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- 06/26/13--11:52: _San Francisco Wakes...
- 06/26/13--12:22: _Valley Fever: 10 Th...
- 06/26/13--14:01: _15 Federal Benefits...
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- 06/26/13--15:09: _Why You Need an Eme...
- 06/26/13--15:13: _News Wrap: Border S...
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- 06/25/13--15:12: News Wrap: Russia Refuses to Turn Snowden Over to U.S. Authorities
- 06/25/13--15:28: Reactions to the White House Proposal to Curb Climate Change
- 06/25/13--19:29: Supreme Court to Rule on Pair of Same-Sex Marriage Cases
- 06/26/13--06:22: Marriage Cases Captivate Nation Awaiting SCOTUS' Final Rulings
- 06/26/13--07:10: Live Reaction: Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of DOMA
- 06/26/13--11:52: San Francisco Wakes Up to a Celebration for Same-Sex Marriage
- 06/26/13--12:22: Valley Fever: 10 Things CDC Says You Should Know
- 06/26/13--14:01: 15 Federal Benefits Same-Sex Couples Can Now Look Forward To
- 06/26/13--15:13: News Wrap: Border Security Amendment Gets Formal Senate Approval
HARI SREENIVASAN: The diplomatic dispute over Edward Snowden escalated today, as Russia rejected American appeals to hand him over. Instead, the confessed leaker of secret surveillance programs remained at a Moscow airport terminal.
Snowden himself remained out of sight for a second day, but Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed his whereabouts during a news conference in Finland.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia: Mr. Snowden definitely visited Moscow. For us, this is totally unexpected. He has not crossed the state's border and therefore doesn't need a visa. And any accusations against Russia of aiding him are ravings and rubbish. He's in the transit hall as a transit passenger now.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In essence, Putin argued, unless Snowden passes through immigration procedures at the airport, he's technically not in Russia. Putin also denied Russian intelligence has talked to Snowden and he refused to send the fugitive back to face U.S. charges of espionage.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: As for extradition, there is no possibility. We can hand over foreign citizens to country with which we have an appropriate international agreement on the extradition of criminals. We don't have such an agreement with the United States.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier, in Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged there's no extradition treaty with Russia, but he said that's no obstacle.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: We're not looking for a confrontation. We're not ordering anybody. We're simply requesting under a very normal procedure for the transfer of somebody, just as we transferred to Russia seven people in the last two years that they requested that we did without any clamor, without any rancor, without any argument.
HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. officials have complained that Hong Kong let Snowden leave on Sunday, even though it does have an extradition treaty with the U.S. Today, Chinese officials said the complaints are baseless.
In the meantime, Snowden was apparently in limbo, waiting for word on whether Ecuador will grant him asylum.
In Afghanistan today, Taliban militants stormed the presidential palace compound in Kabul. The raid set off a 90-minute gun battle. Video from the scene showed smoke rising above the heavily guarded area. All eight assailants and three guards died. Afghan officials said President Karzai was there, but was unharmed.
The attack came despite the Taliban's recent commitment to join peace talks with the U.S.
Government troops in Lebanon have secured the complex of a hardline Sunni cleric after two days of fighting there. The clashes took place in the port city of Sidon. Officials say at least 17 soldiers and 20 militants were killed. The Sunni cleric, Sheik Ahmad al-Assir, has preached against Hezbollah. That Shiite movement is aiding the Syrian government in its war with Sunni rebels.
A lone lawmaker in the Texas State Senate mounted a one-woman filibuster today to block strict new abortion curbs. Democrat Wendy Davis plans to talk for 13 hours without sitting or taking a bathroom break. If she makes it until midnight, a special session of the state legislature will automatically adjourn. Her target is a Republican bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The day's economic news was mostly positive. A series of reports found consumer confidence at its highest level in more than five years; home prices up by the most in seven years; and factory orders for big-ticket goods higher for the third month in a row. It all sounded good to Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 100 points to close at 14,760. The Nasdaq rose 27 points to close near 3,348.
The Chicago Blackhawks celebrated today after winning the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup with a stunning comeback. The Blackhawks trailed in game six last night with just 1:16 left on the clock, when they scored two goals within 17 seconds to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2. Hours later, they returned home, with the Cup, for the second time in four seasons.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we return to our coverage of today's Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act.
Ray Suarez examines how the law has shaped voting across the country.
RAY SUAREZ: And we turn to Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation. He helped Shelby County bring its challenge to the Voting Rights Act. And Sherrilyn Ifill is president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. You saw both of them earlier outside the courtroom in Kwame Holman's report.
And full disclosure: Sherrilyn Ifill is Gwen Ifill's cousin.
Let's start with the basics.
Did the Voting Rights Act, Edward Blum, do what it was passed to do in 1965?
EDWARD BLUM, Project on Fair Representation: Thank goodness it did.
It ended the widespread and insidious acts of racial disenfranchisement throughout the Deep South and elsewhere. And it's a great testament to the evolution of our nation that the court today felt that the Voting Rights Act had done its thing and was no longer necessary. I think that's a good thing for the country, and I think it speaks well to the character of the American people, both in the North and the South.
RAY SUAREZ: Sherrilyn Ifill, same question.
SHERRILYN IFILL, President, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: Well, of course, the Voting Rights Act has been called the crown jewel of civil rights litigation because it has been so effective.
But has it completed its work? By no means. And that's why in 2006 when Congress was looking at whether to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, they went through almost a year of hearings and heard testimony and looked at racial discrimination and voting in this country. They amassed a 15,000-page record that demonstrated the ongoing problem of racial discrimination in voting in jurisdictions throughout this country.
And, of course, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution says that Congress has the power to enforce the ban on voting discrimination that's set out in the 15th Amendment, not the Supreme Court. And so it really hardly matters whether the Supreme Court feels that things are good enough to get rid of the Voting Rights Act. What matters is, what did Congress determine and did they do their job responsibly?
RAY SUAREZ: But Section 4, which was specifically struck down today, didn't apply to the nation as a whole. It applied to certain sections of the country that were singled out for extra scrutiny from Congress. Could you imagine a time where those places would come out from under that? Because, today, the Supreme Court could.
SHERRILYN IFILL: Sure. Sure. I can imagine a time, and I don't even have to imagine it, because the law also includes a provision called bailout that allows jurisdictions that have not run afoul of the Voting Rights Act over a 10-year period to be removed from the requirements of the law.
And every jurisdiction that has sought bailout since the enactment of the statute has been granted bailout. All Shelby County, Ala., had to do and all the state of Alabama has to do is not discriminate against racial minorities in voting for 10 years to get out from under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
So there's a door out, but the door out is premised on a jurisdiction that ensures that its voting processes are equal, open, and fair.
RAY SUAREZ: Edward Blum, of all of the places that are now not under the scrutiny of pre-clearance, do they belong there? Have they, as Sherrilyn Ifill suggests, earned their way out?
EDWARD BLUM: Well, I think many of them have earned their way out and I feel that it was Congress' responsibility back in 2006 not just to examine those jurisdictions that were put into this coverage back in 1965, but also to look outside of these jurisdictions in places like Ohio and Indiana and Illinois and Michigan.
Congress failed to do that. Congress assumed that because these were bad actors bad in 1965, that they are continuing to be bad actors. If Congress had cast a wider net, looked carefully at those states that were covered, made a determination some perhaps should stay in, some perhaps should come out, but also looked at the rest of the country, then I don't think we would have this decision today.
Congress failed to do that, even though in 2009, the Supreme Court warned them that something like this could happen if another ...
RAY SUAREZ: So you could have countenanced a Section 4 that was spread even in more widely over the United States?
EDWARD BLUM: I could have countenanced a Section 4 that swept in bad actors, but swept out good actors.
And if that meant that parts of Alabama were to be swept out, yet parts of Illinois and Massachusetts would be swept in, I can live with that. And I think most of the supporters of the Voting Rights Act could. Congress failed to do that.
That's why we're here, where we are.
SHERRILYN IFILL: If Mr. Blum could live with that, then he wouldn't have been behind the effort to challenge the Voting Rights Act, because, in fact, I just described a bailout provision in the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act has a bail-in provision.
It allows jurisdictions that are not covered by Section 5 of the act who have engaged in discrimination and who have been found by a judge to engage in discrimination to be bailed in. Arkansas was bailed in for a time. New Mexico was bailed in for a time. So any jurisdiction, including the jurisdictions that you have identified, who have engaged in voting practices that have been found by a judge to discriminate in voting can under the strictures of Section 5 be bailed into the Voting Rights Act.
The genius of the statute is that it has a door that goes both ways. The problem is that jurisdictions, many jurisdictions, have not simply done the job that they need to do in order to be permitted to get out.
RAY SUAREZ: But, as you heard Mr. Blum point out, Congress was also not using the mechanics that's right there in the law to separate the good and bad actors.
SHERRILYN IFILL: Well, I'm not sure exactly what that means. The mechanics that are in the law are the provisions that allow jurisdictions working with the Justice Department and federal judges to allow jurisdictions to either exit or to compel jurisdictions to enter the provisions of the act.
Congress made a statute that it thought was going to survive precisely because it had this ability to move states in and out. What Congress did in 2006 was it looked at the current states that were under the provisions of Section 5 and it looked at voting discrimination in those states to determine whether they should still be covered, and what it found, to its surprise, I should say, was that there was an overwhelming evidence of voting discrimination continuing in those covered jurisdictions.
And as a result, Congress reauthorized the formula to cover those jurisdictions and maintain the bailout and bail-in provisions that allow some states to come in or jurisdictions to come in and some jurisdictions to go out.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, now the action moves to Congress, Mr. Blum. Can they design a successor to the struck-down part of the law that will do the things you want and also provide the protections Ms. Ifill wants?
EDWARD BLUM: Well, I was on another panel earlier today with Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, and he was quite clear about this. -
He thinks that there is momentum in Congress across the aisle to do a do-over, if you will. Congress can systematically look at voting conditions for minorities from coast to coast, from Maine to California, Florida to Washington, and do a thorough analysis of what is happening today. If they can identify repeat offenders who are intentionally disenfranchising or diluting the votes of minorities, then those jurisdictions can be targeted by Congress and Section 5 will have an opportunity to prevent them from doing that in the future.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, now that it's moved across the street the Supreme Court to Capitol Hill, what do you think the chances are?
SHERRILYN IFILL: We feel pretty confident. The Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized several times and always with a bipartisan Congress, signed, the reauthorization, in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan, the reauthorization signed by President George W. Bush in 2006.
It's never been a Democrats' -- Democratic statute or Republican statute. It's always been bipartisan. It's always been about democracy. I think the real question on the table is really, are people like Mr. Blum and is a majority of the United States Supreme Court willing to allow Congress to do the job that the framers of the Civil War amendments said Congress should do, which is that Congress should have the power to make the judgment about how best to do it?
Sure, they can come up with another formula, but are we willing to credit the United States Congress with the authority that it has under the 15th Amendment to do precisely that?
RAY SUAREZ: Sherrilyn Ifill and Edward Blum, thank you both.
SHERRILYN IFILL: Thank you.
EDWARD BLUM: My pleasure.
JEFFREY BROWN: Online, you can listen to stories collected through our Oral History Hotline. We asked what people remember about the Voting Rights Act.
And, as we heard from Marcia, the court will hand down its final decisions tomorrow, including the highly anticipated rulings on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. And we will carry live coverage from SCOTUSblog beginning at 10:00 a.m. on our home page. And while you're there, you can review our full Supreme Court coverage from this term.
GWEN IFILL: The president today renewed a pledge he has been making since 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming. This time, he plans to exert executive authority to force action.
With today's announcement, the president zeroed in on the new and existing power plants that burn coal and turn out 40 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As a president, as a father, and as an American, I'm here to say, we need to act.
GWEN IFILL: It's the heart of his plan unveiled at Georgetown University in Washington to fight climate change.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That's not right, that's not safe, and it needs to stop.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Obama also called for letting wind and solar energy projects use public lands to generate more power.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The plan I'm announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun. Today, I'm directing the Interior Department to green-light enough private renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than six million homes by 2020.
GWEN IFILL: Without announcing a decision, the president singled out the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would transport crude oil, extract it from Canadian tar sands to the Gulf Coast. He said it should only be approved if it doesn't worsen carbon pollution.
The overall planned joined the administration's earlier initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions, from implementing new fuel-efficiency standards for American vehicles, to the recent agreement with China to reduce hydrofluorocarbons. Today's actions would allow the president to sidestep Congress and act by executive order, but lawmakers could still try to thwart him.
Even before the speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor in opposition.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: Americans want commonsense policies to make energy cleaner and more affordable, the operative phrase being commonsense, because Americans are also deeply concerned about jobs and the economy. That's what the president should be focused on. Incredibly, it appears to be the furthest thing from his mind.
GWEN IFILL: But the president said climate change skeptics miss the point, that with the 12 hottest years on record all happening in the past 15 years, it's time to end the global warming debate.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don't have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.
Sticking your hand in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm.
GWEN IFILL: Today's announcement drew a cautious response from the power industry, while environmental groups mostly endorsed the president's approach.
GWEN IFILL: We get two views about these plans and the potential impact. Frances Beinecke is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, an environmental advocacy group. And Scott Segal is a lobbyist and partner with Bracewell & Giuliani. The firm represents a number of big utilities that have coal-fired power plants, as well as companies pushing for the Keystone pipeline extension.
Frances Beinecke, the president said today that he's going direct EPA to work with the states to establish pollution standards for new and existing plants. At first blush, it doesn't sound like a lot.
FRANCES BEINECKE, President, Natural Resources Defense Council: Well, actually, our power plants are 40 percent of our carbon emissions, so if we want to get on the president's plan to reduce our carbon emissions by 17 percent, we have to take the carbon pollution coming from our power plants head on.
And by directing EPA under the Clean Air Act, the president can put in standards to reduce those emissions significantly. NRDC's analysis shows that we can reduce those emissions by 26 percent, which would be 10 percent of our carbon footprint right now. So it's the single most important thing the president can do to get us on a trajectory towards a safer climate future.
GWEN IFILL: Is that a reasonable or even a laudable goal?
SCOTT SEGAL, Partner, Bracewell & Giuliani: Well, what the president did today was raise the profile of the issue. And that is certainly laudable.
In terms of suggesting new proposals or moving us in new directions, I think a lot of what constitute the president's plan are strands that had already been on the table, and he perhaps accentuated them a little bit in order to move them forward.
With respect to power plants, I think what most Americans know is that the local power company is already an intensely regulated organization. And even in this administration, some of the most expensive rules in the history of Environmental Protection Agency have come down in the last couple of years regulating these facilities.
As far as the cost concern with reducing carbon from power plants, we don't know exactly what the president is going to do or what the EPA will do at the end of the day, but if we look, for example, to the cost estimates that were done last time Congress debated significant limitations on power plants, we saw a very credible assessment that talked about hundreds of billions of dollars in lost gross domestic product and several million in net lost jobs, even when you take into account any new jobs that might be created.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask Frances Beinecke about it. There is this cost effect on whether there are more jobs created or more jobs lost. Which is so?
FRANCES BEINECKE: Well, actually, it's a lively debate.
What we have seen is, in the last several years, the unleashing of renewable energy, the commitment to investing in efficiency creates large numbers of jobs. The single fastest growing part of energy generation right now is in the renewable sector in both solar and wind.
So jobs are being created in the clean energy sector. And we have seen more and more opportunity. What the president really focused on was we need to invest in American innovation, invest in a clean energy future, invest in the things that will make this most cost-effective, which is investing in efficiency.
GWEN IFILL: And what some people heard was the president declaring a war on coal.
FRANCES BEINECKE: Well, I don't think -- I think that's focusing on the wrong thing. This is not a war on coal. This is a commitment to the future of our children and a safe climate future.
For those of us who experienced extreme weather events in the last year -- for example, I live in New York. Hurricane Sandy, I can assure you, was devastating. Over $140 billion dollars was spent last year in the United States on extreme weather events, drought, fire, hurricanes. We can't afford that as a nation. We have to invest in a clean energy future that reduces that threat.
GWEN IFILL: Is it possible to invest in a clean energy future with fossil fuels?
SCOTT SEGAL: Absolutely.
In fact, the president's own presentation mentions on two separate occasions the need to invest in clean coal. Fortunately, he also embraces a proposal for new power plants, carbon emissions that would quite potentially discourage investment, innovation in these new facilities.
If I was sure or even a little bit sure that we could reduce severe weather events because of anything announced today, this would be an entirely different debate. But the unfortunate reality is this. Today was all about unilateral action and putting -- and frankly putting the international leadership with airy rhetoric at the end of the speech.
That's exactly backwards. If we undertake unilateral action of this sort, we actually give away our ability to negotiate comprehensive international agreements, and worse yet, by increasing energy prices in the United States, we export manufacturing facilities overseas and then have to import those goods back to the United States, with the potential of actually increasing carbon emissions, unless we approach these regulations very, very carefully.
GWEN IFILL: Is executive action or unilateral action, as Scott Segal puts it, is that the way to approach this?
FRANCES BEINECKE: I think what the president is demonstrating, what he said very clearly, particularly regarding international, is the United States has to lead.
It's our responsibility as the largest economy and the second largest emitter to show how we can have a future that's safe for climate -- for our climate future.
GWEN IFILL: But the president has to lead, not necessarily Congress.
FRANCES BEINECKE: The president has to lead.
He has the executive authority. We all know we cannot get -- there's no path through Congress right now, and yet the climate scourge is increasing and increasing and increasing. So the president is demonstrating his commitment. He made that commitment in the inaugural address. He made hit in the State of the Union, and what he did today was told the American public the path that he's going to follow using his authority. It's an important moment.
GWEN IFILL: The president said today also in this speech that he wouldn't approve the Keystone pipeline, much-debated Keystone pipeline plan, if it added to carbon emissions. But it's unclear whether it does or not. So, how did you read that, as good news or bad news for your side?
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, it was a change, what the president said, from the printed text to what he actually said at Georgetown.
What he actually said was very fascinating. He said he wouldn't approve it if there were a significant net increase in carbon emissions. Well, that question when -- it's already been asked and answered. The State Department has said there's not a significant net increase in carbon emissions, because the Canadians might have been born last at night, but -- they might have been born at night, but they weren't born last night.
And that -- oil sands, that bitumen from oil sands is going to find its way to the United States and probably to other international markets, whether there's a KXL pipeline or not. As a result, the irony is if you don't build a state-of-the-art pipeline, you increase carbon emissions.
GWEN IFILL: I have heard the opposite.
FRANCES BEINECKE: I think that's wrong.
I think what the president was saying, he was setting a very high bar. He was showing that his bar for addressing and making a decision on the Keystone pipeline was different from what he has said in the past. He was saying this can't be more deleterious to climate.
EPA, in reviewing the State Department document, said carbon would increase as a result of this. And the fact is that the Canadians turned down one of their routes, the route out through British Columbia. So they can't even get it out from their own country. Why should we take it through ours? In our view, we should turn it down.
SCOTT SEGAL: Well, we're already taking that bitumen into the United States through Canadian pipelines and then to railroad, to rail traffic, which has a deeper carbon footprint.
GWEN IFILL: But you both assured -- you both heard good news from what the president said.
SCOTT SEGAL: Well ...
FRANCES BEINECKE: I heard good news. I bet Scott didn't.
SCOTT SEGAL: I heard -- no, no.
In fact, the supporters of the Keystone pipeline actually regard the president's -- what Frances called the high bar as a bar that's already been met. I must say it's a little difficult to put all the pieces together. I do agree with that.
GWEN IFILL: Well, we will wait and see what the announcement actually is.
But, in the meantime, thank you so much for helping us understand today's.
And you can watch the president's full speech on our YouTube page.
JEFFREY BROWN: Next: spreading the word about the new health reform law.
It's a crucial challenge for the federal government and states, creating so-called insurance exchanges. Last week, an independent arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, reported that work is running behind. Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters she still believes seven million people will enroll in the first year of the program. But she acknowledged, "The most daunting aspect is that people still don't know enough about what's going to change in the law, and still have some misinformation."
NewsHour health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser reports on Colorado's efforts to tackle the problem.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The employees at Confluence Kayaks in Denver make it look easy. Their boards and boats seem to slip through the white-water rapids where the Platte and Cherry Creek rivers come together. But no fear is no substitute for insurance when one of them gets hurt.
JOHN KAHN, Confluence Kayaks: I had an employee who was injured last fall in a kayaking accident, and that kind of opened all of our eyes that we're not invincible and that accidents do happen.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And it brought home to owner John Kahn how important health insurance can be when something goes wrong in a dangerous business he's owned for 18 years.
JOHN KAHN: I have a small business with three or four full-time employees, and adding health insurance as a benefit was just kind of cost-prohibitive.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But now Kahn is hoping he may be able to offer health coverage because Colorado is one of 16 states that’s going to run an insurance exchange. The other states will partner with a federally managed marketplace.
The idea is to get millions of people who currently don't have health insurance to be able to buy it at affordable prices. The new insurance marketplace, called Connect for Health Colorado, starts enrolling individuals and small businesses on Oct. 1.
JOHN KAHN: I don't know a whole lot about it. I have definitely gotten health plans quoted from the major health care companies. And I think the exchange might make that easier to compare the plans, but I don't know a whole lot beyond that.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And that's the problem. State internal polling found only 10 percent of Coloradans know about the new marketplace. National surveys mirror similar findings. So health officials all across the country are scrambling for private and federal grants to help get people educated and enrolled.
Under the Affordable Care Act, almost every American must buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014.
NARRATOR: At Connect for Health Colorado, you can shop, compare, pick, and purchase the health plan that is right for you.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Colorado has become the first state to reach out to residents with a $12 million dollar ad campaign.
NARRATOR: Connect for Health Colorado, because when health insurance companies compete, there is only one winner. You.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Patty Fontneau, the CEO of Connect for Health, knows she has her work cut out for her.
PATTY FONTNEAU, CEO, Connect for Health: It's really going to be a two-part discussion, which is, what's going on? What is this? What does the law require? What's going to be available to me? And then the second is, how do I do it? And how do I get it done? And how do I make sure it's the best thing for me?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In addition to advertising, the exchange will spend at least another $12 million dollars trying to reach the public directly using newly hired employees called navigators or guides.
PATTY FONTNEAU: What the health coverage guide will say is, let's sit down and take a look at the number of plans that are available. Who is your physician? Let's make sure your physician is in this network. What hospital will you use? What kind of a deductible might be feasible for you and your family? What are the kinds of costs you're able to pay on a monthly basis?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: That's not exactly a 10-minute discussion.
PATTY FONTNEAU: We don't expect it to be a 10-minute discussion. This is -- health insurance can be confusing.
JOHN KUENNING, Vice President, Metro Community Provider Network: I think it's a huge, huge project.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: John Kuenning is vice president of the Metro Community Provider Network, which operates 19 clinics in the Denver area. They serve people who have little or no insurance.
JOHN KUENNING: The numbers we're hearing are, there are 800,000 uninsured in the state. Probably 600,000 to 700,000 of those will need to be educated by September, so that they can make decisions in October about what to enroll in. I think it's a monumental task. And I'm not sure how they're going to pull that off.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: He's also worried about the confusion and stress that his patients are feeling about the upcoming changes.
MICHELLE BLEDSOE, Colorado: I would love to have more information. Ever since this reform, this health care reform, they keep talking about it, but they don't ever give us any kind of details of what is going to happen or how it's going to affect any of us.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Michelle Bledsoe doesn't make enough money to afford health insurance and makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid. That's why she comes to the clinic, where care is offered on a sliding scale.
When the new federal law kicks in next year, many people who come here will likely qualify for a government subsidy that may make coverage affordable; 13 insurance companies have agreed to participate on the Colorado exchange. They will offer more than 240 different plans. Like all the other states, there will be various levels to choose from. In Colorado, a bronze or basic package for a 40-year-old nonsmoker starts at $177 dollars a month.
More generous plans go up from there, silver, $232 dollars, gold, $273 dollars, and the platinum would cost $311 dollars a month for an individual.
MICHELLE BLEDSOE: I think that would be very overwhelming, from not having any kind of choice, just kind of accepting what you can get, to all these random choices. It is overwhelming.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In order to make the exchange eventually pay for itself, the outgoing insurance commissioner has said the exchange will need to sign up 800 people a day in the first six months.
DEDE DE PERCIN, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative: It is a high number. It's better than some states, and not as bad as others. But it is a heavy lift. And like I said, I think it's going to be a process that takes a while.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Dede de Percin is a health consumer advocate who says it's unlikely the exchange will meet that target, but thinks over time people will enroll.
DEDE DE PERCIN: I was arguing with somebody about this, and they said, the fines aren't high enough, people are never going to -- and I said, seat belts. And he looked at me. And I was like, I'm 53 years old. My mother just threw her hand across my chest. And the reason why I wear my seat belt now is not because of a fine. It's because we had that sort of cultural shift.
And you can argue we have had it on other things, like drunk driving. It takes a while, but we get there.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The cost just to build the ground floor is enormous. Colorado has asked the federal government for $125 million dollars just for the first year-and-a-half. And that's what has some fiscal conservatives like Dr. Mike Fallon concerned.
A father, emergency room physician, and the Republican-appointed board member to the Colorado exchange, he has serious questions about whether all that federal money is being spent wisely.
DR. MIKE FALLON, Colorado Exchange Board Member: The bigger the thing we make now, the harder it is to sustain. We have to be fiscally independent with no further federal money in another year. And so anything we add now adds future costs, which, if we're not careful, will raise administrative costs, which, if we're not careful, will raise the price to the consumer.
And the whole idea of this was to actually bring down the cost of health care and health insurance.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Colorado exchange officials dismiss such worries and say they are on track for the program to pay for itself this time next year. But -- and this is a very big but -- they acknowledge this is only going to work if they reach enough people and get them to sign up.
GWEN IFILL: You can find more health care reporting online, from Austin, Texas, where musicians have one less reason to sing the blues. An organization that connects its members with affordable health care is helping artists without insurance. You can watch that report on our home page.
JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight: a leading lady of musical theater and much more.
When Audra McDonald sings of going back home in a song by John Kander and Fred Ebb, she means it.
New York is her home, but she spent much of the last four years in Los Angeles playing the dramatic role of a doctor in the television series "Private Practice."
ACTOR: You don't like me?
AUDRA MCDONALD, Singer/Actress: No. No, I don't.
JEFFREY BROWN: It was just the latest in what's become a whirlwind career of new challenges that includes work in films and opera and now serving as host in "Live From Lincoln Center" on PBS.
AUDRA MCDONALD: Good evening. And welcome to the best seat in the house.
JEFFREY BROWN: Then there's her true artistic home, musical theater. At just 42, McDonald is already among the most honored performers in Broadway history.
AUDRA MCDONALD: I found the theater and I found my home. I love you. Thank you so very much. Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: The winner of five Tony Awards, including for "Carousel" in 1994, and "A Raisin in the Sun" 10 years later.
And last year, she won for her acclaimed role as Bess in a new production of the Gershwin' "Porgy and Bess." We talked recently at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C., as she just released her first solo album in seven years. Titled "Go Back Home," it celebrates her love of musical theater.
AUDRA MCDONALD: I feel most at home on stage, since I was a little girl, since I started in the dinner theater in Fresno, Calif., and there was something about, you know -- look, performers are needy. We're needy beasts. So, you know, there's what you get from the audience.
And for me, it's the rush of being forced to be so in the present.
JEFFREY BROWN: McDonald has long been known as a champion of contemporary songwriters and what most often attracts her to a particular song is the story it tells.
One example on the new album, the song "Baltimore" by the songwriting team of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler.
AUDRA MCDONALD: The song talks about certain -- one shouldn't fall for men from Baltimore.
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
AUDRA MCDONALD: And while I have not had any experience with men in Baltimore, I certainly can ...
JEFFREY BROWN: No knock on Baltimore.
AUDRA MCDONALD: No, no, no, no, but I certainly can relate to the type of men that the song describes. And so for me, I had an immediate reaction. I thought, well, I know that story. I can sing that.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the liner notes for the album, McDonald explains the presence of the song "Edelweiss" from "The Sound of Music."
At age nine, she writes, she needed a song for her first audition with a professional theater group in Fresno. She performed it with her father, who died six years ago and clearly had a huge influence on her life.
AUDRA MCDONALD: I practiced it with my dad playing the piano. And so we went down to the theater not realizing that they would have an accompanist there. But I didn't know that accompanist. I didn't know that person, so my dad, my huge, hulking dad, got down and sat down on the piano and played it.
JEFFREY BROWN: You're telling the story as though you remember it extremely well.
AUDRA MCDONALD: I do.
JEFFREY BROWN: You do?
AUDRA MCDONALD: I do, absolutely.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
AUDRA MCDONALD: Every bit of it. I remember -- my dad was 6'6'', this strapping, huge guy. He had humongous hands.
And he would just put his hands down on the piano to play and you could hardly see the rest of the keys. And he was so big. And I just felt very safe, you know?
JEFFREY BROWN: You also describe yourself in those notes a young girl with a little potbelly, hyperactive and overly dramatic.
AUDRA MCDONALD: Yes. Yes, yes, and yes.
I was all of those things.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes?
AUDRA MCDONALD: I'm some of them still today.
JEFFREY BROWN: I won't ask which ones.
But the theater was the outlet for that. I'm thinking of the overdramatic part.
AUDRA MCDONALD: Absolutely, the hyperactivity and the overdramatic part.
I was very insecure and had been diagnosed as hyperactive, and was a drama queen. And, you know, I was sort of famous in my family, not just my immediate family, but the rest of my family, too. My aunts use to say, oh, that one. Everybody knew that I was this child. Well, we're having a thunderstorm. We're all going to die. You're nine. Don't think about those things. It's your problem.
JEFFREY BROWN: Somebody said, put this girl on a stage.
AUDRA MCDONALD: So, literally, it was like let's channel this energy before we kill her. It was something just before she drives us crazy.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, I was wondering if this hyperactivity explains all the different things you do.
AUDRA MCDONALD: Hopping back and forth?
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
AUDRA MCDONALD: Probably. Probably.
It's interesting now, because my hyperactivity -- I think what the theater did for me in terms of channeling all that energy is that it doesn't feel like hyperactivity to me now. It just feels like, I have got this to do and I have got this to do. And, oh, I need to do more concerts, and, oh, but I'm curious about being on television or I want to learn about being -- acting in front of the camera. Or maybe I should work on an opera. Or it's time to do some more Shakespeare. So ...
JEFFREY BROWN: This is the conversation in your head all the time?
AUDRA MCDONALD: All the time, and laundry and the kids and someone needs to feed the dogs. Those are the other things.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do any of these different forms scare you at this point?
AUDRA MCDONALD: All of them.
JEFFREY BROWN: All of them?
AUDRA MCDONALD: Every single day, they all still scare me, you know?
I think I read somewhere that Barbra Streisand started to develop -- to develop more and more stage fright as the years went by. And I understand that. They all still scare me very much, because I'm afraid I'm going to fail, and so that's why.
JEFFREY BROWN: Really?
AUDRA MCDONALD: Absolutely.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. So what do you do?
AUDRA MCDONALD: I stay hyperactive and go back out there, and maybe I fail at times.
But there's -- I have to say there is a drive that just -- that's in there somewhere that says, get back out there, get back out there every time.
JEFFREY BROWN: Audra McDonald will get out there this summer performing in concerts throughout the country.
My conversation with Audra McDonald continues online, where she talks about the stamina required and the stress involved in her recent acclaimed role in "Porgy and Bess."
Watch reaction from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate after the Supreme Court announces its decisions Wednesday. The live stream player above will carry the speeches and statements that should begin around 10:15 a.m. EDT.
Wednesday is the day. The Supreme Court will decide its two most-awaited cases of the year -- on same-sex marriage policies in California and nationally -- shortly after 10 a.m. The rulings could offer a significant federal stamp of approval for gay marriage, or they could preserve laws that don't let governments recognize gay couples.
Both may be shaded by Tuesday's court decision, the overturning of enforcement policies behind the key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act has been called one of the most effective pieces of civil rights legislation, and civil rights leaders say Tuesday's decision deals a significant blow to ensuring Americans' ability to vote without facing discrimination. PBS NewsHour has analysis from Marcia Coyle from the National Law Journal and debate from Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation and Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on the topic.
The justices will begin reading decisions from the bench at 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday. We expect to see opinions regarding the legal challenges to California's Proposition 8 and to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Follow the rulings on SCOTUSblog's live blog, below. The coverage begins at 9 a.m. EDT.Live blog of Opinions | June 26, 2013
To learn more about these cases and the Proposition 8 and DOMA laws, check out the NewsHour's in-depth coverage.
A conservative attorney and California's attorney general debate Proposition 8.
National Law Journal Marcia Coyle analyze the Proposition 8 arguments in the Supreme Court.
The NewsHour host a debate on the Defense of Marriage Act.
Marcia Coyle describe the legal arguments that challenged the Defense of Marriage Act.
And a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, a United Church of Christ minister and an evangelical pastor discuss where they stand on religion and gay rights. NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni hosted them via Google Hangout.
We've also collected a few useful links from other sources:
This New York Times graphic shows the possible outcomes the potentially blockbuster Supreme Court cases on same-sex marriage.
Pew Research Center collects its recent public opinion surveys on gay marriage and homosexuality.
The Human Rights Campaign, which has led much of the same-sex marriage advocacy efforts, published this map displaying each of the United States' policies for gay couples.
Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, outside the Supreme Court Wed. morning, were denied a marriage license in Berkeley, Calif., and have four children. Photo by Jason Kane
Should the government recognize a relationship between two women or two men the same way it recognizes a marriage between a man and a woman?
That's one question at the heart of the most anticipated Supreme Court decisions this year, and one the justices have saved for their final day at work this term.
At 10 a.m., the court will issue opinions on whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act that President Bill Clinton signed into law on Sept. 21, 1996 should remain standing. The court also is expected to rule on whether California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, overwhelmingly approved by the voters in 2008, is constitutional.
Adam Liptak set the scene for the New York Times:
The rulings will come against the backdrop of a rapid shift in public attitudes about same-sex marriage, with recent polls indicating that a majority of Americans support allowing such unions. When the justices heard arguments in the two cases in March, nine states and the District of Columbia had laws allowing same-sex marriage. Since then, three more states have enacted such laws.
Pollsters say the public opinion change is the most dramatic they've seen on a social issue, and it's evident as the nation awaits these major decisions.
There's a whole bunch of things the justices could decide on two very different cases. This New York Times graphic lays out the potentially blockbuster options facing the court.
The court could strike down DOMA, which would allow gay couples who are married in states that allow it to get federal benefits. And since the Obama administration enforces the law even though the president believes it is unconstitutional, and House Republicans decided to spend money to defend the law on their own, the justices could find no party had the standing to challenge the appeals court decision that sent the case to them.
In the California case, justices could reverse the appeals court ruling that struck down the ban on gay marriage. That would leave the ban in place. Or they could uphold that ruling, which would let anyone get married -- in California only. In the broadest interpretation, the justices could address whether it is unconstitutional for states to prohibit same-sex couples from wedding. Finally, the court could decide that because of who brought the lower court lawsuit, there is no standing for the Supreme Court to even hear the case.
Check out the Human Rights Campaign's map displaying each state's policy for gay couples.
Over the last few months the NewsHour has examined the issue in detail. Christina hosted this frank discussion on religion and gay rights via Google Hangout with a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, a United Church of Christ minister and an evangelical pastor. We hosted a Prop 8 debate between a conservative attorney and California's attorney general, and one between both sides on DOMA.
Reporter Producer Jason Kane is at the court for the NewsHour. Follow him!
A NEW NATION: VOTING RIGHTS ACT CHANGED
The focus going into Tuesday morning had been on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the keystone provision in the country's most prominent civil rights law. Section 5 forces states and counties with a history of discriminating against citizens at the polls to clear any elections changes with the federal government first.
It was a preventative law. And it had brought great change to southern states and other covered areas by increasing minority voter turnout and ensuring minority communities' votes weren't diluted or gerrymandered.
Without dismantling Section 5 itself, a slim majority of Supreme Court justices chose to make it ineffective. They struck down Section 4 of the act instead, which outlined how Congress could enforce Section 5.
Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund said the law has become known as the "crown jewel of civil rights litigation," and she argued that the law had given Congress the power to enforce anti-discrimination policies, not the Supreme Court.
But Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation -- he funded the petitioner Shelby County, Ala., in this suit against the federal government -- said the Justice Department still had powers to enforce the Voting Rights Act under Section 2, which allowed for litigation on discriminatory practices.
Ifill and Blum spoke with Ray Suarez on the NewsHour. That segment is here or below.Watch Video
Here's Marcia Coyle's three-minute take on what striking Section 4 in the act means.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said, "The Fifteenth Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future." The court said Section 4 was unconstitutional because it used a formula that was nearly 50 years old to decide which states and counties would fall under Section 5.
Justice Clarence Thomas concurred and pushed against the law even farther. He said he would have found Section 5 unconstitutional as well.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the minority that included Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, lashed at the majority group.
"The court's opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decisionmaking. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the Voting Rights Act," she wrote.
She pointed out, specifically, that racial discrimination in voting no longer comes from poll taxes and other overt methods. Instead, it's in the form of "second-generation barriers," the subtler changes that redraw legislative districts to segregate and dilute votes.
Read the Supreme Court's full opinion here.
After the justices read their decision from the bench Tuesday, the reactions from Capitol Hill and the White House came quickly and forcefully.
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said the court "stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
He said in a statement:
I remember in the 1960s when people of color were the majority in the small town of Tuskegee, Alabama. To insure that a black person would not be elected, the state gerrymandered Tuskegee Institute and the black sections of town so they fell outside the city limits. This reminds me too much of a case that occurred in Randolph County in my own state of Georgia, when the first black man was elected to the board of education in 2002. The county legislature changed his district so he would not be re-elected.
I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as "pervasive, widespread or rampant" as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.
Lewis isn't alone in remembering moving moments from before the Act passed and once it did. The NewsHour collected more than two dozen audio memories from people who remember when the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.
Click on the image below to listen to the stories, or visit our special Voting Rights Act page here.
WUNC's radio show The Story also collected memories for a full show.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will begin hearings next month on how to rewrite the enforcement formula. The issue is already becoming highly politicized, as the Democratic National Committee solicited donations shortly after the ruling's announcement.
"I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting," Leahy said.
The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz examined whether Congress is even capable of coming together to craft a new formula.
Shira Toeplitz rounds up the four effects of the Voting Rights Act ruling on the 2014 midterms.
And the National Journal's Reid Wilson writes that decision could result in Republicans keeping control of the House for many years to come.
President Barack Obama said he was "deeply disappointed" with the Supreme Court's decision. He also called on Congress to act quickly to reinstate an enforcement provision.
State attorneys general, especially those who had fallen under Section 5 of the act, applauded the court. Many states and counties had argued the burdens of the law were too great, and the costs of working through the Justice Department's clearance process too drawn out and unaffordable.
Alabama's Attorney General Luther Strange called the ruling "an important victory for the fundamental constitutional principle that all states enjoy equal sovereignty." And Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state's restrictive and controversial voter ID law would take effect immediately. That law and Texas' redistricting was under review by the federal government.
Marcia Coyle explained the ruling in our lead segment:Watch Video
Coyle also spoke with Jeffrey Brown about a second case decided Tuesday, involving a young girl whose biological father and adoptive parents disputed her custody. The case called into question the Indian Child Welfare Act, and whether the girl's Cherokee Indian heritage could prevent her from going to the adoptive couple.
The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the adoptive parents because the biological father never had custody of Baby Veronica to begin with. There was no breakup of an Indian family to avoid, they wrote in the opinion. Slate Magazine also covered the case and included RadioLab's hit story on it as well.
Coyle will be back on the NewsHour Wednesday night, and will give her immediate reaction in the morning, after justices issue decisions on the same-sex marriage cases.
The Las Vegas Sun perfectly sets up the state of play on immigration as of Tuesday night: "All that stands between the Senate and a final immigration vote this week are a series of amendments. But how many? And which ones? So far, congressional leaders haven't been able to settle that nagging question." As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempts to reach a deal, he set up a major test vote for the overall bill for Thursday. If that gets the needed 60 votes, it clears the way for final passage of the bipartisan legislation on Friday.
The latest in Texas' saga over legislation that would restrict abortion involves Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who said a senator had strayed off topic 10 hours into a 13-hour filibuster. Democrats appealed the decision. The Senate finally voted for the bill just after the midnight deadline, but Dewhurst ruled the vote moot, claiming all "the ruckus and noise going on" precluded him from making it official. And Wendy Davis has become a national hero for Democrats.
"As a president, as a father, as an American, I'm here to say we need to act," Mr. Obama said Tuesday in a major speech on climate change. The president called for what the AP dubbed a wide-ranging plan to tackle pollution and prepare communities for global warming. He also said he would direct the State Department to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, only if it won't add to carbon emissions. You can watch the full speech here.
Watch the NewsHour discussion with Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council and attorney Scott Segal, who represents companies pushing for the Keystone extension, here or below:Watch Video
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey is now Senator-elect. He defeated Republican Gabriel Gomez in Tuesday's special election to fill the remainder of John Kerry's term.
The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe sat down with interim Sen. Mo Cowan, D-Mass., to talk about his six-month stint as Kerry's short-term replacement on Capitol Hill.
Jonnie Williams, a top political donor to Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, reportedly bought the governor at $6,500 Rolex watch at first lady Maureen McDonnell's urging, which the governor did not disclose. This is the first known personal gift to the governor not to be disclosed among tens of thousands of dollars in undisclosed gifts to his family.
"I hope that my parents can finally have full and equal rights as gay women -- the same as each and every man and woman in this country," writes a man raised by two moms in this open letter to the Supreme Court ahead of the marriage decisions.
Commodities trader Marc Rich, best known for being pardoned by President Clinton on his last day in office, died Wednesday at 78.
Politico's Maggie Haberman has the details on Cory Booker's first ad in the New Jersey Senate special election contest.
The Senate Tuesday confirmed Penny Pritzker to be the new U.S. Commerce Secretary on a 97-1 vote. Vermont independent Bernie Sanders was the lone "Nay."
A House panel will decide this week if Lois Lerner will be called back before Congress to testify without taking the fifth this time.
The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza overheard a Democratic member of Congress making fundraising calls on Tuesday and live-tweeted the whole thing.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, named current economic policy adviser David Stewart as his new policy director.
"[M]ankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex ed lesson to anybody. And now we feel like, oh gosh people are too stupid unless we force them to sit and listen to instructions. It is just incredible," Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert told a conservative radio show.
Public Policy Polling found a tight hypothetical Senate race in Montana.
Former New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine could be facing civil charges as early as this week for his money mismanagement at MF Global and the brokerage firm's collapse.
Members team pitcher Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., leads Roll Call's Fantasy Softball, but the press team's First Base player, NBC's Kasie Hunt, is advancing. The Washington Post profiles the game and asks if the Bad News Babes press team can defeat the members another year and keep their trophy.
The Bad News Babes opened for Chuck Todd on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown Tuesday.
Batter up! You know you wanted more softball videos ahead of Wednesday night's big game. Here's one done by the NewsHour online team:
Watch the piece shot and edited by Cindy Huang and Ellen Rolfes here or below.Watch Video Get the point? It's for a great cause. Buy your tickets here. First pitch is at 7:30 p.m.
NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshowSenior Broadcast Producer Mike Melia delivers for Art Beat the first of several teaser videos from the NewsHour's forthcoming piece on Phish's Trey Anastasio. In this edition, the iconic musician opens up about the love he feels for all those fans grooving in the crowd. Watch Video
Larisa Epatko previews the president's trip to Africa.
Foreign affairs and defense editor emeritus Michael Mosettig reports on Dick Cheney's public reaction to Edward Snowden's ability to access government data as a contractor.
Jeff Brown caught up with singer and actress Audra McDonald about her new album "Go Back Home" -- and what home means to her.
Don't be tempted by a fancy new job or big promotion, says headhunter Nick Corcodilos, without investigating your new co-workers and other departments with which you'll be interacting.
Betty Ann Bowser examined the challenges Colorado is facing as it works to implement new health care exchanges.
Rep John Lewis (D-GA) discusses the SCOTUS Voting Rights Act decision on mitchellreports http://t.co/NUpTcp4JKN— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorpNBC) June 25, 2013
A sketch of today's scene in front of SCOTUS, by court artist WM Hennessy, for his son serving in Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/Nk0utkuEsX— Jason Kane (@JasoKane) June 25, 2013
Did not see this RT coming pic.twitter.com/2wpQMRbRTY— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) June 25, 2013
With SCOTUS gutting of Voting Rights Act, races for Secretary of State suddenly take on new and important meaning.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 26, 2013
This is Martin Luther King's invitation to LBJ's signing of the Voting Rights Act, 1965: pic.twitter.com/SVYxtFtE7W— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) June 25, 2013
Simone Pathe contributed to this report.
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.
Follow the politics team on Twitter:Follow @burlij Follow @kpolantz Follow @elizsummers Follow @tiffanymullon Follow @meenaganesan Follow @ljspbs
In a pair of decisive victories for the gay rights movement Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -- a law defining marriage as "one man and one woman" and barring same-sex couples from collecting federal marriage-related benefits.
The Court's majority, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, found those provisions unconstitutional. The decision was 5 to 4.
"DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty," Kennedy wrote. "DOMA's principle effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal."
The court left intact a separate provision that lets a state refuse to recognize a same-sex union from another state.
The justices chose not to rule on Proposition 8, and found those behind the appeal had no "legal standing." Justice John Roberts wrote, "We have no authority to decide this case on the merits and neither did the 9th Circuit Court of of Appeals."
Declining to rule gave a second boost to same-sex unions, effectively clearing away any barriers for same-sex marriage in California.
Watch reaction from California as the Supreme Court rules on the state law that bans same-sex marriage. This feed will switch from scenes of Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco City Hall. It may be shaky at times.
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.
The court's 5-4 vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional. California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month's time.
Watch reaction to the rulings in the player above. We will live stream feeds from Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Learn More:Background: High Court Hears Challenge to Same-Sex Marriage Ban in California
A couple celebrates upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In significant but incomplete victories for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.
Gay rights activists hold signs and rainbow flags in front of the Supreme Court. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.
The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.
The high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.
The outcome was not along ideological lines.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.
"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.
In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices.
"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said.
"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.
Some in the crowd outside the court hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday when the DOMA decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.
Chants of "Thank you" and "USA" came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court's marbled steps.
Kennedy was joined by the court's four liberal justices.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and Scalia dissented.
Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.
Read More:Live Reaction of Supreme Court Ruling that Strikes Down DOMA
By Hilton Dier
Making your home energy efficient just might be the safest personal investment. Photo courtesy of Empowerhouse Solar Decathlon.
Paul Solman: Boston University finance guru Zvi Bodie, co-author of the bestselling investment textbook known informally as "Bodie-Kane-Marcus" and the recent trade book "Risk Less and Prosper," has often graced the Making Sen$e Business Desk with investment advice. Most recently, he again stressed the only investment "no-brainer" out there: U.S. Treasury Series I inflation-protected savings bonds. But a reader with the Internet handle "Minor Heretic" posted the following comment in response:
"Here's a better option, depending on your situation: energy efficiency and renewable energy. If you are a homeowner, chances are that your house is part of the 99 percent of our housing stock that is grossly energy inefficient. Get an audit by a trained energy specialist and pick the low hanging fruit (generally air sealing and insulation). Your investment will pay you better returns than any financial instrument out there."
The reader's point was certainly provocative. And if true, very useful. So I contacted the emailer. He turned out to be a Vermont energy expert named Hilton Dier III who consults under the name Renewable Energy Design and blogs at minorheresies.com. I asked Hilton (or "Minor") if he would expand on his advice for the Making Sen$e Business Desk. Now he does so, on the heels of President Obama's climate change speech Tuesday, in which he lauded the value of energy efficient home upgrades, saying "the savings show up in our electricity bills every month -- forever."
I've also sought Professor Bodie's reaction to Hilton's investment advice, which will appear here in our next post.
Hilton Dier: Energy efficiency investments can have returns so handsome they will rival those of successful criminal enterprises. Efficiency Vermont, my home state's efficiency utility, reports an average return on investment (ROI) for participating businesses in excess of 50 percent.
A colleague of mine who runs a home weatherization non-profit reports that it is easy to get 10 percent ROI in the first round of energy retrofits. Returns on solar energy projects are in the 6-12 percent range.
I recently read the Zvi Bodie piece on this website touting I-bonds as the safest investment vehicle out there. They are inflation-protected and backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government; very safe investments. And yet -- energy efficiency and solar energy are better investments, backed by the full faith and credit of, you could say, planet Earth.ZVI BODIE The One Safe Investment and Why You Never Hear About It From Financial Advisors
First, a few caveats are in order. This investment vehicle works for owners of homes and businesses, not for renters. Second, your returns will vary, as I will explain in a bit. And finally, full disclosure, I know about this because I am in the solar business.
With the caveats out of the way, it's time to make what some might consider a subtle point of distinction. To understand the advantages of energy efficiency and solar energy as an investment, you need to start thinking in terms of savings rather than earnings.
The key point is that it doesn't matter whether you earn $100 on an investment or save $100 on your electric bill. In both cases, you are $100 ahead of where you were otherwise. There is one crucial difference: The advantage of saving $100 on your electric or heating bill is that it is tax free. You're $100 ahead and you don't even have to report it to the IRS.
There's a second not-so-obvious advantage of personal energy investments as well: They are more than inflation adjusted, or at least they have been for a generation now. Over the past 20 years, the price of oil has averaged 12 percent annual inflation. The price of propane in the northeastern U.S. has averaged 9 percent annual inflation over the past decade. So the price of energy is going up faster than inflation.
Therefore, if you save $100 on your heating bill this year, that's likely to be the equivalent of saving $110 or so next year, since that's how much next year's energy would cost you.
Being in the business, I know the response of skeptics: Natural gas is cheap right now; energy prices are coming down. Perhaps. But as best I can tell, the price will have to almost double for the shale gas producers to break even. Eventually it will.
Electricity is harder to write about in general because differing state laws affect the price. Still, electric rates have consistently increased over time. So the return from any investment in electricity savings or production will increase over time as well.
A third advantage to investing in personal energy efficiency and solar energy over I-bonds: it is insured, just like your near-zero interest FDIC-protected bank deposits. Any energy improvements you make to your real estate will be covered by your homeowner's insurance or business insurance. If your new solar panels go up in smoke, your mandatory home insurance policy will replace them.
And of course, finally, there's the bottom line: the actual size of the return on investment. With personal energy investment, the return will be much higher than anything you can get from similarly safe financial instruments. Here in Vermont, where I do estimates and financial projections for my clients, I find returns of between 6 percent and 12 percent for solar hot water and solar electric (photovoltaic).
Returns will vary according to the cost of the commodity you are replacing (natural gas or oil, propane or electric). They will also vary by region: an investment in solar works better in New Mexico than Seattle, for example, and the cost of installation varies from place to place. But almost anywhere, even in the most disadvantageous of circumstances, personal energy investment promises to be a better and safer investment than I-bonds.
So how do you go about getting into personal energy investment? Let's start, as we should, with energy efficiency.
Ninety-nine percent of the existing housing stock in this country consists of leaky, poorly insulated buildings that require endless gallons of heating oil or kilowatt-hours of electricity (powering air conditioners) to keep them livable by modern standards. There is an entire industry dedicated to sealing up those leaks and insulating those walls, as well as improving the efficiency of heating, cooling and ventilating systems. There are also state agencies, non-profits and utility programs focused on both electrical and heating/cooling efficiency. Some states and utilities offer rebates and low interest loans for this kind of work.
The first step for a homeowner or business owner is to have an energy audit. Do a local search for "weatherization," "energy audit" and "building performance contractor." An audit might cost a few hundred dollars, a necessary first part of the investment.
What you should get out of this process is a report on the deficiencies in your building, the solutions to these problems, a cost estimate for performing the upgrades and an estimate of the resulting savings. You can then choose the work you want done, starting with the low-hanging fruit -- those investments that will yield the highest returns, given their cost -- and work your way down the list to the projects with lower returns: first, air sealing; next, insulation; and so on.
A weatherization colleague of mine says:
"Air sealing produces the greatest bang for the buck. But as you start filling holes, the pressure makes the other holes leak faster until you reach a certain threshold. So the savings per dollar invested is non-linear.
Once air sealing is done, insulation has a lower ROI. The next inch of insulation will have a lower return than the previous one, so there is a diminishing return. Most of the cost of insulation is getting someone in place to do it, so insulation while air sealing makes sense because the people and equipment are in place.
The average job cost is around $7,000, but the range is anywhere from several hundred dollars to a $100,000 (for a full exterior shell insulation job with new triple-glazed windows or deep energy retrofit)."
Think of this in investment terms. You invest somewhere between a $1,000 and a $100,000. Your investment is tax free and insured. You start with a 10 percent rate of return. In fact, you can choose your rate of return depending on how deep you want your retrofit to go. Your return increases annually, by something up to 12 percent. Try to find a standard investment vehicle that can do that.
Once you have fixed the leak in the bucket, it's time to fill that bucket. A solar electric system starts with a set of solar panels mounted on your roof or on a frame on the ground. The power from these panels goes to one or more inverters -- electronic devices that convert the DC power from the panels into AC power like you buy from the utility. The inverter feeds the power into the main breaker panel for your home or business. The power then goes to whatever lights and appliances you are using, with the excess going back to the utility.
Almost every state, excluding Tennessee, Mississippi and South Dakota, has laws allowing net metering, which means the utility credits your account at the retail rate for whatever excess you produce -- what you pay per kilowatt-hour (kwh), you get back per kilowatt hour. Generally speaking, these credits roll over for a year. Most solar energy system owners end up banking credits in the sunny summer months and using them up in the winter. If you size your system just right, you can end up breaking even -- no energy charges at all.
So how big a system will you need, and how much will it cost? You'll really need to consult with a local solar contractor about that, but here are some boundary numbers. The average American household uses 12,000 kwh annually. In the middle of the Mojave Desert, it would take about 7,000 watts of solar to produce that much; in rainy Seattle, about 12,000 watts. Everywhere else will be somewhere in between. Hand over 12 months of power bills and your local contractor can tell you what will work for you. If your budget can't handle a full net-zero system, you can decide to offset only part of your annual electrical demand.
Please remember that energy efficiency improvements will be a fraction of the cost of solar energy or utility electricity. It's cheaper to update your refrigerator than to buy the extra solar panels to power your old one.
The raw cost of a standard solar system varies widely, between $3.00 and $5.00 per installed watt nationwide. I say "raw cost" because there are various federal and state tax breaks and incentives that bring down the cost dramatically. The feds offer a 30 percent tax credit on solar electric and solar hot water systems, so this drops the final price per watt to between $2.10 and $3.50. Post-tax credit, that 7,000-watt system might cost between $14,700 and $24,500. Businesses can rapidly depreciate a system (over just five years) as a tax write-off, however, which saves more money and increases the return on investment.
Moreover, states have their own incentives and tax breaks, which can be found here. Every state between Maryland and Maine offers a rebate for solar installations, along with California, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many other states have utility-sponsored programs. Some states exempt solar installations from sales and property taxes. The incentives range from 40 cents to $2.50 per watt.
I'll use Vermont, where it's not particularly sunny and there are low incentives but high electrical costs, as an example. Let's say that the raw cost for a 7,000-watt system is $4.25 per watt, or $29,750. The federal tax credit drops that to $20,825, and the Vermont 45 cents per watt incentive drops it to $17,675. At 1,200 kwh per 1,000 watts, the system will produce 8,400 kwh annually.
Electricity prices in Vermont vary by utility, but state law requires utilities to give net metering customers an additional payment to bring their return up to 20 cents per kwh. That puts this system's initial annual return at $1,680, or 9.5 percent of the installation cost.
Solar hot water systems circulate fluid from rooftop collectors to a heat exchanger on a tank in your basement to preheat your domestic hot water. The system has to be undersized because there is no hot water grid to take your excess when you don't use it. If sized correctly, it can reduce your water heating bills by 40-60 percent.
Again, using Vermont as a not-so-sunny example, a typical two-collector system will produce about 15 million British thermal units of heat annually. Adjusting for combustion efficiency, that's equal to about 240 gallons of propane, 170 gallons of number two fuel oil, 20 Mcf of natural gas or 4,400 kwh of electricity. Going with electricity, electric water heaters being common, and a rate of 14 cents per kwh, the annual cost savings would be $617.
Let's assume the raw cost of this solar hot water system is about $10,500. After deducting the 30 percent tax credit and Vermont's incentive, the cost would be $6,450. There again, we have a 9.5 percent return in the first year: a $617 return on a $6,450 investment. Find that on the bond market this side of Athens.
I should re-emphasize that returns will vary from this scenario depending on: solar resource, installation cost, local tax breaks and incentives and local energy prices. Even so, one-half or a third of this return would be brilliant, given the near-zero risk, tax-exempt status and inflation adjustment. In Zvi Bodie's terms, think of a personal energy investment as a 20-year I-bond with an insanely high interest rate. And should you decide to sell your solar-enhanced home, there's even more joy. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar-equipped homes sold for a premium averaging around $5 per installed watt.
The final advantage of a personal energy investment is that no matter what happens with the deficit, interest rates, bank malfeasance, stock fraud, or even the collapse of the euro, you own this thing. It is a productive physical asset, built into your house or sitting there on your roof. No computer algorithm or London Whale is going to make it disappear into a string of zeroes. And should some catastrophe (or market manipulators) cause energy prices to explode, you're protected.
Paul Solman: As I wrote in the introduction, Zvi Bodie's response will appear here soon. But you may also be interested in this brand new post from one of our Making Sen$e Business Desk contributors, Rob Stavins of Harvard, who wrote here in March: "Is Obama's Climate Change Policy Doomed to Fail? Maybe Not." Here is Rob's latest and very pertinent post: "Thinking About the Energy Efficiency Gap."
MVP pitcher Justin Verlander is known for consistently throwing heat for the Detroit Tigers. In a study published this week, scientists learn how professional pitchers can throw with such high velocity and what this skill meant in our evolution. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
When it comes to the ability to pitch a 90 mph fastball, humans are unmatched. Sure, chimpanzees can throw, but only at about 20 mph, a speed that wouldn't land them a spot on a Little League team, said Neil Roach, a postdoctoral researcher in George Washington University's Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology.
"If you look at any Little League baseball game in any town in America, you can find a 12- or 13-year-old kid that can throw 60 or 70 miles per hour on the mound at that game," he said in a video produced by George Washington University. "And that to me is really remarkable performance. It's what we all are capable of doing as opposed to the best athletes among us."
Roach and Dan Lieberman, professor of biological sciences at Harvard University, believe that early humans evolved this skill for hunting -- specifically for hurling spears or rocks at small animals to kill and capture food. Their research is published in this week's edition of the journal Nature.
To study the mechanics of throwing, they placed sensors on the arms and torsos of a group of college baseball players and then recorded their movements in three dimensions. You can see an explanation of the experiment below.
Neil Roach and Dan Lieberman explain how humans developed our powerful throw. Video produced by Harvard University
Our arms act like small catapults, Lieberman said in a video from Harvard University. When the pitch starts, the player twists his torso to the side, causing his arm to draw as far back as he can. That motion creates and stores the elastic energy needed to launch the ball, Lieberman said.
"We're the only creature in the world that can throw really hard and really fast at the same time," Lieberman said -- and we do it pretty accurately. "When you throw, you cock your arm back, and when you do that you're stretching, basically loading your upper arm like a catapult or a sling. And what we discovered is about half the energy you impart to a ball or a spear when you throw it comes from that elastic energy storage."
Throwing is the fastest motion the human body is capable of producing, Roach said, thanks to that elastic energy.
But in order to wind up for that powerful pitch, three major changes in our anatomy had to occur, the authors determined. First, we had to develop a longer torso, a product of walking upright seen in our australopithecine relatives 4 million years ago. And that torso had to be able to pivot independently of our lower body.
Second, we needed broad, flat shoulders so our arms could create a right angle, allowing our shoulders to more effectively store and release elastic energy. Try scrunching your shoulders toward your chin and throwing overhand; you'll see why our australopithecine ancestors had a hard time. Finally, the humerus, the long bone in the upper arm, rotates where it meets the shoulder socket, something called humeral torsion. That "twist" translates to how far you can cock your arm back, Lieberman said in the video, which meant you could store more energy to impart to the ball.
And while some of these characteristics appear in early Australopithecus, all three elements appear together in Homo erectus, an ancestor that appeared about 2 million years ago, Roach said. Roach and Lieberman believe that by developing our throwing power, we were able to take down larger animals with rocks and spears -- a real game-changer.
Neil Roach is looking for how humans' throwing power explains early hunting. Photo by William Atkins/GW University Photographer
"Hunting matters because more calories in your diet means you can build bigger bodies and bigger brains and have more babies, all of the things that matter for evolution," Roach said.
Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program, doesn't entirely agree with Roach and Lieberman's theory. The first evidence of spears, our most powerful primitive weapons, appeared 400,000 years ago in Europe, 1.5 million years after the emergence of Homo erectus, Potts said. Homo erectus could have thrown rocks to drive away predators, he said, but the tools and skills for hunting large game didn't appear until later.
"Once you get to large animals, if you don't hit it right where you want to every time, you just enrage the creature," Potts said, adding that even professional pitchers miss the catcher's glove half the time. "We don't see points that could penetrate hide until much later in archeological records."
Also unclear is when exactly our shoulders settled into the right position to throw a weapon, said Owen Lovejoy, professor of anthropology at Kent State University, so it may not have been a primary driver in the selection process for Homo erectus. And a lot more goes into hunting than just physiology, he added.
"I wouldn't rule out the role of the brain in a human's ability to throw," he said.
Roach says the team is continuing their research, searching for evidence of early projectiles to explain pre-spear hunting, and to determine how or if early humans could have taken down prey by throwing rocks or sharpened sticks.
And while modern throwing skills are largely recreational now, Roach said, understanding better how the shoulder moves and stores energy during a throw will help prevent injury for modern athletes, who sling high-speed pitches dozens of times every game.
"What happens is that people actually injure their shoulders and they injure their elbows," Roach said. "So at the end of the day, the ability that we have to store elastic energy in our shoulder makes us great throwers, but it's also injuring us."Watch Video
Video by George Washington University.
Sue Rochman, center, and Robin Romdalvik, right, with their son Maddox Rochman-Romdalvik celebrate upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage at San Francisco City Hall. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO -- 6:30 a.m. at City Hall. San Francisco's center of government doesn't even open until 8, but hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters, dozens of reporters and cameramen and every city official you can think of managed to crawl out of bed and show up in the ornate rotunda. You would have thought the Giants had won the pennant, the 49ers had won the Super Bowl and the Warriors had ... well you know. Big screens to show video and news headlines were set up; lights and microphones were in place. This was major political theater and the outcome wasn't even assured.
Same-sex marriage and opposing Proposition 8 -- the law that bans gay marriage in California -- are the mothers' milk of politics in this town, a place one professor called "left coast city." San Francisco has long been seen as a Mecca for gays and lesbians, a more tolerant city than many. And it was clear on this Wednesday morning -- the last day of the Supreme Court term -- that none of the politicians in attendance wanted to be left out, even though there was a chance they would be disappointed. But they weren't.
State and local politicians gather at San Francisco's City Hall to await Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage. Photo by Catherine WiseThe crowd, which appeared to be mostly same-sex couples, was ready for good news and they cheered mightily when the court announced it was striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. But on the podium, no action yet; big wigs were waiting for the Prop. 8 case. When it was reported on the Supreme Court blog, which was projected on a screen in the rotunda, the crowd cheered again -- almost as though it was a total victory, which it was not.
The high court said the defendants in the case didn't have standing, which means that same-sex marriages can go forward in California. A couple of minutes later officials by the score marched down the ceremonial staircase, where so many same-sex couples had celebrated their weddings during the periods when they were legal. Now they would become legal again and the politicians wanted to be part of the party.
Watch Video Andre Sanchez and Wes McGaughey, a gay couple living in San Francisco, are celebrating today's decision.
Mayor Ed Lee was in his glory; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the man who defied state law and authorized same sex weddings in 2004, when he was mayor of San Francisco, was in his. He got the biggest hand. And by his side was former mayor Willie Brown, city attorney Dennis Herrera and every city supervisor and state legislator who could squeeze into the official party. Two gay supervisors spoke about how much the decisions means to them. Nobody offered a word of caution, though Herrera did say he had papers ready in case the whole issue goes back to court. "It's about more than a legal case," he said, it's about "the hearts and minds of people throughout the country."
After about an hour the entire celebration and political exercise wound down -- and it wasn't even 9 a.m. -- and the celebrants probably went back to bed, to get ready for more partying in the evening. After all this is San Francisco.
Read more:Background: High Court Hears Challenge to Same-Sex Marriage Ban in California
Valley fever is on the rise in the southwestern United States, including Arizona's Sonoran Desert. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Are W.
It was a Thursday morning in March that Al Rountree called his boss to say he was too exhausted to make it to work. Thinking rest would help, Rountree went back to bed and slept the entire day. The next morning, he woke up even more exhausted, and the pattern continued through the week.
"Each day, I got more and more tired," he said. "I could hardly make it to the bathroom." Within 10 days, Rountree was in a local hospital on a breathing machine.
The Bakersfield, Calif., resident had valley fever, a lung infection brought on by inhaling a microscopic fungus called Coccidioides. Like most people with valley fever, Rountree, 62, has no idea where he inhaled the fungus.
Living in an area of California that is dry and dusty, particularly after years of drought, Rountree could have breathed it in anywhere around town. Valley fever is not contagious. Only about half those who inhale the fungus will even get sick. Sickness can range from flu-like symptoms, to severe pneumonia, to death.
The disease is not new to residents in the desert areas of Arizona and California, particularly those who work outside and are exposed to desert dust. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, valley fever cases in endemic areas are dramatically on the rise -- from 2,265 in 1998 to 22,401 in 2011. Since 1990, more than 3,000 people have died.
Many in the general public and even in the medical community know very little about the illness. The lack of knowledge can delay diagnosis and treatment.
On Wednesday's PBS NewsHour broadcast, senior correspondent Ray Suarez reports from California, where NASA scientists are looking into the role of climate change in the recent jump in valley fever cases. Suarez also visits with Dr. Royce Johnson, of Bakersfield, Calif. Johnson is one of the leading infectious disease experts on valley fever. Tune in for the full report.
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are 10 things you should know about valley fever. Read the full list below.
10 Things You Should Know About Valley Fever, According to the CDC
1. Valley fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the environment.
There are an estimated 1.5 million species of fungi on Earth, but only about 300 of them can make people sick. Valley fever is a respiratory disease caused by a fungus called Coccidioides. Valley fever is becoming increasingly common, and it can be debilitating and costly. Nearly three-quarters of valley fever patients miss work or school because of their illness, for an average of two weeks, and more than a third of patients need to receive care in the hospital.
The fungus Coccidioides lives in soil and dust in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. People get valley fever by breathing in the microscopic, airborne fungal spores. Sometimes, the number of people who get valley fever increases after there have been weather-related events that stir up more dust than usual, such as earthquakes or dust storms.
2. Valley fever is not contagious.
Valley fever does not generally spread between people.
3. Symptoms of valley fever are usually similar to the flu.
Approximately 40 percent of people who get the fungal infection do not show any symptoms. In the other 60 percent, valley fever can cause flu-like symptoms, including:
The symptoms of valley fever typically appear between one and three weeks after someone inhales the fungal spores. In many people, the symptoms will disappear in a few weeks. However, in severe cases, the infection can cause chronic pneumonia, and the symptoms can last for years.
In less than 1 percent of people who get valley fever, the infection can spread from the lungs to the rest of the body, causing meningitis (spine and brain infection) or infection in the bones and joints.
4. Valley fever is common in the southwestern United States.
In the U.S., over 65 percent of all valley fever cases occur in Arizona, and 30 percent occur in California. Most other cases occur in Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. Valley fever is a risk for people who live in these states but also for people who visit there.
Studies have shown that in some areas where valley fever is very common, such as southern Arizona, valley fever causes an estimated 15 percent to nearly 30 percent of all community-acquired pneumonias, but that less than 15 percent of patients with pneumonia symptoms are tested for valley fever. This suggests that there may be many more people with the disease than are reported.
5. Reported cases are increasing.
Some researchers estimate that each year the fungus infects thousands more people, many of whom are sick without knowing the cause or have mild cases that aren't detected. In 2011, the most recent year for which there is data, more than 20,000 cases of valley fever were reported in the United States, and cases increased by about 15 percent each year from 1998 to 2011. Some researchers hypothesize that many milder cases go undiagnosed, which may mean that the reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg.
The increase could be because of:
More people exposed to the fungus because of increased travel or relocation to the southwestern United States
Changes in the way cases of valley fever are being detected and reported to public health officials, or
Changes in factors such as temperature and rainfall, which can affect the growth of the fungus in the environment and how much of it is circulating in the air.
6. Anyone can get valley fever.
Anyone can get valley fever if they live in or have visited an area where the fungus Coccidioides lives, especially southern Arizona or California's Central Valley. Although people of any age can get valley fever, it is most common among older adults, particularly those ages 60 and older. People who have recently moved to an area where the disease naturally occurs are at higher risk for infection.
7. Some people are at higher risk for developing the severe form of valley fever.
Groups of people who are more likely to develop the severe form of valley fever or develop an infection that spreads beyond the lungs include:
Pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester
People with weakened immune systems, such as those who have had an organ transplant or who have HIV/AIDS
The reasons why some racial groups are at higher risk are not completely understood but may have to do with genetics.
8. Some people will need antifungal treatment.
In some people who get valley fever, the infection will go away on its own in a few weeks. However, antifungal treatment is recommended for certain patient groups, such as those at high risk for developing the severe forms of the disease. Because the symptoms of valley fever can be similar to those of other respiratory diseases, patients often experience delays in getting tested and receiving treatment, if they need it. However, early diagnosis can:
Reduce the amount of time and money spent looking for an alternative explanation for the patient's illness
Avoid the use of unnecessary antibiotics, and
Help alleviate patient anxiety about an unknown illness.
9. It can be difficult to avoid the fungus that causes valley fever.
In areas where valley fever is common, it's difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus that causes valley fever. There is no vaccine to prevent the infection, although researchers are working to develop a vaccine. People with weak immune systems or who are at high risk for developing the severe form of the disease for another reason should consider trying to reduce their exposure to the fungus by limiting activities that disturb soil or generate dust, such as digging or excavation, in areas where the fungus lives.
10. Awareness is key.
More awareness about valley fever among the general community and among healthcare providers is needed. Increased awareness could help avoid missed diagnoses. For example, one study showed that valley fever patients who knew about the disease before visiting a doctor were more likely to ask to be tested and were diagnosed sooner than patients who didn't know about the disease.
Health care providers should be aware that the symptoms of valley fever are similar to those of other common respiratory illnesses and should consider testing for valley fever in patients with flu-like symptoms who live in or have traveled to an area where it is common. People who have symptoms of valley fever and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for the disease.
American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Mollie Wagoner embrace after hearing that the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented gay couples from receiving a range of benefits. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Wednesday's decision by the Supreme Court ruling Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional (read our extensive coverage on the two same-sex marriage decisions) has wide-ranging implications. Now that the Court has struct down the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman," possibly one of the the biggest changes is that gay couples married in states that currently allow same-sex marriages will now be granted federal benefits -- the same benefits granted to married heterosexual couples.
But what does that mean in plain English? Well, currently the federal government classifies more than 1,000 statutory provisions that uses marriage as a factor. Here's a look at some of those benefits that will now be available for legally-married same-sex couples, including some biggies like Social Security and some lesser-known ones, such as immunity from testifying against your spouse.
The list of all now-available marriage benefits is here.
JEFFREY BROWN: Supporters of same-sex marriage claimed a twin win today, coming on the final day of the U.S. Supreme Court's term. Both of the closely-watched cases were decided 5-4.
Ray Suarez begins our coverage.
RAY SUAREZ: Outside the court building, supporters of gay marriage erupted at the first decision.
MAN: DOMA's down. DOMA's unconstitutional.
RAY SUAREZ: The justices had struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. That section of the 1996 law, signed by President Clinton, defines marriage as one man and one woman, and it bars same-sex couples from collecting federal marriage-related benefits.
But the majority, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, found those provisions unconstitutional.
Kennedy wrote: "DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal."
The court left intact a separate provision that lets a state refuse to recognize a same-sex union from another state. Still, for gay rights supporters, the overall decision was welcome news.
MAN: I'm very proud today of our Supreme Court's decision. It's very, very personal, and I'm deeply appreciative.
RAY SUAREZ: A smaller group of gay marriage opponents deplored the decision.
WOMAN: Well, I'm disappointed in the ruling. I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And I'm afraid that this ruling will affect the definition of marriage, so that if it's not one man and one woman, it can be any -- anyone.
RAY SUAREZ: Gay rights proponents also celebrated a decision on California's Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. A federal trial judge found it unconstitutional, and supporters of Prop 8 appealed and lost at the appellate level.
But today's Supreme Court majority chose not to rule on gay marriage bans in general. Instead, they found those behind the appeal had no legal standing. As a result, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that: "We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."
Afterward, the principals in the case emerged, two California couples who challenged Proposition 8.
David Boies is one of their lawyers.
DAVID BOIES, Attorney for the American Federation for Equal Rights: Our plaintiffs now get to go back to California and together with every other citizen of California marry the person they love.
RAY SUAREZ: But Andrew Pugno of Protect Marriage, the group behind Proposition 8, said not so fast.
ANDREW PUGNO, Lead Counsel, Protect Marriage: Today's ruling has completely nullified the Ninth Circuit's ruling against Proposition 8. And we remain committed to the continued enforcement of Proposition 8, until there is a statewide order saying otherwise in California.
RAY SUAREZ: Reaction from official Washington was swift and mixed.
After leaving for Africa, President Obama released a statement applauding the DOMA decision. Aides said he later telephoned the plaintiff in that case, Edie Windsor, from aboard Air Force One. He also called two of the California plaintiffs, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, during their live interview on MSNBC.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're proud of you guys.
RAY SUAREZ: At the U.S. Capitol, a group of House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also welcomed the rulings.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: From the start, many of us had believed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. And many of us believed that Prop 8 had no place in the state of California. Today, the Supreme Court agreed, and justice will be done for loving LGBT couples across my home state.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Good morning, everyone.
RAY SUAREZ: On the other side, House Speaker John Boehner had filed the case asking the Supreme Court to uphold DOMA. He said in a statement he was disappointed.
Other House Republicans went further.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-Minn.: What the Supreme Court ruled today was on the basis of equal protection, and yet in one of the greatest ironies in this decision, they denied equal protection to every American in the United States.
How did they do that? Because they undercut the people's representatives when they voted on the Defense of Marriage Act in the first place.
RAY SUAREZ: The effects of the two decisions may be visible in fairly short order. The DOMA ruling opens the door for gay and lesbian couples to seek federal benefits in the 12 states where gay marriage is legal.
As for Proposition 8, the high court ruling let stand a lower court decision to strike down the California law, which means gay marriage may resume in America's largest state in about a month.
Throngs gathered at San Francisco's City Hall this morning to hear the news.
The NewsHour's Spencer Michels spoke with Mayor Ed Lee about what comes next.
MAYOR ED LEE, San Francisco: There will be gay marriages all over the state of California, and so we don't believe there will be the big rush to come to San Francisco to get married, although we are waiting for the legal instructions from the attorney general that instructs all the counties in California to abide by certain rules and regulations as they invite gay marriages to occur.
RAY SUAREZ: California Gov. Jerry Brown directed state officials to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as possible, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said it won't lift its current hold on same-sex unions for at least 25 days.
GWEN IFILL: For more on today's court decisions, we are joined once again by Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.
What a week we have had here, Marcia.
MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal: An amazing week.
GWEN IFILL: So, today was undoubtedly, no way to debate, good news for gay marriage advocates, but not for the same reasons.
MARCIA COYLE: True.
These were two very different cases. One involved what the federal government could do. The other involved what the states could do, and they raised two different questions. The first decision we heard from the bench today was in the challenge to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and that section defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Edith Windsor, she brought the challenge. She was legally married under New York state law. After her spouse died, she was denied an IRS exemption for a spousal estate tax exemption. She was faced with an almost $400,000 dollar estate tax bill. Her spouse had left her, Edith, her estate. She prevailed in the lower courts.
They found that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional, and the case came to the Supreme Court with a problem, just as the other case from California came to the court with a problem. In the DOMA case, by the time the case got to the Supreme Court, the United States had stopped defending DOMA.
So the first hurdle the court faced was whether it actually had a case or controversy before it, since the United States agreed Edith Windsor that DOMA was unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy today found that there still was a stake for the federal government in this case, the IRS' tax bill. So he was able to reach the merits of the question that Edith Windsor had initially raised about DOMA's constitutionality.
GWEN IFILL: And, as Ray said, Prop 8, Proposition 8, was mostly about the -- that they didn't have the standing to even bring this case to where it ended up being, so they kicked it back down for the courts in California to decide.
MARCIA COYLE: Right.
Proposition 8 asked whether a state, consistent with the 14th Amendment, could define marriage as between a man and a woman. Its problem was that the proponents of Proposition 8 had appealed the trial court's decision that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.
Did the proponents then have what we call standing to bring that appeal in federal court?
GWEN IFILL: Right.
MARCIA COYLE: And Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a divided court today that it did -- they didn't have standing.
GWEN IFILL: But, to be clear, even though, as I said, this is good news for gay rights activists, this is not the court saying that gay marriage itself, same-sex marriage is constitutional.
MARCIA COYLE: No, it was pretty clear after the oral arguments back in February that the court wasn't going to announce a national right to marriage by same-sex couples.
But it was -- this was a victory. First of all, the DOMA challenge, that was raised as whether DOMA was constitutional as applied to legally married same-sex couples. And the court said that it was unconstitutional as applied to them. Justice Kennedy looked at how states have had the authority since the beginning of our nation to regulate and define marriage.
Congress, he said, can legislate in a limited way in this area, but DOMA reaches far beyond that. It applies to over 1,000 federal laws. And he also found that what New York State for -- with Edith Windsor was trying to protect, people it was trying to protect, DOMA injured, because it imposed disadvantages and a stigma on legally married same-sex couples.
GWEN IFILL: But nothing that the court did today would prohibit a state if it wanted to from passing a law banning or forbidding gay marriage?
MARCIA COYLE: No, the -- Justice Kennedy was explicit in his opinion that it was confined to states that recognize legally married same-sex couples.
GWEN IFILL: And yet there were three separate dissenting opinions about this, and Justice Scalia was particularly blistering.
MARCIA COYLE: Justice Scalia read a summary of his opinion from the bench. And he took issue with the fact that there was a controversy before the court.
He would have found that there was no controversy, and the court wouldn't have reached the merits. On the merits, he was quite passionate that the court was imposing its own moral judgment here, and not allowing the current debate over the legality of same-sex marriage or the constitutionality of it to proceed in society.
He said, instead of allowing society to elect change, the court imposed change. And he said that was only for the court's own self-aggrandizement that it was stepping into this debate, and it was doing a disservice, he said, to both sides of the debate by not allowing them reach a final conclusion.
GWEN IFILL: Is there a legal avenue? Even though we know in California tonight they say that they're going to wait 25 days, I guess, and allow marriages to begin, but is there a legal avenue, either through Prop 8 or through DOMA, for any of these challenges to come back to the court?
MARCIA COYLE: Well, there could be, I don't think on the specific grounds that the court ruled here.
But Justice Scalia pointed out in his dissent and Justice -- Chief Justice Roberts also mentioned that the arguments that Justice Kennedy made to knock down Section 3 of DOMA, states' authority to regulate marriage, may be used by those who support state bans on marriage. And that may -- that issue ultimately may get to the Supreme Court.
GWEN IFILL: So, maybe he was hinting around, this is the way you can bring this back, but not the way it came to us today.
MARCIA COYLE: Exactly, exactly.
GWEN IFILL: Marcia Coyle, it's been quite a ride. Thank you so much.
MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure.
By Zvi Bodie
I-Bonds are still the safest investment for your emergency fund, argues Zvi Bodie. Photo courtesy of Peter Dazeley via Getty Images.
Paul Solman: Boston University finance professor Zvi Bodie has long touted the virtues of inflation-protected investments on the Making Sen$e Business Desk, most recently when he extolled the virtues of I-Bonds here in May.
That post of Zvi's prompted a response from energy expert Hilton Dier III, which we posted earlier Wednesday.
Given the attention being paid to Americans' inability to salt away enough money for their futures, including our own spiffy retirement tool, "New Adventures for Older Workers," and Ann Carrns' column in Tuesday's New York Times, "Why It's Hard to Build Emergency Savings," I thought it only fair (and, presumably, interesting) to let Zvi re-post (or, for you fencing fans, riposte), responding to Hilton, and to another one of our readers, Bill Presson of Honolulu, Hawaii, who recently emailed:
"I have funds that I like to keep relatively "liquid" in a Vanguard Prime Money Market Account currently paying nearly zero interest. Do you know of other options that would be relatively safe and liquid, but paying more interest? Thanks!"
Zvi Bodie: I agree that buying a cost-saving device can be a very profitable investment whether the cost savings are in spending on energy, storage, communications, physical fitness or other categories of home maintenance or consumer durables.Related Content This Investment Fits Obama's Energy Plan and Is Even Safer Than I-Bonds
But most investments in these categories differ from I-Bonds in several ways:
They are investments in real assets rather than financial assets (a distinction covered in my textbooks in the first chapter). Real assets are usually much less liquid than financial ones. They often have limited resale value; they depreciate over time because of usage and obsolescence. In order to overcome depreciation, they require spending on maintenance and upgrades. These costs are never risk free even if the saving in energy costs is.
Even if they are certain, the cost savings only apply to owners of homes and businesses.
They are not contractually linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury.
In my previous post, I explained that U.S. Series I Savings Bonds (I-Bonds) are the safest way for Americans to invest their money for the long run because they are guaranteed to protect the purchasing power of your savings for up to 30 years, no matter how high or how low the rate of inflation in the future.
Most financial experts advise that before you start investing for retirement, or any other long-term goal, you should create an emergency fund that is invested in safe, readily accessible assets. For example, the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advises people as follows:
It's also important to set aside some money--about the equivalent of 3 to 6 months' of living expenses--in an emergency fund. There are times when people become ill or are injured in accidents. Employers lay off workers. If something unexpected happens to you, having the money you need to pay the medical bills or see you through the weeks or even months of being out of work will help to keep you out of debt. If you already have investments, an emergency fund also will help you meet your expenses without disrupting your investment plan.
The best place for your emergency fund is in a liquid (easily accessible) account. A liquid account might be a regular savings account at a bank or credit union that provides some return on your deposit, and from which your funds can still be withdrawn at any time without penalty.
To earn a slightly higher interest rate, some people choose a CD for their emergency fund, or a series of CDs of approximately equal value, with one maturing every six months or every year. This approach is called laddering. You can roll over the CDs as they mature, to keep your ladder intact. The loss of interest you face for taking money out early may motivate you to keep your fund intact. But in a real emergency, the interest you may lose is a small price to pay for having the money you need. And if you have to spend any of the money, you should plan to replace it.
You might also consider buying U.S. Treasury bills with some of your emergency fund money. They, too, can be timed to mature on a regular schedule and, like CDs, they tend to pay more interest than a simple savings account. And while they aren't bank products, they are backed by the federal government. That means there is no risk of losing principal if you hold them to maturity. U.S. Treasury bills have very short terms--4 weeks, 13 weeks, or 26 weeks.
Other options for an emergency fund include money market mutual funds. A money market mutual fund is a mutual fund that must, by law, invest in low-risk securities, such as government securities and certificates of deposits. Compared with other types of mutual funds, money market funds are highly liquid, low-risk securities. Unlike money market deposit accounts, money market funds are not federally insured. While they are intended to pay dividends that are comparable to prevailing short-term interest rates, they can lose value.
I agree wholeheartedly with this advice and with the reasoning behind it. What it fails to do, however, is explicitly recommend Series I Saving Bonds as the preferred asset class for your emergency fund. I will explain why I-Bonds are the best place to hold your emergency reserve funds.By definition of the purpose of the fund, you might need to cash it in on short notice. With I-Bonds, you have immediate access to the cash after an initial holding period of one year from the date of purchase. You need only go online and click a few times to transfer the accumulated value in your I-Bond account to your bank checking account.
Any money invested in I-Bonds is guaranteed by the U.S. government not to lose any of its purchasing power (before payment of income tax on the interest earnings).
If you need the money within the first five years of the purchase date, there is a slight penalty for early withdrawal: You will forfeit the last three months of interest; that is, you will receive your initial principal plus all the accumulated interest up to three months before the date of redemption. However, if you cash in after five years, you will receive all accumulated interest right up to the month of redemption.
Every month after your initial purchase your account will earn an interest rate equal to the initial fixed rate plus the annualized rate of inflation during the preceding six months. Moreover, if there is deflation during any month, you will not be penalized by a drop in the value of your account. Thus, not only do you have inflation insurance, you also have deflation insurance. That is not true of any other asset in which you can invest; It is a unique feature of I-Bonds.
The interest earned from I-Bonds is exempt from state and local taxes, and federal taxes are due only when you cash in the bonds.
If used to pay for educational expenses, the interest earnings may be excludable from your taxable income. Thus, you may never have to pay any taxes on the earnings.
If you have very few financial emergencies, you may never have to touch the fund. The maturity of I-Bonds is 30 years, and you may wind up holding them until maturity. The inflation-protected I-Bond account will then be available to provide retirement income.
The tax advantages of I-Bonds do not require that they be held in an IRA or other special retirement account. If purchased for retirement, the interest earned will be taxed at your tax rate during the retirement years, meaning I-Bonds are an excellent way to hold your safety fund at any age.
Because you get the tax deferral and other tax benefits of I-Bonds without holding them in a retirement account, if you redeem the bonds before age 59 1/2, there is no 10 percent penalty charge on the amount withdrawn that you would face with an IRA or 401 account.
Now let us look at the actual rates of interest that you would be earning now, if you had purchased I-Bonds in each of the years since they were first issued by the U.S. Treasury.
Table of current interest rates being credited on I-Bonds purchased in May of each year. I-Bonds were first issued in September 1998. For subsequent years, the fixed rate is for May. Information courtesy of U.S. Treasury.
Annualized total I-Bond interest rate for each bond is the fixed rate that prevailed in the year they were purchased plus the most current annualized inflation rate of 1.18 percent.
KWAME HOLMAN: Immigration reform easily passed its latest tests in the U.S. Senate today. A key border security amendment won formal approval. It doubles the Border Patrol, among other steps. And supporters of gay rights dropped an amendment to let Americans sponsor same-sex spouses for admission to the U.S.
The proposal was potentially divisive, but Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said it's no longer necessary, given today's Supreme Court decisions.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt.: It appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and to binational couples, and their families can now be united under the law. As a result of this very welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment.
KWAME HOLMAN: Even opponents of the bill acknowledged it is likely headed for final passage by Friday. But Republican Dan Coats of Indiana said he still doubts the bill will live up to its promise, despite some helpful additions.
SEN. DAN COATS, R-Ind.: The employee verification has been strengthened. The border security has been strengthened. The exit visa problem has been strengthened, if the promises come true. But they have only been strengthened on a piece of paper, and we need to see it strengthened for real.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Senate's newest member will not arrive soon enough to vote on the bill. Democrat Edward Markey won a special election in Massachusetts yesterday. He will be sworn in after the Fourth of July recess, succeeding John Kerry, who's now the secretary of state.
President Obama has embarked on a weeklong trip to Africa. He arrived this evening in Dakar, Senegal, beginning his second visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. The president is also scheduled to make stops in South Africa and Tanzania. The visit comes as former South African President Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized in Pretoria in critical condition.
Federal agents today launched the largest crackdown yet on makers of synthetic designer drugs. They served 150 warrants and seized 2,000 pounds of chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other drugs across 35 states. Meanwhile, the U.N. drug control agency warned the spread of designer drugs is getting out of control. It said new variants appear faster than governments can ban them.
BP has launched an aggressive campaign to challenge alleged overpayments in its Gulf oil spill settlement. In full-page ads today, the oil giant charged trial lawyers and politicians have encouraged businesses to submit claims for inflated or nonexistent losses. BP also said it's sending hundreds of warning letters to businesses. The company faces thousands of claims.
Pope Francis created a special commission today to review the Vatican Bank amid new allegations of money-laundering. It was the latest step in the pontiff's efforts to reform the highly-secretive financial institution. Leaked documents last year told of dysfunction and corruption within the bank. The new, five-member commission is to report directly to the pope, bypassing the Vatican bureaucracy.
Wall Street rallied for a second straight day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 150 points to close at 14,910. The Nasdaq rose 28 points to close at 3,376.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we return to the major developments at the court today with a look at the legal implications for the same-sex marriage rulings.
For that, we are joined by Mary Bonauto, special counsel for the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. She has litigated cases against the Defense of Marriage Act. And Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal organization, he was co-counsel for the supporters of Proposition 8 this year.
And welcome to both of you.
MARY BONAUTO, Special Counsel, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders: Thank you.
AUSTIN NIMOCKS, Alliance Defending Freedom: Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: Mary Bonauto, let me start with you.
Taken together, how much of an endorsement of gay marriage do you read into these decisions today?
MARY BONAUTO: I read some. And I say that because, with respect to DOMA, we are now replacing a system that officially disrespected the legal marriages of same-sex couples for over 1,000 federal purposes and replacing it with federal respect for those marriages.
So that's obviously an important endorsement. The opinion couldn't have been clearer that this law saying that only marriages of same-sex couples would be disrespected demeaned the relationships, that the states had meant to confer dignity and respect, and DOMA was taking that away and hurting people. And it does hurt people when they can't get a family policy of health insurance or file their taxes jointly.
But it also hurts much more in the way that the court really picked up in terms of saying, this was really a way of saying gay people and their families are unworthy.
JEFFREY BROWN: Same question to you. I want to get this general proposition and then we will walk through some of the details. What would you -- how broad a reading do you make of today?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: I think if any endorsement can be taken from today's decisions, it's an endorsement of the right of the states to continue to debate and decide the question of marriage.
I mean, striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court said that we need to defer to the states that have traditionally had the province here. And so what we know is that this issue is going to continue to be debated and decided by people at the state level with their state representatives and their state provisions for dealing with these questions.
And so the question now goes from the Supreme Court back to the people in their various states.
JEFFREY BROWN: But, on DOMA itself, you're not seeing the kind of sweeping decision that Mary Bonauto is saying? You're saying this just send it to states again?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Oh, the Supreme Court clearly struck down DOMA.
And the reason that the Supreme Court said they're striking it down is because the federal government has traditionally deferred to the states. And so if a state declares somebody as being married, the federal government needs to recognize that. So it really re-centralizes power for the definition of marriage to the states. And that's where we see it going back.
JEFFREY BROWN: Where do you think it leaves things?
MARY BONAUTO: I have to say, I think that's a slight over-reading here, because the court noted that states traditionally say what a -- if somebody's married or not.
And it was extremely unusual -- in fact, it's the first time ever in history that the federal government has stepped in and wiped out a class of marriages. That is what was unusual. But the court couldn't have been clearer that, while states regulate marriage, they're subject to the Constitution. And that's why I think the issue will be back at the court probably in short order, because if there's a fundamental right to marry -- and the court has said so 14 times -- the question remains, why is it that that fundamental freedom is being denied to committed, loving gay and lesbian couples?
JEFFREY BROWN: We heard from Gwen and -- Gwen and Marcia talking about the fact that the court didn't rule on whether there is a constitutional right to gay marriage. Was that a disappointment? Did you want it to go that far?
MARY BONAUTO: Well, in the DOMA situation, that was specifically not at issue.
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
MARY BONAUTO: It was about DOMA itself.
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
MARY BONAUTO: And I -- and then with respect to the Proposition 8 issue, you know, if the court had gone in that direction, so be it. But I think the handwriting was on the wall that the state itself had not appealed in California. The proper parties were not in front of the court. So, to me, it's a great victory that marriage is being restored to California.
JEFFREY BROWN: How do you read the Proposition 8 decision, one you were very much a part of?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Well, we were disappointed that the Supreme Court determined that we didn't have standing to defend Proposition 8. But, ultimately, our opponents didn't file that lawsuit to prove that we don't have standing.
They filed the lawsuit in order to impose a 50-state same-sex marriage solution on the entire country. And, ultimately, they were unsuccessful. The Ninth Circuit's opinion striking down Proposition 8 was vacated, and sends it back to California. And we're very happy about that, that the Supreme Court didn't act with a heavy hand. And that's what we have been saying all along.
The Supreme Court doesn't need to act with a heavy hand here. It needs to take a more muted approach, and not try to resolve this for the entire country.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is it clear in your mind where this leaves things in California? Does it, in fact, open the door for gay marriages to go forward?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Yes, it's really not clear at all at this juncture exactly what type of legal circumstance remains in California.
And there's a 25-day window that will be considered in terms of what happens now, what goes forward, because there is no appellate court decision holding Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and so it's a legitimate question. We're still looking at the opinions. Other legal scholars are looking at the opinions. And we will see coming forward what may happen with all that.
JEFFREY BROWN: Have you had a chance to look at that?
MARY BONAUTO: Yes.
My sense is that marriage is going to happen statewide in California. The registrar of California was a defendant in that case, and is directed to control the county officials who control marriage licenses. And so I have been through some of this, where people try to restrict a ruling and so on, but I suspect we're going to have marriage in California in a little over a month.
JEFFREY BROWN: Are you suggesting that there will be legal -- some kind of legal action in the next 20 days or month?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: It's certainly possible. What we don't have right now is a lot of clarity with regard to it.
And so I know that, you know, the two big Supreme Court opinions with all the things they have said is a lot to digest in a few hours. But I think in the days coming, there will be more clarity as far as that's concerned.
JEFFREY BROWN: What about in -- I just want to think about where things go next. What about in states that just have civil union right now? Is there anything out of today's action that might have an impact for those states?
MARY BONAUTO: Modestly, yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Modestly?
MARY BONAUTO: For the most part, it's -- the federal government has a system that is based on marriage. That's the primary relationship that it respects, although it does also respect some other relationships.
And there are some programs that, again, when you delve down into the details, where the statutes are clear that if you have certain obligations to one another, certain rights, under state law, you would be protected. So, there will be some ...
JEFFREY BROWN: Where the legal reasoning from these cases might apply in those cases?
MARY BONAUTO: Yes. Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you see that possibility?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: I don't really see that as a possibility, just because the Proposition 8 decision from the district court was so, so specific as to the state of California. And every state has come about its laws in completely different ways.
Some states have marriage laws that were enacted by the legislature, others voted on by the citizenry. And so I don't see a lot of transportable precedent as far as that is concerned. But what we can agree on is that the states are going to have the right to continue to deal with marriage through their democratic processes, and I think that's the most important takeaway.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so is that where -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
MARY BONAUTO: Yes, that is all true.
And it's a debate that obviously has been -- our country has been engaged in at every level.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
MARY BONAUTO: And that's a terrific thing.
At the same time, the court is clear that every state law is, of course, subject to our constitutional guarantees. That's why, you know, Virginia's anti-miscegenation law had to fall when it did is, ultimately, the court is the one to say if a state, in enacting its marriage law, has drawn the wrong line.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so where do you see the fight going next? Is it a legal -- a lot of legal battles? Are they political battles? Is it still a mix of both, as we have seen for many years?
MARY BONAUTO: I think it's a mix of both, but I do have to say that I think this issue will return to the court. I think you're going to have states where this debate continues. I think you're going to have states going back to the ballot to repeal some of those hastily enacted constitutional bans.
I think you're going to have state court decisions, and there are a number of federal court cases already pending.
JEFFREY BROWN: When you say return to the court, do you mean the Supreme Court, because that's what we were just talking about?
MARY BONAUTO: I mean that court, yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: That court, yes.
MARY BONAUTO: Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think about the prospects of that?
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Oh, I agree with Mary that the process is going to continue, probably some court -- courtroom of public opinion and whatnot.
And we can agree on that I think the marriage debate will continue in this country. The Supreme Court didn't settle it, nor did it really try to settle it in its entirety. And so there's going to be a mix of different things happening. But Americans who are -- as Justice Scalia noted today -- deeply invested in this issue are going to continue to voice their opinions.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Austin Nimocks, Mary Bonauto, thank you both very much.
AUSTIN NIMOCKS: Thank you.
MARY BONAUTO: Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, online, just what are the benefits that legally married gay couples will now be able to receive? We have a list of some of those on our home page. And we have more reaction from California from the NewsHour's Spencer Michels' coverage at San Francisco City Hall this morning.