited objective, and that is to identify individuals in the United States who are using telephone for terrorist activities and to draw that network.
KWAME HOLMAN: Lawmakers also received more closed-door briefings. After one, the NSA's director, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, emerged to say he wants more details made public.
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, Director, National Security Agency: It's important that you have that information, but we don't want to risk American lives in doing that. So what we're being is very deliberate in this process so that we don't cause a terrorist attack by giving out too much information.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, there were new calls to find and punish Edward Snowden, the intelligence contractor behind the leaks.
Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, suggested Snowden had ulterior motives for fleeing to Hong Kong.
REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER, D-Md.: Some people are saying that he's a hero. He's broken the law. We have laws in the United States for whistle-blowers and for people that think there's an injustice being done.
All he had to do was raise his hand. Yet, he chose to go to China, a country that is taking -- cyber-attacking us every single day, taking billions of dollars of American business data.
KWAME HOLMAN: Snowden now is the subject of a Justice Department investigation.
Later, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the NSA now plans to release on Monday a list of attacks prevented by the surveillance programs.
The Senate today took its first major vote on amendments to the immigration bill. A Republican proposal would have mandated the southern border be fully secure for six months before immigration reform measures kick in. It was voted down 57-43.
There's fresh evidence that whites are losing majority status in the U.S. The Census Bureau reported today that, as of 2012, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for half the population under the age of five. The report said, within five years, minorities will make up more than half the population under 18. The trend is being fueled partly by immigration and higher birth rates among minorities.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an ultimatum to protesters. He demanded thousands of demonstrators end their occupation of a park in central Istanbul. The sit-in was triggered by the government's plans to bulldoze the site. Erdogan addressed leaders of his ruling political party in Ankara.
PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey: Nobody can invade the park. Therefore, we have been patient until now, but now patience is running out. This is my final warning. I am calling on mothers and fathers, please do something about your children.
KWAME HOLMAN: Five people have died in two weeks of clashes with police, and more than 5,600 have been injured.
A former president of Iran urged voters today not to boycott tomorrow's presidential election. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been barred from running by conservative hard-liners. He said reform-minded voters still should go to the polls. Meanwhile, there appeared to be a late surge of support for Hassan Rowhani, a relatively moderate cleric. There were widespread claims of fraud in the 2009 election, but the regime cracked down on protests.
The U.S. economy sent another positive signal on hiring today. First-time claims for unemployment benefits hit a five-year low in a signal the labor market is improving. The news helped Wall Street break a three-day losing streak. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 180 points to close at 15,176. The Nasdaq rose nearly 45 points to close at 3,445.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to the Supreme Court's decision on genes and its impact for patients and medical research.
The justices unanimously ruled that a company cannot patent an isolated human gene. The case involved Myriad Genetics, a company that holds patents on genes correlated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Myriad sells the genetic tests for those cancers.
In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote: "Myriad found the location of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. But that discovery, by itself, doesn't render the BRCA genes patent eligible."
But the justices also found that firms can patent synthetically created genetic material known as cDNA.
For a look at the implications, we are now joined by Todd Dickinson. He's the executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. And Sandra Park, she's an attorney with the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU. Their team argued the case against Myriad Genetics.
Welcome to you both.
And, Sandra Park, I want to start with you. It was your side that was arguing against Myriad being able to have control or keep this patent. How do you read the justices' ruling?
SANDRA PARK, American Civil Liberties Union: Well, we were very pleased with the ruling.
Our fundamental argument all along has been human genes cannot be patented. And the problem with these patents is they gave Myriad the exclusive right to control what testing was done on these genes and even what research could be done on these genes. And so the court's ruling today lifted that barrier to scientific research, to medical innovations.
And that was what our plaintiffs, who are geneticists, pathologists, as well as patients who need better access to this type of testing, that was our goal, and that is what we got from the Supreme Court today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Todd Dickinson, your organization filed a brief supporting the company, Myriad. How do you read the results?
TODD DICKINSON, Executive Director, American Intellectual Property Law Association: Well, actually, we -- our brief didn't support either side in this.
We were trying to, as we often do, trying to get the law right based on the history of the -- and the public policy in this area. I think what Justice Thomas is saying is basically that naturally occurring discoveries in his framing of it are not patentable and that manmade inventions are. He drew a line in this particular case that highlights that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do you think that will mean for a company, for Myriad Genetics and what it's been able to do?
TODD DICKINSON: Well, short-term, it probably won't have much of an impact. Myriad -- these patents expire the year after next, which is kind of an interesting thing, but there are other patents Myriad holds on the cDNA, on synthetic DNA, on methods of using it, how you use these to do the diagnostic testing.
So, I would guess for the time being, Myriad is still the best test you can get and most people will still want to go there. Insurance covers their test, for example, in many, many cases.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you're saying it won't have much of an impact.
Sandra Park, you're saying this is good news for patients, for geneticists. What's -- how am I hearing this differently?
SANDRA PARK: Well, I think the problem has been that Myriad has used their patents to have a monopoly on genetic testing. And that has stopped other laboratories, even those that want to offer testing in other -- using other methods, or even including the BRCA genes with other greens that are connected to breast and ovarian cancer risk, to provide a more comprehensive picture of a patient's risk.
And the ruling today allows for all of that. It allows for that competition. And I think we have already heard at least two or three laboratories announcing that they plan to offer genetic testing that includes the BRCA genes within this year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If that's the case, Todd Dickinson, why isn't it a setback for the company in that they will not -- that -- I mean, just to come back to your argument, and what she just said, that it means that Myriad now has competition, that other companies will be able get into ...
TODD DICKINSON: That's right. And I think we will have to wait and see how the competition plays out, whether others are able to offer a comparable test.
Myriad has got many, many years of data, for example, that help normalize the test. I think the bigger question, frankly, is the long-term implication, and whether or not the opinion puts at risk thousands of other patents out there in all sorts of other different contexts in biotechnology.
We have got plenty of industries that are -- to which these patents could be key in terms of encouraging innovation, encouraging the investment in the innovation to bring them to market, from biofuels, to enzymes for clean water, to extractive technologies for finding new antibiotics. It raises lot of questions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what are you saying it means for them?
TODD DICKINSON: Well, I think the question is, will this opinion be expanded to cover all those other patents, which may be at risk at this point? We have issued patents for 30 years in this area. There's thousands and thousands of them that are out there, and it creates some uncertainty.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, before we broaden it too much, though, Sandra Park, I want to come back to you, because we talked with a number of experts in the field, one in particular who was on your side of this argument arguing that Myriad shouldn't be able to patent the gene.
And one of them said, in essence, agreeing part -- with part of the argument that Mr. Dickinson is making. And I just want to read to you what they said. They said: "Myriad still has the proprietary database, which means that even if somebody else, some other company invents a competing test, they're going to have to essentially deal with Myriad's monopoly on information to interpret what those tests mean."
SANDRA PARK: Well, we agree that is a problem.
And the patents on the genes allowed Myriad to develop that proprietary database, and that's why it's so important that the court's ruling today invalidated these kinds of patents on human genes, so we don't have the situation in the future with other genes where one company is able to amass that kind of information.
But I think what we will see going forward is that because there will be competition, because other laboratories will be offering this testing, that kind of information will be much more freely shared. And Myriad's hold on that information won't be able to last the way that they have tried to do so by using the patents to have the monopoly on the testing itself.
TODD DICKINSON: Well, that actually brings up another point and perhaps another concern. The societal bargain that's based on the patent system is that if you disclose your invention completely, we will give you the proprietary right for a limited period of time.
What happens if you don't have the proprietary rights sometimes is it drives it underground. It causes researchers to keep it secret, not to do so much collaborative research. That could be a downside to this we haven't seen yet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to come at the very end of this discussion back to the essence here, Sandra Park, and that is, what does this mean for women who may have the -- one of the BRCA genes for either breast or ovarian cancer? And what are their prospects for getting the kind of help they need, the kind of treatment that they need? What does this decision mean with regard to them?
SANDRA PARK: Well, they will have better access to genetic testing of these genes.
And in fact it well may be that companies will be offering the testing not only of the BRCA genes, but of the many other genes related to breast and ovarian cancer. And that's really important. When a patient gets a genetic test, she doesn't necessarily care only about whether she has a mutation or the BRCA1 or 2 gene. She wants to understand her comprehensive genetic risk for these diseases.
And so laboratories will be able to offer that testing, which up to now they have not done because of the Myriad patents. There will also be more availability of confirmatory testing or second opinion testing, and that has been an important issue for many patients. And we also think costs will be driven down because of marketplace pressures.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Todd Dickinson, how do you see the effect on those women we're talking about?
TODD DICKINSON: Well, I think many of those effects might, indeed, occur.
But that's not really a function of the patent system. The question at the -- the basic question is not whether Myriad deserved the patent or not. The question is whether it was patent-eligible. And that's whether court ruled on today. I think many people would believe that this is a very deserving cause and that Myriad is providing a very valuable service and that, as we move forward from here, others will be able to take advantage of that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to leave it there.
Todd Dickinson and Sandra Park, thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, next, we resume our weeklong look at food security and how climate change is affecting what we produce and how we eat.
Tonight, special correspondent Sam Eaton reports from India on how farmers are turning to ancient seeds to keep their crops viable in the future.
It's part of our series “Food for 9 Billion,” in partnership with Public Radio International's "The World," Homelands Productions, American Public Media's Marketplace, and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
SAM EATON: On May 25, 2009, Cyclone Aila slammed into the Ganges River delta on the coast of Bangladesh and India. Hundreds of thousands fled as the storm surge tore through earthen embankments and flooded rice fields with a wall of seawater.
I traveled to Eastern India with ecologist Asish Ghosh to see how the more than four million people living in this vast river delta are adapting to the salty soils the storm left behind. It's been four years since the cyclone hit. And farmer Raj Krishna Das says growing enough food is still a struggle.
ASISH GHOSH, Director, Center for Environmental Development, Kolkata: So he even cannot have any vegetables growing after Aila because still -- still there is salt in the soil.
SAM EATON: This is what climate change looks like for the densely populated river deltas of the world. They hold some of the most productive farmland on the planet. But it's also some of the most threatened.
ASISH GHOSH: We have lost this amount of land on all sides of the island.
SAM EATON: Today, this delta coastline is retreating more than 600 feet a year, and the salt is encroaching even farther inland. As farmers here adapt to rising sea levels and more powerful storms, they become a case study for how to produce food on a warming planet.
But their solution may come as a surprise. The only thing that will grow in Das' field today is a salt-tolerant rice variety developed more than a century ago by small-scale farmers just like him.
ASISH GHOSH: He thinks it is one of the biggest resources that he has got. Now it is more precious than gold to him.
SAM EATON: Ghosh's Center for Environmental Development and other nonprofits are trying to reintroduce these traditional seeds, which became rare after farmers began adopting modern high-yielding varieties in the 1960s, so-called green revolution varieties that could double or even triple their rice harvest given the right conditions and chemical inputs.
But these same seeds were the first to fail after Cyclone Aila doused the soil with saltwater.
ASISH GHOSH: Aila changed everything. He lost his home. He lost his possessions.
SAM EATON: Starting over with only a handful of the old salt-tolerant seeds, farmers like Das have labored for three years to grow enough rice to ward off hunger.
ASISH GHOSH: And now he's confident he's got enough seeds to cover his land. So I think the story between the last three years has changed from a story of despair to the story of hope in future.
SAM EATON: But the struggle to survive after the cyclone also offers a stark warning about how much this genetic legacy in agriculture has been lost.
Scientist Debal Deb has spent more than decade traveling across India trying to save what's left of these traditional seeds. Farmers in India once cultivated more than a hundred thousand distinct varieties of rice alone. Most of those are now lost forever. But here on this small nonprofit seed farm in Eastern India, Deb is propagating nearly 1,000 of them and distributing the seeds free of charge, including the salt-tolerant variety farmers are now growing in the Ganges River Delta.
Deb says many of these seeds are ideally suited to the extreme and unpredictable conditions of the future.
DEBAL DEB, Rice Conservator: My own collection, I have more than 200 varieties, some of which can withstand drought and can yield something on zero irrigation, some varieties which can withstand 12-feet deep-water for three months, and the stem will elongate and still give some yield.
And we have at least six varieties of salt-tolerant rice which can withstand seawater intrusion. These are the unique properties which genetic engineers have not yet imagined.
SAM EATON: Despite the billions of dollars spent by governments and agribusiness on plant breeding programs and genetic engineering, Deb says these programs have yet to create new seeds that can rival the traditional varieties' tolerance for extreme conditions.
And as global temperatures continue to rise, even the most ardent defenders of the green revolution are now realizing how essential these traditional varieties are for the future of agriculture.
That green revolution began thousands of miles away, in the Philippines, at the International Rice Research Institute. Now scientists here are trying to breed new seeds that will withstand the stresses of climate change. The institute has stored tens of thousands of the world's traditional rice varieties in its frozen seed vaults as a genetic pallet for future seeds.
But many of these seeds were collected in the 1960s. And after being stored for so long, they may no longer be viable for breeding. That means Debal Deb's grassroots seed farm back in India may be one of the most valuable genetic resources left. Still, scientists say simply reintroducing old varieties isn't going to feed the world; they just don't produce enough.
They're working to build new varieties using the genetic information embed in the traditional seeds.
M.S. Swaminathan is considered the father of India's green revolution.
M.S. SWAMINATHAN, Geneticist: There is no other alternative in this country. Land is going out of agriculture. In fact, the farms where I had demonstrations 40 years ago, they have all disappeared. They have become big malls. They have become big shops and so on and hotels.
So, land is a shrinking resource. We have to produce more and more from less and less land, less and less water. That means we need the green revolution approach, productivity improvement approach.
SAM EATON: The International Rice Research Institute has successfully bred some climate-resilient traits from the traditional varieties into a single high-yielding seed. The new plants are designed to tolerate limited amounts of drought and flooding during the same growing season.
So far, the institute has distributed them to more than four million farmers. In even the remotest parts of India, the green revolution caused many farmers to abandon their traditional seeds for the modern high-yielding varieties promoted by the government. But for those who didn't, the benefits of these locally adapted seeds are becoming more and more pronounced; 64-year-old farmer Looknath Nauri grows 30 different traditional varieties of rice, millet, corn, squash and lentils on his two-acre plot in Eastern India.
His song is a celebration of the diversity of traditional seeds and the happiness it brings to his family and his land. These seeds, created over thousands of years, don't just have the genes to withstand droughts and floods. They're also adapted to local soils and pests, eliminating the need for costly nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides. Some are so resilient, they sprout even in the dry months.
MAN: Look at this pearl millet. We cut it last December. There hasn't been any rain for five months. And it's sending up new shoots. This would never happen with a high-yielding variety. Once the rains come, we don't even have to reseed it. It just grows back by itself for two to three years.
SAM EATON: Nauri says he tried the new rice seeds, but his harvest didn't even come close to the traditional varieties.
MAN: I tried planting that high-yielding rice one year. But I didn't have money to pay for the chemical fertilizers. And without them, it wouldn't grow. So I went back to the traditional varieties.
SAM EATON: The search continues for ways to feed nine billion people on a climate-changed planet. The new super-seeds scientists are developing could transform agriculture in the years to come.
But, for now, many of the world's poorest farmers are turning to the seeds that sustained their ancestors as a sort of genetic insurance policy against an unpredictable future.
JEFFREY BROWN: And now a two-part look at issues affecting gays and lesbians, ahead of much-anticipated Supreme Court decisions coming soon on major cases involving same-sex marriage.
Ray Suarez begins our coverage.
RAY SUAREZ: A new survey provides one of the largest and most complex portraits of what life is like today for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. The sweeping survey conducted by the Pew Research Center spanned topics including political views, social stigmas and the difficulties of coming out.
It finds growing acceptance in the U.S. of the LGBT community; 92 percent of those surveyed said they agreed with that. Yet 53 percent of gay Americans say there is still discrimination. The survey was done just weeks before the Supreme Court decision and was released during Pride Month.
A short time ago, President Obama spoke at a Pride Month event at the White House about those changing attitudes.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: From Minnesota to Maryland, from the United States Senate to the NBA, it's clear we're reaching a turning point.
We have -- we have become not just more accepting. We have become more loving as a country and as a people. Heart and minds change with time. Laws do, too.
Change like that isn't something that starts here in Washington, but it's something that has the power that Washington has a great deal of difficulty resisting over time.
RAY SUAREZ: For more on all this, we turn to Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and co-author of the LGBT survey, and Gary Gates, distinguished scholar at the Williams center at UCLA and co-author of the "Gay and Lesbian Atlas."
And, Paul Taylor, this is a survey involving a community that's often the object of research, but rarely the subject of research. Did the LGBT Americans that you spoke to agree with what we just heard the president saying about change being under way?
PAUL TAYLOR, Executive Vice President, Pew Research Center: Yes.
We had, as you said, 90 percent, 93 percent saying society is more accepting now than it was 10 years ago. And then we said about, what 10 years from now? And another 92 percent, 93 percent said it will be more accepting. We take a lot of surveys. We rarely see numbers in the 90s.
You ask people, does your mother love you? Maybe you will get in the 90s. So, this is a nearly universally held belief. It's an understanding that there has been an extraordinary amount of change in societal attitudes. So that is the good news story.
I said earlier today the LGBT population is living in the best of times, but they are not easy times, and there is another side to the story. And we asked a lot of questions about the experiences they have had, the perceptions of discrimination and stigma, and they're pretty powerful. And you had a couple of examples of that.
One of the ones that struck me is, even in these more accepting times, in our survey population -- we talked to about 1,200 people in this community -- only slightly over half said they had told their mother of their sexual orientation, and only about four in 10 said they had told their farther. So that is an illustration of a community that is sort of, at one of the deepest parts of themselves, they're not yet able or willing or feel comfortable sharing that with the people they're closest to.
RAY SUAREZ: That idea that "things are better, but" comes through in data point after data point. You ask if people have been subject to slurs or jokes. A simple majority said, yes, at some time, they had been subject to slurs or jokes.
And then you asked, has any of this happened in the past year? And it was about one out of six of LGBT people. Have they been threatened or physically attacked? A much smaller number, so that the kind of resentments that we're talking about in society rarely take a physical form, but even among that number, 26 percent at some time in their lives, only four percent in the last year or so.
Gary Gates, what does that tell you about the state of LGBT America?
GARY GATES, The Williams Institute, UCLA: Well, I think, as Paul said, I think it says that LGBT Americans are very clear that things have gotten much better.
But they're not there yet. I think many of them, as Paul mentioned, haven't come out to their parents. Still, many experience a variety of discrimination, a variety of types of discrimination, including in their churches, in their families, with their friends.
And I think that's the life -- one of the huge contributions of this survey is focusing on that kind of day-to-day existence of LGBT Americans in this time of rapid change.
RAY SUAREZ: Gary, one finding that I found very interesting was the self-reporting among this population that they were much more sympathetic to other people in society who they thought also faced various kinds of discrimination.
GARY GATES: Right.
RAY SUAREZ: Does that explain why gay Americans are so prominent as activists in other people's fights?
GARY GATES: Well, I think so.
I mean, I think there's no question that the experience of being stigmatized allows people to understand what that's like, and then to empathize or relate to other people who have experienced stigma. And I think that is one of the reasons why you see so many LGBT people involved in a variety of activist causes that are not necessarily LGBT-specific.
RAY SUAREZ: Paul Taylor, of course, you couldn't have done this survey without asking about marriage, and an interesting piece of data emerged there, near-universal support of legalization of marriage for gay people, 93 percent.
Yet, four out of 10 say the marriage debate has drawn too much attention from other issues that gay people face. Like what?
PAUL TAYLOR: Like employment rights, like AIDS/HIV programs, like adoption rights. This is a community that has lots of issues. For political, constitutional, legal reasons, we all understand that the same-sex marriage issue has come to -- become front and center.
And literally and figuratively, it has become the symbolic issue. And it obviously has very real importance as well. And a majority say, yes, it's a good thing -- 60 percent say it's a good thing that it is the centerpiece issue, even at the expense of the other issues we care about, but a significant minority says, no, wait a minute, there are a lot of other things on the table.
RAY SUAREZ: So, Gary, when gay people talk about their lives and think about their lives, even though they see marriage as sort of drowning out the other issues, is it a gateway issue, that once you clear this threshold, some of those other things become easier?
GARY GATES: Well, I think in fact many LGBT people believe that's the case.
But, as Paul pointed out, I think there is a bit of a challenge here from a sizable group of LGBT people who really see, for instance, workplace discrimination as something that they experience at relatively high levels, and that they believe that there should be laws that protect them from that kind of discrimination.
And, you know, and I think these data challenge to us think through all of those issues.
RAY SUAREZ: Leaning forward, did you ask people -- well, I guess you asked people, also, to self-report about questions you didn't ask and got, in your own words, some very touching responses.
PAUL TAYLOR: Yes, this is -- we conducted this survey online, which we think was methodologically wise, because it's a more anonymous way of doing surveys, and part of the issue here is, are you willing to come out in a -- to a survey taker?
And that also gave us the ability to put little boxes as people were filling out their forms on their computer, and we asked them for their comments.
RAY SUAREZ: Any one jump out at you?
PAUL TAYLOR: No, but 1,000 jumped out at me.
And I used to be a newspaper reporter. And I kind of know a good quote. There were 1,000 good quotes. These stories are riveting, because the life these folks have led at all ages are fascinating. And the lives of the middle-aged and older survey respondents, who sort of say with regret, you know, I wish I had come out earlier, we track in all of their lives when they came out and how it was, some good, some bad, all fascinating.
RAY SUAREZ: Paul Taylor and Gary Gates, gentlemen, thank you both.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of those highly anticipated gay marriage legal cases is the focus of our next story.
The Supreme Court is deciding whether California's 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex couples from marrying is constitutional.
NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels previews the Proposition 8 case and how the Golden State is preparing for the ruling.
WOMAN: OK, I -- state your name.
Do solemnly swear or affirm.
MEN AND WOMEN: Do solemnly swear or affirm.
SPENCER MICHELS: Volunteer city employees in San Francisco got trained this week on how to issue marriage licenses and perform ceremonies. The city is preparing for a possible rush of same-sex marriages if the Supreme Court allows them to start up again in California.
WOMAN: We want to be ready immediately so people can celebrate and get married as soon as possible.
SPENCER MICHELS: There must be some people in this city who disagree with the city's stand on all of this.
WOMAN: You know, we're not hearing from them.
SPENCER MICHELS: That training session took place here in San Francisco's City Hall, where the whole controversy came to a head almost a decade ago. That was when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom decreed that San Francisco would begin performing same-sex marriages, despite a state ban on the practice; 4,000 couples got licenses and got married, to the dismay of conservative groups like the Campaign for Children and Families.
RANDY THOMASSON, Campaign for Children and Families: State law is very clear. Marriage is only for a man and a woman. The mayor of San Francisco is violating state law.
SPENCER MICHELS: Within a month, the state Supreme Court halted those weddings, and both sides of the debate took to the streets for a long fight. Eventually, the state Supreme Court decided such weddings were legal, and another 18,000 couples were wed, until Proposition 8, passed by the voters in 2008, banned same-sex marriage.
Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, who asserted it was discriminatory, but the Supreme Court now must rule on that issue. And interested parties throughout California are waiting with bated breath.
WILLIAM MAY, Catholics for the Common Good: We certainly hope that the court will uphold the right of voters of California to define what marriage is.
SPENCER MICHELS: William May is president of Catholics for the Common Good and he was actively involved in the campaign to pass Prop 8.
WILLIAM MAY: Marriage between a man and a women forms the only civil institution that is geared towards uniting kids with their moms and dads. Today, we have too high of -- incidents of single parenting, which is the root cause of poverty.
SPENCER MICHELS: But former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, now the state's lieutenant governor, doesn't see it that way at all. He's still intensely interested in pursuing the revolution he helped to start.
LT. GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, D-Calif.: I didn't know what we were entering into. I felt like we needed to do something assertive, and we just started with one couple, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.
It became this remarkable expression of love and remarkable experience for all of us.
SPENCER MICHELS: Ten states and the District of Columbia have approved same-sex marriage since Prop 8 passed. And national public opinion polls have indicated a shift towards more acceptance of those marriages.
Now the high court is delving into the complex case and that may require a complex decision.
Vik Amar teaches constitutional law at the University of California at Davis. And he says the court has several options.
VIK AMAR, University of California, Davis: Conceivably, the court could rule large in favor of the plaintiffs, proclaim a national right under the 14th Amendment to same-sex marriage. But that would mean invalidating laws of about 38 states, and so that's a difficult thing for a court of unelected justices to do.
On the other hand, the court could reject the challenge to Prop 8 and say the federal Constitution doesn't have anything to say about same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriage is a matter for each state to decide on its own.
SPENCER MICHELS: The court could also rule that since the state refused to defend Prop 8, the measure's sponsors don't have standing to defend it. The court could approve same-sex marriages for California, but not for all states. But should the court fail to approve at least some same-sex marriages, Newsom anticipates more activism.
GAVIN NEWSOM: God forbid they do the wrong thing, and they just reject. I will tell you, you want a backlash? You just wait if they go south. In many ways, it will just unite people that may be quietly supportive on the sideline that I think will say, all right, wait a second, this is a civil rights struggle.
SPENCER MICHELS: The court battle itself has reactivated many in the gay and lesbian community. In San Francisco, thousands of demonstrators rallied the day the court heard the case.
Among them was Andre Sanchez, a 30-year-old one-time gay activist and the partner of 31-year-old Wes McGaughey. Together for almost seven years, they figure it's time to get married. Their bitterness toward Prop 8 convinced them to pull back from politics. But with the case pending, they are watching with personal interest. They intend to have a commitment ceremony, regardless of the justices' decision.
WES MCGAUGHEY, Resident of California: I don't know if we're jumping the gun. We will do it with or without them. We would like to do it with them because we would like the same rights as anybody else.
ANDRE SANCHEZ, Resident of California: I would like to be equal to my parents. I would like Wes to be equal to his parents. And it's just something that we have to fight for constantly.
SPENCER MICHELS: Sanchez, a Latino Catholic, says his family's attitudes toward gay marriage have mirrored the national trend.
ANDRE SANCHEZ: My parents grew up very Catholic, so I had a really tough time coming out as a young man. Over six-and-a-half years, this evolution with my mom has been incredible. She went from someone who I would really tagline as a bigot -- she hated the thought of me and Wes together -- and as she got to know Wes, as she got to know us as a couple, she really accepted him.
So it's completely changed her views, her voting views. You know, it's just amazing.
SPENCER MICHELS: For lay Catholic leader William May, the battle against same-sex marriages will continue if the Supreme Court allows them to go forward.
WILLIAM MAY: We will just have to keep -- keep fighting. And, really, it's -- this is a matter of social justice.
SPENCER MICHELS: The court is expected to release its decision before the end of the month.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And online this month, we will have live coverage of the Supreme Court's end-of-term decisions. On days justices issue opinions, we will carry SCOTUSblog's reporting from inside the courtroom on our home page.