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

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    By Sharon Olds, read by John Lithgow

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    I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges, I see my father strolling out under the ochre sandstone arch, the red tiles glinting like bent plates of blood behind his head, I see my mother with a few light books at her hip standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks, the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its sword-tips aglow in the May air, they are about to graduate, they are about to get married, they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are innocent, they would never hurt anybody. I want to go up to them and say Stop, don't do it--she's the wrong woman, he's the wrong man, you are going to do things you cannot imagine you would ever do, you are going to do bad things to children, you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of, you are going to want to die. I want to go up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it, her hungry pretty face turning to me, her pitiful beautiful untouched body, his arrogant handsome face turning to me, his pitiful beautiful untouched body, but I don't do it. I want to live. I take them up like the male and female paper dolls and bang them together at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to strike sparks from them, I say Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

    Sharon Olds is the author of several books of poetry, including "The Dead and the Living," winner of the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award; "The Unswept Room," a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. "Stag's Leap," which was published in 2012, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: It wasn't an outright endorsement of affirmative action, nor an outright rejection. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court threaded its way between those positions today.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The upshot is, the court said the University of Texas may continue to use race as a factor in selecting some of its students, for now. The justices did say a lower federal court used the wrong standard to dismiss a challenge to the Texas system of affirmative action admissions.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the use of race should be used only if "no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."

    The Texas universities fill most of their slot by guaranteeing admission to the top 10 percent of every state high school class. That later was lowered to the leading eight percent. Race then is used as a consideration in admitting the rest of the student body. Under that system, Abigail Fisher, a white honor roll student, was denied admission in 2008.

    In Washington today, she called the Supreme Court decision a victory.

    ABIGAIL FISHER, Plaintiff: Of course, we're happy with it. But -- they gave us everything that we asked for. And I'm very confident that U.T. won't be able to use race in the future. And it's just -- it's been a great journey and a very great learning experience.

    KWAME HOLMAN: University of Texas President Bill Powers said he also was encouraged.

    BILL POWERS, President, University of Texas: There were a number of directions that the justices could have turned in today's ruling. And this 7-1 ruling represents a positive outcome for this university, for the state, and for the nation.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Today's decision leaves a number of key questions unanswered in the long litigated field of affirmative action. And it marks the first time in a decade that the justices have weighed in on whether it's constitutional for universities to use race when deciding who they admit.

    In 2003, the high court, voting 5-4, allowed the University of Michigan Law School to factor race into admissions. The Texas case now returns to a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Marcia Coyle was, as always, in the courtroom for the decision, and joins us now.

    Welcome back, Marcia.

    MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal: Thanks, Jeff.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, to pick up on Kwame's report, one way of looking at this is that the court decided not to rewrite affirmative action at this moment, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: That's correct, Jeff.

    I think both sides take something away from here. One, those who were concerned that the court was going to backtrack on affirmative action, that didn't happen. So it's a victory in that sense. And then, on the other side, on Ms. Fisher's side, the court did vacate the lower court ruling that upheld Texas' affirmative action plan -- use of affirmative action.

    The court didn't say that the program and use of race was wrong, but it told the lower court to go back and take a much closer look at it. So, in a sense, both sides live to fight another day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, to help us understand what that means, remind us about the 2003 decision.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Where do things stand right now? What is allowed?


    Diversity in higher education, the court has held since its Grutter decision in 2003, is a compelling interest, governmental interest. Today, the court reiterated that that still stands. However, the court said two things.

    One, we know that whenever any government entity classifies someone or something by race, that the government's use of race has to undergo the constitution's most exacting review, what we call strict scrutiny. And that's really a two-part test. Justice Kennedy wrote today first that the first part is, does the government entity have a compelling interest in using race?

    He said, yes, diversity in higher education is a compelling interest, but the university -- and the university is owed some degree of deference when it makes the judgment that it needs to do that. However, the second part of the test is that the use has to be narrowly tailored to achieve its objective. And that's where the lower court fell down on the job, Justice Kennedy said.

    You have -- Justice Kennedy said the court has to make the university show two things under that, one, that every applicant is being considered individually and that race is not the defining character, and, two -- and this is really critical -- that there are no workable race-neutral alternatives.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, that part is clear enough, right?


    JEFFREY BROWN: But then you have a decision like this. And then people, everybody is reading the tea leaves. Were their signals or interesting points either in Justice Kennedy's or any of the other decisions or writing, not the decision, but their writings, that might provide a way forward or looking at where we go next?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, I think, first, you should know that Justice Kennedy was in dissent in the 2003 University of Michigan case. He felt the majority opinion, written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, didn't apply strict scrutiny, especially the narrow tailoring part of the test, the way it should have.

    So, today, he's in the majority. And his view of strict scrutiny prevails. It's going to be a somewhat tougher test for the universities to get over or to succeed in passing. So I think going forward, universities and even here at the University of Texas is going to have to work hard to show that there are no race-neutral alternatives available.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, on the other hand, the principle of diversity as a worthy goal stands.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, it does.

    And I think some of the organizations that are opposed to affirmative action will feel that they have another opening here in order to challenge other university programs that do use race as a factor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And now last thing on this, is, it goes back to the lower courts, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, it does. It's going back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which oversees Texas.

    And the court there will have to apply Justice Kennedy's test to see if the university can pass it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. Now, also today, a couple of important decisions on workplace discrimination. Both went in favor of employers.

    MARCIA COYLE: That's correct.

    There were two decisions. The court split ideologically 5-4. The conservatives were in the majority. And one decision was written by Justice Alito and the second one was again written by Justice Kennedy.

    And what they did, basically, in those cases was to raise the bar on what employees have to do in order to prove discrimination under Title VII, which is our nation's major job bias law. One of the decisions involved the definition of who is a supervisor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, I remember. We talked about that when it was argued.

    MARCIA COYLE: We did.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that's one anybody can understand who works in a workplace, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Right. Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Who is the boss? Who technically can hire, hire and fire?

    MARCIA COYLE: That's right. And that's what Justice Alito said. He said that a supervisor is somebody who has been empowered to make a tangible employment decision, like hiring and firing.

    And the court rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's test for that, which was somewhat broader, that would involve co-workers who could direct your daily activities. And then the second case involved retaliation claims. And the court there imposed a higher standard of proof on employees who have been retaliated against because they either complained about discrimination or supported somebody else who was complaining about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And these cases would fit into what is clearly being seen as a larger pattern for this court, siding with employers.

    MARCIA COYLE: I think so.

    I think the court has generally read retaliation under Title VII broadly. But, in this case -- there have been a lot of complaints from businesses. Retaliation cases are the fastest growing category of discrimination cases. The court's conservative majority generally doesn't interpret our civil rights laws generously.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, finally, in our last minute here, the court also agreed today to hear another case for next term, but this one a politically potent case, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, yes, really interesting case.

    The court said it would decide whether President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board are constitutional. They were challenged by a bottling company out of the state of Washington, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They claimed that the Senate wasn't in recess when these appointments were made. That's what the court will focus on, the scope of the recess appointments clause in the Constitution.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And this happens to be President Obama, but this is something that this applies to many presidents who have made these kind of ...

    MARCIA COYLE: Oh, it does.


    MARCIA COYLE: Yes. And it applies to more than the National Labor Relations Board.


    MARCIA COYLE: In fact, at the same time, he appointed the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection board -- bureau -- sorry -- bureau -- and there are lawsuits around the country making these challenges.


    MARCIA COYLE: So, it was accepted that -- pretty much acknowledged the court would take the case.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, that one for next term. And the rest of this week, we still have some big ones to come. Right?

    MARCIA COYLE: We do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The court is back tomorrow.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. Marcia Coyle, and we will have you back, no doubt.

    MARCIA COYLE: Great. Great.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thanks.

    MARCIA COYLE: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: We’ll have more on the affirmative action decision later in the program.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Immigration reform cleared a big hurdle this evening in the U.S. Senate, with votes to spare. The test involved a motion to debate an amendment aimed at picking up Republican support for the broader bill. It calls for spending $30 billion dollars over 10 years to double the Border Patrol and build 700 miles of fencing.

    The amendment divided Republican ranks.

    R-Tenn.: We're going to put in place very tangible triggers, triggers that cannot be moved. You can't move the goalpost because of interpretation. They're there. They're concrete. If we meet them, people will have the pathway to be the kind of productive citizens that they would like to be.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-Ala.: The legal status, the Social Security card, the right to work anywhere in America is given within two months of the passage of the legislation. You're making promises 10 years down the road that I'm saying are not likely to ever happen. In fact, I don't think they will happen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Supporters of immigration reform are pushing for a final Senate vote by Friday.

    It turns out that IRS targeting of groups for intensive reviews was broader and lasted longer than first reported. The agency's acting head, Danny Werfel, announced the discovery today. He said agents screened not only for the name tea party, but also for Israel, progressive, and occupy when groups applied for tax-exempt status. Werfel said the screening was still going on last month, before he suspended it.

    Wall Street had another long day, amid worries over China's economy and rising interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 139 points to close at 14,659. The Nasdaq fell 36 points to close at 3,320.

    Flooding in Northern India has now claimed more than 1,000 lives. That word came today with search teams in a race against time in mountainous Uttarakhand state. On Sunday, soldiers struggled to construct a rope bridge over a raging Himalayan river to help evacuate thousands of people still stranded. Monsoon flooding and landslides have wiped away hundreds of homes and washed out roads over the last week.

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela lay in critical condition today at a hospital in Pretoria. Word came over the weekend that his health had deteriorated as doctors treat him for a lung infection.

    We have a report from Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News.

    ROHIT KACHROO, Independent Television News: Zindziswa Mandela, here to see her father, is joined by her mother, Winnie, what looks like the daily routine that has formed over 17 days.

    But inside here, things have changed. The famous patient was said to be seriously ill. His condition is now even more serious than that. As well as the daughters and granddaughters who came to see him, the defense minister, ultimately responsible for his health -- this family matter is a matter of state too. The president also went to see him last night, a rare glimpse of emotion as he recalled his visit.

    PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, South Africa: He was already asleep. And we were there, looked at him, saw him. And we then had a bit of a discussion with the doctors, as well as his wife, Graca Machel, and we left. And I don't think we -- I can be put in a position to give further details. I'm not a doctor.

    ROHIT KACHROO: The ailing icon here on his 94th birthday was taken to hospital with a lung infection. Optimism about a speedy recovery has disappeared. But, from his family today, there is still hope.

    MANDLA MANDELA, Grandson of Nelson Mandela: We are hoping that my grandfather will recover steadily. He is under good care, under the supervision of nurses and doctors.

    ROHIT KACHROO: The tributes are gathering, many from children who have known nothing but democracy, but who understand the importance of this man and these moments.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama is scheduled to visit South Africa later this week as part of a three-country tour of the continent.

    Ten car bombs rocked Baghdad today, killing 40 Iraqis. They added to the 2,000 deaths in sectarian strife since the beginning of April. Today's attacks targeted Shiites as they marked the birthday of a revered imam. Other bombs struck at districts with a high population of Sunnis.

    In Lebanon, fighting raged for a second day between army units and followers of a hardline Sunni cleric. The clashes in Sidon were the latest spillover of violence from neighboring Syria. Tanks drove through the streets as soldiers fired at Sunni militants holed up in a mosque complex. Security officials said at least 16 soldiers and 20 militants have been killed.

    Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and of abusing his power. Berlusconi is 76 years old. A court in Milan sentenced him today to seven years in prison and banned him from ever holding public office again. The sentence will not take effect while Berlusconi pursues an appeal.

    High-wire artist Nik Wallenda has set his sights on his next challenge, now that he's walked a tightrope across part of the Grand Canyon network. He did it Sunday evening on a two-inch steel cable 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge in Northeastern Arizona. It took just over 22 minutes to cover the quarter-mile, all without a safety harness or net. Wallenda now says he wants to walk a wire between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York.

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

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    GWEN IFILL: For more on the court's affirmative action ruling today, we talk to two experts who have been following the case, and the issue, closely.

    Lee Bollinger is the president of Columbia University. He's played a leading role in two major court cases on affirmative action. And Gail Heriot teaches at the University of San Diego Law School and is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

    Welcome to you both.

    LEE BOLLINGER, President, Columbia University: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: Starting with you, Lee Bollinger, how do you interpret this very narrow ruling?

    LEE BOLLINGER: Well, I think the first thing to note -- and it's really important -- is that the court and seven justices affirmed the Grutter case and therefore also the Powell opinion in Bakke. And every time the court does that, it creates another precedent.

    And under the doctrine of stare decisis, that makes affirmative action in higher education all the more secure. We don't really know what the decision means in terms of additional proof. The court was quite big. It's important to realize that there were both conservative and liberal justices that agreed to that.

    So, we will just have to see what the meaning of that is.

    GWEN IFILL: Gail Heriot, President Bollinger basically said they didn't knock it down, so that's good news. What do you think?

    GAIL HERIOT, University of San Diego Law School: Well, as Justice Scalia points out, the petitioner didn't actually challenge Grutter in this case. So, that's an issue for another day.

    But I agree that this is not an earth-shaking opinion. Ms. Fisher did win the case. The case will now be remanded back to the Fifth Circuit. But essentially what the court did was clarify when it was willing to defer to academic expertise and when it wasn't willing. The Fifth Circuit had interpreted the previous decision to require it to defer not just on whether or not diversity is a compelling purpose, but also whether the particular policy involved was narrowly tailored to serve that purpose.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you both about some of the terms of art which we heard Marcia Coyle describe, strict scrutiny and narrowly tailored.

    Lee Bollinger, when they say strict scrutiny in this case, are they talking about -- is the burden on colleges or universities or is the burden on the court that sent this case, the Fifth Circuit?


    These are technical terms of the Equal Protection Clause, and I think the key thing for people to know is that when universities -- and let's be clear -- I mean all the universities and colleges all across the country for several decades have been trying to achieve racially and ethnically diverse student bodies, as well as geographically, internationally, just all kinds of diversity, because it's believed that that is the best educational environment.

    So, as they do this, the Supreme Court has said, we believe this is consistent with the 14th Amendment. But it's also important for you to provide evidence that you have considered alternatives or that other alternatives don't work and also that the particular admissions process that you have is actually linked to the educational benefit you want.

    So there is a sense that universities will have to provide more evidence, perhaps more evidence, to support the programs. That shouldn't be a problem. The underlying principle is secure and sound. That's the most important thing. And universities are capable of providing that evidence.

    GWEN IFILL: Gail Heriot, even though the court didn't rule on this, we saw Justice Thomas had a pretty strong concurrence, actually. He agreed with the outcome, but he disagreed that they didn't go even farther. Do you see this going farther now?

    GAIL HERIOT: Yes, I thought Justice Thomas' opinion was by far the most interesting part of the court's actions today.

    The thing that Justice Thomas talked about was the research that is now indicating that affirmative action is backfiring, that racial preferences actually do the opposite of what they are intended to do, that we would have more African-American physicians, more African-American scientists, engineers, lawyers, college professors -- there's research in each of these areas -- if only students attended the schools where their academic credentials put them towards the center of the class, that it's really not a good thing to attend a university where your academic credentials put you to the very bottom of the class.

    Such a person is less likely to major in tough subjects like engineering, mathematics, science, and go on to medical school or to go on to law school.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask Lee Bollinger to reply to that, because, obviously, Justice Ginsburg, who is the one dissenting justice, had the completely opposite opinion.

    LEE BOLLINGER: I mean, this is called the mismatch thesis. And it's, I think, widely -- discredited is perhaps too strong a term.

    GAIL HERIOT: Way too strong.

    LEE BOLLINGER: The way this works -- the way this works is that admissions offices look at GPAs, standardized test scores. They decide on a pool of candidates whom they know can do the work. They then look for all kinds of things.

    They look for geographic diversity for a long time. They look for different experiences in life. We have 500 veterans at Columbia today. We take into account the fact that there have been experiences that these individuals have had that really add to the richness of the educational experience. Race and ethnicity are simply two among many.

    And the students who are admitted at universities across the country are well-qualified and capable of doing the work. So it's a great success story actually of several decades of universities and colleges bringing different groups of people together.

    It's important to remember that we have still a very segregated K-12 system in the country. Over 30 percent of African-American students still go to schools that are more than 90 percent black. So this is important.

    GWEN IFILL: But let me ask you both, starting with you, Gail Heriot, about public mood. Since 2003, since the Grutter case we were talking about, the University of Michigan case that has Lee Bollinger's name on it, the public's mood has shifted on affirmative action.

    Should that be significant? Should that be taken into account?

    GAIL HERIOT: I think it's true that the public view has become even more against racial preferences than what it was before, although, in truth, these polls have been taken since the Bakke case. And it's always been the case that the public is quite strongly against racial preferences.

    The place where you see support for racial preferences in admissions is mostly among college administrators, like Dr. Bollinger, Mr. Bollinger.

    Getting back to the mismatch research, it's really gotten to the point where it's quite extensive. And there is absolutely nothing that rebuts the four major studies showing that, in the area of science, mathematics and engineering, that racial preferences are doing more harm than good. The research is little bit less developed in the other areas.

    GWEN IFILL: Lee Bollinger?

    LEE BOLLINGER: Well, let me answer the question you asked about the popular support and its relevance.

    It depends entirely on how the question is asked. So, if you ask, should certain races be given preferences in admissions? A majority of people will respond no. But if you ask whether colleges and universities should try to build diverse student bodies racially and ethnically and consider race, a majority will support that.

    This is also the Constitution. And for many years, since Brown vs. Board of Education, this country has worked on its past, on 200 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow laws. And we still have a ways to go on that. That has been the ideal. And Brown vs. Board of Education wasn't decided by popular vote, and it's really the Constitution, the 14th Amendment that we're talking about.

    GWEN IFILL: And we will leave it right there.

    Lee Bollinger, president of Colombia University ...

    LEE BOLLINGER: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: ... and, Gail Heriot, University of San Diego School of Law, thank you both.

    GAIL HERIOT: Thank you.

    LEE BOLLINGER: Thanks.

    GWEN IFILL: The court will be handing down additional decisions tomorrow. You can follow those developments on SCOTUSblog, which you can find on our home page beginning at 10:00 a.m., as well as coverage of still-pending challenges to the Voting Rights Act and same-sex marriage. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And now to the search for Edward Snowden.

    The South China Morning Post reported today that the former U.S. intelligence contractor said in an interview that he originally accepted a job at Booz Allen Hamilton in order to have access to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. A diplomatic storm is now brewing over Snowden's whereabouts and travel.

    Margaret Warner reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: This seat on a Cuba-bound flight from Moscow was empty today, the whereabouts of its supposed ticket holder, Edward Snowden, unknown.

    The intelligence contractor who disclosed secret U.S. surveillance programs hasn't been seen since reportedly landing in Moscow Sunday evening after fleeing Hong Kong. White House officials said they believe Snowden is still in the Russian capital. But President Obama wouldn't say whether he contacted President Putin on the matter.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What we know is, is that we're following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure that rule of law is observed.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today, a spokesman for Putin denied any knowledge of Snowden's movements. Traveling in India, Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Russians to do the right thing. And he had a warning for Russia and China.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: You know, it would be deeply troubling, obviously, if they have adequate notice and, notwithstanding that, they make a decision willfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law. Then there would be, without any question, some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences.

    MARGARET WARNER: American officials voiced exasperation with how Snowden managed to get out of Hong Kong. On June 14, the U.S. Justice Department had formally charged him with espionage in a secret indictment, and the next day asked Hong Kong to arrest and extradite him. The State Department reportedly revoked his passport this weekend and according to the White House notified Hong Kong.

    Today, the chief executive of the autonomous Chinese territory said the extradition request didn't meet legal standards.

    LEUNG CHUN-YING, Hong Kong Chief Executive: There was no legal basis to stop Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

    MARGARET WARNER: In Beijing, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry insisted the decision was entirely Hong Kong's.

    But, in Washington today, that answer didn't fly at the White House.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship.

    MARGARET WARNER: As to how Snowden managed to travel without a valid passport, WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, says it helped provide a refugee document that cleared the way. Assange spoke from London, where he's been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy for months, fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.

    JULIAN ASSANGE, Founder, WikiLeaks: Every person has the right to seek and receive political asylum. Those rights are enshrined in United Nations agreements, of which the United States is a party.

    MARGARET WARNER: Assange said Snowden too has applied for political asylum in Ecuador and other countries. Ecuador confirmed that and said it is considering his application. 

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    MARGARET WARNER: For more on the legal issues surrounding Snowden's fugitive travels, I'm joined by David Laufman, a former Department of Justice prosecutor and CIA analyst. He now works in private practice.

    And, Mr. Laufman, welcome.

    DAVID LAUFMAN, Former Justice Department Official: Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, explain how this could happen. I mean, here's a guy that the United States has been trying to get for 10 days. How was he able to leave Hong Kong, even after, according to the White House, Hong Kong had been informed about the -- quote -- "status" of this travel documents, in other words, that they were no longer valid?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Well, there's a few possibilities.

    One is that Hong Kong permitted him to travel on his U.S. passport, notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. told Hong Kong that it had revoked the passport. Another possibility is that he was issued some kind of travel document, either a laissez-passer or a refugee document that enabled him to get on a plane from Hong Kong to Moscow.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, that is in fact what WikiLeaks, who has jumped into this case, and is assisting him, said, that he got some sort of a refugee travel document issued by Ecuador. What is that?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: It's a document recognized in international law that a third country can issue to someone who is either a stateless person or who has been found to have some refugee status to enable them to get to someplace where they can be in a protected status.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, according -- The New York Times had an interesting story today about how Hong Kong actually facilitated his departure, gave him security on the way to the airport, knew full well he was leaving, was very happy he was leaving.

    Despite the fact that the U.S. had made an extradition request, explain the international law here. I mean, was China violating this treaty by doing this? How binding are these treaties?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Well, the treaties are binding. The question is, does the treaty apply by its terms? So were the offenses Mr. Snowden was charged with criminally in the United States extraditable under the U.S.-Hong Kong treaty is sort of the first level of analysis.

    And it remains unclear as to whether espionage-related offenses having to do with disclosing classified information or the theft of classified information were crimes under Hong Kong law. Only if they were crimes under Hong Kong law would Hong Kong have been under a legal obligation under the treaty to extradite him.

    And there's also an exception under that treaty that exists under other U.S. extradition treaties, like, for example, with Ecuador, where if the character and the conduct is of a political nature, then the sending country, Hong Kong, for example, is excused from its obligation to extradite.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, in fact, aren't there a lot of cases in history in which fugitives, despite having been indicted in their home country, despite extradition treaties, live on the lam for decades overseas?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Well, there have been cases like that, including in the context of an espionage case, the most prominent of which probably was a case involving a man named Philip Agee in the early 1980s, who left the CIA, publicly disclosed the names of undercover CIA officers and agents, went on the lam overseas.

    The State Department revoked his passport. He then went on an odyssey of existence in several countries, culminating ultimately in his settlement in Cuba, where he died several years ago.

    MARGARET WARNER: But did he always go to countries that had bad relations with the U.S. essentially?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Actually, in his case, he was in West Germany for a period of time, I believe.

    But ultimately countries have substantial discretion as to whether to extradite, even if there are treaties in effect, because of the sovereignty associated with their own host government law enforcement.

    MARGARET WARNER: So now the administration, the president, the secretary of state are putting big pressure on the Russians to expel him, make sure he can only come back to the United States. What leverage does the United States have in that case?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: The only real leverage we have in the Russian government is political suasion.

    There is no extradition treaty between the United States and Russia. So, we are bringing to bear the full force of our diplomatic pressure with the Russian government, law enforcement contacts, diplomatic contacts, intelligence contacts, to persuade the Russians that it's in the interest of U.S.-Russian relations for the Russians to detain him and deport him to the United States under a pending U.S. arrest warrant.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, in fact, the White House spokesman made a big point today about reciprocity, that there have been cases in which the U.S. has honored Russian -- is that often an operative principle?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: It can be because there have been times when, you know, we may receiving Russian extradition requests in cases that we may think are on the margins. And we may believe, in the interest of the U.S.-Russian relationships, to make the extradition.

    MARGARET WARNER: What is at stake for the United States in this in apprehending him?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Well, I think, from the Obama administration's standpoint, the most critical thing at stake is the potential disclosure of additional classified information by Mr. Snowden, who reportedly remains in possession of three or four laptop computers and terabytes of data that he obtained from his access to classified system.

    So, from the standpoint of preventing the occurrence of any further harm, the most important urgency is to take him off the street, so to speak, and deprive him of the ability to further disclose classified information, secondarily to bring him back to the United States and bring him to justice.

    MARGARET WARNER: But, of course, it's not known whether -- I mean, if someone is this good a computer hacker, he might well have set up some backdoor. I mean, he well have conveyed the information, if not to someone, but in a form that if he's apprehended -- we really don't much about this, do we?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: We have no idea what he has done with the, you know, classified information he's in possession of, the digital copies of information. Anything could have happened over the next several -- the last several days.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, if the Russians let him go, the countries he's mentioned wanting to go to are Ecuador, Cuba and Venezuela. Again, the U.S. has put Latin American countries are notice, you shouldn't accept him.


    MARGARET WARNER: Is the same kind of -- the same caveats apply, that really, whatever the treaties may be, these are political decisions?

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Well, there's always a political element to whether the host country extradites. Sometimes, the political element lags behind the legal piece. In this case, politics is going to be driving legal judgments to a large extent.

    If he goes to Ecuador, there's a U.S. extradition treaty with Ecuador. It requires that whatever he was charged with here also be a crime in Ecuador. There's this political offense exception I described before. And then there's the whole politics overlaying the U.S.-Ecuador relationship, which is fraught with tension over U.S. involvement in Latin America.

    MARGARET WARNER: Not to mention Cuba and Venezuela.

    Well, David Laufman, thank you so much.

    DAVID LAUFMAN: Thank you. 

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: The trial in the death of Trayvon Martin got under way with opening arguments today, 16 months after his shooting stirred protests, anger and debate.

    Ray Suarez has the story.

    RAY SUAREZ: George Zimmerman walked into a courtroom in Sanford, Fla., this morning for the start of his long-awaited second-degree murder trial. The six jurors, all women, listened as each side laid out its case in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

    Prosecutor John Guy:

    JOHNGUY, Florida District Attorney: Trayvon Martin, 21 days removed from his 16th year, was face down in wet grass laboring through his final breaths on this earth.

    And that defendant at that same time was upright walking around preparing, preparing to tell law enforcement why it was he had just profiled, followed and murdered an unarmed teenager.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Defense attorney Don West answered on behalf of Zimmerman.

    DON WEST, Attorney for George Zimmerman: This is a sad case, of course. As one of your fellow jurors commented during the jury selection process, a young man lost his life. Another is fighting for his.

    There are no winners here. George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder. He shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense after being viciously attacked.

    RAY SUAREZ: On Feb. 26 of last year, Martin, unarmed, was returning from a convenience store when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, grew suspicious and followed him. He called police along the way.

    911 OPERATOR: Are you following him?

    GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, Defendant: Yes.

    911 OPERATOR: OK. We don't need you to do that.

    RAY SUAREZ: An altercation ensued. Martin was shot and Zimmerman left the scene with injuries to his head. In the days following, Zimmerman gave his version of events, claiming self-defense.

    GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I had my firearm on my right-side hip. My jacket moved up. And he saw it. I feel like he saw it. He looked at it. And he said, "You're going to die tonight (EXPLETIVE DELETED)."

    And he reached for it. But he reached -- like, I felt his arm going down to my side, and I grabbed it. And I just grabbed my firearm and I shot him one time.

    RAY SUAREZ: In court today, prosecutor Guy questioned the veracity of Zimmerman's statements about what happened.

    JOHN GUY: He told the police that it was just after he hung up with Sean Noffke, the non-emergency dispatcher, that Trayvon Martin approached him, confronted him, said a couple of words to him, and then punched him and knocked him to the ground just moments after that. Ladies and gentlemen, that did not happen.

    RAY SUAREZ: The defense, in turn, called into question some of the witness testimony jurors are likely to hear.

    DON WEST: You will find, I think, in this case that there are well-meaning and honest people that, based upon limited information or preconceived notions or biases, mean well, but just somehow get it wrong.

    PROTESTERS: No justice, no peace!

    RAY SUAREZ: The case gained national attention and sparked protests far and wide last year about race, justice, and when it's reasonable by law to stand your ground.

    Police ultimately charged Zimmerman 44 days after the shooting. The trial is expected to last two to four weeks. And Zimmerman faces life in prison if convicted.

    For more, we're joined by Greg Allen, a correspondent for NPR who is covering the trial.

    Greg, did we learn anything today about the cases the prosecution and defense are planning to put on before the jury that we didn't already know from the pretrial motions?

    GREG ALLEN, National Public Radio: Well, I think so, Ray.

    You know, we haven't heard that much from the prosecutors since last year, when they charged Trayvon Martin with second-degree murder. You know, they have not spoken outside of court. They made all their case inside of court. And even in discovery and some of the motions they filed, you only kind of got inklings about where they were going with this.

    Today, John Guy started -- for the first kind of laid out the case, pointing out, in his view, that George Zimmerman is a vigilante, profiled Trayvon Martin , and that he was actually trying to rid his neighborhood of people that he thought didn't belong there. And that was the motivation here, and that they believe is enough for second-degree murder.

    RAY SUAREZ: At issue is really 10 to 15 minutes between the time George Zimmerman starts following Trayvon Martin and the time he shoots him. Did defense and prosecution present very different versions of what happened during that short period of time?

    GREG ALLEN: You know I would have to say I don't think so. It's almost more a matter of interpretation and how you read what happened there.

    You know, the big question right at the center of this case is, how did the fight start? Who confronted who -- whom? You know, who jumped who? Where did it start? What we heard from George Zimmerman and from the defense attorneys -- his defense attorneys said that he was jumped by Trayvon Martin. And Donald West today said that Trayvon Martin sucker-punched George Zimmerman.

    On the other hand, you have the prosecutors who say that it was George Zimmerman who pursued Trayvon Martin all the way down there. And they believe that he's the one who actually sparked the confrontation. And they have a witness, a young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin, who they think will bolster that case. So, I think that's really the place where they kind of differ of what happened there.

    RAY SUAREZ: In the evidentiary hearing, certain items, even certain language was ruled out by the trial judge. What won't the jury be hearing and seeing in the coming weeks?

    GREG ALLEN: Well, in terms of language, I think the prosecutors were happy that the judge didn't rule out, didn't stop them from saying that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin.

    They can say that. They made that case today. They were also allowed to use the word vigilante. There were some words that they weren't allowed to say. They can't say racially profile. But the prosecution suggests they were never going to use that anyhow.

    Probably, the big thing that the jurors won't hear is the expert -- is the testimony from audio experts, people that the prosecutors had lined up who said that -- suggested that a voice heard yelling for help on a 911 call actually belonged to Trayvon Martin. That kind of testimony was ruled out of bounds by the judge. She said it wasn't scientifically credible and she put it aside.

    If we hear testimony from audio experts, it will be from the defense side, who will testify that it is impossible to say using science who was heard yelling for help on that 911 tape.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, they won't hear that particular call of a neighbor calling for police backup, but they did hear a lot of George Zimmerman's call, didn't they?

    GREG ALLEN: Yes. And they actually will hear the tape. And we heard the tape twice today in court. And in fact it was the defense that played the tape of the 911 call. And I'm sure many people have heard it. It's very chilling.

    You hear someone in the background yelling for help while this woman is talking to the dispatcher. And then the call abruptly ends with a gunshot. What we heard, Donald West told the jury he hopes they will hear it several more times, 10 or 15 times, I think he said at one point. I think his thought is that the more you hear the tape, the more comfortable you may get with it. It might not be so chilling on repeated versions when you hear it over and over again.

    But the question is who is heard yelling on that tape? And we will hear lots of testimony about that, just not from experts.

    RAY SUAREZ: Was there anything unusual about the salty language that was heard in open court today during the opening arguments and even a joke by the defense team?

    GREG ALLEN: Right. It was kind of an interesting opening argument, opening statements today.

    From the prosecutors, as I say, we haven't heard a lot from them over the last year. And John Guy, the assistant state attorney, came out with a very strong, very concise opening statement that was, I would say, riveting, from someone who has followed this case for some time.

    And he started by quoting directly from George Zimmerman, an aside he made in the call -- call to a police dispatcher that night when he first spotted Trayvon Martin. And in the side, he said, "These (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks, they always get away."

    And, of course, in court, John Guy did not use the word "bleeping." He said it a couple times, and very stark language. And he said he made this to let you know what was in George Zimmerman's heart that night that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

    And he connected that statement that George Zimmerman made in the first call to the police dispatcher with the gunshot, which happened several minutes later, saying, this is what was in his mind when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. So, that was very stark.

    On the other hand, as you say, we heard from the defense attorney, Donald West. His opening got off a little slower to a start today, went on very long. And I think he made a real misstep when he made this joke, a knock-knock joke to jurors. And he says -- the joke is knock, knock. Who's there? Trayvon Martin. And if you say, "Who's Trayvon Martin?" then, of course, you get on the jury.

    He said that joke. It fell flat. And I think he apologized for it later, saying that the problem was with the delivery. But, clearly, he stumbled getting started today. But ultimately I think he laid out a very expansive been opening statement that will reflect their case as they go forward.

    RAY SUAREZ: NPR's Greg Allen, thanks for joining us.

    GREG ALLEN: My pleasure, Ray.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: a good news revolution of sorts in cities across the country, as local officials search for new ways to innovate and make urban centers more livable.

    Judy Woodruff has our book conversation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cities are increasingly the places people want to live. Two-thirds of Americans today reside in metropolitan areas, which in turn account for three-fourths of the nation's economy.

    But government has traditionally operated with the model of Washington, the federal government, on top, the states next and cities having whatever is left over at the bottom. Now, however, as urban areas are being forced to grapple with most of the toughest problems, including jobs, housing, transportation and the environment and because Washington is viewed as stuck in partisan gridlock and not able to respond quickly, cities are starting to take matters into their own hands.

    And that's the premise of a new book. It's called "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy."

    We're joined now by its co-authors. They are Bruce Katz, a vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. And Jennifer Bradley, she is a fellow at the program.

    And welcome to both of you.

    JENNIFER BRADLEY, Co-Author, "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy": Thanks for having us.

    BRUCE KATZ, Co-Author, "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy": Thanks for having us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, to both of you, the phrase that caught my eye in the very beginning of the book, you said cities and metropolitan areas are on their own.

    And, Bruce, at one point you write, they realized that the cavalry is not coming.

    BRUCE KATZ: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does that mean?

    BRUCE KATZ: Well, I think cities and metropolitan areas first understand they face supersized economic and competitive challenges. And they look to Washington and they see a place mired in partisan gridlock.

    But the good news is that mayors and philanthropists and heads of corporations and universities, they're stepping up and they're doing the hard job to grow -- or the hard work to grow jobs. They're investing in infrastructure. They're making manufacturing a priority. They're equipping workers with the skills they need.

    Change happens where they live. These are powerful places and smart, strategic leaders.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer Bradley, was it the case that cities used to be able to count on the federal government to fix things?

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: I think what happened is that cities and metros have realized that the federal government is an unreliable partner. And they understand that they themselves have power.

    So they don't have to wait for the federal government to decide they're going to increase a particular program. Metros are seizing the power that's they have -- that's always been sort of there latently. They're just taking to it the next step, whether that's Houston and immigrant immigration, Denver and Los Angeles and transit systems, or New York and trying to supercharge their innovation economy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you about some of those examples in a second.

    But, Bruce Katz, you also say this is the result of something bigger than the dysfunction here in Washington and even bigger than the great recession we have been through. You talk about it being a structural shift. Explain what you mean.

    BRUCE KATZ: I think it absolutely is a structural shift. If you look at our demographics, we, like many countries around the world, are going to see the aging of our population.

    What that means for our national government is they're going to have to shift enormous resources to caring for the aged, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. What that may do literally within the next 10 years is crowd our other investments in infrastructure, in education, in research and development.

    And city and metropolitan leaders are looking at a very competitive world and saying, you know what? We're going to have to step up, compensate, work with our private and civic sectors, get stuff done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer Bradley, you were starting to give us some examples. Give us one or two examples of where this is happening, where local people have taken control of the situation.

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: Absolutely.

    In our book, we talk about a lot of places where the metropolitan revolution is happening. One, for example, is New York City, where the mayor and the local economic development corporation decided after the great recession that they needed to diversify their economy.

    They decided to launch an international competition to bring a top-level graduate school in science and technology and engineering to the city. The city spent about $130 million dollars to do infrastructure improvements. They're going to get two billion dollars in immediate investment. And over the long term, they're going to have a stronger and more diverse economy, about $30 billion dollars in economic activity, tens of thousands of jobs, and an economy that is resilient and equipped for the 21st century.

    They're inventing an entirely new industry in New York. We think that's a great example of the revolution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You also write -- Bruce Katz, you write about a number of other cities. You talk about Cleveland, Detroit and Houston.

    BRUCE KATZ: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I guess, you know, my question is, these cities are trying to do interesting things, but they're also cities that are facing big problems of poverty, lack of education for so many people.

    BRUCE KATZ: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How are these cities going to be able to do all of it?

    BRUCE KATZ: Well, I think -- cities are not governments, right? They're networks of leaders, mayors, for sure, county leaders, for sure, governors in many places, but also heads of business and business associations, heads of universities, heads of philanthropy.

    They come together. They form networks. They try to sort out, what's our distinctive vision? What's our special position in the global economy? And then what is our game-changer? What Jennifer just described, the applied science district in New York City, that's a game-changer. Investing in manufacturing, supporting your manufacturing, when we have a chance to re-shore production to the United States, that's a game-changer in Northeast Ohio. Transit clearly is a necessity for the 21st century. So they're not waiting for Washington. They're basically coming together across party and jurisdictional lines saying, how do we make our place more prosperous?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But they still are going to need some federal resources and state resources, aren't they?

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: The metropolitan revolution is certainly led by metros. It doesn't let the federal government off the hook. In our book, we talk about how Los Angeles pressed for a change in federal funding for transit systems.

    That's an example of how metropolitan areas are leading the way. They're not waiting for the federal government to come up with a new plan or program. They're going to the feds with a coalition of other metro leaders and saying, this is what we need from you to move our economies forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how are they avoiding getting caught up in the kind of partisanship that you write about and we are very familiar with here in Washington ...

    BRUCE KATZ: Of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... that seems to -- it swallowed up everything we do. And, as you note, it's taking place in a lot of states too.

    BRUCE KATZ: Absolutely.

    Well, when Jennifer and I visit cities across the country, I have to tell you, it's hard to know who a Democrat is and who is a Republican, who is a liberal and who is a conservative. These are people who are passionate about their place. And they want their place to be as competitive as it can be in a very fiercely competitive environment.

    So they're basically focusing on the fundamentals, good infrastructure, obviously, safe streets, good schools, but also helping the universities work more closely with their companies, so they can innovate, crack the code on the next generation of products and services.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the political labels don't matter at all in these places?

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: The political labels matter so much less than getting stuff done.

    And I think when you have coalitions of mayors, civic leaders, labor leaders, business leaders all coming toning and showing that change can really happen on the ground, that is a powerful example for Washington. We hope it's one that Washington will follow. But you know what? Even if it doesn't, cities and metros aren't bound up in all the dysfunction happening here. They can still move forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And one thing that the viewer watching this should know about this, they're listening and they're thinking, oh, that's really interesting, but somebody else is doing that.

    BRUCE KATZ: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What should people know about this?

    BRUCE KATZ: I think this can happen all across the United States, because the top 100 metros, the stats you put up earlier, they're only -- they sit on only an eighth of our land mass. They're two-thirds of our population. They're three-quarters of our GDP.

    And on everything that matters, innovation, human capital, infrastructure, they're 75, 80, 85, 90 percent of the national share. These are powerful economies. They're bigger than national economies in many respects. And now they're stepping up and saying, you know, if Washington can't lead, if our state is adrift, we need to be the vanguard of policy and innovation. This can spread across the United States. We're more powerful. We are rich in leadership. And we need to step up.

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: And if I could just follow up, it's -- what we want people to take away is that, if their place isn't doing it, there are a lot of lessons there. They should be doing it. And if the leadership is not providing something in metropolitan areas, citizens need to step up and say, why can't be as great as Portland, as Los Angeles, as Detroit or New York on these issues?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer Bradley, Bruce Katz, the book is "The Metropolitan Revolution."

    We thank you both for being here.

    BRUCE KATZ: Well, thanks for having us.

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: Thank you.

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    Watch President Barack Obama's announcement of his new climate plan.

    Update: 2:30 p.m. ET | With sweat glistening on his forehead in the balmy Washington, D.C., heat, President Obama outlined a sweeping new climate plan Tuesday that he said proves America "is ready to meet the responsibility" of global warming.

    In an impassioned speech, he laid out far reaching measures that aim to tackle increasing greenhouse gas emissions while preparing communities for the impacts of a warming planet, severe storms and sea-level rise.

    "The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late," Mr. Obama said. "And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world we leave behind, not just to you, but to your children and your grandchildren. As a president, as a father and as an American, I'm here to say, 'We need to act.'"

    The plan, which he announced at Georgetown University and which will not require Congressional approval, includes provisions to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants and to finalize standards for new plants. The plan also guarantees enough renewable building permits to power more than 6 million homes. It includes $8 billion in loan guarantees for energy efficiency and fossil fuel projects. And it helps farming and ranching communities prepare for climate-related wildfires and drought and protects coastlines against flooding caused by sea-level rise.

    Daniel Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress pointed to the new rules for existing power plants, which account for a third of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, as the most critical part of the new plan.

    "It's the largest uncontrolled source of carbon pollution, he said. "This is the single biggest step he can take to reduce America's carbon pollution."

    New Yorkers sought relief from the summer heat at the Coney Island beach in August 2012. Last year marked the nation's warmest year ever recorded; about one-third of all Americans experienced 10 days or more of 100-degree heat. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

    However, some have said that such an action could raise the cost of energy and harm the economy. House Speaker John Boehner, for example, has called the proposal to regulate emissions from existing power plants "absolutely crazy" and warned that it could kill jobs.

    The president addressed this directly, calling such claims "tired excuses for inaction" that suggest "a fundamental lack of faith in American business and ingenuity."

    He also surprised many with an update on the Keystone XL pipeline, expected to go unmentioned. The pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil from northern Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, will only serve the nation's interest if it does not worsen the problem of climate change, he said.

    "The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this will go forward," he said, adding that the state department is in the final stages of evaluating the proposal.

    In light of this major speech, we thought we'd seize this opportunity to provide a quick primer on the president's record on climate change to date:

    Among the top climate policies he's implemented while in office:

    In 2012, the president issued higher standards for gas mileage in cars. The new regulations, designed to both reduce oil use and curb greenhouse gas emissions, required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks from 26 to 54 miles per gallon by 2025.

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus, contained more than $90 billion in grants, loans and tax subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency, accounting for about 10 percent of the overall stimulus. It included funding for wind and solar projects, advanced batteries, home retrofits, energy-efficient public transportation and renewable energy research.

    Some of those programs have been the subject of criticism for the way government money has been used to shape policy -- even derision (as was the case with the now-bankrupt Solyndra). Still, they represent the administration's most ambitious effort to date.

    Earlier this month, Mr. Obama teamed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to scale back the emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFC's -- heat-trapping chemicals used in air-conditioning and refrigeration that can be up to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. Phasing out HFC's entirely would be equivalent to eliminating 100 billion tons of CO2, said Paul Bledsoe, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and a former Clinton White House climate aide.

    "It's amazing how huge these numbers are," Bledsoe said, adding that it's believed eliminating HFC's would also lower global temperatures by a hefty half degree Celsius.

    In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the endangerment finding, which found that greenhouse gas pollutants pose a danger to public health under the Clean Air Act.

    "Think of the endangerment finding as the starting pistol in the race to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution," Weiss said. "That gives you the legal standing to say, you've made this finding, now you can take action."

    But there are still major sources of continuing tension:

    Many are angry about the proposed 1700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. Critics fear its construction will open up more drilling in Canada's oil sands, releasing massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Production of the heavier Alberta oil in tar sands releases roughly 15 percent more emissions than conventional oil.

    The regulations established last year that limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants have been stalled by legal and political challenges, challenges that existing plants are also likely to meet. Earlier this month, the E.P.A. delayed the proposed rule, "saying it needed to respond to public and industry concerns," according to this New York Times report.

    Moreover, utilities and many Republicans have said the change in emission rules are precisely the wrong policy, a costly change at a time when the economy is still trying to gain more strength and momentum.

    "They'll need to make sure that all the legal i's are dotted and t's are crossed to make sure that it is as unassailable in court as possible," Weiss said.

    Environmental advocates have long opposed the expansion of drilling under President Obama, particularly in Arctic waters. Ice floes and winds pose dangers, and drilling in that Alaskan region could disrupt the habitat of many animals, especially the threatened polar bear, they argue. Others claim that aside from the Arctic, he hasn't opened any new areas for carbon production, and that domestic drilling provides an alternative to importing foreign oil.

    Also lagging is infrastructure necessary for a transition to electric cars. The lack of public charging stations has prompted so-called "range anxiety" among those who might otherwise buy electric.


    Check out these incredible close-up portraits of bugs at treehugger.com.

    Using specially-designed collar GPS devices and tiny "cat cams," a team of researchers in the United Kingdom waged one of the largest ever research projects into domestic cat behaviour. BBC News has a look at 10 of those felines. Great animations.

    What does it feel like to stand on top of the tallest building in the world? Google took Street View to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

    NASA collected these lovely photos of the supermoon as it rose over the Washington Monument on Sunday. For more on the supermoon and whether it's been overhyped, read our piece here.

    Ingestible computers, now in capsule form, can to transmit health data automatically. Once swallowed (voluntarily, of course), they can instantly relay to your doctor facts like whether you've taken your medication today or how well you are sleeping. At least one of the devices does not need a battery -- it is powered by stomach acids. New York Times reports.


    After sex, male dark fishing spiders curl up and die, occasionally becoming a post-coital snack for their mate, Science News reports.

    More in this video:

    Self Sacrifice from Science News on Vimeo.

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    By Nick Corcodilos

    You should investigate a new job, and the various departments with which you'll be interacting, thoroughly before accepting the offer. Photo courtesy of Stockbyte via Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: I recently started a great new job within my company in a new city. When I say "great," I should say "great on paper." It's an excellent resume builder, and a bump in pay, but I'm miserable. It's affecting my home life and keeping me up at night. My employer paid for the relocation of my family, meaning I'm on the hook for a year before I can move on without potentially having to pay them back for the transfer.

    It's been three months, and I'm willing to stick it out for a year if I have to, but when do I start looking in earnest? I find myself at home trolling job-finder sites, but I know it's too early to start looking for the next step, right?

    Nick Corcodilos: Too often, people accept a new job because it comes along, not because they pursued it or because they carefully decided it was the best thing for them. It sounds like you took this job for the wrong reasons, and without due diligence.

    I realize that an internal move like this -- even though it was to a new city -- seems safer than jumping to a new employer altogether. But due diligence is always necessary. I'll offer some suggestions about how to check out a company and a job before you accept it, and I think that will help you see what you need to do next as you pursue yet another job in your new location.

    MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask the Headhunter: Get Hired by Minimizing the Employer's Risk

    In the PDF book, "Fearless Job Hunting | Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers," I offer some tips on how to avoid disaster when considering a new job. Here's an excerpt:

    Once an offer is made, you have a measure of control you didn't have before. Politely but firmly ask to meet managers of departments that are upstream and downstream from your job. That is, departments whose output would affect your department.

    For example, if you're in sales, ask to meet the chief of engineering and the head of the shipping department. One designs and builds the products you have to sell, and the other ensures that your customers will receive what you sold them.

    If you work in engineering, ask to meet the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who funds product development, and the manager of manufacturing, because that's where the products you design will be assembled. Find out what they think of the way "your" department operates.

    (No matter what job you've been offered, ask to meet the sales department. In my experience, sales knows the condition of a company better than anyone -- and where the skeletons are hidden.)

    By talking with people who manage other areas of the company, you will learn a lot about the manager of the team that wants to hire you, and you will also learn about the integrity of the entire organization. If there are cracks in the corporate foundation, this is where you'll see them. If you're not permitted to meet these folks, you should reconsider the job.

    Of course, there's lots more you must do to make sure you're managing a job transition properly, both to optimize the outcome and to minimize risk. "4 Top Answers From The Archive" addresses a few more key questions that are related to what you are asking.

    "Play Hardball With Employers" provides a checklist of which people you should talk with and what information to gather to make due diligence pay off for you. It ends with a note about the cost of not doing it properly:

    When a company uses a headhunter to fill a position, it expects [a high] level of due diligence to be performed on candidates the headhunter delivers. If this seems to be a bit much, consider that the fee the company pays a headhunter for all this due diligence can run upwards of $30,000 for a $100,000 position. Can you afford to do less when you're judging your next employer?

    As for when to start job hunting, if you want to leave as soon as your obligatory year is up, my answer is immediately. It's never too early to start looking at your next step, which is one of the reasons that it takes time to check companies out carefully to avoid making a mistake.

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman

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    Landmark rulings from the Supreme Court on two major issues could come this morning. The court is set to issue decisions on the Voting Rights Act section 5, and California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which both involve same-sex marriage, before its term ends this week.

    The ritual of a justice reading decisions from the bench begins at 10 a.m. SCOTUSblog's live blog, below, starts around 9 a.m. The Court has only six cases this term for which it still must announce decisions.

    A much-awaited decision came Monday, when the justices decided to resolve a case testing affirmative action in higher education by sending the issue back to lower courts with specific directions. National Law Journal correspondent Marcia Coyle discussed that outcome on the NewsHour here.

    For more NewsHour coverage featuring Coyle, visit our Supreme Court page.

    And for more perspective on the outstanding major cases, check out our Voting Rights Act Oral History project and a religion and gay marriage Google Hangout here.

    Live blog of opinions

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    A woman uses her iPad to take a photo of a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on April 1. President Barack Obama is planning to visit South Africa this week as part of his tour of the continent. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

    President Barack Obama's only other trip to Africa during his presidency -- before he returns this week -- was a 36-hour visit to Ghana in 2009. At the time, he told the Ghanaian Parliament, "Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions."

    He plans to re-emphasize that point when he travels to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania June 26-July 3 to celebrate those countries' democracies and to strengthen economic ties, say White House and former officials.

    And, not to mention, make up for lost time.

    "This is a region that, frankly, has been underrepresented in our travel," said the White House's Ben Rhodes in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "This is a place where the United States needs to be present."

    One country noticeably absent on President Obama's trip is Kenya, his father's birthplace and home to some of his relatives. The country's new President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to stand trial at The Hague's International Criminal Court later this year, which appeared to factor into the White House's decision. Kenyatta is accused of crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating post-election violence in 2007-8.

    "We also as a country have a commitment to accountability and justice as a baseline principle. And given the fact that Kenya is in the aftermath of their election and the new government has come into place and is going to be reviewing these issues with the ICC and the international community, it just wasn't the best time for the president to travel to Kenya at this point," said Rhodes.


    The first country on President Obama's tour of sub-Saharan Africa is Senegal. The nation of 13 million people is considered one of Africa's most stable democracies.

    Last year, when then-President Abdoulaye Wade chose to run for a third term, despite a constitutional term limit of two, the nation protested and elected prime minister Macky Sall in his place.

    Mr. Obama plans to recognize Senegal's ability to hold free and fair elections and to applaud the three nations' democratic progress as a whole, said Johnnie Carson, who was assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2009 to April 1, 2013, and is now a senior adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

    Senegal, which is 94 percent Muslim, is the United States' strongest French-speaking African partner, he told reporters on Monday. It has received a Millennium Challenge Corporation grant of more than $500 million for road-building and food-security initiatives.

    South Africa

    After Senegal, Mr. Obama and his family fly to South Africa on Friday. His main speech of the trip will be delivered at the University of Cape Town on Sunday, where he plans to focus on the themes of trade and investment, development, democracy and security partnerships, according to the White House.

    Also in South Africa, where nearly half of the 48.6 million population is under the age of 25, the president and first lady Michelle Obama will hold meetings with young entrepreneurs. Africa's youth are the leaders of its economic climb, and they want to acknowledge that, said Carson.

    While in South Africa, Mr. Obama will contact the family of former President Nelson Mandela, and will defer to them in terms of any interaction with the anti-apartheid leader, said Rhodes. Mandela has been in the hospital for two weeks due to a reoccurring lung ailment. His condition took a turn for the worse over the weekend.

    Mr. Obama also plans to visit Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years he was in jail before the end of apartheid.


    The last country on the tour is Tanzania, which is one of the world's poorest economies but is getting a boost from gold production and tourism. Mr. Obama plans to meet with African business leaders there.

    China, Brazil, India and Turkey are becoming major investors in Africa. "It would not be in our interest for the United States to pull back at precisely the time when we see other nations stepping into Africa and increasing their own investments," said Rhodes.

    The president is bringing a group of American business leaders with him to demonstrate the U.S. interest in trade and investment, he added.

    "The point is Africa doesn't need handouts," Rhodes said. "Africa needs trade [and] economic growth."

    While some Africa advocates welcomed news of Mr. Obama's trip, they expressed concern that he might gloss over some regional governments' failings, such as reported instances of media and civil society repression.

    Sarah Pray, senior policy analyst at the Open Society Foundations, pointed to the Tanzanian government banning a Swahili-language newspaper and tensions over the timing of Zimbabwe's elections to ensure fairness.

    Countries like South Africa can help stabilize the region, she said, and Mr. Obama should make his expectations clear. "We need to make sure the improvements in human rights and democracy, and in the advances South Africa is making, that we don't see a backslide in those things."

    Related Resources

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    U.N. Country Rankings Show Fastest Progress in Developing Nations

    View all of our World coverage.

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    For more coverage of the Shelby County ruling by the Supreme Court, watch Tuesday's PBS NewsHour. (Courtroom sketches by W. J. Hennessy)

    The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Section 4 of the landmark Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion, "Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions."

    Follow along, below, for live reaction and analysis of the Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder.

    [View the story "SCOTUS Decisions: Tuesday" on Storify]

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    Arielle Atherley holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court before affirmative action arguments were heard on Oct. 10, 2012. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    The Supreme Court decided on Monday its first of four major cases this term, pushing a dispute over University of Texas' affirmative action policy back to the lower courts and handing ambiguous victories to both sides.

    The case, argued in October, has been long-awaited by court watchers, and many said Monday the delay in a decision may have come from the justices trying to reach an agreement that wouldn't split them ideologically. It was also a reminder that however big of a blockbuster a case is expected to be, the justices can always find a way to narrow its outcome.

    In Monday's decision, the court aligned seven justices in favor of petitioner Abigail Fisher, a 23-year-old white woman who did not win admission to the University of Texas at Austin despite its two-tiered admissions approach, which was to first accept students graduating in the top 10 percent of their classes and then to take into account race among other factors. Civil rights groups had feared the case could overturn a landmark 2003 decision that allowed state colleges and universities to use race in a holistic way for seeking diverse student populations.

    The court didn't go that far. Instead, it asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which oversees Texas, to test the university's policy in a more strenuous way.

    Race should be used in admissions only if "no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. The university would need to meet a legal test of "strict scrutiny" to continue its affirmative action practices, the court said.

    For supporters of affirmative action, that ruling meant the court still endorsed the use of affirmative action in higher education under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

    "This is a win for the principles of opportunity, diversity, and equality. Abigail Fisher's legal team failed to prove that she was discriminated against," Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. University of Texas president Bill Powers called it a "positive outcome."

    The U.S. government applauded the decision too. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the case's outcome "preserves the well-established legal principle that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body, and can lawfully pursue that interest in their admissions programs."

    However, Fisher, her backers and opponents of affirmative action said the decision helped them as well. It filled in questions that remained from the broad Grutter v. Bollinger ruling in 2003, which upheld affirmative action at the University of Michigan Law School, and it placed more legal limits on affirmative action practices, they said.

    Edward Blum, the director of the Project On Fair Representation who brought this case to the court and funded Fisher, said, "This decision begins the restoration of the original colorblind principles to our nation's civil rights laws. The Supreme Court has established exceptionally high hurdles for the University of Texas and other universities and colleges to overcome if they intend to continue using race preferences in their admissions policies. It is unlikely that most institutions will be able to overcome these hurdles."

    Fisher would prevail in the lower court, he added.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg alone wrote a dissent, offering her approval of the University of Texas' policy. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case.

    Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and Gail Heriot, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, joined Gwen Ifill on the NewsHour for a debate Monday.

    Bollinger, who was named in and won the landmark 2003 case that set the precedent, said he was pleased the court reaffirmed its past decision Monday.

    "There is a sense that universities will have to provide more evidence, perhaps more evidence, to support the programs. That shouldn't be a problem. The underlying principle is secure and sound," he said.

    But Heriot pointed out the court wasn't asked to address its past decisions.

    "I agree that this is not an earth-shaking opinion. Ms. Fisher did win the case," she said. "But essentially what the court did was clarify when it was willing to defer to academic expertise and when it wasn't willing."

    Watch Gwen's segment here or below.

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    The court tackled two other cases Monday that questioned whether employers or employees have more weight when dealing with discrimination in the workplace. In both cases, the court split 5-4 in favor of employers.

    "What they did, basically, in those cases was to raise the bar on what employees have to do in order to prove discrimination under Title VII, which is our nation's major job bias law. One of the decisions involved the definition of who is a supervisor," said Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    She analyzed those cases and the Fisher decision in a segment with Jeffrey Brown Monday. Watch their discussion here or below:

    Watch Video

    The coverage didn't end there.

    Online Politics Production Assistant Meena Ganesan manned our liveblog rounding up reaction to the affirmative action ruling from across the country, and Marcia Coyle's first take on the decision moments after the court announced it.

    The Atlantic's Garrett Epps caught a moment of what he called "inexcusable rudeness" from Justice Samuel Alito when Ginsburg read her dissent. It was reminiscent of Alito mouthing "not true" during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, when the president criticized the court's Citizen's United decision.

    The Fisher ruling isn't the only case this term, or even Monday, to handle questions of civil rights and discrimination.

    Tuesday and possibly later this week, the court plans to rule on its final six outstanding cases in the term, including the Proposition 8 case from California and the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Both could be landmark rulings on gay rights.

    A third major decision, on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, would look back to the civil rights era and history of discrimination in the South as it tests the Act's Section 5, a clause that requires U.S. Department of Justice oversight on any changes in voting practices in select states and counties.

    The NewsHour homepage will host SCOTUSblog's live coverage Tuesday beginning at 10 a.m.

    Don't miss the updates to our Oral History Hotline page, which collects audio memories from when the Voting Rights Act passed. And for more in-depth Supreme Court coverage of the 2012-2013 term, visit our Supreme Court page.


    The Senate bill to overhaul the country's immigration system easily cleared a key hurdle Monday with 67 lawmakers voting in favor of a Republican plan to bolster the legislation's border security elements. The final tally fell short of the 70 "yes" votes supporters of the proposal had hoped for, but still delivered a strong signal that final passage before the July Fourth recess was increasingly likely.

    The amendment, drafted by GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, would nearly double the number of border agents to 40,000 and require the completion of 700 miles of border fencing. It would cost roughly $40 billion.

    According to a Congressional Budget Office study released Monday, the Corker-Hoeven proposal "would reduce the net flow of unauthorized residents to the United States" compared with the Gang of Eight's base bill.

    In addition to Corker and Hoeven, 13 other Republicans voted for the measure. They included Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Jeff Chiesa of New Jersey, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Marco Rubio of Florida and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

    Flake, Graham, McCain and Rubio are members of the bipartisan group of eight senators that crafted the immigration overhaul.

    And the bill could draw additional GOP support, depending on how the amendment process plays out in coming days.

    Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, voted against shutting off debate Monday, but the Columbus Dispatch reports the Ohio Republican could support the final bill if it includes his provision to strengthen the E-Verify system that employers use to determine if they are hiring legal workers.

    The New York Times' Ashley Parker notes that Portman's amendment could be part of a broader agreement on a package of amendments:

    "As the procedural vote wound to a close Monday, the two sides were still working on a deal that would allow both Democrats and Republicans to bring up 10 more amendments each to the final bill -- an agreement that would likely allow Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, to introduce a provision to further strengthen the electronic employment verification system in the bill."

    The Washington Post updated its whip count following Monday's vote to reflect 51 "yes" or "likely yes" votes, and seven "undetermined."

    Even if supporters are able to peel off a couple more GOP votes for the final bill, it remains to be seen whether hitting the magic number of 70 will actually be enough to force Republicans in the House to take up the legislation.

    Ahead of the vote the American Conservative Union endorsed the Corker-Hoeven border security compromise and urged "all conservative senators" to back the amendment.

    And a group of evangelicals working for passage of the legislation has paid for a truck to drive a billboard around Capitol Hill. It hit the streets Monday:

    The Evangelical #Immigration Table's mobile billboard is driving around D.C. all week! #pray4reform#CIRfloorpic.twitter.com/HiDfevuREr

    — BBBimmigration (@BBBimmigration) June 24, 2013


    The NewsHour's Jenny Marder previews the president's climate change speech, which we will livestream Tuesday at 1:55 p.m. ET. Mr. Obama's plan is expected to include "provisions to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants," Marder reports.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that his chamber will not pass a short-term farm bill, and he challenged House Republicans to work out their differences.

    Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said Monday that an internal agency probe had found that staffers used additional inappropriate lists to screen groups applying for tax-exempt status. The agency acknowledged earlier this year that it had targeted conservative groups with "tea party" or patriot" in their names. Werfel did not provide information about the newfound scrutiny, but Democratic lawmakers said the targeting included liberals groups.

    The Supreme Court during its next term will hear a challenge to the legality of President Obama's recess appointments.

    The Los Angeles Times profiles political organizing prodigy Chad Griffin, who helped push the legal challenge of California's Proposition 8 to the Supreme Court and who leads the massive gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

    Mr. Obama discussed free expression with the Turkish Prime Minister Monday.

    Voters in Massachusetts head to the polls Tuesday to pick a new senator. A poll released Monday by Suffolk University found Democratic Rep. Ed Markey with a 10-point lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez, 52 percent to 42 percent.

    Who's "the most influential outside player" on immigration? National Journal's Tim Alberta profiles this leading opponent of immigration reform.

    Texas' Democratic House members managed to delay a vote on a restrictive abortion policy Monday, taking them one day closer to the end of the special session.

    Key aide Brett Loper is leaving Speaker John Boehner's office.

    Mitt Romney will give interviews for two 2012 campaign books -- one by the Washington Post's Dan Balz, and the sequel to "Game Change."

    The New York Times catches up with some of the women with whom former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner traded online and text messages. They're divided over their support for the Democrat's New York City mayoral candidacy.

    "Having a great time at Tashmoo," the note from the two Detroit teenagers read. It was preserved in a bottle and not discovered for 97 years until a diver happened upon it.

    Rusty the red panda was returned home safely to the National Zoo in Washington Monday. His disappearance set Twitter aflame with memes. But it turns out he was just hanging out in Adams Morgan.

    BuzzFeed gets down and dirty with the trash talk between female journalists and female members of Congress ahead of the Congressional Women's Softball Game Wednesday night.

    NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

    Political Editor Christina Bellantoni chatted with Data Producer Elizabeth Shell about the NewsHour's terrific "New Adventures for Older Workers" project. They dove into how data can indeed be cool, and Elizabeth said it was a "bold experiment" for our organization to spend a year putting together an interactive site. Watch here or below: Watch Video

    Did you know actor John Lithgow is also an enthusiastic fan of poetry? Watch him recite Sharon Olds' "I Go Back to May 1937" here or below: Watch Video

    Judy Woodruff spoke with Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley about their book "The Metropolitan Revolution," about how local officials are searching for new ways to make urban centers more livable.

    Irina Zhorov of the Fronteras Desk looks at an amusement park in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo that offers visitors a fake border crossing attraction.

    Kwame Holman interviewed Whit Ayers about prospects for immigration reform's passage.


    Every time Vitter mentions "masters of the universe" I wish he was talking about He-Man

    — Terence Burlij (@burlij) June 24, 2013

    We are looking for a missing red panda, a male named Rusty. He was last seen at 6 p.m. last night. pic.twitter.com/JHVB79x8XY

    — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) June 24, 2013

    At least 10 of you are wasting time making fake Rusty accounts instead of looking for him: http://t.co/aYmrk71ixJ

    — Mike Madden (@mikemadden) June 24, 2013

    .@NewtGingrich where were you last night between the hours of 5:00pm - 8:00pm? #FindRusty

    — Caroline Wren (@CarolineWren) June 24, 2013

    In response to red panda charges, I have an alibi, Callista and I were feeding our pet elephants all evening ( just a joke) help find panda

    — Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) June 24, 2013

    Red panda in our neighborhood! 20th NW and Biltmore. Please come save him! @nationalzoo1pic.twitter.com/llQF7P9QH5

    — Ashley Foughty (@AshleyFoughty) June 24, 2013

    Rusty the red panda has been recovered, crated & is headed safely back to the National Zoo!

    — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) June 24, 2013

    BREAKING: National Zoo staffers sent in pursuit of Edward Snowden.

    — Drew Cline (@DrewHampshire) June 24, 2013

    A couple awaits possible scotus decision on gay marriage outside the court with their son pic.twitter.com/COnURjxbNg

    — Elizabeth Summers (@elizsummers) June 24, 2013

    Couldn't visit #DC w/out stopping by @benschilibowl - its been open since 1958 - back when Eisenhower was President pic.twitter.com/nzTOJYvwnA

    — Larry King (@kingsthings) June 24, 2013

    You can become a #CitizenCosponsor of any bill you are passionate about. Check out some of the bills here: https://t.co/RW8f3vjxou

    — Eric Cantor (@GOPLeader) June 24, 2013

    Christina Bellantoni and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @tiffanymullonFollow @meenaganesanFollow @ljspbs

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    Edward Snowden is believed to be hiding in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has rejected U.S. pleas to extradite the admitted NSA leaker. Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images

    For former Vice President Dick Cheney, who helped set up the now-penetrated and leaked U.S. surveillance system of international phone calls and emails, the big question from the Edward Snowden affair is how did a contractor have access to such a trove of data.

    Snowden is on the run after publicly revealing elements of the government's surveillance program.

    Cheney spoke Monday at the South Korean-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies conference in Washington, D.C., for an event marking the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance and the armistice that ended the Korean war. His speech reiterated his harsh criticism of President Barack Obama's security and defense "policies of weakness."

    Taking audience questions, the former vice president, who was looking hale and hearty other than an occasional cough, said he was concerned that the former National Security Agency employee and contractor might have more information than he already has turned over to two newspapers and possibly now to Chinese and Russian interrogators.

    "It is difficult to understand how a contract employee had this kind of access," Cheney added.

    Cheney said the system established under the Bush administration was set up so tightly that only the president or a designated agent could access the kind of information that Snowden seemed to possess.

    Cheney added the concern that "(Snowden) may not have been the only one involved" and that he may have been fed information by someone deeper inside the NSA.

    "It's a major loss," Cheney said. "The final damage is yet unknown. He has done a lot already."

    But Cheney shied away from linking China to the Snowden case. Taking another question, he said on some issues such as economic espionage and hacking, China is an "adversary." But because of the growing economic relationship between China and the United States, "we want to normalize relations."

    Then, he added, "many of us are cautious."

    Michael D. Mosettig, PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense editor emeritus, watches wonks push policy in Washington's multitude of think tanks. From time to time, he writes dispatches on what those scholars and wannabe secretaries of state have in mind for Europe, Asia and Latin America.

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    The Supreme Court Tuesday struck down Section 4 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively ruling that the heart of the historical civil rights legislation was now unconstitutional, and that Congress would need to draft a new formula for deciding which states and localities warranted federal monitoring.

    Moments after the Supreme Court decision, we spoke with NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal. Listen to audio from her phone call or read a transcript of our brief conversation below:

    The court issued three decisions today, including one that has been closely watched by civil rights organizations.

    It involved the challenge to the Voting Rights Act, specifically, the court today in another split decision voted 5-4 to strike down the coverage formula under the Voting Rights Act.

    That's a formula that determines which jurisdictions in the country are required to get preclearance, or pre-approval from the Justice Department or a federal court of any changes in their voting practices.

    The opinion was written by Chief Justice Roberts, and he said the Court had warned Congress in 2009 that it saw some serious problems with the Voting Rights Act coverage formula. And, today, he said in 2009 they avoided reaching the constitutional issue but could not avoid it today.

    Chief Justice Roberts said the act imposes current burdens on states and local jurisdictions, and those burdens have to be based on current conditions. The formula for determining who's covered, he said, is 40 years old. and Congress did not update it when it voted in 2006 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.

    Justice Ginsburg read the dissenters views from the bench. She said that section 5 basically, which is the preapproval provision in the voting rights act, cannot operate without the coverage formula.

    So, in essence, what the court has done here is it has really handicapped the Justice Department and the federal court in overseeing voting practices that may discriminate in those jurisdictions that have been covered by the pre-approval provision in the Voting Rights Act

    Justice Ginsburg said that Congress in 2006 made a very earnest examination of voting conditions in the states and local jurisdictions that are covered by the Voting Rights Act and felt that the Voting Rights Act still needed to operate in those jurisdictions. She pointed to the 15,000 pages in the congressional record and numerous witnesses that Congress heard from. She said the Voting Rights Act is designed to fight second-generation barriers to voting, and she said the court really departed from the promise that Martin Luther King gave when he lead the March on Selma, that "the arc of time bends toward justice."

    So that's the major decision out of the court today. The Chief Justice indicated that tomorrow would be the final day of the term. We expect decisions on the two same sex marriage challenges.

    Related Content:

    Supreme Court Decisions: Voting Rights Act Reaction Live | June 25, 2013

    Our Past Still Speaks: Re-examining the Voting Rights Act | Feb. 26, 2013

    Remembering the Voting Rights Act of 1965 | Feb. 26, 2013

    Supreme Court Ponders Against Key Provision of Voting Rights Act | Feb. 27, 2013

    Is Discrimination History Provision of Voting Rights Act Still Relevant? | Feb. 27, 2013

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    All right Phish fans, get ready: the PBS NewsHour's profile of Trey Anastasio will air Tuesday, July 2.

    Phish lead singer and guitarist Trey Anastasio spoke with Art Beat's Jeffrey Brown at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    We will be releasing short video teasers from the interview up until our piece airs and then posting the entire 30 minute conversation with Jeffrey Brown online after the broadcast at 7 p.m. EDT.

    Today, enjoy a clip where Anastasio talks about his relationship with you, the phans. He discusses how he recognizes and feels a connection with many of the faces he's seen dancing in the crowd for the last 30 years.

    We want to hear from you. Send us your pictures and memories from your favorite Phish shows. Visit our Public Insight Network to submit your stories and photos.

    I'll also tweet when the other videos are released. You can find them added to this post. Stay tuned!

    Follow @mike_melia

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    Audra McDonald has gone back home... And, that's the title of her first solo record in seven years, "Go Back Home," released at the end of May.

    The five-time Tony winner features works by a wide range of musical theater composers and tips her hat to her roots on Broadway. For the past four years, she lived in Los Angeles, playing Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC's hit medical drama "Private Practice" and trying new creative ventures, but the Grammy Award-winning soprano wanted to return to New York full time -- and record again.

    Jeffrey Brown sat down with her recently in Washington to talk about her latest album, her varied career and her record-tying fifth Tony Award last year for her role in the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess," re-imagined by director Diane Paulus and Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks The revived production was controversial and criticized by the likes of composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

    McDonald plays Bess in the revival of the opera that debuted on Broadway in 1935. It's set in the fictional, poor, African-American fishing community named Catfish Row on the South Carolina coast. Tune in tonight to watch our profile of McDonald.

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    The "Bad News Babes" face off against female members of Congress Wednesday for the annual charity Congressional Women's Softball Game.

    Washington, D.C. -- The sun had yet to peek above the tops of multi-colored rowhouses in a neighborhood not far from the U.S. Capitol. While many were just drinking their first cup of coffee, a group of women were running laps and getting ready to play softball.

    These are the "Bad News Babes," female journalists covering politics in Washington. During early morning softball practices, they are working to maintain their title as the annual Congressional Women's Softball Game champions.

    Now in its fifth year, the game is a friendly athletic competition between congresswomen and the females who cover them. The game raises money for the Young Survival Coalition, which works with young women who have breast cancer.

    The teams have been meeting at least twice a week to practice and perfect their swings. "This is the best part of the year, this two months where we practice at 7 a.m. about 20 times leading up to the game," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the NewsHour.

    The press team remains focused on repeating their strong performance from last year, when they won 13-10. Bad News Babes co-captain Abby Livingston of CQ Roll Call credits her team's continued success and improvement, in part, to the recruitment efforts of their coach, New York Times Washington editor Carl Hulse. "He has a very good eye for talent within his own newsrooms," Livingston said.

    This year's most promising rookies, according to Livingston, include New York Times' Jill Agostino, NPR's Tamara Keith, Real Clear Politics' Caitlin Huey-Burns and PBS NewsHour's own Political Editor Christina Bellantoni.

    For the members of Congress, team dynamics have radically shifted thanks to new blood -- a historic number of women were elected to office in November, including Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; and Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala.

    Competition isn't limited to game day. As early as the new-member swearing-in this winter, Congresswomen were exchanging friendly jabs with the press, Livingston said.

    "It's an occupational hazard for me," Livingston said. "I cannot go down to votes and do my job as a reporter without having various members taunt, glare, jeer. ... I've kind of taken the lead on a lot of the trash talk on social media so I've kind of made myself an easy target as well."

    Wasserman Schultz, the congresswomen's team co-captain, admitted that Livingston's "trash talk" does keep her motivated: "I just have the most interest in belting the ball to ensure that the press team loses this year."

    All the proceeds of the game go to the Young Survival Coalition. All the proceeds of the game go to the Young Survival Coalition, which works with young women who have breast cancer. Last year the women raised $62,000 and they are on target to raise more than $250,000 for the organization since the inception of the game in 2009. This year, CQ Roll Call even created a fantasy softball contest as another way fans can participate and donate ahead of the first pitch.

    While the competition is fierce, members of both teams said it's all for the cause. Livingston summed it up: "We do like coming out and fighting and ... the smack talk, but it's all about creating a spectacle that directs attention to this disease that affects so many people."

    Video shot and edited by Ellen Rolfes and Cindy Huang


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    GWEN IFILL: It's considered one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed. But, by 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court today took the teeth out of a law enacted nearly 50 years ago.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark law in 1965, and ever since, the Voting Rights Act has policed voting discrimination. But today's decision effectively puts it on hold.

    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the five-member majority, said the law originally distinguished between states that had used barriers to minority voting and had low voter turnout and those that had not. But he wrote, "Today, the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were."

    Edward Blum, speaking for officials in Shelby County, Ala., who made the challenge to the voting act, welcomed the outcome.

    EDWARD BLUM, Project on Fair Representation: This decision restores an important constitutional order to our system of government and that requires that all 50 states and every jurisdiction have the laws applied equally to them.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The decision leaves the heart of the law, Section 5, on the books. It requires states mainly in the Deep South to get federal approval before changing voting procedures or districts. But the court majority said it cannot be enforced until Congress comes up with new rules for getting that approval, thus moving the responsibility across the street to the Capitol.

    Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said that's now where her organization will focus.

    SHERRILYN IFILL, President, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: We believe that Congress is in a better position than the Supreme Court to determine how voting discrimination plays out in this country. We're disappointed, but now the ball is in Congress' court.

    KWAME HOLMAN: In a statement, President Obama said he was deeply disappointed with the court's decision and urged Congress to restore federal oversight.

    In the meantime, Attorney General Eric Holder insisted the Justice Department will continue to monitor changes in state and local voting laws.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER, United States: Let me be very clear. We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action using every legal tool that remains to us against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling by hindering eligible citizens' full and free exercise of the franchise.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Still, today's decision apparently clears the way for several high-profile laws to take effect, including stricter voter I.D. requirements in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas that drew objections from civil rights groups.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And back with us tonight of course is Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    So, tonight, Marcia, Justice Roberts speaking for the court saying in essence the world has changed, but the law has not.

    MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal: He has, Jeff, and here's how he explained his ruling. He read a summary of it from the bench this morning. He began by saying how the Voting Rights Act is a dramatic departure from certain fundamental principles in the Constitution and in our government.

    For example, states are given broad powers under the Constitution to regulate elections, and also fundamental to the structure of government is a belief, a commitment, to the equal sovereignty of the state. So the Voting Rights Act, he said, when it imposes current burdens as it does has to be justified by current conditions, and the coverage formula doesn't do that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just remind us of that formula. It's the so-called pre-clearance right, where they have to apply to say what they're going to do?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, there are two sections of the Voting Rights Act that operate in tandem. The coverage formula determines which states or jurisdictions have to conform to Section 5, which is pre-approval. Any coverage jurisdiction has to get approval of any voting changes from the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington, D.C.

    It was the coverage formula, not the pre-approval process, that the court struck down today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So the question for the court, and you said Justice Roberts is looking at whether racial minorities continue to face voting discrimination. What evidence was he citing?

    MARCIA COYLE: He agreed that there is still discrimination today, but the rub here is the coverage formula. He said when Congress designed the formula, it was meant to capture voting tests like literacy tests and also states in which there was low minority voting registration and turnout.

    Well, he said, voting tests have been eradicated and registration and turnout of minorities in some of the covered states is actually much higher than even in states that are not covered. So the formula, he said, wasn't meeting current conditions. It was based on data and practices from the 1960s and 1970s.

    He also discounted the government's argument that Congress had created this enormous record, 15,000 pages in 2006, to justify the reauthorization, incidents of current and past discriminatory practices. And he said that Congress didn't use that record to shape a formula that responded to those current conditions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the dissent was from Justice Ginsburg, and she referred to what she called second-generation -- what are called second-generation barriers to voting.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, and she had two points.

    On that, she said the court really didn't -- the majority didn't really engage Congress' record here. She said Congress had overwhelming evidence of current, recent discrimination in voting that was egregious by the covered states. It wasn't, she said, the voting practices, the tests and registration and turnout.

    It was second-generation discrimination. It's more subtle. It can involve moving a polling place to a location where minorities have no transportation or even racial gerrymandering of redistricting. So she felt that the majority really didn't address what Congress did here.

    But her second point was, she said fundamentally this case comes down to, who should decide, a court or a Congress, which is explicitly empowered by the 14th and 15th Amendment to enforce the anti-discrimination mandates in those amendments? And she said where Congress has produced 15,000 pages of legislative findings, the court should defer to Congress.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, this is a decision that has almost immediate practical effect, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: It does, judging by what some of the comments have been by some governors. The governor of Texas said that the I.D., photo I.D. law for voter registration will go into effect immediately. It's considered the most stringent in the country.

    Also, some of the redistricting plans that have been pending, there is no reason now, it would seem, unless the states and jurisdictions that are -- that have been covered by Section 4 want to see what the Justice Department thinks, to actually ask the Justice Department or a federal court whether they're violating the voting rights law.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, short of that, the court is saying it's back in your hands, Congress.

    MARCIA COYLE: It's up to Congress, the chief justice said, to craft the formula that responds to current conditions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, now I want to talk -- I want to ask you about another decision today. This was the so-called “Baby Veronica” case and it has involved adoption and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right.

    This was a custody dispute. A single mother had a child of Indian heritage, Cherokee, a member of the Cherokee tribe, and the biological father wasn't involved in supporting the pregnancy. Even though he wanted to marry her, she declined. When she decided to put the child up for adoption, he asserted his paternity. The dispute went into court. South Carolina courts found that the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is designed to protect the integrity Indian families ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, it's based on a lot of past bad history. Right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Bad, bad history of Indian children being removed -- applied, and awarded custody to the father after finding he would be a fit father.

    The court today, in another divided opinion, this one by Justice Alito, really parsed two provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, words to the effect of continued custody of the child and a provision designed to prevent the breakup of Indian families, and said that the act doesn't apply here. The father never had continued custody, and there was no Indian family being broken up.

    So the case was sent back to the South Carolina courts to determine who -- under South Carolina law, probably, who should get the child.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so the practical impact is, it goes back to this lower court, but it's not clear what will happen to the child at this point?

    MARCIA COYLE: It's not because the Cherokee tribe as well as the father could again try to assert their rights under that law.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, as you said, this was another 5-4 decision, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, it was. The court split ideologically, as well as in the Voting Rights Act.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is it a different ideology?

    MARCIA COYLE: It's slightly different. Justice Breyer joined the majority in the Indian Child Welfare Act. Justice Scalia joined the dissenters. He said the father is the biological parent, wants custody, he's fit, he should have it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. And now we know that we are going to see you tomorrow, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes. Tomorrow is the last day of the current term, and we're expecting to see how the court wraps up the two same-sex marriage laws.

    And then there's another case that probably nobody will have any interest in whatsoever tomorrow.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We have got a lot of interest in what comes out of tomorrow.

    MARCIA COYLE: Absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And we will see you. And we have a cot down the hall if you want to stay over the night.

    MARCIA COYLE: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But we will see you tomorrow. Marcia Coyle, thanks.

    MARCIA COYLE: Thank you. My pleasure.

    GWEN IFILL: And we’ll have more on next steps for the Voting Rights Act shortly.


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