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

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, the return of a popular mystery series.

    When last seen, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins was driving over a cliff, apparently to his death. Rawlins is the fictional private eye who in the course of a dozen books has become one of the best-known, longest-running characters in American literature. His latest adventure is told in the new novel "Little Green."

    Author Walter Mosley has written more than 40 books in many genres and received numerous honors. He joined us here earlier this week.

    Walter Mosley, welcome.

    WALTER MOSLEY, Author, "Little Green": It's good to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The return of a dead man, right?


    JEFFREY BROWN: You seemed to kill off your famous hero, and then brought him back to life. Why?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Well, it was first-person narrative. He wasn't dead.

    He went off the cliff, and everything went black. I didn't say, "I died." I just said he went off the cliff.

    I stopped writing the books because I felt I was getting stale writing the character, and I wanted to stop. And then four, five years went by, and I went, I could come back to that and do that again. And so I started over again. I did intend to end the series, but here we are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I see comparisons to Sherlock -- you know, Arthur Conan Doyle kills off Sherlock Holmes and brings him back again.

    It's hard to kill off a character like this.

    WALTER MOSLEY: Yes, it is difficult.

    And people want you to rewrite it. And I'm not really sure why Doyle came -- I mean, I know he came back and he wrote it again. I don't know if it was because he didn't have money or the people were just bothering him too much. I really want to write about Easy, so ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: For those who don't know the Easy Rawlins books, they're set in a very particular place, Los Angeles, and particularly in the Watts area, in a time, post-World War II, from the '40s, and now this one up to the '60s.

    WALTER MOSLEY: 1968.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is all of that by accident, or did you sort of -- did you just find a character and you wanted to stick with him, or did you want to explore a time and place?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Well, there was a couple of things.

    Definitely, that's where I'm from. I'm born in '52 in Los Angeles. My family came in, in 1945-'46, mother and father from different places. And in order to put people inside the culture, you have to be inside the literature. And the black population of Los Angeles just didn't have a literature, really, not much of one anyway.

    And so I decided I would write these books, so I could write about Los Angeles. I could write about post-war Los Angeles. I could write about black Los Angeles. I could do all of those things together.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You had that in mind, just that there was a vacuum among particularly black literature?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Yes. Oh, yes, absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because one of the running jokes in the book, although it's a serious line, is often when somebody meets Easy Rawlins for the first time and they find out what he does and they say, I never met a black private eye before. And he says, “We're a rare breed.”

    WALTER MOSLEY: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which he is.


    He's a new character for this world. And he's somebody who goes into places where other people can't go, being a black man, because nobody thinks that there's a black detective. So, he says, they don't see me coming. They don't know when I'm there. And they don't know I have left. That's the way he -- that's the way his life is.

    And it makes him an almost perfect detective.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that allows you to look at various strains of American culture, right, in this case, the '60s. Post-Watts Riots is the setting.

    WALTER MOSLEY: And the beginning of the hippy movement, which is a whole other surprising event in California at this time.


    WALTER MOSLEY: You know, if you're in California in 1964, it's one Los Angeles. And if you're there in 1968, there are all these hippies everywhere. Where did they come from? How did they have time to grow that hair? It was pretty amazing.

    And I'm really enjoying it because, you know, it's -- because so many stories have been told about L.A., but these stories, almost every one is a new story because of the point of view, not because it's a some secret that's being ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because of the new time as well.

    WALTER MOSLEY: Yes. Yes. And everybody's like, you know, experiencing a different kind of world. And it's changing so quickly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You -- as I said, you write in many styles and genres.

    And the Easy Rawlins books are often -- well, they're usually defined as crime fiction, mysteries. Do you think of them that way, or do you even think about different genres as you're working?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Well, I think about genre somewhat, because once I'm in the genre, I would like to be -- I like to be true to it.


    WALTER MOSLEY: I don't want to be one of those writers who says, well, I'm not really a mystery writer.

    Well, when I write a mystery, it's a mystery. When I write a literary novel, it's a literary novel, science fiction, science fiction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What does being true to a mystery ...

    WALTER MOSLEY: Well, I mean, that there's a crime that's been committed that exists on a legal level, on a social level, and on a moral level, and, if you're really, really good at it, on a philosophical level.

    And there has to be an answer, not necessarily a solution, but an answer to that crime, like, well, who did it? Why did they do it? Should you turn them in? A whole series of questions, and that's what mysteries do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But if you're really good at it, you're saying a level that's beyond the whodunit?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Well, if you're really good at it, it makes you think about the nature of the society.

    I think, at the end of this book, Easy has to make a few choices. And I -- hopefully, it will make you think about the choices he has to make and why. And that goes a little bit beyond the mystery, but it stays right inside the crime. So ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, presumably, a good mystery has to be a good -- I mean, qualities of a novel are the qualities of a novel.

    WALTER MOSLEY: Yes, good writing is good writing, and bad writing is bad writing.

    People say, well -- you will say, well, this genre is better writing than this genre. I say, well, how can that possibly be? They both have sentences and words, and they're both in English. How can one be better than the other?

    But there are a lot of people who do think like that. My genre, when I'm writing crime fiction, is one thing. But, like, science fiction, people completely eschew. And, romance, oh, my God, that's terrible writing. But it's not necessarily. If you're a good writer, you write a good book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I have talked to biographers who have stayed with one subject for decades. You have done that as well. Is it still fulfilling? Is it still fun?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Well, it's an interesting thing. The topic that I stay with the most is black male heroes. And I think ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: In all these different genres.

    WALTER MOSLEY: Yes, and because I'm one of the few people really ever in the history of literature in the West who writes about black male heroes.

    There are a lot of protagonists, but I'm talking about heroes. I think it's really important, because every culture has their heroes. It's just that black men, people are kind of afraid of them for various reasons, various guilts, various, I don't know, issues. And so I like to write about them, and I don't think that that's running out of fashion yet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, will there be more?

    WALTER MOSLEY: Oh, yes. I have actually finished the next Easy Rawlins novel.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, really?

    WALTER MOSLEY: My editor just today, as I was coming here, sent me an e-mail saying he has accepted the new novel. So ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK, more Easy Rawlins. This one is "Little Green."

    Walter Mosley, thanks so much.

    WALTER MOSLEY: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: My conversation with Walter Mosley continues online, where we ask some of your questions sent in ahead of time. And you can also see him read from his new novel. That's all on our Art Beat page. 

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    When last seen, Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins was driving over a cliff, apparently to his death. Rawlins is the fictional private eye who, in the course of a dozen books, has become one of the best-known, longest-running characters in American literature. His latest adventure is told in the new mystery novel, "Little Green."

    Author Walter Mosley has written more than 40 books in a variety of genres and received numerous honors including Pen America's lifetime achievement award.

    Thursday on the NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown talks to Rawlins about reviving his most famous character.

    For now, watch their extended conversation and hear author Walter Mosley read an excerpt from 'Little Green:

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    The emerald ash borer has been attacking all 22 species of North American ash trees in the last few years, killing nearly every tree it infests. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Flickr user Darkroom Daze.

    The hypothesis: Trees improve people's health.

    The experiment: Remove 100 million trees in the eastern and midwestern United States over the course of 10 years and see what happens.

    What happened: People died.

    In the 15 states infected with the emerald ash borer -- which killed all 100 million of those trees -- an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease compared with uninfected areas of the country.

    After studying data from 1,296 counties and accounting for other variables, research forester Geoffrey Donovan and his team at the U.S. Forest Service concluded that having fewer trees around may be bad for your health. Their study -- published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine -- concluded that there's an associative link between trees health and human health. Proving a direct, causal link will take much more research.

    When the PBS NewsHour published a discussion with Donovan earlier this week, many viewers remained quite skeptical. One wrote that "this hypothesis has no more scientific validity than a theory that the darkness of night causes mice to spontaneously generate." The questions multiplied when the story was posted on reddit and Slashdot.

    Joining us once again to answer a representative set of those questions is Geoffrey Donovan.

    Comment 1, from reddit user eloiserat: What if there was some other thing making the trees susceptible to the tree borer that's killing them? How did you account for other causes of death?

    Donovan: An enormous range of things can affect our health, so it is right to be skeptical of our claim that we were able to isolate the effect of trees. We took into account all the other causes of death in three ways. First, we accounted for trends over time. For example, health care improved during the 18-year study period, and we wanted to make sure that we weren't accidentally picking up this effect. Second, we accounted for demographic differences between counties. For example, we know that poorer people tend to have more health problems, so we were careful to account for income. Finally, and this is difficult to explain, we accounted for the things that we couldn't measure. How on earth do you take account of something you can't measure? You compare mortality in the same county across multiple years. Some counties will have higher or lower mortality for reasons you can't explain, but you don't need to know why to take account of it.

    For example, if a county had a high cardiovascular mortality rate after being infested with emerald ash borer, we looked at the mortality rate before the bug arrived. If it was equally high, then maybe the bug wasn't to blame. If it was significantly lower, then maybe the bug was to blame. All these steps happened simultaneously in a fairly complex statistical model.

    Comment 2, from NewsHour viewer mollycruz: It strikes me that when trees go, roads and cars come, and I suspect air pollution could be responsible for the curve upward in diseases long associated with exhaust fumes. Did you look into the link between pollution and the death of both trees and humans?

    Donovan: I agree that the loss of trees may result in worse air quality. That's why we looked at two causes of death (cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease) that are influenced by air quality. However, I don't think this is because of increased development. That said, our results don't tell us for sure what mechanisms link trees and health. I can speculate, but this is a question that needs more study.

    Comment 3, from Slashdot user dkleinsc: Your basic hypothesis was that "trees improve people's health." There's no particular reason why that hypothesis would be true. And I say that as someone who enjoys walking around in the woods. In fact, for those with nasty allergies, trees can be positively bad for your health.

    Donovan: You're right to point out that trees can increase allergies. Indeed, a recent study in New York showed this. However, trees can also uptake pollutants. In addition, they lower temperatures, which helps reduce the production of ground-level ozone. Most research shows that, on balance, trees improve air quality. We also know from several experiments that putting people in a natural environment reduces markers of stress such as heart rate, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol. And stress has a well-documented effect on cardiovascular disease.

    Comment 4, from reddit user sylphs: If the study's conclusions are true, are there higher rates of illness in desert areas? Cities?

    Donovan: Great question. The narrow answer is that this study was limited to the Midwest and East Coast, so it doesn't apply directly to people living in the desert. However, I suspect that exposure to a sweeping desert vista would also have some health benefit. Trees are just one component of the natural environment. In addition, people in the desert plant and maintain trees in environments that they normally wouldn't grow in. Indeed, several desert cities, including Phoenix, have explicit goals to expand tree planting. This suggests that even desert residents appreciate trees.

    Comment 5, from reddit user suninabox: Correlations and the associated inductive reasoning (of this kind) are some of the weakest forms of evidence science has to offer. In fact, almost no major scientific discoveries have been made using such evidence alone. For specialists in the field, such studies can be useful to hone in future studies, but the number of possible variables that aren't accounted for in these studies make them absolutely useless to laypeople. It convinces a bunch of people something is true (trees dying is bad for your health) when in fact all it really is is one very minor data set in a far grander tapestry, that could mean anything until you piece together all the other millions of pieces to see what it makes up. Do you agree with this assessment? What's the value of a study like yours if it only shows a potential relationship? Should the media refrain from reporting on a study like this?

    Donovan: I appreciate the questioner's skepticism. Human health is indeed an enormously complex thing, it would seem impossible to pin down the effect of something like trees. This is why the spread of the emerald ash borer was such a unique opportunity. It killed 100 million trees in 10 years across counties with very different demographic makeups. Even so, it took a lot of additional data collection and some tough statistical analysis that brings back bad memories to isolate the effect of the bug. Did this analysis prove a causal relationship? Absolutely not, but this type of observational research has made some major breakthroughs when it was impractical, unethical, or prohibitively expensive to conduct an experiment. For example, in 1854, John Snow discovered how cholera is transmitted using the same sort of basic study design as we used. Observational research also discovered a link between smoking and lung cancer and between lead exposure and mental development in children. These studies provided invaluable insight without forcing people to drink lead paint or raw sewage.

    The charge that we used inductive reasoning is odd, because, outside mathematics, all science is inductive. People want absolute answers, but science can only offer degrees of certainty. This is not to say that reasonable people can't disagree about the strength of evidence, but if you're seeking complete certainty, all science will be a disappointment.

    Should the press report these studies? Yes, I strongly believe they should. Will a reporter always get the story right, and will readers always understand all the nuances of a study? No. However, I'm a publicly-funded scientist, and I have a responsibility to produce research that helps people make better informed decisions, and they can't make better informed decisions if they don't know about the research. Also, people have a right to know how their taxes are being spent.

    It can be tough trying to explain my research to a general audience, but I welcome the opportunity to try, and I'm very grateful that people are interested enough in my work to ask me questions.

    Comment 6, from reddit user Fencepost7: Where was this study conducted? Ohio, which has one of the largest infestations, has a small percentage of ash trees. Seems unlikely that a small decline in the total numbers of trees would cause all these problems.

    Donovan: If ash trees were evenly distributed across an area, then this might be an issue. However, some neighborhoods have a lot of ash, as these two pictures by Dan Herms of Ohio State University illustrate.

    Here's a photo of a street in Toledo in 2006:

    Here's the same street in 2009, just three years later:

    Is it so difficult to imagine that the loss of these trees might harm the health of someone who already had serious health problems? This is an important distinction. I'm not suggesting that the death of a tree would kill an otherwise healthy person. However, losing trees might contribute to the death of a person with major health problems.

    Comment 7, from reddit user johnnyfiv3: The Great Recession happened to overlap with this era of beetle infestation. Could the human death rate have been tied to the recession during this period rather than a decrease in the number of trees present?

    Donovan: You're absolutely right to point out that there was a major recession during the study period. There was also a decrease in smoking and an improvement in health care. In fact, cardiovascular and lower-respiratory mortality rates declined during the study period. We accounted for these, and other, broad trends in our statistical models.

    A final word: Without six smart and committed coauthors, this study would never have been done.

    Read More:

    How Removing Trees Can Kill You

    Signs of Alzheimer's Disease: 10 Things You Should Know

    Author: 'We treat (addiction) as a criminal problem ... this is a health problem'

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Screen grab of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    Millions of Iranians go to the polls Friday to elect a president, and it will be a "one man, one vote" election. But experts say that only one man's vote really counts: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    Across the nation, echoes of the massive protests, riots and violence that marked 2009's re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stay with Iranian voters, but the crowds are not likely to return. After the Green Revolution rose up in protest when Ahmadinejad declared victory, the movement was stamped out by Khamenei's regime, its leaders silenced.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images.

    In uprisings that preceded the Arab Spring, Iranians tweeted and shared their depictions of censorship, voting fraud and violence. The memory of protester Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death by the Basij paramilitary spread wildly online, weighs particularly heavy as one of the defining moments of the revolts. As voters return to the polls to reassure Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's strong hold on the country, the economy is in shambles, crippled by sanctions imposed by the West due to their nuclear enrichment program.

    A new set of candidates vie for the presidency, but in this race a majority of remaining candidates are former Revolutionary guard officers, effectively supreme leader "yes men". Moderate conservatives have become "reformers" and opposition candidates have either been barred from running or put under house arrest. Of the 686 candidates who registered, only eight were approved by the Guardian Council, a body hand-picked by the Supreme Leader to verify and approve candidates. The six candidates (two dropped out) are:

    Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, Mayor of Tehran and former commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

    Ali-Akbar Velayati, former foreign minister and adviser to the supreme leader

    Saeed Jalili, head of National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator

    Hassan Rowhani, former National Security Council head and chief nuclear negotiator

    Mohsen Rezaei, lead commander of the Revolutionary Guard during the Iran-Iraq war

    Mohammad Gharazi, former Minister of Petroleum

    To get more insight we spoke with Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a leading Iran researcher, and Ali Alfoneh, an Iran analyst specialized in civil-military relations and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Their responses have been edited for clarity.

    On the candidates

    Alfoneh: Of the six remaining candidates there are four veterans of the Revolutionary Guards (Rezaei, Qalibaf, Jalili, and Gharazi), one cleric (Rowhani) and one technocrat (Velayati). This is the highest number of Revolutionary Guards officers running for president in the entire history of the Islamic Republic. Tehran Mayor Qalibaf signaled his modern managerial style by bringing his iPad into the first presidential debate; while IRGC Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Suleimani's public support for Qalibaf served the purpose of mobilizing the IRGC voters. Jalili's election videos depict him as a pious man of the people, and he is mostly among members of the Basij rather than the IRGC, which distinguishes his support base from that of the mayor of Tehran. Rohani is taking the mantle of Khatami and Rafsanjani upon his shoulders, and has managed to get public declarations of support from the former presidents.

    Sadjadpour: Jalili was previously head of Khamenei's office, and his campaign slogans-which preach Islamic principles coupled with political and economic resistance against hegemonic powers (that is, the United States)-align closely with Khamenei's worldview. He and Velayati represent the so-called "principlist" camp [those loyal to the principles of the Islamic Revolution], although Velayati projects a more urbane image. While Qalibaf is nominally a member of the "principlist" camp and pays lip service to Khamenei and revolutionary values, his main focus is to portray himself as a strong manager who can improve the country's moribund economy. Several opinion polls-which admittedly should be taken with a large chunk of salt-show Qalibaf in the lead. Rowhani, an acolyte of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani (who was prohibited from running), is the lone "reformist" in the race, which is a reflection of the Iranian political spectrum's shift to the right. A decade ago, many of the reformists who dominated Iran's elected institutions-namely the presidency and the parliament-would have considered Rowhani more a rival than an ally.

    On the supreme leader's authority

    Sadjadpour: Iran's most powerful institutions-including the Revolutionary Guards, Basij paramilitary, Intelligence ministry, Guardian Council, parliament, judiciary, state television, and religious foundations, to name a few-are led by individuals either hand picked by Khamenei or unfailingly obsequious to him. In this context, it would appear uncharacteristic for such a micro-managing autocrat to refrain from actively influencing, if not deciding, the outcome of such a powerful institution as the presidency.

    Alfoneh: Supreme Leader Khamenei gave the green light to the Guardian Council's approval of the candidates, but by allowing four members of the Revolutionary Guards to run for president, and because of the fraudulent 2009 election, the public will also suspect him of "engineering" the result of the 2013 election. Should the next president not live up to the expectations of the public - particularly in the economic field - the public will held Supreme Leader Khamenei responsible for the shortcomings of the president.

    On Syria

    Sadjadpour: Iran's foreign policy in the Middle East is controlled not by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs but by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which reports to Khamenei, not Iran's president. As such, a different president will have little impact on Iran's regional policies, be it Tehran's hostility toward Israel or its deep commitment to keeping the Assad regime in power in Syria. Tehran has spent billions of dollars arming and financing the Assad regime, and I don't see that resolve wavering. If Assad falls they could lose their most enduring global alliance since 1979 and their geographic thoroughfare to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    On the nuclear program

    Sadjadpour: Several of the presidential candidates have critiqued Jalili's diplomatic ineptitude, but they refrain from calling into question the wisdom of the nuclear program itself. In other words, their critique is focused primarily on Jalili's tactics, not Khamenei's strategy.

    Like Iran's foreign policy in the Middle East, the nuclear program is led by Khamenei and managed by the Revolutionary Guards. A different president could bring about some cosmetic changes in Iran's nuclear posture and could impact negotiating dynamics. But I don't see that altering Khamenei's entrenched strategy and his worldview that Iran should never compromise in response to pressure.

    Alfoneh: Given the economic hardships of the Iranian public, it is no surprise that the economy is the major if not the only issue for the largest part of the voters. In the [presidential] debate however, the economy has been connected to the nuclear issue, and the candidates accuse each other - and mostly Jalili - of losing opportunities for reaching agreements with the 5+1 Group in the nuclear issue, and of provoking further sanctions. Jalili on the other hand insists that the Rowhani, who is also a former nuclear negotiator, betrayed the regime by suspending enrichment of uranium, which in turn made the 5+1 Group make greater demands. Otherwise, the difference between the candidates is mostly symbolic.

    On possible demonstrations in this election

    Alfoneh: Elections in Iran are unpredictable, but I have the distinct feeling that the regime is far better prepared for this presidential election than the 2009 election. Even if there are demonstrations, the regime would be in a better position to suppress them.

    Sadjadpour: At the moment there are no signs of impending popular unrest. The Green Movement no longer exists as a cohesive entity (if it ever did). Its nominal leadership have been under house arrest for the last three years. The movement's brain trust has been either exiled, imprisoned, or intimidated into silence. The same political, social, and above all economic frustrations that compelled people to take to the streets in 2009 still very much exist, but this time around there is no organizing principle or common cause. In contrast to opposition movements in the Arab world in which the aspiration was and is to bring down regimes, the disgruntled masses in Iran still haven't coalesced around a common end game. People are understandably reluctant to take to the streets when it's not clear what they're risking their lives for.

    On what election might mean for U.S.-Iran tensions

    Sadjadpour: A new president in Tehran has the potential to impact Iranian lives far more than it will impact Tehran's nuclear and foreign policy principles. The Obama administration is cognizant of the fact that regardless of who wins the election, Ayatollah Khamenei will likely continue to have veto power over issues like the nuclear program and relations with the United States.

    Some would argue that a victory by the line reformist candidate, Hassan Rowhani, could provide an opening that might help reduce tensions. While I think Obama and his national security team-particularly Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel-would love to see a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran, I don't get a sense that many people are holding their breath.

    Alfoneh: The United States government should closely watch the election, not because the election will change Iran's strategy or posture towards the United States, but because the election gives an indication of the internal balance of power within the regime.

    View all of our World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic An unexploded mortar shell fired by Syrian Army sits, half buried in the ground, in a suburb of Damascus, January 25, 2013.

    The Morning Line

    With the United States concluding that the Syrian government crossed President Barack Obama's red line by using chemical weapons against rebel forces in the country's civil war, the question now becomes what is on the other side.

    "We now have a high-confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime," Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. Rhodes added that the president "has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has."

    Among the findings Rhodes shared, the weapons used by the Syrian government included the nerve agent sarin. The intelligence community estimates that between 100 and 150 people have been killed by chemical weapons.

    When asked about the unfolding conflict in Syria last August, Mr. Obama said "that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized."

    The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan report that the Obama administration's response is expected to include direct military support to the rebels.

    Rhodes did not detail what he called the expanded military support, but it is expected initially to consist of light arms and ammunition. He said the shipments would be "responsive to the needs" expressed by the rebel command.

    Obama has "not made any decision" to pursue a military option such as a no-fly zone and has ruled out the deployment of U.S. ground troops, Rhodes said.

    Syria's outgunned rebels have issued urgent appeals this week for antitank and antiaircraft weaponry to counter a government offensive that is backed by Hezbollah fighters and Iranian militia forces.

    Some in Congress are urging the president to take more forceful action, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The Republican lawmakers called on the president to supply the rebels with heavy weapons to combat tanks and aircraft, and to establish a no-fly zone in Syria.

    "I applaud the president's decision and I appreciate it, but the president of the United States had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation on the ground of the balance of power," McCain said Thursday on the Senate floor.

    "The goal is to end the war. And the only way this war is going to end quickly and on our terms is to neutralize the air assets that Assad enjoys," Graham said. "We can crater the runways. There are four air bases he uses. We can stop the planes from flying. We can shoot planes down without having one boot on the ground."

    As the president weighs his options with Syria, there are signs the administration's approach to this point has rankled allies in the region. The New York Times reports:

    But the president's caution has frayed relations with important American allies in the Middle East that have privately described the White House strategy as feckless. Saudi Arabia and Jordan recently cut the United States out of a new rebel training program, a decision that American officials said came from the belief in Riyadh and Amman that the United States has only a tepid commitment to supporting rebel groups.

    Moreover, the United Arab Emirates declined to host a meeting of allied defense officials to discuss Syria, concerned that in the absence of strong American leadership the conference might degenerate into bickering and finger-pointing among various gulf nations with different views on the best ways to support the rebellion.

    The administration's decision to escalate its involvement in the conflict came as a new report from the United Nations Human Rights Office found that at least 93,000 Syrians have died during the country's civil war. And Syria will on the top of the agenda at next week's Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland.

    The NewsHour led Thursday's show with the late-breaking news. Watch the segment here or below:

    Watch Video


    Ahead of major Supreme Court rulings this month on same-sex marriage, the NewsHour reported two stories Thursday night on the issue and how gays and lesbians believe they are perceived.

    We began with a sweeping new study from the Pew Research Center illustrating how the LGBT community views the gay rights movement and their own place in society. Pew examined the phenomenon of coming out, discrimination and attitudes toward the marriage debate.

    Ray Suarez talked with survey co-author Paul Taylor and UCLA's Gary Gates.

    Watch the conversation here or below:

    Watch Video

    We also looked ahead to how California is preparing for a ruling on whether its Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is constitutional. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom weighed in, and we talked with couples affected by the decision.

    Watch Correspondent Spencer Michels' report here or below:

    Watch Video

    And the New York Times' Mike Shear reported Friday the White House is readying next steps ahead of the ruling, since he's presented "with a series of complicated and politically sensitive decisions: how aggressively to overhaul references to marriage throughout the many volumes that lay out the laws of the United States."

    Shear writes:

    The decisions could affect Social Security checks, immigration laws and military benefits for same-sex couples, among other issues, with the outcomes based on whether the couples live in a state that allows them to marry.

    Gay rights advocates, aware that a Supreme Court ruling that overturns the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act would be the beginning of their push to have the federal government recognize same-sex marriage, are urging White House officials to plan to modify hundreds of mentions of marriage throughout federal statutes and regulations. Many legal analysts say there is a substantial chance that the Supreme Court will strike down the 1996 law, which in defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman denies federal benefits to same-sex couples.


    The Supreme Court has banned demonstrations on its grounds.

    At the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago, speculation was rampant about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's political future. Phil Rucker outlines Clinton's new charitable agenda, and CNN's Erin McPike reports on how the initiative will be renamed to reflect both Hillary and daughter Chelsea's involvement.

    Senators rejected an amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that dealt with border security. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that senators should expect to work though weekends until amendments to the immigration reform legislation are completed. No more votes are scheduled for this week but next week the Senate will return to measures that would deal with border security and citizenship for adopted children. Politico plots the slow path.

    Politico's Darren Goode reports that the president may release a climate plan in July. And at the premiere of his "Pandora's Promise" documentary about nuclear power Thursday, director Robert Stone told the crowd he is expecting Mr. Obama to speak about the issue this summer.

    The president and Vice President Joe Biden met Thursday with families who lost their loved ones in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting six months ago.

    Sen. Rand Paul says he will join an ACLU lawsuit against the government for its domestic surveillance program. He also complained about the administration's Middle East strategy.

    Reuters reported that "the U.S. government's surveillance of phone and Internet communications led to the 2009 arrest of a Chicago man who was planning to bomb a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad."

    Amy Walter's Cook Political Report column focuses on demographic shifts and what House Republicans have to gain politically from immigration reform.

    Sen. Marco Rubio warned in a radio interview that he "would walk away from pushing a bipartisan immigration reform bill if a provision covering same-sex couples is added," The Hill reports.

    Shorter Rubio: Trent Who?

    Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, on Thursday vetoed a measure that would have required universal background checks for gun purchases.

    Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud is running for governor of Maine.

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has withdrawn the appointment of a student representative to the University of Wisconsin System's Board of Regents. The student, 20-year-old University of Wisconsin-Platteville sophomore Joshua Inglett, signed a petition to recall Walker in 2011.

    The New York Times examines the complex political fight over curbing sexual assaults in the military.

    The Navy may now communicate without using the all-capital letter format its relied on since the 1850s.

    The White House scrapped plans for the president and first lady's upcoming Tanzanian safari after the Washington Post reported snipers would accompany them to protect from lions and cheetahs.

    "Meet the Press" Executive Producer Betsy Fischer Martin penned this touching tribute to Tim Russert, who died five years ago Thursday. Gwen Ifill devoted her column to Russert this week. And the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza also reflected on the journalist's death and how it changed Washington.

    A victory for history, the 400-page diary of Nazi Alfred Rosenger was recovered after it went missing for more than 60 years. The diary is expected to reveal new insights into Hitler's inner circle.

    A pair of stories Thursday showcased children of members of Congress getting into trouble. Just after Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. apologized for his son's Twitter feed, Republican Rep. Joe Heck's teenage son got in trouble at school back home in Nevada for critical Twitter comments about the president. And Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's 21-year-old son was arrested in New Orleans on charges of a hit-and-run while driving under the influence.

    Meredith Shiner breaks down the annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game -- an embarrassing 22-0 loss for the Republicans. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana was again the Democrats' star as pitcher.


    We examined the unanimous Supreme Court decision which found naturally occurring genes cannot be patented. Watch here or below. Watch Video

    Judy Woodruff remembers Doug Bailey.

    One of our Student Reporting Labs teams from Northern Virginia explored segregation they see happening every day in the school lunchroom.

    PBS affiliate KLRU-TV in Austin produced a documentary on the pending Affirmative Action case before the Supreme Court.


    Fairfax Chamber/NBC4 announce 9/25 #VAGOV debate in McLean, moderated by @chucktodd

    — Kyle Trygstad (@KyleTrygstad) June 14, 2013

    Portrait of the (longest serving member of congress in history) as a young man @john_dingelltwitter.com/dnewhauser/sta...

    — Daniel Newhauser (@dnewhauser) June 13, 2013

    Ad to run in Sunday Tampa Tribune (in print and online) asks if @marcorubio needs glasses. pic.twitter.com/lKtSATBFfl

    — Alex Leary (@learyreports) June 13, 2013

    Try to top this .@bwilliamsbit.ly/11xW46O#slowjamthenews

    — Governor Christie (@GovChristie) June 13, 2013

    YOLO MT @hunterw: 90-year-old Texas Republican Rep. Ralph Hall accidentally attends LGBT Pride event blog.chron.com/txpotomac/2013...

    — daveweigel (@daveweigel) June 13, 2013

    Dude we have all been there. RT @mikememoli: Sen. Whitehouse was stranded in a disabled Capitol subway. twitter.com/mikememoli/sta...

    — Meredith Shiner (@meredithshiner) June 13, 2013

    Desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

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    The Common Core curriculum standards don't prepare students for the workforce, says Robert Lerman. Still from PBS NewsHour footage.

    Paul Solman: Centrist economist Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute and American University is back on this page with a timely concern: Is America's new push for a "common core curriculum" seriously at odds with the country's pressing economic needs?

    Lerman's first PBS NewsHour appearance in 2011 generated real wrath. He later appeared in a story of ours about the seemingly sterling school-to-work program Youthbuild, adding the economist's cold-hearted cost-benefit perspective: "We have not had really serious research that proves that it's highly effective...on balance [it] may not even capture its costs."

    Lerman pointed out that the Department of Labor is funding a major experimental evaluation to estimate the program's impacts.

    I cite Lerman's bona fides as skeptic because he himself has been pushing government investment on the Making Sen$e Business Desk for a while now -- specifically, investment in apprenticeship programs as an answer to the youth job crisis: more than 20 percent of Americans ages 16-19 are unemployed and more than 42 percent of 16-19-year-old African-Americans are unemployed.

    He first made the case in February and then followed up last week with a post on evidence that apprenticeship actually works.

    Now, Lerman takes on the alternative to apprenticeship: school learning. As it happens, so does the NewsHour's distinguished education correspondent, John Merrow, in the most recent installment of his "Taking Note" blog, -- an occasional column that should be essential reading for anyone engaged in education. I asked John for his reaction to Bob's post and if he would mind contextualizing it. John replied:

    "I would 'contextualize' it by pointing out that he is repeating the New York Times' error of conflating the standards with the curricula. The governors and others in the states wrote the standards, but the curricula are being written now by real classroom teachers, as well as publishers and hucksters."

    Bob replied with a link of his own -- to an article from Education Week. In other words, you can spend the rest of the day on the Common Core without ever leaving the Business Desk!

    Bob Lerman: The Common Core is taking the educational community by storm. As Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus point out in last Sunday's New York Times, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the curriculum and will begin testing students on the material in the 2014-2015 academic year.

    Hacker and Dreifus raise questions about this initiative, which they view as "...what may be the most far-reaching experiment in American educational history." In responding to their worry about the Common Core's potential impact on students at risk of dropping out, they quote Ken Wagner, New York's associate commissioner of education, as saying, "College and career skills are the same."

    Now, I am far from an expert on the extensive Common Core curriculum or on any curriculum. But two issues concern me about the debate. One is the lack of solid evidence about the effects of the curriculum on students. Education research, long a backwater of social science, has become more rigorous in recent years, backed in part by the federal government's Institute of Educational Sciences and its funding for rigorous experimental methods to test educational interventions. Yet, here is the same federal government encouraging a massive educational initiative without solid evidence documenting gains for student academic or career outcomes.

    The second concern is justifying the Common Core on the highly dubious notion that college and career skills are the same. On its face, the idea is absurd. After all, do chefs, policemen, welders, hotel managers, professional baseball players and health technicians all require college skills for their careers? Do college students all require learning occupational skills in a wide array of careers? In making the "same skills" claim, proponents are really saying that college skills are necessary for all careers and not that large numbers of career skills are necessary for college.

    How did this "same skills" idea emerge? In a 2005 report sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA), the nonprofit organization Achieve, Inc. claims:

    "Consequently, all students -- those attending a four-year college, those planning to earn a two-year degree or get some postsecondary training, and those seeking to enter the job market right away -- need to have comparable preparation in high school."

    The report offers weak evidence to back up this striking assertion. One justification is a poll finding, "Employers say the high school graduates they hire need the same skills and knowledge that colleges and universities assert enrolling students should have." But, their polls show no such thing. True, employers report 39 percent of recent high school graduates with no further education to be unprepared for the challenges of entry-level work. But, in the same survey, 72 percent of employers say they are satisfied with the overall job high schools are doing preparing graduates for the work world. Moreover, employers and non-college recent graduates almost universally (97 percent) see the need for improvement coming from "real-world learning" and "making coursework more relevant."

    Nearly every study of employer needs over the past 20 years comes up with the same answers. Successful workers communicate effectively orally and in writing and have social and behavioral skills that make them responsible and good at teamwork. They are creative and techno-savvy, have a good command of fractions and basic statistics, and can apply relatively simple math to real-world problems like financial or health literacy.

    Employers never mention polynomial factoring. But what about the higher level math required by the Common Core? Consider algebra II, the study of logarithms, polynomial functions and quadratic equations. Many states want to make algebra II a requirement for graduating high school. Yet, a stunning finding produced by Northeastern University sociologist Michael Handel (cited in a recent Atlantic blog) indicates that only 9 percent of the work force ever use this knowledge, and less than 20 percent of managerial, professional, or technical workers report using any algebra II material.

    The real problem is, as the National Assessment of Adult Literacy shows, over 20 percent of adults (and about 50 percent of minority adults) never learn fractions well enough to apply them to common tasks.

    All students should master a verifiable set of skills, but not necessarily the same skills. High schools fail so many kids partly because educators can't get free of the notion that all students -- regardless of their career aspirations -- need the same basic preparation. As states pile on academic courses, they give less attention to the arts and downplay career and technical education to make way for a double portion of math.

    Maintaining our one-size-fits-all approach will hurt many of the kids we are trying most to help. Maybe the approach will just lead to another unmet education goal. But it won't resolve the already high rate at which students drop out or graduate without the skills and social behaviors required for career success.

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

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    Joel Peters, 62, plans on working as a paramedic for as long as he can perform the physically demanding job. Video shot and produced by David Pelcyger.

    Sixty-two isn't too old to be a paramedic, at least according to Joel Peters.

    "I have to stay in shape because it's a physically demanding job," he told us. "That's how you survive."

    Peters should know. He has worked twelve-hour shifts in a hospital emergency room in Taos, N.M., for 25 years.

    Peters and his wife Jackie are able to meet their financial needs as long as he continues to work. After that, things are less certain.

    "When I see myself not able to keep up with what's going on, I will bow out. My next question would be, am I in a position to do that? And that's going to be the tough part."

    Peters is among the majority of Americans who do not have enough saved for retirement, and are therefore staying on in the workplace.

    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.

    Editor's note: this post originally incorrectly stated the number of years Mr. Peters has been working as a paramedic. This has been corrected.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: The prospect of sending military help to the rebels in Syria sparked a range of reactions today from friend and foe alike. The policy shift also triggered a number of questions, including, what kinds of arms will be sent and how soon?

    BEN RHODES, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser: I can't give you a specific timeline or an itemized list of what that assistance is and when it will get there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes offered few details today, but he said the president's decision means dramatically increasing military aid to the rebels.

    Initial reports suggested the assistance could range from small arms and ammunition to anti-tank missiles. In Turkey, rebel leaders of the Free Syrian Army welcomed the announcement. But they also made clear they hope for more and larger weapons.

    LOUAY MEQDAD, Political Coordinator, Free Syrian Army: We need all the weapons that they can offer for us. The international community, they should -- they should use all their powers to help us, because we need help.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On Thursday, in the U.S. Senate, Arizona Republican John McCain sounded a similar appeal.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: These people of the Free Syrian Army need weapons and heavy weapons to counter tanks and aircraft. They need a no-fly zone. And Bashar Assad's air assets have to be taken out and neutralized.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The rebels also called for a no-fly zone over all or part of Syria. But France and others said today that would require approval by the U.N. Security Council.

    The U.S. decision to authorize military aid followed a finding outlined yesterday at the White House. In a late-day statement, deputy National Security Adviser Rhodes 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."

    Today, the Syrian government charged the U.S. findings were -- quote -- "full of lies" and based on fabricated information. What's more, Syrian state television claimed it had an intercepted phone call between rebels showing they are the ones using chemical weapons.

    MAN: Everyone is now using masks. Our heroes want to attack the pigs with poison gas.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Russia, the Syrian government's main weapons supplier, also rejected the chemical weapons claim and the move to arm the rebels.

    ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman: There is little doubt that the decisions made regarding additional supplies of weapons and military equipment to illegal armed groups will increase the level of confrontation and violence against innocent civilians.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Moscow further warned the decision could undermine U.S. and Russian plans for a Syrian peace conference in Geneva.

    At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he, too, opposes putting more weapons in Syria.

    SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON, United Nations: Providing arms to either side wouldn't address this current situation. There is no such military solution. Only political solution can address this issue sustainably,

    JEFFREY BROWN: Germany's foreign minister raised another concern, that radical Islamist fighters in Syria will somehow get hold of American weapons.

    GUIDO WESTERWELLE, German Foreign Minister: We need an end to the violence as soon as possible and the start of a political process. But whoever opts for weapons delivery must make sure that those weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Up to now, President Obama had raised the same concern, but at the White House today, adviser Rhodes said it's been addressed.

    BEN RHODES: We have relationships today in Syria that we didn't have six months ago that gives us greater certainty, not just that we can get stuff into the country, but also that we can put it in the right hands, so that it's not falling into the hands of extremists.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The turn of events comes as the Syrian regime has captured one key town and is now stepping up attacks on rebels in Aleppo, plus pushing to regain control of the central provinces of Homs and Hama.

    The Syrian crisis is expected to top the agenda when President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at next week's G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

    Later in the program, we will have a debate on the American response to the Syrian civil war.

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    KWAME HOLMAN: Millions of Iranians voted for a new president today, as their leaders rejected criticism of the process. Long lines of men and women could be seen outside polling stations in Iran and at embassies around the world.

    Six candidates were allowed to run, but only Hassan Rowhani was considered a moderate. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected U.S. criticism the election is stacked in favor of hard-liners. He said today his response is, "To hell with you if you do not believe in our election."

    In Turkey, activists weighed whether to end a sit-in at an Istanbul park that gave rise to widespread protests against the government. Last night, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with a delegation of protesters. He offered to let courts and maybe a referendum decide on the park's future.

    Today, he called it a final warning.

    PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey: We told the group that visited last night that we are asking them to show determination and support now, to speak to our youngsters, to let them take this step, and don't make us use different methods. Then we said goodbye to them. I hope this will end today and we will take our steps in determination.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Erdogan has called his supporters to rally in Ankara and Istanbul this weekend, raising the prospect of more tensions with the protesters.

    A Chinese newspaper today urged China's leaders to talk to Edward Snowden, the man who exposed U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden also has said the National Security Agency hacked targets in Hong Kong and mainland China thousands of times. Today, the Communist Party-backed Global Times addressed that allegation in an editorial.

    It said, "The Chinese government should let him speak out and use it as evidence to negotiate with the United States openly or in private."

    U.S. officials have repeatedly accused China of cyber-attacks on American targets.

    A record-breaking wildfire near Colorado Springs, Colo., has claimed new victims in property and lives. As the fire burned today, officials said they found the bodies of two people who'd been trying to flee on Tuesday. So far, the fire has destroyed 389 homes over 25 square miles, but local Sheriff Terry Maketa said it slowed in the last 24 hours.

    SHERIFF TERRY MAKETA, El Paso County, Colo.: I know that circumstances can change, and we're going to expect a little bit of wind today. But you notice we have some cloud cover. That's to our favor. And the winds were calm throughout the night for the most part. And right now, we're not sitting here talking into the wind, so that's a good sign as well.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The fire now is the most destructive in Colorado history. There's no word yet on how it started.

    A military judge has barred the suspect in the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings from arguing he acted to protect the Afghan Taliban. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged with killing 13 people and wounding nearly three dozen in Nov. 2009. The judge ruled today there was no evidence that his fellow soldiers posed an immediate threat to anyone in Afghanistan.

    The U.S. House today passed a defense bill that includes mandatory two-year prison terms for sexual assaults in the military. It also would strip commanders of the power to overturn sexual assault convictions. The overall bill envisions $638 billion dollars for defense in the coming year. But President Obama has threatened a veto because it blocks closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    The latest data on the U.S. economy left something to be desired today. Factory output barely rose in May, and consumer sentiment fell in June. Wall Street reacted with a Friday sell-off. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 106 points to close at 15,070. The Nasdaq fell nearly 22 points to close at 3,422. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq lost more than one percent.

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

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  • 06/14/13--15:07: NewsHour: Not Just a TV Show
  • In a recent New York Times article, media reporter Elizabeth Jensen underscored the financial and new media challenges faced by the PBS NewsHour.

    Jensen cited anonymous public television sources who critiqued the NewsHour's broadcast format and its website:

    But with a deep financing crisis forcing layoffs and other cutbacks this week, some public television employees believe that format -- and a general unwillingness to embrace the digital realities facing journalism -- may be jeopardizing the program's future.

    The article also quoted Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, who said the NewsHour should hone its multimedia tools. "You can't just be a TV show anymore," he said.

    In response to the article, NewsHour deputy executive producer Kathleen McCleery and CEO Bo Jones have offered the following:

    We maintain the future for the "PBS NewsHour" is bright. The program is strong. We are committed to the best reporting possible, on air and online. While these are tough times for many news organizations (ours included), we have many funders -- PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting plus corporations and foundations -- all of whom continue to support our unique brand of journalism. We recognize changes are necessary and we've been making them in ways that will best position us for the future. Plus, we are doing all we can to bring in new resources.

    PBS NewsHour Vertical LogoTonight's broadcast is a fine example of our commitment to deep, thoughtful analysis of the critical news stories of the day. We'll devote about 12 minutes to the crisis in Syria with the latest news plus analysis from two of the best thinkers available, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Vali Nasr. We'll examine the financial plight of one of the nation's poorest cities, Detroit. We'll conclude a series of reports about food security around the world with an in-depth look at the California dairy industry. And our regular team of Mark Shields and David Brooks will offer civil but sharp insights into the week's political stories.

    We strongly disagree with the criticism of our online efforts. We have indeed embraced the digital world in a vigorous fashion. We have a team of smart, serious journalists who understand and work well in today's interactive world. Witness our most recent reporting, Paul Solman's "New Adventures for Older Workers," a brilliant pull together of important information for baby boomers and others.

    There's much more to highlight, including:

    In-depth reporting from Lebanon on the spillover of the Syrian war from Margaret Warner more coverage to the immigration debate than any other news outlet: an 8-part series from Ray Suarez and Google hangouts with Hari Sreenivasan historical context on Watergate gleaned from the NewsHour's own archives viewer engagement on the Supreme Court's consideration of the Voting Rights Act and an acclaimed story on the dangers of so-called bath salts.

    The fact of the matter is that we are not "just a TV show" any longer.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, the city of Detroit and its creditors were presented with a series of painful options. Retired city workers were warned of significant cuts in pensions and health insurance, and creditors were told the city won't be able to pay them back.

    The day started with an announcement that the government already defaulted on some debt. It got worse from there.

    Ray Suarez has the story.

    PROTESTERS: Make the banks pay. Make the banks pay.

    RAY SUAREZ: A handful of protesters picketed outside the Westin Hotel this morning, while, inside, Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, laid out a last-ditch plan to 150 creditors to accept pennies on the dollar in order to help keep the city running.

    Orr told reporters afterwards that Detroit's finances are beyond dire and that his plan to avoid filing bankruptcy "is going to be hard, it's going to be difficult, but what choice do we have?"

    During the meeting, Orr said the city would stop payments on its unsecured debt to bondholders, cut health care and pension benefits to current and retired city workers, give an independent authority control over the water and sewerage. The changes help tackle what Orr said was up to $20 billion dollars in debt and liabilities.

    He was appointed three months ago by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to try to turn around Detroit's finances and operations. But there's been skepticism among some residents about the plans and about whether Detroit's finances are as dire as Orr has said.

    Abayomi Azikiwe protested the meeting this morning.

    ABAYOMI AZIKIWE, Protester: We feel that the bankers and the creditors who are here today with the emergency manager are not going to negotiate in the best interest of the people of the city of Detroit. And we are saying that the same financial institutions that Mr. Orr is negotiating with today are responsible in large part for the crisis that exists in Detroit.

    RAY SUAREZ: Once a booming Midwestern city, Detroit has suffered a big population loss and now ranks as the poorest major city in the U.S. More than a third of the population lives below the government poverty line.

    We get more on the plan spelled out today and the reaction to all this from Matt Helms of The Detroit Free Press.

    Matt, welcome.

    From the beginning, Kevyn Orr didn't sugarcoat the situation. But, even so, was something this extreme expected today?

    MATT HELMS, The Detroit Free Press: Well, I think we'd been warned to expect something drastic, but that doesn't -- the warning certainly doesn't prepare you for the scope and the risks involved here, and, you know, especially the cuts that, you know, the creditors, retirees, pensioners, city workers are going to be asked to take.

    RAY SUAREZ: Who are the main holders of Detroit debt and who is it that's being told to expect just pennies on the dollar?

    MATT HELMS: It's everyone.

    It's retirees. It's pension plans. It's the city's unions and representing current workers. It's bondholders, the insurance companies that backed those bonds. And bondholders can range from major institutional investors to, as one of the creditors told me today, mom and dad investing in a mutual fund.

    RAY SUAREZ: How did Detroit get to be an estimated $17 billion to $20 billion dollars in debt? It's had shrinking revenues for some time. It's had very heavy legacy obligations for some time. Were there always institutions that were ready to line up and continue to lend the city money?

    MATT HELMS: There certainly were. And they did up until last year, when the crisis hit.

    And the last round of borrowing had to be backed by the state because Detroit's credit rating had really just gone into trash territory. The state helped float $137 million dollars in bonds to help stabilize the city through what they hoped was going to be an agreement to keep it out of the appointment of an emergency manager.

    That didn't work. And here we are today perhaps just weeks away from a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing.

    RAY SUAREZ: As we mentioned earlier, Kevyn Orr already announced that the city had defaulted on an obligation as of this morning. How much was it and to whom?

    MATT HELMS: Well, it's to a number of creditors, but it was a nearly $40 million dollar payment on a complex structure, a finance structure called participant -- I'm sorry -- a certificate of participation obligation.

    And we know that the city has also kind of triggered terms for default in the past as well, but has been able to negotiate with creditors to extend payment dates. And, you know, there's a long line of vendors, for example, who provide goods and services to the city who have gone months without payment.

    RAY SUAREZ: Now, the emergency manager said the odds of a bankruptcy were 50-50. And, indeed, it would be the largest municipal bankruptcy ever. But why isn't Detroit considered bankrupt already?

    If it missed a payment today and is telling people that it owes money, that it's only going to give them, in some estimates, 10 cents on the dollar, why isn't it already considered bankrupt technically?

    MATT HELMS: Well, I guess, technically, it already is bankrupt, but as a spokesman for the emergency manager told reporters today, there's a difference between being bankrupt and being in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is the process of resolving that debt.

    And the -- really, the difference between the two is whether you go to court to resolve it.

    RAY SUAREZ: Today, the spokesman for Kevyn Orr mentioned that they would give the institutions involved a couple of weeks to digest the news that they got today. It must be terrible to hear, but are there some hard-and-fast dates, some deadlines that are looming in Detroit's future that aren't the kind of things that you can give people a couple of weeks to think about? What's the next chapter in this drama?

    MATT HELMS: Well, at best we can tell, if the negotiations don't go well, we could know within a couple of weeks whether Kevyn Orr thinks that there is no option but -- except for bankruptcy.

    Beyond that, these talks, these negotiations with creditors could extend into July or August. And, you know, there are a lot of bankruptcy experts who say they doubt that an out-of-court settlement can be reached and that the best Kevyn Orr can hope for at this point is to get maybe 80 percent to 90 percent of the creditors lined up, so that when he goes in and files a Chapter 9 petition, he's got a majority of the creditors lined up, and that can help persuade a federal judge to get the recalcitrant creditors on board with the deal, even cramming down, in the jargon, terms on creditors who are so far fighting the deal.

    RAY SUAREZ: Have any of the creditors been heard from today, any of the institutions you mentioned earlier that might be expected to get a lot less money back from the city?

    MATT HELMS: Many of them are not commenting. We have heard a lot of from the city unions today. They're worried. They're scared. Their members face pay and benefits cuts.

    And there is even talk that vested pensions, which under Michigan law typically are protected from being cut once you are a retiree, that that may not be the case here in Detroit, and that Kevyn Orr and the city of Detroit may have to battle in court if necessary to reduce pension benefits for retirees who are already living on fixed incomes.

    RAY SUAREZ: Matt Helms of The Detroit Free Press, thanks a lot for joining us.

    MATT HELMS: Glad to be here. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Today marked six months since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., an attack that brought tears and outrage and prompted a new debate over gun violence and rights.

    Margaret Warner has a look at how the day was commemorated.

    CARLEE SOTO, Sister of Victoria Soto: If we can take that moment now, please?

    MARGARET WARNER: The sister of slain teacher Victoria Soto asked for twenty six seconds of silence today, one for each of the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    They were gunned down on Dec. 14, after Adam Lanza killed his mother and then stormed Sandy Hook. Police said Lanza shot 20 schoolchildren and six educators, before shooting himself. Today's moment of silence was followed by a daylong reading of more than 6,000 names, all victims of gun violence around the country since the Newtown tragedy.

    The memorial was organized by Mayors Against Gun Violence, a group funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that has been working with some of the victims' families. Some of those families have been trying for months to persuade lawmakers to back tighter gun control measures, including background checks.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The amendment is not agreed to.

    MARGARET WARNER: But that legislation failed to pass the Senate in April. Now some senators, including some who voted no, are said to be discussing an amended bill.

    Families came to Capitol Hill yesterday vowing to support it.

    JILLIAN SOTO, Sister of Newtown Victim: We will continue to fight until Congress stands up and does something to make us safer from gun violence.

    MARGARET WARNER: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed the effort, but had a warning.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: The writing is on the wall. Background checks will pass the United States Senate. It's only a question of when. I want to be very, very clear, though. In order to be effective, the bill that passes the Senate must include background checks, and not a watered-down version of background checks.

    MARGARET WARNER: Gun control advocates have had mixed success at the state level. Several states, including Colorado, Maryland and New York, have passed tighter restrictions. But other states, like Arkansas and Mississippi, have eased them.

    Just yesterday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, vetoed a bill mandating background checks for all purchases in his state.

    SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: I'm Joe Manchin.

    MARGARET WARNER: The National Rifle Association is fighting back as well.

    JOE MANCHIN: As your senator, I will protect our Second Amendment rights.

    NARRATOR: That was Joe Manchin's commitment.

    MARGARET WARNER: It plans to spend $100,000 dollars running this ad in West Virginia, asking voters to remind Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who co-sponsored bipartisan Senate legislation, to support gun rights.

    The White House also may be making a new push of its own. Vice President Joe Biden will be hosting a gun control event on Tuesday. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we return now to Syria and the options on the table for the U.S.

    We invited a member of the Obama administration to discuss the change in Syria strategy. Our request was declined.

    But with us now to assess the White House decision, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter. He's now a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And former State Department senior adviser Vali Nasr, now dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Dr. Brzezinski, many questions still about how much, the timing, et cetera, but what's your initial reaction to this announcement that the U.S. will be providing some arms?

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, Former U.S. National Security Adviser: It's kind of baffling because there's no pattern of consistency.

    You know, we started helping the rebels, whatever they are, and they're certainly not fighting for democracy, given their sponsorship, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as far back as early spring of last year, 2012, without saying it publicly. I assume there was a presidential finding approving it, but we're doing that. Since then, I'm not at all clear as to what our policy actually is.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So it didn't -- it wasn't clarified by yesterday's announcement?

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I think that was even more baffling, because it refers to a very small number of casualties allegedly inflicted by chemical warfare. It doesn't refer specifically to the date involved, although the president drew a red line. It certainly is material to know whether those acts followed or preceded the presidential warning.

    And, besides, why should that be the issue, especially if the scale of casualties inflicted by that kind of arms is so limited? Ninety-three thousand people, allegedly, have been killed, and, incidentally, not like what the official line sometimes is, by Assad and his henchmen, but by both sides. This is a civil war, a brutal civil war.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, let me -- Vali Nasr, you have been on the program. You have talked about wanting to see more action by the U.S. government. Is this the kind of first step or a step that you want?

    VALI NASR, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University: Well, it is a step.

    But I think it's problematic, because, as Dr. Brzezinski said, it's not clear what objective it's supposed to serve. We haven't said what it is that we want to accomplish by providing arms to the rebels. Do we want to just address the humanitarian issue? Is our objective to reverse the recent gains the Assad regime has made? Is this punishment for the use of chemical weapons? Is it to shore up our sagging credibility in the region?

    So it's not clear whether this is enough or it's too late, unless you know what it's for.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what do you think it should be for? Because there is a debate right now at the White House, right, about what to do and how to target it.

    VALI NASR: Well, I think our goal was to try to arrive at a diplomatic solution to this crisis in Geneva.

    We can't go to Geneva for a diplomatic solution if Assad has just scored big gains on the ground. So our goal ought to be to reverse the gains that Assad has made on the ground.

    So we have to be -- if we're going to do this, we have to do it with a view to change the dynamics of this war, at least in the direction that it's going. And secondly, we ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Does that include with weapons and even more weapons that they're asking for?

    VALI NASR: Well, it would require more weapons than we have announced.

    It also would require probably a strategy about how we're going to -- who we're going to give the weapons to, how we're going to give it. And I think larger issue is that our credibility, the credibility of American foreign policy is now at stake, and then we have to essentially use any kind of intervention to reverse that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think about a strong -- more weapons, a stronger involvement, and this question of our credibility at this point? You raised the red line question.

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, weapons to whom, first of all?

    As we know, there are a great many factions competing for power on the ground in Syria, and most of them are not very friendly to us. So, weapons for whom? It so happens, unfortunately, that those factions which we consider to be allegedly democratic are the weakest. So what are we going to accomplish by infusing a few more arms for groups that are the weakest?

    If we're going to engage in political warfare with a strategic outcome, and we insist on a victory for those who allegedly are with us and a victory particularly for us, we have to do it whole hog, not just from the air, not just by supplying some arms to some not particularly strong groups, but we have to do it by, in effect, invading the country.

    If we invade the country, will it just stop with fighting in Syria? Might we conceivably collide with the Iranian forces? Do we really want that at this stage of history in the Middle East, as we are getting ready to disengage from Afghanistan?

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, what's the response to that?

    VALI NASR: Well, those are all dangers that are on the table and we have to take them into consideration.

    The Syria crisis has now become very complex, with many issues that we have to be able to sort out and address. But, going forward, you know, essentially, we're dealing with dynamics of two separate wars and two separate issues here. One is the war between the rebels and opposition and the Syrian government, in which we have said that we would like the rebels to win.

    The second one is really the war between the different factions within the opposition, the jihadis and the extremists vis-a-vis the other ones. So the key question is, which one are we trying to influence? Are we trying to influence generally the rebels as it stands against Assad, which has all the dangers and problems Dr. Brzezinski says? Who do you arm? How do you arm them? And what is the danger of having to confront the Iranians and the Russians?

    And the other argument is that, regardless of whether Assad survives and leaves, ultimately, there's going to be a battle between different factions of the Syrians. And the question is, do we want to arm a faction of the Syrians that would be sort of the counterpoint to the jihadis? If so, is this the right time to start building those relations?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is there an alternative? Because, if the U.S. does little or nothing, and the Syrian government wins, as now the battlefield perhaps looks like it's been turned, doesn't that affect our interests in the region and the world as well?

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, of course, it doesn't affect them positively.

    But we have to think of the alternative consequences. If we get involved in a protracted war, we are again in a war in the region, this hurts us also in Afghanistan. Secondly, if that war produces a collision between America and Iranians supporting Assad, is that better than an outcome in which perhaps Assad stays in power?

    Better still, of course, an international Geneva conference. But let's just think of who ought to be there. Should we be there with the French and the British, the two countries which are most hated in the region, former colonial powers? Are these the right countries with whom we ought to be dealing? Of course, Turkey ought to be there.

    What about China, what about Japan, what about India, all of which are dependent on a stable flow of oil from the region? They have stakes in that region. They might prefer some sort of a compromise solution and might be prepared to give the political support for it. They might also be able to influence the Russians.

    But to simply go in on the hope that, somehow or other, by doing something which is not very precisely described for groups which are not very powerful -- and, in fact, the one that favors us is the weakest -- is not a strategy. It's an evasion of strategy.

    And there's a kind of lack of clarity which has defined our posture there for the last two years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just in our last minute, what about the prospects of this international conference, which is supposed to be later in the month? Who should be there and what are the diplomatic possibilities at this point?

    VALI NASR: Well, I think the diplomatic possibilities are limited. I think Dr. Brzezinski is right that it cannot be just the French and the Russians, who actually drew ...


    VALI NASR: The British -- who drew these borders that are now being contested.

    But the key question is also, what is our objective out of the conference? We're trying to go to a conference saying that the result of the conference would be removal of Assad from power. That's not being supported by developments on the ground. He's actually winning.

    So, you know, even our conception of the conference is wrong. And I think the best purpose for the conference would be to try to arrive at a cease-fire, try to create certain traction for the international support for a political settlement, and ultimately find a way that the worst that's happening in Syria doesn't impact the entire region.

    I think the best we can hope for at this stage is to contain Syria and then find a way to maybe gradually wind down this conflict.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, very much to be continued.

    Vali Nasr, Zbigniew Brzezinski, thank you both very much.


    VALI NASR: Thank you. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, we just listened to Dr. Brzezinski, to Dean Nasr.

    David, where do you come down on this, having heard the president basically change policy?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I have been leaning more interventionist as the months and weeks have gone by.

    I have -- you know, obvious caution, what Dr. Brzezinski, talked about are there, who are the people we're arming, all that sort of stuff, what is the endgame? But I think it's sort of outweighed. It's outweighed first by the humanitarian needs. Second, it's outweighed the possibility that Assad and really a rogue regime will be there forever and will win

    Third, it's outweighed by the collapse of the region around there if that rogue regime does win. And, finally, I think the big story in the Middle East is Iranian radicalism. And I think we have a lot to fear from an Iranian client state, a victorious Hezbollah.

    I think we have a lot to fear from that. And so I think it's a continuum of no action, total boots on the ground, which obviously is not going to happen. I think the Obama administration has tilted a little toward a little more interventionist, too little to do any good, actually. But I think that probably a little more tilt to try to prevent all the things I described.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see what the administration is doing?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are they moving into the right direction?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Judy, after listening to that discussion, which was a good discussion, with Dean Nasr and Dr. Brzezinski, I think you have what the problems are for the administration.

    There is not a compelling case that has been made that people say, OK. I mean, there's a lot of individual discrete reasons. I mean, Americans don't like to see children suffer. And 93,000 people, according to the U.N., have died already, and thousands more continue to die. One-and-a-half million have fled into Jordan.

    Jordan is an ally, and its stability is threatened, and the reasons that David cited, that -- the prospect of Assad being in the saddle with Hezbollah at his side and Russia playing this kind of a role there, you know -- but, at the same time, I don't know, Judy. It has a feel of Fast and Furious.

    Remember Fast and Furious, the gun policy in the bureau of -- the Department of Justice and Bureau of Arms and Tobacco did?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

    MARK SHIELDS: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

    Just get out guns, and maybe they will get to a Mexican cartel, and we will find out and we will trace the guns that way. We're going in and providing arms. We don't have a reliable ally, an identifiable ally. We don't have that most elusive subtype in the entire world. And that is a rebel who believes devoutly in religious freedom and pluralism and believes in democratic elections.

    I mean, so ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying it's complicated to pick sides here.

    MARK SHIELDS: Complicated, beyond complicated, and I don't think the president has made the case for it yet.

    DAVID BROOKS: That's sort of stacking the deck, expecting a rebel force of the ACLU. You're not going to get that in the Middle East.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, you have got al-Qaida. You have got al-Qaida.

    DAVID BROOKS: That's part of it. There's no question. We probably should have been involved in forming the rebels a little earlier and a little more aggressively, though some of that has been done.

    So, I do think there is a group there. But the downsides -- and, again, the downsides of having an Iranian client state, of having a mass-murdering regime are significant. Now, the -- now, we can have this academic debate about what outcome we like.

    The reality, of course, is we have very little influence. We certainly have no influence, given what the administration is doing, which is a few anti-tank and some bullets and rifles. This strikes me as just a sort of gesture, political gesture.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about Dr. Brzezinski's point? He said there's a lack of clarity that defines the administration.

    DAVID BROOKS: That's true.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he -- and you were saying that this is a step in the right direction. But his point is, if you keep going in that direction, are you going to end up in a war with Iran?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I mean, foreign policy is like art. You have to draw lines.

    And so I'm a little dubious about slippery slopes. This whole debate is a series of parallels. Some people, like Bill Clinton earlier in the week, sort of drew an implicit parallel to Rwanda. We can't allow this to happen again. Other people are drawing the Iraq or the Vietnam parallel.

    I think the Iraq and Vietnam parallel, we are so far away from really getting deeply involved in Syria that we're not even close to that kind of line, and we're not going to go there. There's no support at all in the country for that sort of thing. And so I don't buy that kind of slippery slope argument.

    MARK SHIELDS: In the final analysis, if we're going into this war, and we're talking about going into this war, an army doesn't fight a war. A country fights a war.

    And this would be -- we have gone through 12 years of wars where, Judy, the president -- neither president -- neither President Bush nor President Obama has ever acknowledged the fact that the country is at war. I mean, there's been none -- there has been no sense of collective mission.

    All the sacrificing, all the fighting, all the dying is one percent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Because it's a volunteer force.

    MARK SHIELDS: And that's again -- a volunteer force, that's right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Who are serving multiple terms.

    MARK SHIELDS: Multiple terms, at the cost of enormous, enormous personal injury and damage, and as well as to their families. I mean, so, you know, I just -- I just don't like to talk sort of cavalierly about doing this.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, there's not a human being on earth who's talking about that. There's no single American who says we should be sending soldiers over there or troops over there.

    We're sending -- the question is, we're sending maybe anti-tank guns. We're sending some riflery. The question is whether we're sending anti-aircraft. The question is whether they're going to do a no-fly zone, on the outside.

    MARK SHIELDS: What is the mission?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, the issue -- the mission is prevent a mass massacre.

    MARK SHIELDS: And how we will know when we have succeeded? And how we will know when we have succeeded? When we stop the massacre?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, that would be a start, for me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we may not resolve in the next few minutes.

    So let's talk about another -- another story we have been watching for last few weeks. And that, of course, is the government surveillance. Since I talked to the two of you last Friday, it's been revealed that a 29-year-old former government contractor named Edward Snowden, who we think is still in Hong Kong, David, is the one who spilled the beans.

    Is Edward Snowden a hero, a whistle-blower, as some say, or is he a traitor who violated his oath?

    DAVID BROOKS: He's a betrayer. He betrayed his oath, which was given to him and which he took implicitly and explicitly. He betrayed his company, the people who gave him a job, the people who trusted him. He betrayed his friends, who are all now going to be suspect, and they won't be handing responsibility to a lot of 29-year-olds in the future.

    He betrayed the democratic process. It's not up to a lone 29-year-old to decide what's private and public. We have -- actually have procedures for that set down in the Constitution and established by tradition. And he sort of betrayed that. He betrayed the cause of liberty, because, if you don't have mass data sweeps, well, then these agencies are going to want to go back to the old-fashioned eavesdropping, which is a lot more intrusive.

    So I don't have a lot of sympathy for him.

    MARK SHIELDS: I don't think he's a traitor, to the best of my knowledge.

    He is -- he didn't sell secrets. He didn't provide secrets to an enemy or to an unfriendly entity. He didn't put at risk Americans, to the best of our knowledge. He didn't reveal projects of plans or programs that were going.

    Is he a hero? I wouldn't certainly categorize him as a hero. The president says, I welcome this debate. That's healthy for democracy. There wouldn't be a debate, Judy, if we didn't have this disclosure. I mean, that's a little bit disingenuous, to say that we welcome this debate.

    What we have had is, we have had no debate. What we have had since 9/11 on all the security measures that we have taken, the debate has been overseas. It's been rendition. It's been Guantanamo. It's been Abu Ghraib. Now, for the first time, it's a question of, what is the trade-off? What are Americans willing to do to give up their own privacy without court orders, to let the government? And the appetite for secrecy for every administration is absolutely limitless.

    DAVID BROOKS: I think we have had a bit of that debate, warrantless wiretaps. There's been a lot of that sort of stuff.

    But I agree with Mark that the openness should have been there and the ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Openness to what degree?

    DAVID BROOKS: Just that this policy existed. I don't think it's news to the terrorists that we are doing this.


    DAVID BROOKS: So, we could have -- we could have ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you don't think he revealed that much, or ...

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, we know some details. He apparently told the Chinese the stuff we knew about them. That was harmful to America. That was being a traitor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there's a Chinese newspaper, government newspaper today saying the government should use him to negotiate with the U.S.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. So, if he wants to stay in China and not ...

    MARK SHIELDS: He would be a lot more heroic if he hadn't -- if he weren't in Hong Kong. There's no question about it.


    MARK SHIELDS: But, I mean, let's be honest about it. He did sacrifice and surrender his own job, quite conceivably his own freedom.

    I mean, this is not without cost, what he did. And I have to tell you, what I find the most offensive of all the criticisms of the guy, whom I don't know and probably will never meet, and that is that he was a high school dropout.

    We have had Ph.D.s named Wolfowitz and an MBA named Bush and a Ph.D. student named Cheney take us to war, and a terrible war for this country that's cost division and cost lives and caused suffering. And we have had a lot of high school dropouts in this country named Washington and Lincoln and Mark Twain and Will Rogers and Rosa Parks who've made great contributions to this country.

    And there's something terribly snobbish about Washington's credentials, if he just had gone to an Ivy League, if he had a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago like Paul Wolfowitz or been like Doug Feith or Richard Perle. I mean, it's just -- that really is ...

    DAVID BROOKS: He had to attack Chicago.

    No, I don't attack him for being a high school dropout. I do attack him for being a grandiose narcissist. When you work for an institution ...

    MARK SHIELDS: Is that a felony?


    MARK SHIELDS: Thank goodness.

    DAVID BROOKS: It's a plague around here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we're not going to get personal.

    DAVID BROOKS: When you work for an institution, any institution, a company, a faculty, you don't get to violate the rules of that institution and decide for your own self what you're going to do in a unilateral way that no one else can reverse.

    And that's exactly what he did. So he betrayed the trust of the institution. He betrayed what creates a government, which is being a civil servant, being a servant to a larger cause, and not going off on some unilateral thing because it makes you feel grandiose.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So he should be prosecuted?

    MARK SHIELDS: No, I mean, but he obviously -- there's a calculation involved.

    He was willing to sacrifice what was, according to all reports, a six-figure income, a prestigious position, I mean, and he was willing to sacrifice that or trade it for making public -- I mean, you can call it narcissism, but -- or call it a martyr complex, but he did do this, instead of, you know, leaking it out or whatever.

    All administrations hate leaks, unless they look good by them, unless the leaks are made by them themselves.


    MARK SHIELDS: And, no, I mean, this is -- but I just don't see what -- John Boehner calls him a traitor, and Dianne Feinstein calls him a traitor.

    DAVID BROOKS: Can I just make one political point which struck me this week powerfully, which is the polling?

    I thought -- and I think I said on the program last week there would be a lot of revulsion against the program. Not in the polls. By 2-1, 60-odd percent say, no, this NSA program is a good thing. We have more to worry about from -- we'd like to see our privacy invaded to make us safer.

    MARK SHIELDS: It's -- I would say this, if you look at the polls and particularly Pew, what you see is a total reversal. Our politics are totally polarized. Democrats who opposed this under George W. Bush now endorse it under Barack Obama.

    Republicans who embraced it under George W. Bush now resent it and oppose it under Barack Obama.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    MARK SHIELDS: So, I mean, the polarization just seeps into national security.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, on that note, we're going to say good night.

    But, before we do, I just want to remind everybody watching that Mark and David always go to our newsroom on Fridays and they record something called The Doubleheader. They have done it today. You are going to see it tonight on television.

    One week from tonight, it is going to be a special Doubleheader, because they're going to take your questions live. And we're trying to drum up as much of an audience as we can.

    That's why we are talking about it tonight.

    DAVID BROOKS: Going to hit double digits.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You're both getting nervous about it.

    MARK SHIELDS: Do you think we will get to a dozen people?

    Is it 5:00 Eastern next week? Is that when it is, 5:00 Eastern?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark and David, thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, we conclude our weeklong look at food security and how climate change is affecting what we produce and how we eat.

    Special correspondent Susanne Rust reports on how China's growing demand for dairy products is affecting California farmers, the economy, and global trade.

    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. 

    SUSANNE RUST: At the Culinary Institute of America in California's Napa Valley, a group of pizza executives is taking a cooking class. They have come all the way from Asia to try cooking with California cheese.

    Davis Wei works as a cheese buyer for the largest pizza chain in China.

    DAVIS WEI, Cheese Buyer: I definitely like dairy. I'm very passionate about it. Just look at my figure, and you can tell that I really love this type of food.

    SUSANNE RUST: Wei is here on a tour of the state's dairy industry organized by the California Milk Advisory Board to drum up business.

    Ross Christieson heads up the organization's international efforts, and he's bullish on milk's future.

    ROSS CHRISTIESON, California Milk Advisory Board: Many people in the industry believe we make too much milk. My view is, we don't make enough milk here in California. If you take a global view of the international dairy market, there's actually a shortage of milk around the world.

    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 and we can capture that growth in the early stage.

    SUSANNE RUST: Milk production is a nearly $8 billion dollar business in California, and the state is the country's largest producer.

    But the business is changing, and that's raised a host of economic and environmental issues. To some, China looks like a great new market for milk; to others, it's a symbol of what's wrong with the old way of doing business.

    For one thing, California dairies have been going bankrupt. Ray Souza has been producing milk in Turlock, Calif., for over 30 years, and manages a herd of about 900 Holstein cows. But he's worried. Nearly 300 dairies in California have gone out of business in the last five years, including three of his neighbors.

    RAY SOUZA, California Dairy Farmer: To the south of me, that farm was seized by the bank, and I happened to witness that. And it was kind of a sad day to see everything those people had worked for lost.

    This was a functioning business. The dairy family had been here for years and years and years. Father, mother, and children were here involved in the operation, the daily operation of the dairy. But it's one of those things where feed costs got high, and through no fault of their own, they were not able to sustain the business.

    SUSANNE RUST: The problem is the cost of grains, like corn and soy, which are used in dairy feed, has reached record highs.

    RAY SOUZA: My corn costs, which is a prime source of energy for dairy cows, has darn near tripled in the last five years.

    SUSANNE RUST: Why? Supplies are tight due to an increased demand for exported grain, the use of corn to make biofuel, and a drought in the Midwest.

    Feed prices have affected dairies across the country, but California was particularly hard-hit.

    Bill Schiek is an economist at the Dairy Institute of California.

    BILL SCHIEK, Dairy Institute of California: In California, the traditional model of production has been one where you bring in -- purchase feed from the rest of the country and transport that to California and feed it to dairy cows, and it's a very specialized operation.

    SUSANNE RUST: By importing cheap feed grains from the Midwest, instead of growing them on the farm, as dairies in other states do, California producers are able to raise more cows and produce more milk on smaller parcels of land. It's a model that worked when grain was cheap.

    BILL SCHIEK: I don't know that were going to see those kind of prices return again. There's simply too much demand for feed in the world today.

    SUSANNE RUST: While feed costs have gone up, the price of milk, which is controlled by the state, has lagged. Historically, California dairy producers have coped with low prices by increasing production and selling more milk. So, despite the loss of hundreds of dairy farms, milk production in the state has never been higher, says Dan Putnam, a forage expert at the University of California, Davis.

    DAN PUTNAM, University of California, Davis: We have increased production per cow at about two percent to 2.2 percent per year relentlessly for about 30 years in California, and that even continues today.

    What that does is, it creates a real problem for the dairy producer, in the sense that a couple of years goes by and they have another five percent more milk that they have to figure out how to market.

    SUSANNE RUST: So who's going to buy all this milk? Remember Mr. Wei, the cheese buyer for a Chinese pizza chain? He's part of a growing middle class in China, who, as incomes rise, are consuming higher-protein diets, including more dairy.

    In fact, milk consumption in China has tripled in the last decade, and Chinese milk producers are desperate to ramp up. Recently, leading Chinese dairies came to the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., to acquire the latest technology.

    Leon Sun is with the Shanghai Dairy Group.

    LEON SUN, Shanghai Dairy Group: Our main priority in this World Ag Expo is trying to expose ourselves to the world dairy business. So that's why we have to fill in the gaps very quickly. Everything that we can absorb and import into China and boost our production and revolutionize everything.

    SUSANNE RUST: The Shanghai Dairy Group is also here to import alfalfa hay, a high-protein feed supplement that will boost milk production for cows in China.

    DAN PUTNAM: They now have fairly large dairies outside of the major cities in China. And these dairies are every bit as modern and as advanced as many of the Western dairies.

    And they are rapidly learning how to increase milk production per animal, but a key missing ingredient is high-quality forage crops.

    SUSANNE RUST: Alfalfa is California's largest acreage crop and also one of the most water-intensive, using about a fifth of the state's precious water.

    Despite China's land mass, it has a shortage of water and arable land, so a few years ago Chinese dairy producers began buying alfalfa from California and other Western states.

    DAN PUTNAM: Exports to China are definitely increasing. We have seen a pretty dramatic rise since the year 2005-2006, and I think all expectations are that it will probably increase again this coming year.

    SUSANNE RUST: Not everyone is eager to see that happen. Critics complain that California shouldn't be shipping its valuable water supplies to China in the form of alfalfa.

    What's more, environmental advocates point out that dairies cause serious environmental damage, and question if California should support such a large industry, much less seek to supply China.

    TOM FRANTZ, Almond Farmer: Here's some smaller lagoons. Those are manure separators right there, those tilted things.

    SUSANNE RUST: Tom Frantz is an almond farmer in Kern County who heads a group called the Association of Irritated Residents, or AIR.

    TOM FRANTZ: Ten dairies that are all new since 1990. It's a relatively recent phenomena in the last 20, 30 years that you see dairies with more than 2,000 cows. And now, I mean, the biggest dairy about 50 miles north of here has 18,000 animals.

    SUSANNE RUST: A 2012 report from the University of California, Davis, found that one of the leading causes of nitrate pollution in groundwater comes from dairy manure used to fertilize cropland.

    TOM FRANTZ: But, by aerating there, they're getting ammonia to go up into the air.

    SUSANNE RUST: In addition, according to the Central Valley's Air Pollution Control District, dairies are a major source of pollution in the area.

    Fermenting dairy feed and gases from the cows themselves contribute to ozone pollution and greenhouse gases. Brent Newell is an environmental lawyer with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.

    BRENT NEWELL, Environmental Lawyer, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment: Already, California communities are overwhelmed by the amount of air pollution that comes from these facilities. The effect on groundwater is really unacceptable.

    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.

    SUSANNE RUST: If the Chinese continue to develop their own independent dairy industry, California will lose much of its market for surplus milk, and California farmers will pay more for alfalfa as exports to China drive up demand.

    In this complex exchange of resources and money, China may well end up the global food industry winner.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On the environmental issues in our story, the dairy industry sent a statement saying, Central Valley farmers abide by some of the nation's strictest water quality regulations, including sampling and testing manure and soil, as well as monitoring groundwater.

    They noted that air emissions are also regulated and cited a U.N. study showing California dairy farms lead the world in a number of sustainable farming practices, including having the world's lowest emissions of greenhouse gases.

    And you can watch our entire “Food for 9 Billion” series on our website.

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    NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni guest-hosts the Doubleheader with Mark Shields and David Brooks.

    Mark Shields and David Brooks got a little edgy in Friday's Doubleheader. It may not be the segment's first mention of sex, but it definitely will get your attention.

    I am still filling in for Hari Sreenivasan, who is finishing his honeymoon but will soon make his triumphant return.

    Under "sport of politics," Mark and David weighed in on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's moves of late. She's joined Twitter and added to all the presidential ambition speculation with a big speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago.

    She even tweeted a selfie with daughter Chelsea, so David and I took one too.

    Just like the last time I sat in for Hari, we talked about baseball for the "politics of sport" section. Specifically, the annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

    It had a, shall we say, embarrassing result for the Republicans, who used to dominate in wins of the coveted Roll Call trophy.

    I admit it took all my composure to not promote the Congressional Women's Softball Game, happening June 26. I am playing in the game a charity event pitting female members of the press against female members of Congress. It's a great cause, and feel free to support it or buy tickets for the battle now. (For the record, the Bad News Babes press team claimed victory last summer.)

    Finally: Get excited! Hari is hosting a special "Doubleheader Live" version on June 21. We will be streaming live from our newsroom and you can join in. Leave questions for Mark and David below, or tweet us at @NewsHour using the hashtag #Doubleheaderlive. Join us!

    Please subscribe to the Morning Line.

    Follow @cbellantoni

    This video was shot and edited by Joshua Barajas and Justin Scuiletti.

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    Click on the image above for a larger version.

    PBS NewsHour journalist Allison McCartney recently joined Visual.ly in San Francisco for a residency program focused on data visualization and infographic projects.

    McCartney explored the complex story of the National Security Agency's extensive surveillance in her latest project. "The program is complicated and not much is known yet, so we decided to show you what we do know with the help of visuals," she wrote on Visual.ly's blog.

    The administration, lawmakers and the intelligence community have claimed the National Security Agency (NSA) programs that use data from private companies to track millions of American are legal. One mysterious court has been tasked with determining whether these programs cross the line, but their decisions are secret, and made without public debate.

    The surveillance program that first made news involved collecting the metadata on millions of telephone calls with help from telecommunications giant Verizon. The program is complicated and not much is known yet, so we decided to show you what we do know with the help of visuals.

    We start with a flow chart about how the NSA-Verizon program works and the players involved, and move on to a graphic that breaks down the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and the elusive judges assigned to oversee each FISA application. At its peak in 2007, the FISC approved nearly 2,500 applications, but only denied four.

    Wondering what they are? Sorry, that's classified.

    Take a look at some of our other recent visualizations:

    Hot Spot Chicago

    State-by-State Gun Legislation

    Staggering Differences in the Cost of Medical Treatments

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    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. Monday. SCOTUSblog's live blog, below, starts at 9:15 a.m.

    For NewsHour coverage featuring National Law Journal correspondent Marcia Coyle, visit our Supreme Court page.

    Live blog of orders and opinions June 17

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    The courthouse used for detainees at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is an old airport. Photo by Larisa Epatko.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, identified in the 9/11 Commission Report as the "principal architect of the 9/11 attacks," is slated to appear in court with four suspected co-conspirators on Monday.

    The hearing is scheduled to start June 17 and could last throughout the week. It is on a series of pretrial motions, including motions to dismiss the charges because of problems with the Military Commission Act of 2009.

    Mohammed, who grew up in Kuwait, allegedly presented the al-Qaida leadership with the plan to hijack several airliners and fly them into targets. He was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003.

    Four other men are charged:

    Waleed bin Attash, a Yemeni, allegedly ran a training camp in Afghanistan where two of the 9/11 hijackers went.

    Ramzi Binalshibh, also a Yemeni, is said to have found flight schools for the hijackers and helped them enter the United States.

    Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi, is accused of providing money, Western clothing and credit cards for the hijackers.

    Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani, allegedly provided $120,000 to the hijackers for flight training and other expenses.

    The five suspects are being tried at Guantanamo Bay in a war crimes tribunal known as a military commission. The charges against them include murder and terrorism, and they could get the death penalty if convicted.

    The five appeared in court in May 2012 at their arraignment, which was repeatedly interrupted as they complained of torture and prayed during unauthorized times.

    We'll be live-blogging the hearing -- which will be broadcast at Fort Meade via closed-circuit TV feeds from Guantanamo -- here and on Twitter.

    Related Resources

    Arun Rath of PBS' Frontline and Josh Meyer, co-author of "The Hunt for KSM" describe the defendants' last court appearance in May 2012: Watch Video

    Daniel Benjamin, who was on the National Security Council under the Clinton administration, and Zachary Abuza, associate professor at Simmons College in Boston, discuss what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's March 2003 arrest meant for al-Qaida.

    Slideshow: Inside Guantanamo's Prison

    View all of our World coverage and follow the military commission proceedings on Twitter:

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    Courtroom drawing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (center) and co-defendants attending a pre-trial session on Dec. 8, 2008, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Sketch by Janet Hamlin-Pool/Getty Images.

    10:15 a.m. ET: One of the defense attorneys, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, asked why a court order required "monitoring and recording" of detainee-client meetings including phone calls.

    Retired Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the Pentagon's top official responsible for the war court, testified that the monitoring was to make sure no one else was on the line. He said he didn't know why a recording requirement was included in the court order.

    Defense attorneys for the suspected 9/11 plotters and alleged bomber of the USS Cole had expressed concern that there were listening devices in the rooms where they met with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The officer in charge of the prison said earlier this month that the devices, made to resemble smoke detectors, had been removed.

    Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET: After a series of technical problems, including microphone glitches, the hearing at the Guantanamo courtroom began.

    Two firefighters were part of Monday's audience in the Guantanamo courtroom. Spectators sit at the back of the courtroom in a soundproof-glass room. They can hear the proceedings on a 40-second delay. That allows time for the court security officer to press a button and obscure the audio with white noise if something deemed a national security secret is said.

    The defendants -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Waleed bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali -- who all were wearing white robes, sat with their attorneys within the courtroom at separate tables. They could follow the proceedings with the help of translators.

    Original Story:

    The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States and four suspected co-conspirators appear in a Guantanamo court Monday for the first time since detainees went on a hunger strike earlier this year.

    A military judge will hear pre-trial motions, including defense efforts to dismiss the case based on problems with the Military Commission Act of 2009. View a list of the motions (PDF).

    The hearing could last throughout the week. We'll be live-blogging the hearing -- which is being broadcast at Fort Meade in Maryland via closed-circuit TV feeds from Guantanamo -- here on the Rundown and on Twitter.

    The co-defendants are:

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, raised in Kuwait, is identified in the 9/11 Commission Report as the "principal architect of the 9/11 attacks."

    Waleed bin Attash, a Yemeni, allegedly ran a training camp in Afghanistan where two of the 9/11 hijackers went.

    Ramzi Binalshibh, also a Yemeni, is said to have found flight schools for the hijackers and helped them enter the United States.

    Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi, is accused of providing money, Western clothing and credit cards for the hijackers.

    Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani, allegedly provided $120,000 to the hijackers for flight training and other expenses.

    They could get the death penalty if convicted.

    View all of our World coverage and follow the military commission proceedings on Twitter:

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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