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

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    In 2006, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this backlit view of of Saturn's rings during an eclipse of the sun. Courtesy Cassini Imaging Team/ Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

    Editor's note: Carolyn Porco is the leader of the imaging team for the Cassini mission at Saturn and a veteran imaging scientist on the 1980s Voyager mission. She participated in the famous 1990 Pale Blue Dot image of Earth taken from beyond the orbit of Neptune by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft.

    More than 50 years of traveling invisible interplanetary highways around our solar system and nearly a decade of orbiting Saturn have brought us to a keen awareness of the celestial bodies in motion around the sun and the series of events responsible for their birth and development. We could hardly claim to know the complexity of the planetary systems that lie beyond the asteroid belt, the chronology of the early solar system, or the wide range of extraterrestrial environments where biological processes might be at work, were it not for the many exploratory expeditions that we have mounted to these far-flung worlds.

    But perhaps the greatest, most profound legacy of the quest we have undertaken to understand our origins is perspective: that crystalline, uncorrupted view of our cosmic place that erodes all delusion and confronts us with a powerful recognition of ourselves, a recognition that never fails to move us.

    It is surely for this reason that of all the millions of images taken of the worlds in our solar system since the beginning of the space age, those that reach deeper into the human heart than any other are those of our own home, as it might be seen in the skies of other worlds: small, alone in the blackness of never-ending space and awash in the blue of its oceans.

    This picture of Earth from space was taken in June 2001 from the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of 211 nautical miles. Photo by NASA.

    Cassini's first offering to this collection, taken in September 2006 when the spacecraft was placed, for scientific purposes, at significant remove in the shadow of Saturn, has become one of our most beloved images. This is an image that draws gasps from anyone seeing it for the first time. Small wonder: In it, we behold something human eyes had never before seen -- a backlit view of the full, resplendent glory of Saturn's rings during an eclipse of the sun, the smoky blue ring created by the exhalations of the small moon, Enceladus, and, best of all, a sight of our planet, Earth, a billion miles in the distance. This is an image without peer, an image that can make one weep with joy, love, concern, an abiding sense of fellowship, and unspeakable awe.

    As I have contemplated the inevitable and approaching end of our history-making travels through the Saturn system, I have longed to repeat that remarkable image, make it even better, and turn it into something special. I imagined making it an opportunity for all of us to appreciate how far we have come in the exploration of our cosmic neighborhood and to celebrate the uniqueness of our lush, life-sustaining world and the preciousness of the life on it. I wanted to repeat that image, only this time, tell all the world about it in advance. This could be a day, I thought, when all the inhabitants of Earth, in unison, could issue a full-throated, cosmic shout-out and smile a big one for the cameras from far, far away.

    And so it will be.

    The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at 1,250 miles across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

    On July 19, 2013, the Cassini cameras will be turned to image Saturn and its entire ring system during the planet's eclipse of the sun. In the lower right, among the outer diffuse rings that encircle Saturn, will be a small speck of blue light with all of us on it. A mosaic of images covering the rings from one end to the other, some taken in those filters that are used to make a natural color scene -- that looks like what human eyes would see -- will be taken at this time. Also to be recorded: an image of the highest resolution that we are capable of taking, in which we will find Earth and its moon. One will be a colorless, star-like point of light. The other, of course, will be a pale blue dot.

    So, at the appointed time, to be announced here, straighten up, brush your hair, go outside, gather with friends and family, think a thought or two about the starkness of our whereabouts, the beauty of our home planet, the marvel of our existence, and the magnificence of our accomplishments. And then, look up and smile.

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    By Paul Solman

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    Jaron Lanier, the widely regarded father of virtual reality, recounts his early experience introducing virtual reality to Hollywood and how his vision of his own technology differed from what some people wanted. Our interview with Lanier about his book, "Who Owns the Future?", and how technology is widening inequality can be seen here. An excerpted transcript of Paul's conversation with Lanier about virtual reality follows.

    Paul Solman: I remember when I first became aware of you in the 1980s. You were pioneering virtual reality and you were suggesting that it was right around the corner. And here we are, 25 years later, and it still hasn't really arrived.

    Jaron Lanier: Virtual reality has become an almost universal industrial technology. Every single vehicle you've used in the last 10 years was designed in virtual reality first, so it actually has happened -- just not for consumers. I'd always predicted that around 2020, so I still have a few years to be proven wrong on virtual reality.

    Paul Solman: Why is it taking so long?

    Jaron Lanier: Virtual reality is a bit of a complicated affair, because you have to get all these different parts -- the visual, and the audio, and the motion and the interaction -- all to work together. All the individual parts have expensive components, or at least they've been expensive for decades, and to get it all to come together for consumers is really quite a trick. It's a puzzle. I've tried a few times; there all kinds of people trying still, and I think we're actually getting really close. I know I've been saying that for a while, but now it's really true. I think we're actually really close to seeing something.

    Paul Solman: And that something, presumably, or at least plausibly, is as big a leap forward, in terms of the marketplace, as video games have been vis-à-vis movies.

    Jaron Lanier: Instead of thinking of it like a very 3D movie, or a video game that you're inside, I think what virtual reality is going to be like is a new kind of a medium where you're playing with your own identity, and that's what's so interesting about it. When you can turn into some animal and experience interacting with the world that way, it brings up this amazing feeling of not just what it would be like to be the animal, but it's almost like you're exercising these forgotten little corners of your brain, some really old corners that evolved to actually control different bodies deep, deep, deep back in our evolutionary past. And that kind of very profound, intimate sense of experience is really what virtual reality's all about.

    Paul Solman: Well, you're a famous software engineer, but you're beginning to sound a little bit mystical.

    Jaron Lanier: I wouldn't say it's mystical; I would say it's uncovering some treasures in our own biology that have just been hidden for a long time. So, when I was very young and playing with virtual reality for the first time, I had the experience of my arm suddenly becoming very large, because of a glitch in the software, and yet still being able to pick things up, even though my body was different. And that sensation of being able to alter your body is different from anything else. I mean, it's almost like a whole new theater of human experience opens up.

    Einstein talked about sometimes imagining his body experiencing these alternate spaces, in order to think about alternate visions of space and time, and I think when we try to stretch what we're able to think about, we have to stretch who we are. And virtual reality, by its very nature, stretches who you are. It allows you to experience yourself in the world through an entirely different loop, through an entirely different pattern than you're used to in natural reality. And I think it can't help but open up new vistas of ways to think, ways to feel.

    A generation or two from now this will be part of our experience in the same way that movies, and literature and video games already are. So it will become ordinary, but I think nonetheless it will have brought us great gifts in the course of becoming ordinary.

    Paul Solman: Force for good? Force for ill?

    Jaron Lanier: I want to give you two different answers to your question. So, 30 years ago, when I was younger and people would ask me, "Is this virtual reality idea going to be a good thing or a bad thing for people?" I would always say: It'll be both, because people are complicated, but it'll be more good than bad, approximately because virtual bullets aren't bullets, but virtual art is still art. You know, it should balance towards expression and away from harm.

    Now, lately my friends in Silicon Valley have managed to turn our information tools into a giant sort of spying system, where we collect data on people, to try to sell them things and try to influence them. So, you know, the game evolves, and it's hard to be sure. What I do want to say is that every new capability that people achieve can go either way, and no amount of technical prowess can make people better. You know, that's something that has to come from a different sensibility; a moral sensibility; an ethical sensibility; and that's not a problem we can solve in the lab.

    There's a whole world of people doing clinical studies of using virtual reality to treat Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and it's being applied to help a lot of our returning vets, which is one of my favorite applications. But I also want to put a qualification on that. I was living in New York when the 9/11 attacks happened, and I was very disturbed for years afterwards. My apartment was damaged and whatnot. And some of my friends in the field said: Well, look, we're doing Post Traumatic Stress treatment. You're an ideal candidate. Why don't you get some of your own medicine?

    And I thought about it, and I felt that I had sort of a duty as a moral witness in that case not to cure myself. I didn't want to... I wanted to stay sensitized. I didn't want to be desensitized, so I took a few years and I dealt with it, and I prefer to do it that way. So, the only reason I'm saying this is that I'm not an advocate of using technology to try to make everybody perfect. I think that's a completely foolish approach to life. But I think what we can do is use it intelligently and selectively to help people.

    Paul Solman: Is this an urban legend, or not, that your head is so big that you can't actually experience virtual reality yourself?

    Jaron Lanier: I can experience virtual reality and do, but some of the head pieces don't fit on my head. It is true I have an extra large skull, and then on top of it I grew all this stuff, so it has to be a headset that's a little elastic, and some of them will not fit on me, but many do, so it's only half true as an urban legend. It's a suburban legend.

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

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    Watch Video Journalist and poet Eliza Griswold set out to document Afghan life through the prism of oral folk poems shared mostly among Pashtun women. Seamus Murphy, the London-based photographer and filmmaker who worked with Griswold on the landay project, has been covering events in Afghanistan for 20 years. He narrates a slideshow of some of his favorite images.

    For 10 years, journalist Eliza Griswold reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for publications like The New York Times and The New Yorker. But she was frustrated that in pursuit of the headlines, some of her most interesting stories were left on the cutting room floor. Too often, she felt, she wasn't able to convey the humanity and humor of the Afghan people who were living with the daily realities of war. Last year, she embarked on a project to tell those stories by collecting oral folk poems shared mostly among Pashtun women. I dream I am the president. When I awake, I am the beggar of the world. The poems are called landays. Just two lines long with 22 syllables, they carry a bite. (One meaning of the word landay is short, poisonous snake.)

    "This is rural folk poetry. This is poetry that's meant to be oral. It's passed mouth to mouth. Ear to ear. And the women have recited these poems for centuries," said Griswold. A poet herself, Griswold collaborated with photographer Seamus Murphy to document Afghan life through the prism of these landays. Poetry Magazine is devoting its entire June issue to their work.

    As with poetry everywhere, many of the themes deal with love and lust. Slide your hand inside my bra Stroke a red and ripening pomegranate of Kandahar "Pull the burka back and she will talk to you about the size of her husband's manhood. She will go right for it: sex, raunch, kissing, rage. She will talk about the rage of what it is to be cast in this role of subservient, in a way that is really startling," says Griswold.

    The landays are a way to subvert the social code in which women are prohibited from speaking freely. Since the poems are collective and anonymous "women can claim they just overhead the poems in the marketplace," says Griswold, "not that they authored them." You sold me to an old man, father. May God destroy your home, I was your daughter. Over the past decade, many of the landays have also expressed anger about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan: May God destroy the White House and kill the man who sent U.S. cruise missiles to burn my homeland. Others are filled with sorrow: In battle, there should be two brothers: One to be martyred, one to wind the shroud of the other. Collecting the poems wasn't easy. Griswold had to essentially go "under cover," wearing a burka and meeting women in secret locations. And photographer Murphy was never able to accompany her. "It was impossible for him as a man to witness women or singing the landay. The women would be killed if they were found out," says Griswold. Mother, come to the jailhouse windows. Talk to me before I go to the gallows. Although the tradition of landay poetry goes back centuries, they are kept very up-to-date with modern references. While the river was typically the place where men could interact with women who were gathering water, this landay mentions the way men and women now meet (at least in other countries). Daughter, in America the river isn't wet. Young girls learn to fill their jugs on the internet. Griswold had worried that these modern terms would mean the death of the landay, but was assured by one of Afghanistan's leading novelists that just the opposite was happening.

    "They are being traded and changed and remixed like rap music. People love them," said Griswold. "The landay is supposed to communicate, in the most natural language, the truth of Afghan life. So I found my assumptions about the death of the landay being absolutely confounded by what Afghans said themselves." How much simpler can love be? Let's get engaged now. Text me.

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    Watch Video  Journalist and poet Eliza Griswold set out to document Afghan life through the prism of oral folk poems shared mostly among Pashtun women. Seamus Murphy, the London-based photographer and filmmaker who worked with Griswold on the landay project, has been covering events in Afghanistan for 20 years. He narrates a slideshow of some of his favorite images.

      For 10 years, journalist Eliza Griswold reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for publications like The New York Times and The New Yorker. But she was frustrated that in pursuit of the headlines, some of her most interesting stories were left on the cutting room floor. Too often, she felt, she wasn't able to convey the humanity and humor of the Afghan people who were living with the daily realities of war. Last year, she embarked on a project to tell those stories by collecting oral folk poems shared mostly among Pashtun women. I dream I am the president. When I awake, I am the beggar of the world. The poems are called landays. Just two lines long with 22 syllables, they carry a bite. (One meaning of the word landay is short, poisonous snake.)

    "This is rural folk poetry. This is poetry that's meant to be oral. It's passed mouth to mouth. Ear to ear. And the women have recited these poems for centuries," said Griswold. A poet herself, Griswold collaborated with photographer Seamus Murphy to document Afghan life through the prism of these landays. Poetry Magazine is devoting its entire June issue to their work.

    As with poetry everywhere, many of the themes deal with love and lust. Slide your hand inside my bra Stroke a red and ripening pomegranate of Kandahar "Pull the burka back and she will talk to you about the size of her husband's manhood. She will go right for it: sex, raunch, kissing, rage. She will talk about the rage of what it is to be cast in this role of subservient, in a way that is really startling," says Griswold.

    The landays are a way to subvert the social code in which women are prohibited from speaking freely. Since the poems are collective and anonymous "women can claim they just overhead the poems in the marketplace," says Griswold, "not that they authored them." You sold me to an old man, father. May God destroy your home, I was your daughter. Over the past decade, many of the landays have also expressed anger about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan: May God destroy the White House and kill the man who sent U.S. cruise missiles to burn my homeland. Others are filled with sorrow: In battle, there should be two brothers: One to be martyred, one to wind the shroud of the other. Collecting the poems wasn't easy. Griswold had to essentially go "under cover," wearing a burka and meeting women in secret locations. And photographer Murphy was never able to accompany her. "It was impossible for him as a man to witness women or singing the landay. The women would be killed if they were found out," says Griswold. Mother, come to the jailhouse windows. Talk to me before I go to the gallows. Although the tradition of landay poetry goes back centuries, they are kept very up-to-date with modern references. While the river was typically the place where men could interact with women who were gathering water, this landay mentions the way men and women now meet (at least in other countries). Daughter, in America the river isn't wet. Young girls learn to fill their jugs on the internet. Griswold had worried that these modern terms would mean the death of the landay, but was assured by one of Afghanistan's leading novelists that just the opposite was happening.

    "They are being traded and changed and remixed like rap music. People love them," said Griswold. "The landay is supposed to communicate, in the most natural language, the truth of Afghan life. So I found my assumptions about the death of the landay being absolutely confounded by what Afghans said themselves." How much simpler can love be? Let's get engaged now. Text me.

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    GWEN IFILL: It could be a breakthrough moment in the longest conflict in American history. U.S. and Afghan peace negotiators are going to sit down with the militants who've been battling American troops since 2001.

    After 12 years of war, senior U.S. officials now say direct talks with the Taliban are scheduled to begin within the next few days. The news came as President Obama wound up a meeting with French President Hollande at the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.

    The president stressed that the Taliban must come prepared to make concessions.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Any insurgent group, including the Taliban, is going to need to accept an Afghan constitution that renounces ties with al-Qaida, ends violence and is committed to protection of women and minorities in the country.

    GWEN IFILL: The Taliban gave no indication whether it would accept those terms when the meetings begin in Doha, Qatar.

    Instead, a spokesman for the militants laid out separate goals in a news drones carried on Al-Jazeera.

    TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: To support a political and peaceful solution which include end of the occupation of Afghanistan and establishment of an independent Islamic system into security which is the wants and aspiration of the nation.

    GWEN IFILL: U.S. officials said Afghan government would hold its own talks with the Taliban separately.

    And, in Kabul, Afghan President Karzai announced his negotiating team is ready to go.

    PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan: Our high peace council will travel to Qatar to discuss peace talks with the Taliban. We hope that our brothers, the Taliban, also understand that the talks for the peace progress will move to their own soil in Afghanistan soon to ensure the peace in Afghanistan.

    GWEN IFILL: Today's announcement came as international forces formally handled over full security control to the Afghan military and police.

    It was a major milestone on the path toward withdrawing all foreign combat forces by the end of 2014. NATO Secretary-General Anders Rasmussen attended the ceremony and emphasized that the coalition is not walking away.

    SECRETARY-GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO: We will still be here and train, advise, assist the Afghan security forces. So Afghanistan will stand on its own feet after 2014, but not stand alone.

    GWEN IFILL: About 66,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. That is down from a peak of 100,000 in 2010 during the surge ordered by President Obama. But the transition has been marred by one of the most violent Afghan springs in recent years.

    The latest attack came today in Kabul when a bomb targeting a Shiite cleric killed three civilians. 

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    GWEN IFILL: For more on all of this, we turn to three people with extensive experience dealing with Afghanistan. David Sedney served in Afghanistan on the National Security Council staff and then as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. Retired Army Col. David Lamm was the chief of staff to the Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005. He's now at the National Defense University. And Pamela Constable covers South Asia for The Washington Post. She's recently back from Kabul.

    Recently back as it last week, Pamela. Tell us a little bit about these two things that happened today. How much of a difference does it make that there's a handover, and is Afghanistan ready, and how much difference does it make that they're going to Qatar for these meetings?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE, The Washington Post: It's been really quite a set of stunning developments.

    When I was there just a few weeks ago, everything was gloom and doom. The Taliban were exhibiting extraordinary ferocity and reach and going after international charities, even going after the International Red Cross, Supreme Court. They really seemed to be going for broke.

    So this -- obviously, we're now learning that there was this double track going on and they have been quietly negotiating with American officials and others the whole time. But it's -- they're very good at playing games. And so we are not going to read too much ...

    GWEN IFILL: The Taliban, you mean?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Correct. We can't read too much into them saying that they want to talk. They have been wanting to talk with the Americans for a long time. It's the Afghans they don't want to talk with.

    GWEN IFILL: Which leads to my next question, Col. Lamm. Is Hamid Karzai prepared either to go to that table and also to accept the security responsibilities that are now being put in his lap?

    RET. COL. DAVID LAMM, U.S. Army: Well, for a long time, his major issue would be to negotiate with the Taliban.

    But he is pretty adamant about those negotiations being conducted in Afghanistan. He is not a big fan of them being carried on outside the country, nor is he a big fan of having bilateral negotiations going on between the U.S., Taliban, a year or so ago, the British, the U.S. and the Taliban.

    He considers that a bilateral issue that he needs to deal with, the Taliban, and that needs to happen in Afghanistan. The Taliban, on the other hand, don't recognize Karzai's government and that poses a big problem.

    GWEN IFILL: David Sedney, is what we're seeing happening, the stunning events that Pamela Constable describes, is it symbolic or is it real?

    DAVID SEDNEY, Former Defense Department Official: I think it's both.

    It's both symbolic, in the sense that this is a real turning point in the transition of lead security responsibility for the Afghans today. And that shows that the commitment of the United States and the international community to build Afghan security forces that are able to defend their own country is coming to fruition.

    But, at the same time, the desire of all Afghans, including the Taliban, for peace after 35 years of war is reflected in this agreement to begin talks. So, I agree with Pamela. This is a really important development. It's symbolic, but I think there are going to be a lot of things that are going to play out over the summer.

    And we will see a very different situation in Afghanistan by the end of this fighting season, by the end of September.

    GWEN IFILL: Pam, the president said there are going to be bumps in the road. He was talking not just about the meetings in Qatar. He was also talking about the handover, right?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Well, yes. There's so many aspects of this, number one.

    There's been a lot of sort of rosy optimistic views on this, the state of the Afghan defense forces by those who spent huge amounts of money and effort and time and lives to train them. But, honestly, especially when we're talking outside the army, there's a great, great deal of progress that needs to be made before they can really stand up. And even within the army, there's a lot of concern about factional and ethnic divisions within the army and the leadership there.

    So, that is a great concern. It's not only about being able to fight. It's about the will to fight. And the other bump in the road which everyone in Afghanistan is very worried about is whether Karzai in fact is going to be willing to step down and leave power, as he has promised to do as the constitution requires him to do.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask Col. Lamm about that, because that is -- there is an election which is looming. And that is -- the political potential is also a huge bump, potentially.

    DAVID LAMM: The political bump is the most high-risk bump of them all.

    The election has to be secured. If we have indeed passed security over to the Afghan forces, I noticed the words they used was, we passed control over to the Afghan forces this week. I would venture to say that we pass responsibility and potential blame for what happens. I'm not sure they're in control.

    Given all that, that same set of security forces now has to secure an election process. And my experience with that in 2005 and in the subsequent election -- or 2004 and in the subsequent election, is that's a difficult task. It was a major effort for the Americans and allies while we were in Afghanistan. And I'm not saying on the outcome there. I think it might be a task too far for the Afghan security forces.

    GWEN IFILL: What do you think about that, David Sedney?

    DAVID SEDNEY: I'm much more optimistic.

    I believe that the Afghan security forces have already shown over the last six to nine months the ability to take on the security responsibilities for their own country. And they have done that by defeating those attacks that Pamela mentioned. She is correct that there was a lot of lashing out by the Taliban, but they have not taken back any territory that they had lost in the previous year.

    GWEN IFILL: So, even attacks like this Red Cross attack that she referenced, that is not worrying to you?

    DAVID SEDNEY: Oh, certainly, it's worrying and it's concerning to -- that the Taliban have gone after an international institution like the Red Cross.

    But that doesn't mean that they are regaining territory. They're not regaining the support of people. In fact, they're losing support from the people. And they are in a position where they really need to come to the table.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there a distinction that can be drawn about progress in urban areas, Pam, vs. progress in rural areas, and that we not overstate whatever we see or don't see?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: I would say there is a fairly big difference, particularly talking about the ability of security forces to repel and respond to attacks.

    They have been doing a very good job in the city. But in the cities, you have multiple sources. You have the local police. You have the intelligence police. You have special police forces and you have the army, as well as backup from international forces at a distance.

    So, they have got a lot more ability to zero in and go after and get some of these suicide bombers and get some of these gunmen out of there. In remote rural districts, it's much more difficult. The Afghan army is spread very, very thin, police even thinner and not as well-trained. And local police forces, which are being stood up now to defend villages, with almost no training at all.

    So the picture is much -- much less sanguine out, particularly certain areas. There are districts and many, many provinces that are essentially under Taliban control, not necessarily thickly filled with foot soldiers, but psychologically under Taliban control.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you, David Lamm, about another piece of this, which is the economics of the situation, not only whether there's the underlying economic strength in Afghanistan to support these transitions, but also how much this is going to cost and who is going to pay.

    DAVID LAMM: Well, from the Afghan national security forces' side, I think the number is about $4.1 billion dollars a year, of which we're going to ask Europeans for about $2.1 billion dollars. The Afghans themselves have to contribute about $500 million dollars to that.

    And the rest would be settled -- will be the United States. I think what we should be prepared for is the United States to pick up most of that bill, if not all of that bill, because if the political process and the election becomes unraveled, political will of many of these countries, particularly our European allies, they're say, what is this all about? Why are we putting more money into this effort?

    And I think the Americans have to be ready to go that entire bag of money alone.

    GWEN IFILL: Does that mean, David Sedney, that it's too soon for Americans to breathe easy and say we're backing out of Afghanistan, even with deadlines looming next year, even with this handover today?

    DAVID SEDNEY: I agree that it's something that we can't rest easy on.

    But, at the same time, I think we should feel quite proud that what we said we were going to do, we have done. We have built up the Afghan security forces. We have driven the Taliban to a situation where they can be controlled by the Afghan forces.

    But I have to take a little different view from Pamela on that. There are areas where the Taliban are in control of some districts, but these are not areas that they have retaken control in the last year. The Afghan security forces have kept what they have won over the last year, and they're going to start pushing out.

    And particularly in the Taliban heartland areas of Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the areas where the Taliban started, that's where the real key battles have been fought over the last three years, and that's where the Taliban have suffered their greatest reversals.

    GWEN IFILL: But the U.S., this cannot happen without continued U.S. pressure and involvement.

    DAVID SEDNEY: With U.S. support at this point.

    The U.S. and our NATO allies, we're not leading the operations. We're not planning the operations. We're providing support. We're standing behind the Afghans. And what they're showing -- and sometimes they suffer tactical setbacks on the battlefield -- but they are always going back, going back to the places where they have been pushed out of, taking that territory back and pushing the Taliban further back on their heels.

    GWEN IFILL: David Sedney, David Lamm, Pam Constable, thank you all very much.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: You're welcome.

    DAVID LAMM: You're welcome. 

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Leaders at the G8 summit pressed for Syrian peace talks today. But a final statement didn't call for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, and didn't mention military aid for the opposition.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his country's arms shipments to the Assad regime, but he warned Europe against joining the U.S. in arming the rebels.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia: We believe that our position is irreproachable, both from a moral and legal point of view. Now, about possible weapon supplies by our European partners to the armed Syrian opposition, what will happen with those weapons later? Who will monitor in whose hands they will end up and where they will turn up in the end, perhaps in Europe itself?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Both Putin and President Obama said they're still committed to hosting a Syrian peace conference in Geneva as early as July.

    Suicide bombers in Iraq attacked a Shiite mosque in Baghdad today, killing at least 34 people. The first blast hit at a checkpoint, and in the confusion, a second bomber got inside the mosque and blew himself up during midday prayers. Since April, nearly 2,000 people have been killed in Iraq, the worst violence since 2008.

    In Northwestern Pakistan, at least 29 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a funeral. Scores of wounded were taken to a local hospital. Among those killed was a newly elected lawmaker. Authorities said he may have been the target of the attack.

    U.S. surveillance of phone and Internet data has thwarted dozens of terror plots worldwide, including one aimed at Wall Street. That's what the director of the National Security Agency told the House Intelligence Committee today.

    Army Gen. Keith Alexander insisted the surveillance is essential to maintaining national security.

    GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, Director, National Security Agency: These programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S. and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe, to include helping prevent the terrorist -- the potential terrorist event over 50 times since 9/11.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Another witness, Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce, said one plot involved a plan to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.

    The U.S. House moved this evening to adopt one of the most sweeping anti-abortion bills in years. The Republican-backed measure would ban almost all abortions that take place 20 weeks after conception. Supporters said studies prove that a fetus feels pain after 20 weeks. Opponents said the evidence is not conclusive. The bill is not expected to come to a vote in the Democratic-led Senate.

    Brazil braced today for more nationwide protests. Last night brought some of the largest demonstrations in decades, fueled by a sluggish economy and anger over spending for next year's World Cup of soccer.

    We have a report narrated by Tom Barton of Independent Television News.

    TOM BARTON: Molotov cocktails thrown at police, while police fire tear gas at protesters. This was the moment protests in Rio de Janeiro turned violent, as crowds attempted to storm the state assembly building.

    Across Brazil, an estimated 200,000 people took to the streets. The protests, mostly peaceful, were held in at least six major cities. The cost of the World Cup, running into billions, has proved a focal point for protesters. This banner says, "When your son gets sick, take him to the stadium." And this protester is calling for money to be spent on schools and hospitals, not an expensive football tournament.

    A month away from a papal visit, a year away from a World Cup, and just three years from hosting the Olympics, Brazil seems far from prepared for its moments on the world stage.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A major new auto recall is coming. Chrysler agreed today to call in nearly three million Jeep vehicles. Federal safety regulators say their gas tanks can catch fire in a rear-end collision. They say 51 people died over three years in fiery crashes involving Jeeps. Chrysler initially insisted the tanks are not defective. The recall affects Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993 to 2004, and Jeep Libertys from 2002 to 2007.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 138 points to close at 15,318. The Nasdaq rose 30 points to close at 3,482.

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

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to the politics of immigration. Even as the legislation makes its way through the Senate, John Boehner raised major new hurdles today, affecting its prospects in the House.

    Ray Suarez continues his ongoing coverage.

    RAY SUAREZ: The depth of feelings on immigration were clear, as protesters interrupted a House hearing on a Republican bill focused entirely on enforcement.

    As written by South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, it would empower state and local officials to enforce federal immigration laws and make passport and visa fraud felonies that could result in deportation.

    REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: If people don't like this bill, don't vote for it. Just make sure that whatever you do vote for ultimately is enforced, because the selective enforcement of a law is destructive to our system.

    RAY SUAREZ: Democrats strongly disagree. California Zoe Lofgren said Gowdy's approach is wrong in every way.

    REP. ZOE LOFGREN, D-Calif.: It would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. It would turn state and local enforcement officers around the country into immigration agents.

    RAY SUAREZ: By contrast, the Senate immigration bill encompasses both enforcement and a path to citizenship for some 11 million people. But House Speaker John Boehner dismissed talk that he will let the House vote on that measure.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have majority of both parties' support if we're really serious about making that happen. And so, I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have the majority support of Republicans.

    RAY SUAREZ: Hours later, the Senate's Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, said Boehner may yet have to change his stance.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: No matter what he has said, there is going to be significant national pressure on the House to do something on immigration. I'm only worried about what is going to happen here.

    RAY SUAREZ: Reid has set July 4 as target for finishing the Senate bill, and more amendments were debated today.

    They included a proposal from South Dakota Republican John Thune. He wanted to require 700 miles of double-layered fence be built along the Mexican border before letting anyone apply for permanent legal status.

    SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.C.: It is important in my view, Mr. President, that we have a visible, tangible way in which we make it very clear that this is a deterrent to people coming to this country illegally.

    RAY SUAREZ: Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and other Democrats objected, the fence plan is just another roadblock to granting citizenship.

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt.: It can't be rigged by some illusive precondition. We should treat people fairly, not have their fate determined by matters beyond their control.

    RAY SUAREZ: Thune's measure was ultimately defeated.

    We're speaking with lawmakers for a sense of the different perspectives shaping the legislation as it makes its way through the political process. The conversations begin with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

    Senator, thanks for joining me.

    SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: Glad to be with you.

    RAY SUAREZ: Should an eventual immigration reform plan include a way for the millions of undocumented people currently living in the country to eventually become citizens?

    RAND PAUL: I think there are two stages of what we need to decide.

    For those who are here who are undocumented, should we give them a legal status? Should we document them, so they can pay taxes and live legally and come out of the shadows? To that, I say, yes. I think, also, though, as we allow that to occur, that should be dependent upon the border becoming more secure, so we don't have the same problem again in 10 years.

    So legalization is the first step. Now, what I would propose is, instead of creating a new pathway to citizenship, I would allow people who are here on work visas to also simultaneously stand in the same line that a person in Mexico City is in right now. So, if you're in Mexico City, you want to come to our country and you want to be a citizen, there is a line.

    I would let them stand in the same line. I just wouldn't create a new line. This may sound like semantics, but it's important to a lot of us that they not be given a privilege for breaking the law, but that they be given something that would be equivalent to someone new coming into the country.

    RAY SUAREZ: If you uncouple legal residents from the path to citizenship -- because, currently if you're legally a resident in the United States, you can embark on the citizenship process.

    RAND PAUL: Right.

    RAY SUAREZ: Does that discourage people who are already in families there are of mixed status, that have citizens in them, people who have already committed to life in a community, work lives here from playing by the rules, as we now want to bring people in out of the shadows?

    RAND PAUL: I think what would discourage them if we don't have enough work visas.

    So, I am for normalizing all of the people here. I would do it gradually over about a five-year period, but what I would say is, is that legalization is the most important step. And then citizenship is a privilege. And I think we can discuss how we do that down the road.

    And it could be part of this bill, as far as I'm concerned. But to me, the big step is, the “Gang of Eight,” they say legalization, the documentation part cannot be dependent on border security. And I'm sort of the opposite. As a conservative, I want the government to verify that they really are going to do what they say, because I have my doubts about government's efficiency or willpower to secure the border.

    So, what I'm saying is, we have to secure the border. We can do it sort of simultaneous with documentation, but I don't think we should document everyone and then hope that the government later will do the border security. I don't think it will ever happen then.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, give people an example of how that triggering mechanism would work. If you have set up this security and verification system that eventually works to the satisfaction of the Congress, then another part of the process would be triggered?

    RAND PAUL: My bill or my amendment to this bill is called “Trust but Verify.”

    And I would allow documentation to begin. And there's about 11 million people here. So, the first year, you would probably document between a million and two million. That may be the capacity of the system anyway, because we have to do background checks on all the people, find out why they're here or not here, and then try to normalize them.

    So I would do a million or two, but then at the end of the year, I would vote and say, is the border more secure than it was a year ago? And the process would continue as long as Congress keeps voting that the border is becoming increasingly secure.

    I would also have some parameters, like certain miles of fence have to be built each year. Entry-exit visas have to be developed. We can no longer let people come and leave the premises if they have been arrested coming in illegally. They should get a very quick trial and if they came in illegally, they should be sent back home. So, all of these efficiency items would be voted on each year as to whether occurring, but I would allow the documentation process to go ahead and start.

    Citizenship, I would just simply change the law to say you can be here on a work visa, and you can get in the citizenship line at the same time.

    RAY SUAREZ: It sounds like you're taking the oversight and verification out of the Department of Homeland Security, where it might currently reside, and putting it with the Congress.

    And that's a Congress that these days can hardly agree that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. It's going to have a yearly approval process that's going to work?

    RAND PAUL: The approval process wouldn't be over voting over individual items. You would be approving an overall report as to whether or not the items that were in the bill are being adhered to.

    The reason we do this -- and there's not much trust on what we do in Washington, and with good reason sometimes. So much of legislation delegates the authority to bureaucrats to do this, and then it never gets done. So, for example, in Obamacare, there's 1,800, 1900 references to the secretary of health shall decide at a later date.

    Well, really, you elected your representatives to decide these things. We should write into the bill how we secure the bill and then we should be the judge and jury on whether or not it's actually happening. So, I think it's a great way to get Congress involved, because when you get Congress involved, you're getting the people involved through their representation. It's better than letting unelected bureaucrats do it, I think.

    RAY SUAREZ: Senator, before we go, today, Speaker Boehner affirmed that he wouldn't let a vote come up on his side of the building without a majority of the Republican Caucus prepared to vote for immigration reform.

    What does that do to the fate of comprehensive reform for 2013?

    RAND PAUL: I think that means the bill that will come up be a much stronger and better bill.

    And I like that attitude, because what that does is, it gives leverage to conservatives like myself who want immigration reform, but want it to be done in a lawful manner that is fair to everybody. And so I think if he holds to that, which I hope he will hold to that, we get a stronger bill.

    And this is coming from somebody who wants immigration reform. I think the system is horribly broken. If we do nothing, it's a big mistake. So, I want to see immigration reform, but I want it to obey a rule of law with a secure border, with securing that the vote only goes to citizens, and that welfare only goes to citizens. If all these things are taken care of, I think both parties could get behind a bill like this.

    RAY SUAREZ: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

    Thanks a lot for joining us, Senator.

    RAND PAUL: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: And, late today, the Congressional Budget Office said the Senate immigration bill would cut deficits by $197 billion dollars over 10 years. And it estimated roughly eight of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally would gain legal status.

    Tomorrow, we will have a different take on the immigration debate from Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Next: the training of teachers and a new report that concludes too much of that preparation is not adequate.

    The study was conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality, an independent research and advocacy group. The report looked at teaching programs at more than 600 institutions in the U.S., and found what it called an industry of mediocrity.

    Among the conclusions: Just one of every four programs restricts admissions for teaching candidates to the top half of college students. And about 70 percent of all programs are not providing elementary teacher candidates with sufficient and current reading training.

    But the report's findings and methodology have come under strong criticism.

    Our special correspondent for education, John Merrow, joins us now.

    John, fill in the picture for us about what this report sees as the problems with training teachers. What kinds of things does it say aren't being done well?

    JOHN MERROW: Well, it's very scathing.

    It essentially -- it argues that teacher -- most teacher training institutions don't take training seriously, as if it's not really their mission to train teachers, that they look at it, feel teachers should be a clean slate ready to go in and treat each class as a unique experience.

    And, therefore, when they go into their first year of teaching, they're inadequately prepared. And the report is talking about 200,000 men and women who come out of teacher training every year and teach 1.5 million kids during that first year.

    We also know that quite often first-year teachers are put with disadvantaged kids. So, it's a double whammy if they're not well-prepared. The report gives stars to -- there are 608 institutions that participated or that involved. And only four got four stars, which is the top score. Only four out of 608 got four stars for their programs.

    And 162 programs got zero stars; 100 programs got three, three-and-a-half or four stars out of 608; 301 programs got one star. It's a scathing report.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, but, John, let me just point out, as we said, that there was a lot of pushback here and a lot of criticism of the methodology and even of the point of view of the people who did it.

    JOHN MERROW: Absolutely right.

    Kate Walsh, who is the head of the National Council of Teacher Quality, is known as a harsh critic of teacher education. And if you go to page 78, to a footnote, you will find that only one percent of teacher training institutions agreed to participate. There was essentially a boycott. Many felt that she began with her conclusions and therefore refused to participate.

    That said, in that sense, it's a bad study, because they didn't go to campuses, they didn't sit in on classes, they didn't have the participation. They read course catalogs and syllabi. It's a little bit, Jeff, like going to the doctor for your physical and she says, oh, you don't have to bother coming into the office. Just walk by my window and I will give you your physical.

    That sounds terrible, but in this case, the patient, teacher education, is limping and coughing badly, and the doctor probably can say something is wrong.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, all of this, of course, goes to very real -- a very real issue in education you have covered a lot for us. What do we want from teachers? What kind of -- how best to train them. What is the right credential for them? The analogy, we hear of law schools and medical schools, I gather has never quite come together.

    This is still a real debate, right?

    JOHN MERROW: It is still a real debate. And some of the points that the report makes are shocking and also true.

    It's very easy to become a teacher. They say that only a quarter of teacher training institutions restrict the admission to the top half of the class. They will take anybody is what she's saying. That has to change. That -- states could change that. Now, Kate told me that she hopes this will be a market-driven solution.

    The publication of this report, which is a U.S. News publication, she is hoping that people will read that and say, I'm not going to that school. They give stars. They give yellow triangles to institutions that basically say, don't go there. So, her hope, she said to me, is that this will force institutions to change.

    She also, I think, expects that there will be alternative ways of training teachers. School districts are creating their own teachers. And there are alternative routes like Teach for America.

    So, Randi Weingarten of the teacher union, American Federation of Teachers, has proposed the equivalent of a bar exam for everyone in order to become a teacher.

    I think there's some wisdom there. We need to make it harder to become a teacher. But at the same time, we have to make it easier to be a teacher. There's an awful lot of teacher bashing going on. And there are people who see this report as part of that teacher bashing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    Well, John Merrow, a continuing discussion. Thanks so much.

    JOHN MERROW: Thank you. 

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    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar.

    In recent years, the country has taken steps to turn itself from a military dictatorship into a fledgling democracy. That included the release of human rights leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Last month -- just last month, Myanmar's president became the first leader from his country to visit the White House in 47 years. But the transforming nation has been marred by a surge in violence against one of its religious minorities.

    NewsHour special correspondent Kira Kay reports.

    KIRA KAY: Across the rice fields of central Myanmar, you can hear the noise of hammers and saws, the rebuilding of an entire community.

    CHO CHO, Myanmar: I was born and raised in this village. I got married here. We have an attachment to this place. We cannot give it up.

    KIRA KAY: This Muslim enclave of farmers and cattle dealers sits on the outskirts of Okkan town, where, on April 30, another flare-up of increasingly frequent religious violence broke out.

    It started here in town, when a Muslim woman bumped into a young Buddhist monk in the crowded marketplace, causing an argument. Within hours, angry Buddhists were attacking their Muslim neighbors and a mob marched on the small enclave.

    Village Chief Tin Win says 64 houses burned to the ground as residents watched from the bushes. The centerpiece of the enclave, its mosque, was badly damaged.

    TIN WIN, Village Chief: I didn't think this could happen. We had lived together peacefully. Muslims always participated in the activities of the Buddhist community.

    KIRA KAY: Myanmar is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, known for its shining temples. Monks are revered here and were a face of the struggle for democracy and human rights during decades of autocratic rule. Though only about five percent of Myanmar's population, Muslims occupy a prominent place in the country's economic sphere, sometimes fostering resentment.

    But the military leadership kept a lid on religious tensions, says Islamic leader Wunna Shwe.

    WUNNA SHWE, Islamic Religious Affairs Council: The history of anti-Muslim feelings is long, but it was always discreet. Now it has erupted because of the transition to democracy.

    KIRA KAY: In the last two years, Myanmar has undergone a profound transition, as the reformist government has increased freedoms. Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to Parliament after decades of house arrest, and there is a freer flow of information.

    WUNNA SHWE: These new freedoms have been exploited by a group of people who want to create discord between the different religions. These individuals use hate speech and provoke tensions around the country. Meanwhile, the authorities have failed to enforce law and order.

    KIRA KAY: The surprising agents of a new anti-Muslim, pro-Buddhist nationalism are a handful of prominent monks, like Wirathu.

    WIRATHU, Buddhist Monk: We must prevent our country from becoming an Islamic state.

    KIRA KAY: Wirathu was arrested in 2003 for inciting religious conflict, but was released in a 2012 amnesty. Now he has become the public face of a movement called 969. The numbers refer to various attributes of Buddha and the monkdom, and its brightly colored stickers have flowered across Myanmar in recent months. 969 calls for a boycott of Muslims, both economic and social.

    WIRATHU: Muslim men marry Buddhist girls, but Muslim girls are taught not to marry anyone of a different religion. Muslims never sell their land or property to Buddhists and instead buy off Buddhists' houses. In this way, they are expanding their control, and are dominating the economy of our major cities.

    KIRA KAY: 969's growth was fueled by events in Rakhine state, where, last June, fighting broke out between Buddhists and the Muslim ethnic group the Rohingya over the Muslim rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

    In October came an organized effort to eradicate the Muslims, says Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. Their investigation found that local Buddhist leaders incited the attacks.

    PHIL ROBERTSON, Human Rights Watch: There was, for instance, a statewide meeting of Buddhist monks in Rakhine state that called precisely for ethnic cleansing, for action against the Muslims who they -- the Rakhine view as an existential threat against themselves.

    What we can say is that the idea of impunity to attack Muslims is apparently contagious. Seeing that it was done in Arakan state indicated that, hey, they can get away with it in Arakan state. We can get away with it here.

    KIRA KAY: Wirathu uses the Rakhine upheaval as a rallying call.

    WIRATHU: Anywhere Muslims are a majority, there is violence, like what happened in Rakhine state. That is why our idea is to control the Muslim population.

    KIRA KAY: Wirathu says he condemns all violence, and there is no evidence 969 members have plotted attacks against Muslims. But 969 propaganda was distributed in areas later hit by violence.

    Today, much of the central Myanmar city of Meiktila looks like the aftermath of a tornado or tsunami. In March, an argument in a gold shop between a Buddhist customer and the Muslim owners sparked riots. Cell phone video from the scene shows Buddhist crowds tearing the building apart by hand.

    That night, Muslims pulled a monk off a motorbike and set him on fire. The Buddhist community's retaliation was immediate and overwhelming. In a Muslim village outside town, we met survivors of the Meiktila violence. All but one of them asked that we not reveal their identity.

    MAN: While we were hiding, we were terrified, wondering, when I will be killed?

    KIRA KAY: This 21-year-old says he and 100 others fled to nearby swampland after the Islamic school they were hiding in was attacked.

    MAN: The police said they would save us and led us out in a line. But, on the way out, the crowd attacked, shouting, don't come back, don't set foot on this land, as they were killing us.

    WOMAN: They hit my husband's head with an axe, and he collapsed. Then the mob, including a monk and people from our village, threw him into the fire, still alive. They did this right in front of my eyes.

    WIN HTEIN, National League for Democracy: The crowd was there. And it really is not a crowd. It's a mob. They were chanting these anti-Muslim slogans.

    KIRA KAY: Win Htein represents Meiktila in the country's parliament and witnessed the attacks.

    WIN HTEIN: When they learned that police were not taking action, they ran across inside the line and dragged some young people and killed in front of them. About 2,000 people were gathering, and they were cheering.

    KIRA KAY: They were cheering?

    WIN HTEIN: When someone was killed, they would cheer.

    KIRA KAY: Over the three days of violence, at least 50 people, mostly Muslims, were burned alive or hacked to death; 18,000 were displaced; 12 of the town's 13 mosques were destroyed or badly damaged.

    WIN HTEIN: It is devastation, not materially, mentally, because the people now are so determined against Muslims coming to their own places. Some people are privately telling me that, don't let them come back again.

    KIRA KAY: Even amidst the violence, there were glimmers of humanity. Soe Nyund's 76-year-old father was too slow to escape the mob, but Soe Nyund says the kindness of neighboring Buddhists spared his life.

    SOE NYUND, Myanmar: We had a friendly and warm relationship with the monks and also with our Buddhist neighbors. They were the ones that hid me in the local temple.

    KIRA KAY: Buddhist families suffered in Meiktila's violence, too, primarily those from mixed neighborhoods. Several hundred remain homeless and camped on the grounds of a monastery.

    Gazing at her destroyed neighborhood just the wall, resident Tun Tun Khaing longs for the way life used to be.

    TUN TUN KHAING, Myanmar: Muslims ran small tea shops. Buddhists owned betel nut stalls, and Muslims would buy from them.

    KIRA KAY: How do you feel when you stay here in this camp and you look across the field and see your burned house?

    TUN TUN KHAING: It is hard to sleep, so I have to take sleeping pills. It's worse because I also don't have a job. I am just trying to survive.

    KIRA KAY: Most startling in Meiktila was the prominence of 969 stickers. They are now everywhere, even on stalls standing beside shuttered Muslim shops and destroyed mosques.

    And just feet from ground zero of the violence, the gold shop, demand is great for the 969 DVDs openly for sale, with Wirathu's portrait on the cover.

    Don't you take any responsibility that your words may be giving people permission to act violently?

    WIRATHU: What I have done is simply awaken people to what is going on in our country. The violence was triggered by the rape case in Rakhine and the murder of the Buddhist monk. My part is just to keep people on guard.

    PUNYA WONTHA, Buddhist Monk: These monks want public popularity and donations. They do not think about how their actions could damage democracy or cause people trouble.

    KIRA KAY: Some monks, like Punya Wontha, are now speaking out and trying to intervene. He believes these monks should be arrested.

    PUNYA WONTHA: Back during the pro-democracy movement, the government and the state-appointed council of monks worked together to imprison monks who spoke out against the state. Now these monks are preaching, but the authorities have failed to take action against them.

    PHIL ROBERTSON: The fact of the matter is, the police are failing to do their job. People who are committing violence or instigating violence are not being held responsible. This needs to be addressed by the government. Otherwise, the larger reform process could be at risk.

    KIRA KAY: Back in Okkan, the scene of April's violence, the village men take a break from rebuilding their houses to come together for prayers in their still-damaged mosque. They are starting life over, hoping the coexistence they enjoyed here for years can be restored.

    GWEN IFILL: Kira Kay's story is part of our partnership with the Bureau for International Reporting and their series “Fault Lines of Faith.” 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, we end where we began, with Afghanistan, but this time through a very different lens, one of language and culture.

    For many Americans, Afghanistan is a country shrouded in mystery, particularly its women, literally shrouded under a burka, silent and seemingly impenetrable.

    ELIZA GRISWOLD, Journalist: As a Westerner, I would look for years at these blue burkas, thinking, those women beneath are chattel. They have nothing to say, because they're not -- I don't hear them saying anything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Journalist Eliza Griswold has reported from Afghanistan for the last 10 years. She wanted to get beyond the headlines, and especially to understand the lives of rural women, mostly illiterate Pashtuns living along the border areas with Pakistan, amid the daily realities of war.

    Her way in was through short poems called landays, each just two lines long, with 22 syllables.

    WOMAN: "Separation, you set fire in the heart and home of every lover."

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: This is rural folk poetry. This is poetry that's meant to be oral. It's passed mouth to mouth, ear to ear. And the women have recited these poems for centuries.

    So they have gone from talking about the riverbank, which is the place you gather water and, of course, the place men go to spy on the women they have crushes on, to Facebook, to the Internet. And so they really reflect the currents that women in Afghanistan are encountering today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A poet herself, Griswold collaborated with photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy. Poetry magazine is devoting its entire June issue to their work.

    And as part of the project, Murphy has made a short documentary featuring the landays.

    WOMAN: "I could have tasted death for a taste of your tongue, watching you eat ice cream when we were young."

    JEFFREY BROWN: As with poetry everywhere, one theme is love. But there's a whole lot more.

    WOMAN: Slide your hand into my bra. Stroke a red and ripening pomegranate of Kandahar.

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: Pull that burka back, and she will talk to you about the size of her husband's manhood. She will go right for it: sex, raunch, kissing, rage. She will talk about the rage of what it is to be cast in this role of subservient, in a way that's really startling.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The rage Griswold speaks of is another theme, aimed at the unequal and often harsh treatment of women.

    WOMAN: "When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers. When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others."

    JEFFREY BROWN: Griswold says landays are a way to subvert a social code in which many rural women are prohibited from speaking freely.

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: They're a way to be very outspoken, but not to own the authorship of that statement, because, being collective and anonymous, a woman can say this and she can say, well, of course, I just heard that on the phone, or I just heard that in the market. I didn't make that up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That's in a society where they are otherwise not allowed to speak, not allowed to write poems.


    JEFFREY BROWN: With real danger, dangerous consequences.

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, this project began after Griswold wrote a magazine article on a young woman who'd been beaten for writing poems, and later killed herself.

    Given stories like that, it was also tricky to collect the landays.

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: Frequently, to meet these women, I had to be undercover to some extent. I had to wear a burka of their request. "Please come dressed as one of us. We will gather on Saturday afternoon. Our husbands will be out."

    We started in refugee camps around Kabul, and we would hit situations like -- first of all, Seamus and I were never able to work together, because it is impossible for him as a man to witness women singing or saying these landays.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They just won't do it?

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: They would be killed to be found out to do it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another major theme of the landays is the pain and sorrow of war.

    WOMAN: "In battle, there should be two brothers, one to be martyred, one to wind the shroud of the other."

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: There's a lot of anger at the Taliban, a lot of rage at the hypocrisy of the Taliban, and an equal amount, if not more, rage at the hypocrisy of the Americans and what their influence has left behind.

    Many of the women who were sharing them with us were survivors of very recent bombing attacks. One woman had shared a landay about her cousin, a Talib who'd just been killed by a drone strike.

    WOMAN: "The drones have come to the Afghan sky. The mouths of our rockets will sound in reply."

    JEFFREY BROWN: The mention of drones is also an example of how landays respond to changes in society. Verses that once mentioned the British now substitute Americans. And today, landays are shared on the Internet and in social media, and those new technologies make their way into the updated verses.

    WOMAN: "How much simpler can love be? Let's get engaged now. Text me."

    JEFFREY BROWN: What happens to this form in the future? What -- is it your sense that it might die off because of changes in the country? Or does it have a life?

    ELIZA GRISWOLD: So, I asked one of the leading novelists in Afghanistan, a guy named Mustafa Salek, what he thought. What will happen to the landay now they talk about the Internet, Facebook, drones? It will kill them. And he said just the opposite. They're being traded and they are changing, right, being remixed like rap is, at a rapid speed, and people love them.

    The landay is supposed to communicate in the most natural language the truth of Afghan life. So, I found my assumptions about the death of the landay being absolutely confounded by what Afghans said themselves.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just another assumption confounded in this rare look behind the veil.

    And, for the record, Poetry magazine, which is featuring the landays this month, is produced by the Poetry Foundation, which helps support our coverage.

    And there's more on all of this online, where photographer Seamus Murphy narrates a slide show of his images for the project. 

    Editor's Note: The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting helped fund Griswold and Murphy's project.

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    A Colombian immigrant takes her oral citizenship test at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New York. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Funny thing about numbers. You often use them to bolster your argument, and dismiss them if they don't.

    Consider the Congressional Budget Office report out Tuesday regarding the immigration legislation up for debate on the Senate floor.

    Supporters of the comprehensive bill that would overhaul the nation's current system on Tuesday night embraced a new report from the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimating the effects of the plan.

    Specifically, the CBO found that the measure would reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and $700 billion in the next 20 years. And 8 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could find themselves on the pathway to citizenship.

    Members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators who drafted the legislation cited the report on the Senate floor, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney hailed the "proof" found in the nonpartisan estimate.

    "The Congressional Budget Office also made clear that passage of the immigration bill would not only reduce the deficit, it would increase economic growth for years to come," Carney said. "By fixing our broken immigration system -- and making sure that every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules and paying taxes like everyone else -- we can grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, improve our fiscal outlook and create new opportunity for Americans everywhere."

    Of course, lawmakers and the White House frequently deride CBO estimates, when they don't point to a conclusion they are trying to prove. The important thing to keep in mind is that these reports are indeed estimates. They get plenty of headlines, but don't always pan out mathematically.

    The CBO report came shortly after Speaker John Boehner made clear he wouldn't violate what's become known as the "Hastert Rule." That means the Ohio Republican won't ask members of his party to cast a vote on something the majority of them don't support.

    Boehner told reporters that he will discuss immigration legislation in "a special conference" with his Republican members on July 10 after the holiday recess. Then he added a statement that champions of the Senate measure said they found disturbing for overall prospects of the legislation:

    I also suggested to our members today that any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a majority of both parties' support if we're really serious about making that happen. And so I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have a majority support of Republicans. But I just think the White House and Senate Democrats ought to get very serious.

    Roll Call's Steven Dennis and Emma Dumain frame the comments as the speaker attempting to cut off a "budding revolt."

    They write:

    His remark seemed just shy of a vow to stick to the Hastert rule. He also did not answer a question on whether he would require a majority of the majority on a final conference report on an immigration bill. (A GOP aide later clarified that Boehner's remarks did apply to a conference report as well.)

    And Politico succinctly explains the political pressure on Boehner, and why the Hastert Rule matters on just about everything Congress is trying to get done.

    Boehner spoke before the House Judiciary Committee late Tuesday approved an enforcement-only measure over the objections of Democrats.

    Yahoo News' Chris Moody, meanwhile, reports that House Republicans this summer "are planning a series of meetings with Hispanic-Americans in the nation's capital as part of a partywide effort to woo minority voters."

    On the NewsHour, Ray Suarez reported on the House hearing and the latest votes on the Senate floor. Lawmakers who back the overall bill are sticking together to defeat bills that would require strengthened border security before a pathway to citizenship could be implemented. Then he interviewed Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as part of our one-on-one discussions about the measure.

    What does Paul make of Boehner's announcement?

    "I think that means the bill that will come up be a much stronger and better bill," Paul said. He said it "gives leverage" to conservatives who want to see the legislation shaped with their ideals in mind.

    "And this is coming from somebody who wants immigration reform. I think the system is horribly broken. If we do nothing, it's a big mistake," Paul said.

    "So, I want to see immigration reform, but I want it to obey a rule of law with a secure border, with securing that the vote only goes to citizens, and that welfare only goes to citizens. If all these things are taken care of, I think both parties could get behind a bill like this."

    Watch here or below:

    Watch Video

    And you can learn more and keep track of the legislation on our Immigration page.


    President Barack Obama again defended the National Security Agency's surveillance and data collections programs Wednesday at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. He said at least 50 threats to the U.S. and other countries have been averted because of the programs.

    The U.S. House voted 228-196 Tuesday in favor of prohibiting abortions after a fetus reaches 20 weeks, a measure that would be one of the most restrictive abortion rules in 10 years. The bill has no chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    Texas' Senate also approved a bill that would restrict abortions within the state, although the legislation didn't include the most controversial 20-week measure. It has yet to go to the state House for a committee hearing.

    Roll Call's Meredith Shiner scoops: "Sen. Barbara Boxer of California is privately lobbying fellow Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee against a toxic chemical bill negotiated by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg in the weeks before his death."

    Mr. Obama is "politically estranged" from more than a quarter of the country's 50 states, New York Times' John Harwood writes.

    Here's the latest in the tea party/IRS scandal.

    In Tuesday night's Massachusetts special senate election debate, Republican Gabriel Gomez said he told Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., he should leave the Senate when the elder statesman campaigned for Gomez last week. But Democratic Rep. Ed Markey challenged the veracity of that statement, questioning Gomez's commitment to term limits.

    A recent poll in the 2013 race for the open Boston mayoral seat shows more than a third of the electorate is undecided.

    Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, a Republican, officially will enter the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in 2014. Begich currently holds almost a 10-point lead in polls but is one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot next year.

    Say goodbye to seeing single-use plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores, Los Angeles. The City Council voted to ban them Tuesday.

    Outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he'd like to run for California's governor's seat. He didn't mention a timeframe.

    Montana's "Draft Brian Schweitzer for U.S. Senate" group has begun to meet. Liberals want the popular Democratic former governor to run in the 2014 election. Conservative Democratic Sen. Max Baucus is retiring.

    And Baucus ponied up, sort of, to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

    The sequester is hurting summer tourism, Digital First Media reports.

    The New York Times' Charlie Savage and Michael Schmidt reveal through document deep dives how the FBI has justified each time an agent has shot a person. Their investigation follows the murky shooting of a man in Florida as the FBI questioned him about the Boston marathon bombing suspects.

    Journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 Rolling Stone piece on Stanley McChrystal prompted the general's eventual resignation, died in a car crash at age 33. BuzzFeed Editor Ben Smith reflects on his colleague's life. Here's Hastings' advice for aspiring journalists.

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's signature no longer resembles the icing on a cupcake, BuzzFeed decides.

    A former State Department reporter launched an online television show focused on diplomacy.

    Shira Toeplitz of Roll Call looks ahead to the different scenarios for the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act.


    WUNC's The Story featured two people's tales of 1965 and the passage of the monumental Voting Rights Act. The segment riffs on [a NewsHour online project called the Oral History Hotline that has collected memories from when the law passed. We plan to add more stories this week, as Supreme Court watchers anticipate a ruling in the case that challenges the Act's preclearance clause.

    The Supreme Court has little more than a week left in its term, and still more than a dozen pending decisions. We're watching a few major topics that have yet to see the justices' opinions: 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.

    On decision days, the NewsHour homepage will host SCOTUSblog's live coverage beginning at 10 a.m. For more in-depth Supreme Court coverage of the 2012-2013 term, visit our page.

    Gwen Ifill will do a Reddit Ask Me Anything Thursday. Don't miss it!

    As Afghan forces took over control of their country, we examined challenges ahead for the war-torn country.

    Ever wonder how to woo a cicada? Jenny Marder explains.

    Check out these amazing photos of Saturn.

    Securing a job, headhunter Nick Corcodilos writes on our Making Sen$e page, is not about looking for a job opening. It's about making connections where you want to work.


    the White House that never was... the planning behind the 1st 100 days of the Romney administration. http://t.co/z3tbOYXNmv#TopLine

    — Rick Klein (@rickklein) June 19, 2013

    Everywhere you go, Chad is there. RT @KevinMcLaughlin: Solid WaPo photobomb @ChadPergram!!' pic.twitter.com/UskhWdDQ8V

    — Susan Davis (@DaviSusan) June 19, 2013

    I changed my avatar because I'm a Democrat who supports equality and the repeal of #DOMA.

    — D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) June 19, 2013

    Yes, that's birthday boy @jeffmason1 asking Angela Merkel a question in German

    — Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) June 19, 2013

    Go @jeffmason1 and happy birthday! #SprechenSieDeutsch

    — Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) June 19, 2013

    Actor/comedian Russell Brand, on @Morning_Joe, mocked our newsroom! We'd be hurt but we're still laughing. WATCH: http://t.co/PiQ6TKFMVu

    — msnbc (@msnbc) June 19, 2013

    Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

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    Watch Video

    President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed crowds in Berlin on Wednesday.

    President Obama returned to Berlin to speak at Brandenburg Gate -- close to where he first addressed throngs in 2008 as a presidential candidate -- this time as a head of state with a message of approaching today's global challenges.

    We look back at two famous Berlin speeches by other U.S. presidents, John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Ronald Reagan in 1987.

    John F. Kennedy: Ich Bin Ein Berliner

    Watch Kennedy's speech.

    President Kennedy spoke on June 26, 1963, nearly 50 years ago, at the Berlin Wall. Read his speech from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library:

    I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

    Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum." Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

    I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

    There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

    Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

    What is true of this city is true of Germany--real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

    Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

    All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."

    Ronald Reagan: Tear Down This Wall

    Watch Reagan's full speech.

    Excerpt of President Ronald Reagan's speech on June 12, 1987, from the Reagan Foundation. Read the whole speech here:

    In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history.

    In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind-too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

    And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness.

    Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

    There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    View more of our World coverage.

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    By Charles Morris

    U.S. manufacturing The man who predicted the crash of 2008 thinks energy and heavy manufacturing have the potential to fuel an economic boom not seen since the 1950s and 1960s. Photo courtesy of Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    Paul Solman: In 2005, Charles Morris became convinced that a debt crash was inevitable. In 2006, he began his 10th book to make and explain his prediction. In 2007, he delivered the manuscript, and at the beginning of 2008, Public Affairs Books published "Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash," which received almost no notice at all until The Economist magazine wrote about it in March. Six months after that, the deluge.

    What's remarkable is how well Morris' analysis of the crash, written before the crash, holds up half a decade after it. So when I saw that he was calling his newest book "Comeback," I felt obliged to take a look.

    I'll let him take it from here.

    Charles Morris: It's the best-kept secret in the economics media: The United States is on the brink of a period of solid, long-term growth rivaling that of the 1950s and 1960s. It is not a finance-driven, self-destructive boom, like the 2000s' housing bubble. No, the new economy will be durably grounded in energy and heavy manufacturing, even though it will take several years to come to full fruition.

    Evidence? Dow Chemical has commenced a $4 billion development in new plastics manufacturing in Texas, for example, that will start coming on stream in 2015 and be fully operational only in 2017, but it will be productive for a very long time. This will be a growth cycle with staying power.

    Why haven't you heard about the boom? Official economic forecasters, like the International Monetary Fund and the Congressional Budget Office, simply have not factored America's emerging new economy into their forecasts. Instead, they still see us limping along at an average of 2 to 2.5 percent real (after inflation) growth to the farthest horizon -- a hobbled, aging power, borne down by debts and deficits, shorn of its old bounce-back vigor, tottering along just fast enough to stave off out-and-out stagnation.

    There is no question that the financial crash has left deep economic scars. But the fundamentals will turn in America's favor and when they do, annual GDP growth should kick back up to at least the 3.3 percent average real growth rate that has prevailed since 1950. That's far from a startling forecast for a recovery, but even at that level, the budget problems that have so paralyzed official Washington will shrink rapidly in the rear-view mirror as tax receipts grow, making debts and deficits shrink. The seemingly crushing post WWII debt -- 120 percent of GDP -- quickly dropped from the radar screens with growth in the 3-4 percent range in the 1950s. So what are the positive portents?

    The Energy Boom Is Already Here

    The most salient is the sudden emergence of the United States as a major energy producer. A recent U.S. Geologic Service study concluded that the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana, already crowned as the U.S.'s largest-ever gas and oil reservoir, has far greater recoverable reserves than previously thought. At about the same time, a team from the University of Texas completed a well-by-well analysis of the Texas Barnett Shale -- the most intensively developed shale field in the world -- and confirmed that the fields can support decades of further development. The current official estimate -- that by 2020 or so the U.S. will surpass Saudi Arabia in oil output, and Russia in gas -- remains on track, and the country will be a major global energy producer far beyond that, which will do wonders for the U.S. trade deficit.

    Energy production is a good job producer, offering classic blue-collar jobs at high pay to people without college degrees. Oil and gas rig workers can pull down $100,000 annual incomes before they're thirty. Daniel Yergin, a leading energy analyst, estimates that the sector now accounts for 1.7 million jobs, including energy production itself, its direct supply chain, plus the multiplier effects from the additional spending power.

    Each shale well requires up to 100 tons of high-quality steel pipe; fleets of specially adapted trucks and trailers; a small hangar of earthmoving, drilling and other equipment; specialty chemicals, sands and ceramics; and some very high-end seismic and other underground imaging gear. Many of these products are now U.S. specialties. According to the annual Oil & Gas Journal survey, American oil and gas industry investments will total $348 billion in 2013, equivalent to about 2 percent of GDP, with much of the investment flowing in from overseas.

    The collateral job creation is even more important, and it's just getting underway. The big attraction is the low price of natural gas, the lowest-carbon fossil fuel, which can be produced profitably at about a third the price per unit of energy as other hydrocarbons. That is particularly attractive to chemical companies. Natural gas is an ideal "cracking" fuel, generating the intense heat needed to break up and rearrange molecules to make usable chemicals. But it is also the raw material for plastics, Styrofoam, tires, sealants, adhesives, films, liquid crystal screens, nylons, polyesters -- nearly everything around us. Besides Dow's new Texas plant, it is building or rebuilding three others. Other big players, like Shell, Chevron, Bayer and Formosa Plastics, are both expanding current plants and starting new "greenfield" plants.

    But it goes far beyond chemicals. Nucor is the world's most profitable steel company, and arguably the smartest. It has locked up long-term supplies of natural gas so it can shift to a highly efficient, but extremely energy-intensive, way of making iron that would not have been possible at the prices charged for conventional energy. Within a few years, all of its American plants will run on natural gas. U.S. Steel is experimenting with similar technologies.

    Manufacturing Takes Off

    The new American energy advantage dovetails neatly with other positive signs of an American manufacturing recovery. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Chinese worker compensation has been growing at an extraordinary rate: From 2000 to 2010, average wages in south China's Yangtze delta, a manufacturing hotbed, jumped from $0.72 an hour to $8.62. American wages are still much higher, but so is American productivity, and the costs and time of long-distance shipping, along with the scarcity of Chinese land and that country's endemic corruption, bring China and the U.S. to a rough competitive parity in all but the most labor-intensive industries.

    BCG also estimates that the United States can undersell firms in Japan and Europe by as much as 25 to 45 percent, and that it may also have the world's best trade logistics capabilities.

    The true costs of outsourcing often don't show up on earnings statements. For example, when General Electric, a pioneer of the original offshoring movement, began moving its appliance manufacturing back from China, they discovered how badly their designs had stagnated. With their production and design teams in the same plant and speaking the same language, they realized a 20 percent overall savings over their Chinese costs on their first "reshored" appliance by making big reductions in material and labor inputs.

    Onshore production also makes it easier to keep up with today's just-in-time delivery mandates and ever-more-rapid product cycles. And like all American companies, GE has become wary of the Chinese propensity to knock off market-leading product designs. Manufacturing jobs also tend to have the highest employment multiplier effects. Lawyers and high school teachers are pretty much solo acts, but each new manufacturing job, especially in heavy manufacturing, creates as many as 1.3 to 1.8 additional jobs. A steel mill, for example, is at the center of a vast extraction, transportation, fuel, equipment and servicing network -- mining and smelting iron, converting it to primary steel products, distributing it to fabricators of metal products, and much more.

    Citi GPS, Citigroup's economic analysis group, estimates that by 2020, America's energy revolution will support as many as 3.6 million jobs, both in the energy sector itself, and including the new manufacturing development it will support. The Financial Times recently reported on the concerns in European economic ministries at the rapid pace at which heavy industries are shifting operations to the United States to take advantage of its reasonable labor costs and inexpensive energy.

    Dow Chemical recently compiled a list of 108 major manufacturing projects, from more than 80 different companies, either under construction or in development here, with planned investment of nearly $100 billion. About a third are already underway or due to start construction this year; 60 percent are scheduled to be under construction by 2015.

    There has already been a visible recovery in manufacturing jobs, up by more than 500,000 since the recessionary low point in early 2010. Some economists have scoffed at that as merely typical of historic recoveries. But manufacturing jobs did not increase at all during the relatively strong 2003-2007 recovery, and while the current recovery has been exceptionally weak, manufacturing job growth rivals that in the halcyon years of the late 1990s. So while it's too soon for definitive statements, something does appear to be going on. And it will only build as long lead-time plant developments start coming on stream.

    Can Nothing Go Wrong?

    With this unusual flood of good news, you might be asking yourself the question: can nothing go wrong? To which the obvious answer is: Of course it can. For one thing, the energy industry can fail to tighten up its environmental game.

    Shale-based fuel production should be one of the most benign forms of energy production. It uses the least water of any mode of hydrocarbon production and generates the lowest CO2 emissions. And there is only one documented case where the "fracking" -- the process of opening up deep underground seams in the shale rock by hydraulic pressure to facilitate product flow -- has contaminated underground water supplies.

    The reason why the public reaction against shale oil and gas drilling has been so strong is because it is unusually intrusive. Shale rock may underlie as much as two-thirds of the country, and the hydrocarbons are thinly distributed -- 6 percent gas and oil content is a reasonable average. So unlike coal mining or conventional oil drilling, which are usually confined to specific geographic areas where they dominate the local economies, shale production often rubs right up against residential areas with no history of gas and oil extraction.

    It takes a year or more to develop a typical shale-rig "pad," usually with about 10 wells. Once they're in operation, they are unobtrusive -- the piping is all underground and the operation is silent. But the development period is a 24/7 onslaught of floodlights, water tanker traffic, airport-level diesel noise, and much too frequently, chemical spills or toxic storage tank overflows. Understandably, it drives locals crazy, and generates indelible impressions of vast waste and pollution. The widely documented contamination of well water around shale developments has virtually all been from poor surface fluid handling and careless spills, not from the actual process of fracturing.

    But this is a very young industry. Its first profitable well came in hardly more than a decade ago. It was jump-started by brilliant entrepreneurs focused single-mindedly on producing marketable hydrocarbons. As neophytes, they have often done a poor job of managing leak controls, fluid disposals and other environmental and safety issues. But over the last few years, the industry has been consolidating into much larger companies, often owned by the oil majors. Their executives have seen the environmental movement stop the nuclear industry in its tracks, and most have long experience in raising their own operational standards and suffering major fines and losses when they failed to. They are likely to make the necessary fixes, but how soon will they do so?

    One early priority will be to reduce methane emissions. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas emitted, often intentionally, from shale production sites, but there are no reliable data on the seriousness of the problem. Nine major companies have joined with two universities and the Environmental Defense Fund to conduct a rigorous end-to-end audit of methane emissions, with the objective of cutting them as near to zero as practicable. Admittedly, however, these are merely first steps, and the industry has a long way to go before the public will take its assertions of clean operations at face value.

    Another way the industry could place the boom at risk is to win its battle for unrestricted natural gas exporting, a danger I have spelled out in detail elsewhere.

    So yes, there are real and future threats to the economic comeback I envision. We could indeed throw it away. But the opportunity is at least as real: the United States can secure solid economic growth into the foreseeable future -- and well beyond.

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

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    Watch Video Musician David Rothenberg plays his clarinet with the buzz of cicadas as his accompaniment.

    In early June, David Rothenberg journeyed to the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New York's Hudson Valley in search of fellow musicians. These are not your typical musicians -- they're found in the grass and the treetops and make their best music in the heat of the day.

    They are cicadas, specifically the Brood II periodical cicadas that emerge along the East Coast of the United States every 17 years. Science correspondent Miles O'Brien has been following their return this spring, and will air a piece on Wednesday's PBS NewsHour broadcast. With as many as 1 million per acre, the insects emerge after feeding on tree roots for 17 years underground.

    Rothenberg finds a few dozen cicadas, hiding in the trees and grasses of the park. He scoops them up and drops them into a net. They will accompany him in a concert that night at the Mohawk Mountain House.

    They sound like white noise, a loud buzz from a distance. Cicadas' mating calls can reach 90 decibels or more, making them as loud as a passing truck or a jackhammer.

    Read more: How to Woo a Cicada

    But if you listen carefully, you can pick out individual calls, Rothenberg said. The Magicicada cassini, the smallest of the periodic cicades makes the loudest buzzing noise. Then Magicicada septendecim joins in, with a long low tone that sounds like "pharaoh, pharaoh." Magicicada septendecula pipes up with a percussive rattle. And the females respond with a faint click of her wings. It's melodic, he said, just as beautiful as birds.

    "So you have a three-part motet or a trio here, three different species singing together, so it really then becomes like a piece of music," he said.

    Making music with the animal world is a side job for Rothenberg, who is a professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He's played with birds and whales, and has written books on connecting with the animal world through song.

    These jam sessions with the natural world also stretch our notion of what music can be, Rothenberg said.

    "Music is an incredibly important kind of communication that humans do, and yet we don't really know how it works," he said. "We don't know what it means. We don't know what it signifies. We can't translate it to anything but we know it's so important to us."

    Rothenberg's latest book "Bug Music," published this year, is his seven-year journey to understand how cicadas, beetles, crickets and other insects have rhythms and melodies, which have inspired human music.

    "Bug Music" also includes Rothenberg's jazz compositions with the bugs. In a viral YouTube video, Rothenberg played the alto saxophone with the Brood XIX cicadas in 2011. This year he's been going out with his clarinet to play with the bugs. He's also brought out an iPad to play more electronic insect-sounding tones to them.

    David Rothenberg, an environmental philosopher and jazz musician focused on "interspecies jazz," traveled to Springfield, Ill., to convene with the "Great Southern Brood" -- the vast hatch of 13-year cicadas buzzing and mating across 16 states in the south and Midwest.

    The cicadas represent a chance to communicate with the insect world, Rothenberg said. They break all the stereotypes of insects, he said. They don't sting or bite, and they're not toxic. And it's never been a better time for the cicadas to be out, he said. With the growth of social media since their last emergence, many more people can be drawn into their sounds and their poetic, if short, lives above ground.

    "Only for a few weeks, they're singing," he said, "Sing, fly, mate, die...There's this melancholy sense of the moment. It's so simple and yet so poignant."

    Miles O'Brien will have more on the life and death of the Brood II cicadas on tonight's PBS NewsHour.

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    A teen girl gets an HPV shot. Photo by Getty images.

    Since the introduction of a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer in 2006, the number of new infections of human papillomavirus or HPV among teen girls has plummeted in the United States, Centers for Disease Control officials announced on Wednesday.

    Among 14- to 19-year-olds, vaccine-type HPV prevalence dropped by a full 56 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. CDC officials said the results were even better than expected, possibly because vaccination rates may be contributing to "herd immunity," meaning those who aren't vaccinated are partially protected because less of the disease is circulating in the general population.

    CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the report "should be a wake-up call to our nation to protect the next generation" by increasing vaccination rates against the sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer.

    Despite a long-standing recommendation that nearly all teen girls receive the shots, only about a third of those 13-17 are fully vaccinated. Frieden noted that even comparatively poor countries such as Rwanda have vaccinated more than 80 percent of their teen girls.

    "Our low vaccination rates represent 50,000 preventable tragedies -- 50,000 girls alive today will develop cervical cancer over their lifetime that would have been prevented if we reach 80 percent vaccination rates," he said. "For every year we delay in doing so, another 4,400 girls will develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes."

    Some parents, doctors and conservative organizations protest universal vaccination, saying that it could promote sexual activity among teens and potentially open young people to more harm (watch a NewsHour debate about the idea of mandatory HPV testing here). But Frieden said that waiting until teens are sexually active "misses the point" by not allowing the vaccine enough time to become fully effective against potential infection.

    In 2006, the CDC first recommended that girls age 11 and 12 routinely receive the vaccine to protect against developing cancer or spreading HPV to sexual partners later in life. They followed it with a similar recommendation for boys in 2011.

    But relatively few families followed the recommendation due to "all the controversy that has swirled around the vaccine," Rob Stein of the Washington Post told the NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown in 2011. "This is one of those health issues that's been kind of bogged down and got kind of sucked into the politics and economics of the some of the issues that it raises." Watch the full interview:

    Watch Video

    The disease -- back in the news lately after actor Michael Douglas blamed his throat cancer on oral sex and HPV -- infects 79 million Americans, according to the CDC. Most are in their late teens and early 20s. About 14 million more people become infected each year.

    HPV leads to about 19,000 cancers each year among U.S. women -- primarily cervical cancer -- and about 8,000 cancers in U.S. men, largely throat cancer.

    Frieden pointed to the new study as proof that those kinds of numbers are no longer necessary.

    "The bottom line is that it's possible to protect a generation from cancer and we've got to do it," he said.

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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.

    The ritual of a justice reading decisions from the bench begins at 10 a.m. Thursday. SCOTUSblog's live blog, below, starts at 9 a.m. The Court still has 14 cases for which to announce decisions before it recesses at the end of June.

    For NewsHour coverage featuring National Law Journal correspondent Marcia Coyle, including analysis of a national voter registration ruling earlier this week, visit our Supreme Court page.

    Live blog of opinions | June 20

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    Gwen Ifill will host a reddit AMA starting 1 p.m. EDT Thursday.

    Gwen Ifill will answer your questions on reddit during her first "Ask Me Anything" session beginning at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday.

    Ifill is a senior correspondent for "PBS NewsHour" and the moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week." She's covered six Presidential campaigns, moderated two vice presidential debates. She is the author of the book "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

    Read some of her past live chats here.

    What do you want to know about her? Ask her anything!

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just 24 hours ago, there was talk of new prospects for finding peace in Afghanistan. Today, President Hamid Karzai angrily changed course, leaving the initiative in doubt and U.S. officials doing damage control.

    The reversal by President Karzai came a day after he announced his government would open negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar.

    PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan: We don't have any immediate preconditions for talks between the Afghan Peace Council and the Taliban, but we have principles laid down.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, though, Karzai nixed those plans and lodged several complaints. Chief among them was the Taliban's use of its formal name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, at its new office in Qatar. A member of Karzai's Afghan Peace Council said the name suggests it's an embassy, representing an actual government.

    MOHAMMAD ISMAIL QASIMYAR, Afghanistan High Peace Council: Senior American officials have assured us in a written letter in the past that the legal suggestion of the Afghan High Peace Council will be respected. This office cannot be used as a political settlement to build up relations with the United Nations or any other country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Karzai last night and again this morning.

    JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: The secretary reiterated the fact that we do not recognize the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and noted also that we're pleased that the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement clarifying that the name of the office is the political office of the Afghan Taliban and not the political office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and has had the sign with the incorrect name in front of the door taken down.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Psaki also addressed Karzai's objection to reports that U.S. officials would meet with the Taliban first.

    JEN PSAKI: There isn't a meeting. I know there were reports of it, but reports of a meeting being scheduled or on the books are inaccurate. If there's a role for the U.S. to play in that, that's up to the Afghans to decide.

    JEFFREY BROWN: U.S. officials also have to address another Karzai decision today. He suspended talks on how many American troops would stay in Afghanistan and under what conditions after combat forces withdraw at the end of 2014.

    In Berlin, President Obama played down any suggestions that the overall peace effort has foundered before it began.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We had anticipated that, at the outset, there were going to be some areas of friction, to put it mildly, in getting this thing off the ground. That's not surprising. But I think that President Karzai himself recognizes the need for political reconciliation. The challenge is, how do you get those things started while you're also at war?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Underscoring that point, five Afghan police officers were killed yesterday by fellow officers in a so-called insider attack. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Bagram Air Base in Kabul that killed four American troops.

    It came just hours after international forces handed over full security control to the Afghan military and police.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: A short time ago, I spoke to Rod Nordland of The New York Times. He's in Doha, where the talks with the Taliban were supposed to take place.

    Rod Nordland, welcome to you.

    So, yesterday, this seemed buttoned up and choreographed. What happened and why? And were U.S. officials taken by surprise?

    ROD NORDLAND, The New York Times: Well, they certainly seem to have been taken by surprise.

    The Afghans were furious when they saw the Taliban flying a flag inside their new office and banner outside the Islamic Emirate. To them, it looked like it was an embassy. And when they heard Taliban statements, they sounded like they were describing an embassy.

    And I landed here this evening, in fact, and asked a taxi to take me to the Taliban office, and they weren't -- they had no idea what I was talking about, not just because it was new, but because I was using the wrong words. When I said the Taliban embassy, they said, oh, yes, and rushed me down there.

    By the time I got there, I have to say, the signs were gone. And there was no indication that they were even there, other than police cars. And they do seem to want to try to accommodate the Afghan government's view that they shouldn't be advertising themselves as something they supposedly are not.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that's what I was wondering. Do we know yet then whether to what extent Secretary of State Kerry's intervention, talking with President Karzai, how much of an impact that might have had?

    ROD NORDLAND: Well, it sounds like it's done something.

    I gather Karzai's people are saying that maybe in a couple days, they can paper this over. It's certainly a setback. And I think we will have to see what moves the Taliban makes next, what they have to say, if they are, indeed, talking, and whether the Afghan government will be satisfied that they're not trying to present themselves as a kind of alternative -- alternative embassy to the Afghan government's embassy here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And does this also apply to the question of the suspension of talks between the U.S. and the Afghan government on the U.S. military forces after 2014? Where does all that stand?

    ROD NORDLAND: Yes, I think they will get that going again.

    And I don't -- they never described it as anything other than a suspension. And it's clearly in the interest of the Afghan government to have some sort of military cooperation with the United States after 2014. Among other things, they can't pay their own soldiers and policemen if the United States doesn't do it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So your sense is that these talks may go forward in the next couple of days? I mean, can they go forward without the participation of the Afghan government, or is that necessary?

    ROD NORDLAND: I think everyone agrees it's necessary, and I think there were signals from the Taliban and from their Qatari hosts that they were willing finally to actually talk to the Afghan government directly.

    They have always said that they wouldn't talk to what they regarded as puppets. They would only talk to the Americans. And, clearly, they will first have some talks with the Americans. They want to trade some of their prisoners in Guantanamo for the only American -- the only American that they hold prisoner.

    But after that, everyone expects that it should move pretty quickly to some sort of talks with the Afghans. Now, whether the Taliban will follow through on that, I think that's a very big question. And they may want to just push that off indefinitely while they're presenting themselves, as they have so far, as having an office that is some sort of at least public relations exercise on behalf of the Taliban to the rest of the world. And that's exactly what the Afghan government doesn't want to see.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Rod Nordland of The New York Times, thanks so much.


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