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- 06/27/13--15:00: _Gwen's Take: (Re)De...
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- 06/27/13--15:07: _News Wrap: U.S. Sus...
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- 06/26/13--15:25: Hot, Dry Winds Help Spread Deadly Valley Fever Infections
- 06/26/13--15:41: Social Media Makes Texas Politics a National Affair
- 06/26/13--15:43: Tensions Mount as Egyptian President Morsi Addresses Nation
- 06/27/13--04:53: The Social Security Payoff to the Supreme Court's DOMA Decision
- 06/27/13--06:13: Obama: States Should All Recognize Marriage
- 06/27/13--12:15: Nelson Mandela 'Continuing to Improve,' His Daughter Says
- 06/27/13--12:28: Family Separated by Immigration Bill, Waiting for Reform
- 06/27/13--15:00: Gwen's Take: (Re)Defining Equality
- 06/27/13--15:02: Senate Passes Landmark Immigration Reform Bill
- 06/27/13--15:07: News Wrap: U.S. Suspends Bangladesh Trade Benefits
- 06/27/13--15:11: Obama Kicks Off Presidential Trip to Africa With Visit to Senegal
- 06/27/13--15:15: Reflecting on U.S. Presence, Policy and Performance in Africa
- 06/27/13--15:45: Hey, Batter Batter! Press Defeats Congress in Charity Softball Game
- 06/27/13--15:23: Performing Artists Compete, Move, Adapt in Tough Economy
- 06/27/13--15:33: Federal Agencies Move to Comply With Supreme Court Ruling on DOMA
- 06/27/13--15:35: New Battlegrounds Ahead in Fight Over Same-Sex Marriage
- 06/27/13--15:48: USDA Releases New Rules for Snacks Sold at Schools
GWEN IFILL: Next: an often undiagnosed disease known as valley fever is spreading throughout the Southwest.
Ray is back with our science story.
RAY SUAREZ: The Mojave Desert is known for extreme heat and fierce wind. Recent years of hotter and drier seasons have only intensified those conditions. Drivers sometimes need headlights to navigate through thick dust storms.
You might think of a blast of gritty breeze as uncomfortable, rather than threatening, but Westerners have good reason to worry about what that wind is carrying.
ANTJE LAUER, Biologist: This is a good spot. Looks real interesting, soil.
RAY SUAREZ: Biologist Antje Lauer is at the desert's western edge, the NASA Dryden Center to study one tiny local inhabitant she suspects is actually benefiting from prolonged drought, a microscopic fungus called coccidioides, or cocci.
ANTJE LAUER: They adapted to desert soils. So they can tolerate high temperatures and they can tolerate higher pHs. That's unusual for Fungi. Usually, Fungi like lower pHs.
So, I take a sample a little deeper from the soil, because I want to find a site where it is actually growing, and not just have been blown into.
RAY SUAREZ: While a continued drought may be good news for the cocci fungus, it's very bad news for humans, because this fungus can be deadly. All it takes is a gust of wind.
When the fungus becomes airborne, it's easily inhaled. Once in moist lungs, it can cause an infection called valley fever. That infection can cause illness ranging from flulike symptoms to severe pneumonia, even death. Valley fever is not contagious, and it's not new to people who live in California and Arizona deserts, particularly those who work outside.
But the CDC reported this March that the number of valley fever cases in endemic areas soared between 1998 and 2011 from 2,000 to over 24,000.
ANTJE LAUER: We have about 900 percent increase in valley fever cases, and people try to speculate why that is the case.
And one hypothesis that I'm pursuing is that the drought is actually favoring, or the continuous drought is favoring any spore formed in the soil, which includes the valley fever fungus, and outcompetes all the microorganisms that are not easily forming spores.
RAY SUAREZ: While Antje Lauer looks at the cocci's ability to thrive in dry soil, scientist Vic Etyemezian, from the Desert Research Institute, explores the role of dust in valley fever's dramatic rise.
VIC ETYEMEZIAN, Desert Research Institute: Valley fever is very much a -- sort of a dust-related event. So, you can imagine if you have much more abundant areas where valley fever spores can be suspended into the air, then you can imagine that the exposure for people could potentially go up in the future.
RAY SUAREZ: Etyemezian and a colleague move a measuring device propelled by a baby jogger across the rutted desert landscape.
VIC ETYEMEZIAN: What we're doing is measuring the potential for wind erosion and the potential for dust emission at different equivalent wind speeds. So we're trying to understand if the wind is blowing at, say, 35 miles an hour, which of these areas is most susceptible to -- to dust becoming airborne?
And this instrument we have is something like a wind tunnel. It's a very compact version of a wind tunnel, and that's exactly what it does. It simulates higher wind speeds and, as the wind speed gets higher, you measure the dust, and you can kind of figure the dust climatology.
RAY SUAREZ: The scientists are part of a bigger project funded by NASA to study possible impacts of climate change on NASA centers. Climate change is not the only suspect in the increased illnesses.
You also have to take into account the human footprint on the land. These days, the deserts sprout subdivisions, shopping centers, and oil derricks, and every time you disturb the land you can release the cocci spores into a stiff wind like this one, and they can fly as far as 75 miles.
At the edge of the desert in fast growing Bakersfield, California, infectious disease specialist Dr. Royce Johnson, an expert on valley fever, says anyone can get sick, even if you just drive through a desert area.
DR. ROYCE JOHNSON, Infectious Disease Specialist: All you have to do is take a breath at the wrong time. It will impact your lower lung, and the infection starts from there, and can spread anywhere it wants in your body. If you roll down the window driving from San Diego to Seattle, you could catch cocci while you're driving through, no question. That could happen, and it has happened.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Johnson says so little is known about valley fever, it is still unclear why reactions to the infection are so varied.
ROYCE JOHNSON: Most people in fact will successfully fight off the infection, and have no symptoms, and have lifelong immunity from it.
About 40 percent of the people that are infected get a flulike illness.
RAY SUAREZ: For a small fraction of the population, people like Al Rountree, the condition can be life-threatening. His lungs became so inflamed, he was put on breathing machine in the intensive care unit.
AL ROUNTREE, Suffered from Valley Fever: I thought I was dying. That first weekend, I -- I mean, I thought for sure. I have been sick a lot, but nothing like -- I have never been this sick in my life. I have been -- like I said, I have had a lot of things happen, but I have never been this sick in my life. And it's just -- it's devastating.
RAY SUAREZ: Now, after months of intensive infusion of an antifungal drug that is very tough on the body, Rountree is finally on the mend.
ROYCE JOHNSON: So, we will transition you to an azole oral drug and probably be treating you for the next three years or so.
RAY SUAREZ: Al Rountree's infection was confined to his lungs. Valley fever is most dangerous when the fungus spreads, or disseminates. That condition is often fatal. Since 1990, more than 3,000 people have died.
ROYCE JOHNSON: If it goes to your brain and produces meningitis, that can kill you by a variety of mechanisms. It can also kill you if it goes through the bloodstream, and goes back to your lung, and you get respiratory failure. You can end up on a ventilator in the ICU.
And then it can also kill you sort of like cancer does. You can just waste away from having a lot of disease, and not being able to control it.
RAY SUAREZ: While people with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable, it is not known why some healthy individuals can get just as sick.
ROYCE JOHNSON: So then this thing bursts open and these little babies come out.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Johnson says much of the general public and many physicians have never heard of valley fever, leading to patients going untreated as the disease worsens or getting treatment for the wrong illness.
ROYCE JOHNSON: I tell my medical students that they will know more than 99.9 percent of all the physicians that ever lived about this disease.
RAY SUAREZ: Higher-profile diseases, like West Nile virus, receive 20 times as much in federal funding, even though more people get sick from valley fever.
ROYCE JOHNSON: West Nile virus came to the United States in New York City, one of the world's most famous metropolises. It also has multiple medical schools, but New York City, Bakersfield, Tucson, maybe not equivalent in terms of international notoriety. I think resources were put together because of where this virus landed.
RAY SUAREZ: Antje Lauer agrees.
ANTJE LAUER: There are no valley fever cases, and there is no incidents of coccidioidomycosis on the East Coast, where all the politicians are sitting, so they are never reading anything in the news about valley fever around Washington. So they are not that concerned.
RAY SUAREZ: There's a lot more scientists say they must know about cocci spores: how they grow, where they blow, as the tiny spore makes more Americans sick.
JEFFREY BROWN: And a postscript to Ray's report: This week, a federal judge ordered the California Department of Corrections to transfer 3,000 more inmates at high risk of contracting valley fever. Attorneys say 18 inmates have died in the past two years from complications related to the disease. The state has 90 days to move them from two prisons located in the San Joaquin Valley.
Online, you can find the CDC's list of 10 things that you should know about valley fever, including symptoms of the disease and other important information.
GWEN IFILL: Now: how a local battle in Texas over abortion legislation erupted into a national debate.
Chaos erupted in the Texas State Senate last night, as abortion-rights backers thundered their opposition to tough new restrictions. In the midst of the din, majority Republicans insisted the bill, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, had passed. But official records showed that didn't happen until after a midnight deadline had come and gone.
Just after 3:00 a.m., Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst, who presided over the session, conceded defeat.
LT. GOV. DAVID DEWHURST, R-Texas: Regrettably, the constitutional time for the first called session of the 83rd legislature has expired. Senate Bill 5 cannot be signed in the presence of the Senate at this time and therefore cannot be enrolled.
GWEN IFILL: The bill would have required clinics to upgrade to surgical-level centers, an expense that would have caused most existing facilities to close.
Had it passed, Texas would have joined Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, North Dakota, and Virginia, all states that recently adopted stringent new anti-abortion laws. The campaign to derail the measure was the brainchild of Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis, who declared her intent to talk the bill to death.
MAN: Is it still your intention to filibuster?
STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS, D-Texas: Yes, Mr. President
GWEN IFILL: Sporting pink tennis shoes, Davis began speaking at 11:15 in the morning.
WENDY DAVIS: Members, I'm rising on the floor today to humbly give a voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored. These are Texans who relied on the minority members of this Senate in order for their voices to be heard.
GWEN IFILL: News of the filibuster quickly grabbed national attention on social media and a catchy hashtag. Late in the day, President Obama tweeted: "Something special is happening in Austin tonight. Stand with Wendy."
Davis continued speaking for nearly 11 hours and had intended to go until midnight.
WENDY DAVIS: Laws are to create justice for all. We also received this written testimony. There's a medical necessity. Women need timely access.
GWEN IFILL: But around 10:00 p.m., Republicans forced an end to the filibuster, ruling Davis had strayed off-topic. That sparked nearly two hours of heated debate, as Democrats raised procedural questions to delay a vote.
Then, the protesters crowded into the gallery took over. When it was finally official that the bill had been blocked, Davis thanked her supporters.
WENDY DAVIS: Today was the example of government for the people, by the people, and of the people.
GWEN IFILL: Late today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called another special session to address the abortion bill.
For more on the high noon Texas political drama as it unfolded, we turn to Evan Smith, editor in chief of The Texas Tribune.
Evan, thanks for joining us.
EVAN SMITH, Editor in Chief, The Texas Tribune: Sure thing.
GWEN IFILL: So give me a sense about how this went from being a local showdown to being a big national story.
EVAN SMITH: You know, it's amazing how in the world of technology, things that never would have gotten the attention of people outside of Austin, let alone outside of Texas, now become national and international stories.
We live-streamed the Senate debate last night. The Senate live-streams the debate themselves, but we put it out there in a way that other media could embed the video. And very quickly, we had more than 100,000 and ultimately almost 190,000 people from around the world watching this story. More than anything else, social media and YouTube made it possible for this story to go international and for Wendy Davis to be the latest folk hero to come out of Texas.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let's go back a moment. And tell us a little bit more about what this legislation would have done. It would have closed 37 of 42 clinics that currently exist, practically?
EVAN SMITH: Right.
Well, that's not entirely clear. It would have required the abortion clinics -- and there are 42 in the state of Texas -- to upgrade to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Supporters of the bill said that the clinics were not required to close. They simply had to meet those standards and pay the money to make those upgrades.
But abortion supporters or pro-choice -- the pro-choice side of this said that the burdens on these clinics were so onerous that the practical result would be to close them. The expectation would be that of the 42 clinics, under this bill, as many as 37 were likely to close, leaving just five abortion clinics in the entire state of Texas that would be available under this new law.
GWEN IFILL: Evan, tell us a little bit about Wendy Davis. This is not the first time she's filibustered something.
EVAN SMITH: Correct.
Back in the 2011 legislative session, when they were getting ready to cut $4 billion dollars from public education, a historic cut, Wendy Davis filibustered at the end of the first regular called -- regular session. She talked this to death, basically. She was able to run the clock out, as she wasn't able to do by herself yesterday.
Gov. Perry called a special session. They came back in. They instituted those education cuts anyway in the special session, but Wendy Davis became something of a folk hero two years ago for having had the brass to stand up to the power structure in Texas. She was one person. By herself, she basically talked those cuts to death.
So coming into this session, she already had a reputation for being willing to do that. And, you know, look, the abortion issue is one that divides Texas, as it divides many other places. And when these laws were proposed, not just the upgrade of the abortion clinics, but also the ban after 20 weeks, Wendy Davis announced, "I'm going to do what I can to stop this, made the point of filibustering again."
And, again, you and I both remember the movie "Billy Jack," right? She is basically state Sen. Billy Jack, the Fort Worth. She's really assumed a folk hero status. Not since Ann Richards, Gwen, has a Democrat risen to national-international level of acclaim, for good or for ill, that she has.
GWEN IFILL: Well, in the end, did she and other Democrats just outmaneuver the Republicans? Because they do have the majority and the majority -- the public opinion behind them on this.
EVAN SMITH: Yes, it's kind of amazing.
There are 95 Republicans out of 150 in the Texas House, 19 Republicans out of 31 in the Texas Senate, where Wendy Davis serves. Republicans enjoy almost a supermajority in both houses. Every statewide elected official is a Republican. In fact, no Democrat has been elected statewide in Texas since 1994. This is not just a red state. This is a blood red state.
How amazing in a state like this with those numbers that the Republicans could not manage to get this through. The Democrats used the rule book as their weapon, the only weapon they had available. They simply outplayed the Republicans in this case.
GWEN IFILL: There have been a lot of theatrics. I have been following your tweets on this now for days and weeks.
EVAN SMITH: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: And it seems there was one episode in which women showed up dressed as characters from "Mad Men"?
EVAN SMITH: Yes.
You know, this week has been one for the books in terms of how the public inserted themselves into the process, not just by being more engaged than at any time that I have seen before, not just by using Twitter and other social media platforms to build community and to organize around this issue.
But the numbers of people who showed up in various states, in dress and in orange shirts to signify their pro-choice leanings -- and, quite frankly, the pro-life side, they showed up in blue shirts. They didn't show up in quite the same numbers. The public's level of engagement on this issue should give hope to people like you and me who think no one is paying attention.
Everyone's paying attention. And I come back to what I said at the beginning. Because of technology, in a literal sense, the whole world was watching. That's why this thing was such a significant moment for Texas and for Texas politics.
GWEN IFILL: Well, we know for sure that Gov. Rick Perry is paying attention.
EVAN SMITH: He is.
GWEN IFILL: And we hear this afternoon that he plans to take another whack at this. Tell us about how that would have to happen.
EVAN SMITH: Right.
He's coming back -- bringing them back into session on Monday, July 1. And here's the deal. The Democrats were able to use the rule book to run out the clock this last time. They're not going to be able to use the rule book, almost certainly, to run out the clock this time. They won the battle. They will almost certainly lose the war.
They can marshal the opposition to this bill. Wendy Davis and her colleagues can stand and talk and maneuver and do everything they can. The outcome of this is more or less decided. They're going to pass this bill. The victory was achieved in forcing them go into a second special session.
And the reality is, whatever the outcome, Wendy Davis is the folk hero that everyone views her as. And her celebrity is on the rise. Her political prospects have risen. And for the first time, really -- again, I go back to Ann Richards, Gwen -- for the first time since Ann Richards, the Democrats have somebody they can rally around as a candidate who may begin to turn the clock back.
GWEN IFILL: Well, keep your -- keep your Texas history hat on for a moment.
EVAN SMITH: OK.
GWEN IFILL: How atypical is this kind of challenge? When you say, you know, that they're going to lose the war, just the fact of this kind of challenge, how unusual was it?
EVAN SMITH: Right.
Well, there haven't been many successful filibusters and certainly not of this length in the history of this state. It was enormously successful. And it wasn't just successful for what she did. It was successful for the way she did it and for the times in which she did it.
I go back to this point. Democrats haven't had very much to be hopeful about in this state for a very long time. There haven't been candidates who have run successfully, who have even come close to winning. In the legislature, the Democrats don't have enough numbers to either do anything or prevent anything.
It's really been a case where the Democrats are effectively the third party in a two-party state. The two parties really are the old moderate Republicans and the tea party. And most of the big political fights are Republican-on-Republican, rather than Republican and Democrat. Redistricting has taken competition out of the vast majority of our elections, so that's why it's so unusual.
Democrats have had so little to get energized about. Last night was really one that we haven't seen in a very, very long time.
GWEN IFILL: Well, it was certainly interesting to watch.
EVAN SMITH: It was.
GWEN IFILL: Evan Smith, thanks a lot for joining us.
EVAN SMITH: Thanks, Gwen.
GWEN IFILL: Online, we have more on how social media allowed spectators across the country to take part in that Austin debate.
State Sen. Wendy Davis holds up two fingers against the anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session in Austin, Texas. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images.
Last night, @heatherr_parker was one of many Twitter users upset at how Texas State Senator Wendy Davis' marathon filibuster was progressing. The rules governing the process mandate that a senator remain standing and stay on topic. So when Republicans and Democrats began arguing over whether or not Davis violated the regulations, Twitter user Heather Parker began digging.
Finding the rules online, Parker, a D.C.-based attorney and reproductive health activist who followed the filibuster via livestream, scoured rule 4.03 of the Senate Rules and discovered something she thought could help Davis. She tweeted it out, hoping someone might see. It was quickly retweeted and retweeted, until there were over 400 retweets.
Parker was one of thousands across the country following Davis' nearly 11-hour filibuster that sought to block a bill that would ban abortions in Texas past 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion clinics to become licensed as ambulatory surgery centers. Tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube expanded the debate outside the Senate Chamber, allowing people to not only watch the proceedings but also to participate. It demonstrated the growing power and speed of technology and how it could even impact the political process.
The Texas Tribune was one site that offered a livestream, which, at its highest traffic point (12:03 a.m.), attracted 183,175 viewers.
"It was fascinating as a viewer watching the livestream to see a tweet from a senator commenting on what you are watching at that second," said Rodney Gibbs, chief innovation officer for the Texas Tribune. "You would hear things in the gallery like disruptions... and immediately you saw senators tweeting about it and people tweeting back at them...It is like watching sports game while getting comments from sports players at the same time."
The Twitter hashtag #StandWithWendy was a top trend on the social media site and Davis herself amassed more than 80,000 followers over the course of her filibuster. The Texas Tribune Twitter account alone attracted 10,000 new followers over the past few days of coverage.
"To go from 35,000 to 40,000 followers took close to a year and suddenly we went from 42,000-52,000 in a couple days," said Gibbs. The website's visitors spanned the country. Austin, Texas, was the number one location of most the Tribune website's traffic, but at one point yesterday evening New York slipped into the number two spot, said Gibbs. President Barack Obama's Twitter feed even made mention of the filibuster.
Parker said it was encouragement from people online that helped her send her tweet about rule 4.03. "I was doubting myself a bit at first," she said. "They said tweet it out and immediately I got retweets... and the more retweets I got the more I thought something needed to be done."
Parker ultimately ended up calling State Senator Kirk Watson's office and spoke with a staffer, telling him what she found.
Watson said it wasn't the only notification he received. "Heather is very representative," said Watson, whose team was prepared on the rule ahead of time. "The rule you are talking about, we received numerous contacts through social media telling us about that and pointing it out to us."
Watson said it was great how much information was being shared and the sense of empowerment that created.
"It was amazing to hear from people all over who were following parliamentary procedure, for goodness sake." Watson also noted that the filibuster would not have been a national event without the help of social media.
"What enhanced the national event through social media was people were actually able to make their own judgements about how things were playing out on the senate floor."
In addition to being a forum for debate, social media was used as a planning mechanism. On her Twitter feed, Davis encouraged people to send testimony that she could read while filibustering on the floor.
Parker said she saw tweets organizing food delivery for protesters who had taken over the statehouse.
We need pizzas, water, subs. Send to: TX Capitol, Legislative Conference Center, Level E2, E2.002 #SB5— Jessica W. Luther (@scATX) June 26, 2013
She thinks this isn't the end for a social media presence in the political sphere. "I actually think it's going to be huge, people are going to look at Texas as how to engage in these sorts of debates in the future."
"The world is watching," said Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune. Five years ago the dynamic would have been different without live streaming and social media, things we now take for granted, he said.
"There is greater accountability now."
JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight to Egypt, where there was unrest today and a major address by the country's president.
Margaret Warner has more.
MARGARET WARNER: Trying to defuse growing defiance to his rule, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi called on his opponents tonight to help end the country's political polarization.
In a live speech televised nationwide, Morsi warned that if the breach isn't healed, Egypt could slip into chaos. He did acknowledge he had made mistakes, but he also accused remnants of the old regime of fomenting anti-government violence. He spoke just days before mass protests set for Sunday on the one-year anniversary of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood assuming power.
Earlier today, two people were killed and more than 100 injured as clashes broke out between Morsi opponents and supporters.
And for more, we turn to Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers in Cairo.
Nancy, thanks for joining us.
The president's speech ended really just about an hour ago. We saw there were throngs, thousands of people in Tahrir Square watching. What was the reaction?
NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Well, just as Morsi has been a divisive figure throughout his presidency, this speech had just a divisive reaction.
If you were in Tahrir Square, the iconic Tahrir Square, where the uprising of 2011 led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak, there were chants of "leave" and cursing. In fact, you could barely hear the speech there because of all the chants.
If you were in Nasr City, which is near the presidential palace, there were cheers of support for Morsi. Those who support him saw the speech as confirmation that he needs more time, that he has been bullied by remnants of the former regime. And opponents saw this as another example of a president who wasn't going to reach out to them.
So, in a sense, this speech really confirmed what people felt going into it. So the ultimate goal of pacifying concerns that this weekend's protest that could turn violent, in that effort, he failed. Rather, it solidified the lines that have been here really since the early days of his presidency.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, in fact, the lines have been there since the early days of his presidency. Has it been growing? Is the polarization growing? How severe is it now, say, compared to a year ago?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, when he took office initially, he had won with 52 percent of the vote, and his popularity rating was as high as 74 percent early on.
You talk to Egyptians now, and more and more of them are frustrated by everyday problems. Today, in Egypt alone, I spoke to Egyptians who had stood in line for literally 24 hours in nearly 100-degree heat to fill up their car with gasoline. More people are hungry. More people are unemployed. The hopes and dreams of the 2000 uprising are gone. People are just looking for basic services to come back.
A good day in Egypt is one where one has water and electricity for the entire day. And so I think his popularity has clearly fallen. And in fact the poll numbers show that they're back to Mubarak levels. But at the same time, there are people who say that the solution is not to just keep going to the streets and calling for protests, that is, that the moment of accountability is at the ballot box, not on the streets.
And that's really what's at stake this weekend. Who decides what the political will of this nation is, the ballot box or a popular referendum, as opponents are calling the protests that they have planned for this weekend?
MARGARET WARNER: So the protest that is planned for Sunday, which is the one-year anniversary of his taking power, does it have an objective? Or is it just to vent?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, that's a great point.
The -- one of the reasons that -- that opponents have had a hard time winning over support or winning their fight to call for Morsi's resignation is that they are disenfranchised and disorganized amongst themselves, and can't even agree on what they want to come up of these protests.
Some will say Morsi needs to step down and be replaced by the constitutional court leader. Some will say that the army should take over again. Some will say that there should be new elections right away. Some will say that elections should happen in six months from now. So there's really no agreement amongst them.
It's this chorus of calls for change without really defining what that change should look like. And that's one of the reasons that Morsi has been able to hold onto power in a way that I think most people here wouldn't have expected had there been a viable opposition movement here.
MARGARET WARNER: And you mentioned the army. What has been the army's role in all this? I gather that the army chief made a -- issued kind of a warning on Sunday to both sides in this conflict.
NANCY YOUSSEF: That's right.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was appointed by Morsi in August, said that both sides needed to come to some sort of reconciliation. He gave them a week deadline. And, in fact, Morsi in his speech tonight called for a committee, a reconciliation committee.
He also said, though, that the military would only intervene if it turned into a -- quote, unquote -- "uncontrollable conflict," no matter who started it. That is, if the Brotherhood and the Morsi supporters instigate violence, they will defend Morsi opponents, and if Morsi opponents start to shoot at the Brotherhood and Morsi supporters, they will stop that.
And, so, that the military spoke up, it is a very big deal in this country, because it's the most revered institution here, and really seen as the last nationalist force here that could actually serve as an arbiter in what's become a protracted conflict that has really defined Morsi's first year in office.
MARGARET WARNER: And so what's the atmosphere like, at least in Cairo and elsewhere, as this weekend approaches?
NANCY YOUSSEF: It's very tense.
In 2011, when the uprising started, it began as an effort to rid the police of corruption and evolved into a call for Mubarak's fall, whereas here, it's starting as -- already as a call by many for Morsi to step down. And so there's a real feeling of tension. Grocery stores are empty. People are stocking up on food, on water, on ammunition in some cases.
People are looking down in their homes. People are trying to find gasoline wherever they can. And there's a real expectation of violence.
And when you ask Egyptians why is it OK for people to die, they will say, we might have to die to get rid of Morsi, that he will not leave easily and that this is the price to really bring about a revolution in Egypt.
So it really is the most tense that I have that ever seen this country. And I think that's why this speech was the most important speech delivered since Mubarak's resignation in February 2011.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Nancy Youssef with McClatchy, that's saying quite something.
Thank you so much.
By Larry Kotlikoff
After Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling invalidating a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Elvert Barnes.
The Supreme Court's decision to rule a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, thereby extending federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, represents an enormous advance for our country.
No one has a monopoly on language, and if same-sex couples wish to use the word "marriage" to solemnize their devotion to one another and legalize their financial commitments, they should have every right in the world to do so.Impacts of Supreme Court Ruling 15 Federal Benefits Same-Sex Couples Can Now Look Forward To
And after the court's ruling Wednesday, they have that right in the 13 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal, now including the biggie -- California. Now it's time for the other 37 states to fall in line.
But there's more good news for same-sex couples. Unmarried same-sex couples in the 13 states, as well as those who move to those states, can, as of now, cash in on a potentially very large Social Security bonanza.
It may not be widely known, but married folk get treated better -- a whole lot better -- than single folk by Social Security. Specifically, Social Security provides spousal and survivor benefits to one's spouse. And you only have to be married one year to get spousal benefits and nine months to get survivor benefits. Moreover, if your partner has a child under age 16, you can collect spousal benefits regardless of your age.
To illustrate the potential financial benefits of same-sex couples tying the knot in one of what will surely be called "The Original 13 States," I just hopped onto my company's ESPlannerPLUS financial planning program and ran the case of Jerry and Ken, who are both 55 and live in California. They both earned middle class salaries until now, have a modest home with a mortgage and $500,000 in regular assets. But Ken recently retired because Jerry got a big raise and is now pulling down $200,000 a year. Jerry likes his job and will stick with it until age 65.
If Ken and Jerry play their Social Security cards right, (see my three rules for maximizing Social Security benefits), they can rake in an extra $60,000 in Social Security spousal benefits -- just by getting married!
To maximize their benefits, Jerry should file for his retirement benefit at 66 and suspend its collection, permitting Ken to take just his spousal benefit based on Jerry's earnings record. When Jerry and Ken reach 70, they should both begin taking their retirement benefits, which thanks to Social Security's delayed retirement credit, will start at the highest possible values.
Getting married has another financial advantage for Jerry and Ken, at least for a while. The couple can lower their income taxes by $3,000 to $5,000 over the next nine years because Jerry would otherwise get nailed filing as a single, given his high earnings. So for this couple, there is a singles penalty, not a marriage penalty, during the years Jerry works.
The downside here is that once Jerry retires, Jerry and Ken do face a marriage penalty and end up paying from $1,000 to $2,000 more in federal taxes for many a year. But the two are better off on balance over the rest of their lives.
Indeed, their sustainable discretionary spending rises from $78,595 per year to $82,010. That's a permanent increase of $3,415 each year, measured in today's dollars. Let me say this differently: Jerry and Ken can spend a few minutes in front of a justice of the peace or go for a supersized wedding and raise their living standard by 4.3 percent with no risk whatsoever!
I'm not saying every same-sex couple who marries will receive such a big financial bonus. Some will get less and some more. What's clear, though, is that with the right moves, Wednesday's Supreme Court decision can make a significant material difference to millions of same-sex couples.
The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington sings the National Anthem in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday. Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Gay couples across the country celebrated a pair of blockbuster rulings as the Supreme Court concluded its term Wednesday, but the political fight is far from over.
President Barack Obama said Thursday morning he wants to see couples from states where same-sex marriages is legal be able to have their union recognized in every state.
"It's my personal belief -- and I'm speaking now as a president [not] as a lawyer, if you're married in Massachusetts and you move someplace else, you're still married," Mr. Obama told reporters traveling with him in Senegal, according to Politico.
The president also stressed that lawyers in his administration are working out the details of what Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings will mean, Politico reported.
The president's push for marriage equality began just over one year ago when he announced he had "evolved" on the issue, which also has seen a dramatic turnaround in public opinion.
Advocates on both sides of the debate made clear they will step up their efforts.
Soon after the court's rulings were issued, the president's Organizing for Action campaign spinoff quickly sent a note to the millions of supporters on its email list asking for support on a petition, and pledging the group would go "state by state if we have to" to push the legalization of gay marriage in the 37 places it is banned.
"For everyone who cares about equality, we've come so far in the past few years. This is a call to action -- this is a fight we will win," wrote Jon Carson, OFA's executive director. "We have history on our side, and we've never had more momentum than we do right now."
But conservatives in Congress announced they will push for a federal marriage amendment to restore the Defense of Marriage Act. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., told reporters he is asking aides to draft a constitutional amendment to limit marriage in the United States to between one man and one woman, writes Roll Call's Emma Dumain.
"The court would like to think this goes away," Huelskamp said. "They set the stage for more."
Republican leadership was less forceful in responding. Most lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, expressed disappointment in the court's rulings but did not pledge action.
On the Washington Post's front page, Dan Balz examined the political reverberations of the decision. He writes about the justices' sense of history. And he notes:
In one sense, the politics of same-sex marriage already had reached a tipping point. Less than a decade ago, Republicans considered the issue a valuable political weapon with which to rally conservatives and put Democrats on the defensive. Today, although a majority of Republicans continue to oppose same-sex marriage, Republican leaders and candidates are on the defensive. Their positions may not have changed but many of them are silent on the issue, particularly in the context of political campaigns.
Across the country, state and local governments, along with the Obama administration, were scrambling to figure out the next steps in what could be a complicated legal and tax question, depending on where couples live.
Mr. Obama, in his initial statement applauding the Supreme Court's decision, which came in as he was flying to Africa, said he directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with federal departments to implement the changes. When the Defense of Marriage Act lifts in 25 days, a number of federal agencies will widen their procedures to include gay spouses.
Data Producer Elizabeth Shell outlined in a graphic15 federal benefits same-sex couples can now look forward to.
Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay advocacy group and a force involved in both the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, said in a statement that all federal rights for gay couples won't be available immediately.
"Same-sex couples who are legally married and live in a marriage equality state should be eligible for the same rights, benefits, and protections afforded to straight married couples, virtually right away. But because the more than 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities of marriage are administered by many different federal agencies - many with different rules about which state's laws they look to in determining if a marriage is valid - it is possible that legally married lesbian and gay couples living in a state that does not recognize their marriage may not have access to certain benefits, at least for the time being."
Specifically, some departments of the federal government have clear policies on how they interpret marriage. For instance, when it comes to immigration policy, it only matters where a marriage was celebrated, regardless of where a couple lives. Alan Gomez of USA Today reported that gay and lesbian couples will be able to get visas for their foreign spouses.
The Pentagon released an outline of its changes. In short, the Defense Department will update ID cards and provide them for civilian spouses, and extend the same medical, dental and housing benefits to same-sex civilian spouses that straight partners receive. The department will also amend its burial policies at Arlington National Cemetery.
Other sections of the government, such as with Social Security, are more unclear, according to Mary Bonauto, counsel with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. These sorts of differences could affect couples across state lines from one another, federal workers and members of the military, who are often transferred around the country.
Jeremy Peters of the New York Times explored the "thicket of conflicting state and local laws" still facing gay couples following Wednesday's rulings:
But would-be recipients of Social Security survivors' benefits could run into trouble if they have moved since getting married. Eligibility for survivors' benefits depends on where the potential recipient lived at the time he or she applied. So unless the Obama administration can find enough legal room in the Windsor decision to give it the authority to change how Social Security benefits are administered, some same-sex couples will be left without spousal benefits.
The same could be true of veterans' surviving spouses. Veterans' benefits determinations are made based on the law of the state where the couple lived either at the time of the marriage or when the right to the benefit accrued.
Beyond Social Security and veterans' benefits, there will still be conflicts in myriad other federally administered programs, from filing taxes to eligibility for family medical leave. But because changes in how those are administered would not require an act of Congress, the Obama administration may be able to make the necessary adjustments with the stroke of a pen.
Soon after the ruling, California Gov. Jerry Brown said that all 58 counties could begin once again performing same-sex marriages "as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted." The Sacramento Bee has the details. Because of Supreme Court procedure, that means 25 days. California Attorney General Kamala Harris urged for same-sex marriages in the state to resume "immediately."
It's unclear if Proposition 8's supporters will be able to mount another legal challenge or curtail the court's ruling to apply less than statewide. On a press call, their attorneys declined to say what the next step would be but assured listeners Proposition 8 would still be law.
Ray Suarez led off the NewsHour's Wednesday broadcast with a report looking at the coast-to-coast reaction to the court's rulings in the two cases.
And Jeffrey Brown spoke with Bonauto, an attorney who's litigated DOMA cases for years and who has become an icon in the gay marriage movement. She joined Austin Nimocks, of Alliance Defending Freedom and co-counsel for the Proposition 8 proponents' case.
Each explained what happens next in federal and California governments, and for their causes.
Watch the segment here or below:Watch Video
Watch Ray's report and Marcia Coyle's legal analysis of the decisions here or below.Watch Video
And don't miss our terrific live blog rounding up reaction and consequences, manned by Politics Online Production Assistant Meena Ganesan.
NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels captured the scene outside San Francisco City Hall Wednesday morning as the decisions were announced.
For our full, in-depth Supreme Court coverage of the 2012-2013 term, visit our page.
The border security compromise passed in the Senate Wednesday, setting up final passage for Friday before the Fourth of July recess. Reuters' Caren Bohan looked ahead to Rep. Paul Ryan's role attempting to sell immigration reform to House Republicans.
Ben Pershing rounded up how the marriage ruling matters in Virginia's gubernatorial contest.
Emily Cahn writes for Roll Call that the special House race to replace Democratic Sen.-elect Ed Markey in Massachusetts will get crowded.
In his debut for the paper of record, the New York Times' Jonathan Martin looks at the changing demographics of the South in light of Tuesday's Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
A top donor to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is heading a new super PAC that plans to spend upwards of $5 million focusing the debate in the Democrat's 2014 re-election race on "Alaska issues."
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a comic book based on her life story out this week.
BuzzFeed's running of the interns, which shows young Washington aides sprinting with the Supreme Court's rulings in hand, is fabulous.
Rusty the Red Panda's father is nicknamed Strom Thurmond.
The final score in the Congressional Women's Softball Game: Bad News Babes 11, members of Congress 8. That's right, the press team kept the trophy for the second straight year. During the game, Christina played right field for one inning, scored a run, advanced two runners, and didn't embarrass herself. Emily Heil wrote for the Post that the game seems "grown up" in its fifth year.
For Science Wednesday, Rebecca Jacobson pulled together a look at how the evolution of our bone structure made the fastball possible.
Reporter Producer Allie Morris explains how social media played into Texas' abortion debate.
What investment is safer than U.S. Treasury bonds and fits Mr. Obama's energy plan?
Frontline looks at how states are already moving to adopt new voter ID laws following Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling on voting rights.
By leaving UN post, Rice gives up fabulous penthouse apartment that serves as residence of America's UN Ambassador. http://t.co/S64kyWUvZt— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 27, 2013
If anyone has bad news to dump, today's a pretty good day to do it. Any other governors get unreported Rolexes as gifts?— Reid Wilson (@HotlineReid) June 26, 2013
Marriage should be defined as any two people who fight over the good pillow.— Emily Cutler (@CutlerEmily) June 26, 2013
Everyone changing their Twitter picture is clearly what tipped the scale.— Stefan Becket (@stefanjbecket) June 26, 2013
I assume that most of Pete Williams' interns are track stars http://t.co/VQmuVW3K16— Scott Bixby (@ScottBix) June 26, 2013
Carney says Obama called Edie Windsor, DOMA plaintiff, and Chad Griffin of HRC. The Griffin call was the one that got on MSNBC— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) June 26, 2013
Just married a corgi thanks SCOTUS— daveweigel (@daveweigel) June 26, 2013
Katelyn Polantz 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
Paul Solman gets a lesson in conducting music from Diane Wittry, conductor of the Allentown Symphony.
In shooting our story on "starving artists," which is slated to air on PBS NewsHour Thursday, Allentown Symphony Conductor Diane Wittry tried to school me in the art of leading an orchestra. That lesson didn't make it into the final story, but for those of you who, like me, have always wanted to know what a conductor actually does, this excerpt from the interview with Wittry is well worth watching, or reading.
Paul Solman: Excuse me for asking, but what exactly is it that a conductor does?
Diane Wittry: You know, it's interesting, because I have a new book coming out, which I just got the contract for from Oxford, and it's all about conducting gesture, because so many people don't understand that actually every single gesture we do affects the sound that comes out of that orchestra. And if the orchestra trips, we've caused it. We may not even realize at the time that we're causing it, but it's so connected. So first and foremost, we basically do signals that tell the players where the beats are. But that's -- a kindergarten person can do that. I can teach you to do that, and you could count: one, two, three, four; That's not conducting.
Paul Solman: Well, a metronome could do that.
Diane Wittry: A metronome can do that. A blinking light can do that. That's just basically setting a tempo. But, what I'm interested in as a conductor, is how what I do as a gesture creates a different quality of sound. So if I do this, I make it a different sound than if I go like this. And if I'm tense in my body, even if I don't realize I'm tense in my body, I will get a tighter sound out of the orchestra; and if I'm able to relax my body, I can let that sound lift.
And so, as I'm conducting, I'm just constantly listening and adjusting so that I'm getting the sound that I want. It's all about quality of sound. And of course, you need to be clear because you need people to know where they are, but that's just the beginning. And then beyond that, it's all about how do we create sound. I call it sound sculptures in the air, and every single motion; if I speed up accidentally, I will bump it -- I will make people trip and it will affect the sound.
Paul Solman: So, take a snippet of some piece of music we all are familiar with, like -- I don't know -- Beethoven's "Fifth [Symphony]": "Dadadadum..." Show me some different ways to do that.
Diane Wittry: You know what's interesting -- because there are a lot on the internet -- and a lot of crazy ones, because you have to sort of give the prep. Everything is set by the prep. The breath sets for the downbeat, and if you try to affect the sound on the downbeat, it's already too late. They've already created the sound. It's already gone. So I always, when I teach people -- I could teach you how to conduct. You just pretend like you're pulling a rubber band; pull back and then snap, "babababum." And then you've got it. But you've got to be able to connect to something first. If I just go down, you don't know when to play, right? It's all in the breath; it's all in the prep.
But you've got to breathe at the same time, see, because I would not be able to tell where you wanted to come in just now, because you were just going like...and I'm going like, "Where...?" So you have to give them something; you have to breathe. It's sort of like lifting up a hatchet. If you're going to lift up a hatchet and swing it down, there's a momentum to it that has -- it's like a pendulum. You know, if I swing a pendulum, you know from my swing that at this certain point it's going to hit at the bottom. And that's how they know how to play.
Paul Solman: Okay, Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" -- "Da da da da da da da da da..."
Diane Wittry: Well, so if you're going to conduct that piece, you're going to have to give a prep beat, so our normal prep starts down here and comes up with a breath, and comes down. So, you're going to want to breathe, but you don't want to go like this -- you see a lot of conductors and they go -- and if I do that, I'm sending multiple signals. Do I come and play when the chin comes down? Do I play when the shoulders go down? Do I play when the hand goes down? So you have to isolate just the hand. And you have to be careful not to try to conduct with the eyes and the hand at the same time. You really have to focus the energy here: breath, boom.
And so the breath has to connect to something. You can't just go like this, right? How would you know where to play?
I can give a bounce at the bottom which we call that an ictus, you know; you have a bounce beat, but if I want to play "bom," I would do a different type of beat if I want them to sink into that note a little bit. I have to think what type of sound; do I want "bom, bom, bom," or do I want "daa, daa, daa," and the sound I give, I have to show in the prep.
So that's how I prepare -- is really thinking my hand has to communicate, or my baton, has to communicate sound.
Paul Solman: And what about if you did that with -- I don't know -- Wagnerian bombast?
Yes, I would give a very -- I would probably do the gesture with two hands, and give a very sort of, you know, something we could sink into, and I might even slow the tempo down a little bit at the end.
Paul Solman: What would that sound like?
Diane Wittry: It would be a "bomm, bomm bom..." You know, it might be sort of a more Wagnerian type. And let's see who else could we do? Ravel or something -- something more lighter. French music -- whenever I conduct French music, I'm purposefully very vague, because I want the sound to be very transparent.
And so we think of German sound as very much a good attack, and Russian also has a good attack. But with French music, I just, I have where they really can't tell exactly where to play, and then I get this very hesitant sound, which is exactly what I want.
The book I'm writing, basically, compares conducting gestures to gestures that everyone already knows. And so it's a lot easier to understand and communicate it because it would be like a "pick up your cup of coffee." You reach out; you impact with something; you pick up something that has weight. And it's the same thing when we conduct; We have to connect to the sound and we have to transfer that sound from beat to beat.
Nelson Mandela's daughter, Zindzi Mandela (right) hugs an unidentified person on June 26 outside the hospital in Pretoria where her father is being treated for a lung infection. Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.
Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela, said her family has not given up hope on his recovery. "He's a strong man. He's about resilience," she told NBC special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault by telephone on Thursday.
Referring to her father as "Madiba," the name of his clan and a term of endearment for the national hero, Zindzi Mandela said: "He's not wanting to go anywhere, anytime soon."
Mandela's daughter told Hunter-Gault that her father is "continuing to improve" and described her visit with the former president on Wednesday.
"He was very comfortable and was responding as I was chatting to him," said Zindzi Mandela. "Madiba opened his eyes, smiled at me, you know, reached out for my hand."
The 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader was hospitalized in Pretoria, South Africa, with a lung infection on June 8. He took a turn for the worse last weekend, but South African President Jacob Zuma said Thursday after visiting him that his condition had improved overnight, though he was still listed as critical.
"We remain upbeat and hopeful and we are very grateful to all the prayers and the support and the love we are getting from everybody," Zindzi Mandela said.
She added that her father's condition is "typical of a 94-year-old man, you know, whose health is frail."
President Barack Obama is touring sub-Saharan Africa this week, making stops in three countries: Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. The White House has said he would defer to the family on any possible meetings with Mandela.
When asked if the family would welcome a visit from President Obama, Mandela said she wasn't aware of a formal request from the president, but it would be up to his doctors to allow it.
"I know for a fact my father is fond of President Obama," she continued. "They met before when he was still a senator and he responded to me very positively the other day when I said to him, 'Obama is coming.' I had been chatting to him about a whole lot of stuff that I suppose he found quite boring probably just slept throughout but when I spoke about President Obama, his eyes just flew open and he just gave me the sweetest, most gentle smile."
Charlayne Hunter-Gault was a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour from 1977 to 1997. View all of our World coverage.
NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez spoke to a family faced with the challenges of having mixed immigration status in the United States. He spoke to them, an immigration reporter and a lawyer in a Google Hangout Thursday.
Crystal Mendez met her husband Raul at a restaurant in 2006. He didn't speak English, but he sure could dance. They fell in love, had a son together and eventually got married in 2009. But when the couple went to adjust Raul's status as an American citizen, they found out that he was undocumented -- something neither of them knew. For the full story on how mixed status families are affected by immigration law, including Crystal and Raul's full story, see here.
Raul is now serving a five-year bar from the U.S. in the Dominican Republic. Crystal and her son, both U.S. citizens, live in Perkasie, Pa. Her health problems require medical attention in the U.S., and prevent her from joining her husband in his home country.
Both Crystal and Raul spoke with NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez in a Google Hangout to discuss the personal struggles of their mixed-status family. Alan Gomez, an immigration reporter from USA today and Lizz Cannon, the lawyer for the Mendez family, also joined the Hangout to talk about immigration law as it stands today, and potential changes to the law as the immigration reform bill is debated on Capitol Hill.
A City Year volunteer works with students in Seattle. Photo By City Year
Graduating from college can be an exciting and frightening experience, and a time full of opportunities and big decisions. But for some students this year, college graduation is a great leap into a dry job market where the recession has hit young people the hardest.
The outlook for new graduates is discouraging, according to Beth Akers, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. The latest Bureau of Labor statistic numbers indicate that job seekers between 20 and 24 years old face a 13.2 percent unemployment rate, compared to the 10.5 percent youth unemployment rate in 2007. The current national average is 7.6 percent. Akers adds that college degree holders normally should fare better than those without them.
"It seems during period of recession recent graduates fare worst," said Akers. "The first place that the company makes cuts is on new hires. They're not interested in investing money for new workers when they're not expanding the workforce."
Liz Coda, Samantha Vandre and Cortni Thomas all avoided being counted among the unemployed. They are 2013 graduates who found non-traditional jobs. Coda signed up to serve with Teach for America, which places members in urban schools as teachers, and pays a salary comparable to that of a first-year teacher.
Samantha Vandre recently graduated from Marquette University. She will be joining the Peace Corps.
Vandre joined the Peace Corps, which sends Americans abroad to assist populations in developing countries, and pays both a living stipend and an allowance of $275 per month.
Thomas will work for City Year, which places members in classrooms of low-income school districts to tutor and mentor students. It pays about $1,120 a month, depending on your location, and adds another $5,550 at the end of the program.
Even though these recent graduates remain uncertain about their future employment prospects, they all say they want to be a force of change in their community. They saw these temporary service programs as a way to improve their chances of getting a job later on.
"I wasn't 100 percent sure what I wanted to do," said Thomas, who ultimately hopes to be a state senator. "I'm passionate about illiteracy in urban areas. My platform is going to be education. So I want to see how different education systems worked, and what students needed in terms of reform."
As opportunities for recent graduates in the job market have slimmed down, service organizations like Teach for America and City Year have grown in size. Teach For America's pool of educators is up 46.5 percent, from 6,177 members in 2009 to 9,048 members in 2012. The Peace Corps will send 8,073 people overseas this year, and it receives about 12,400 applications annually. City Year has grown about 70 percent, from 6,750 applications for 1,600 spots in 2009 to 11,500 applicants for 2,550 positions in 2012.
Melanie Mueller, City Year's vice president of recruitment and admissions, said applications spiked in 2008 when the economy took a downward turn and the presidential election was heavy with political rhetoric about service and change.
Vandre graduated in May from Marquette University and is getting ready to go to Cambodia as a part of the Peace Corps program. With a degree in psychology, she said her options in the traditional job market were not great.
Cortni Thomas graduates from University of California, Riverside. Thomas will be joining City Year in the fall.
"I wouldn't be able to get a job that would be of any interest in my career path," said Vandre. "Maybe I'd be working reception at a psychology clinic, but that's not an appropriate stepping stone for becoming what I wanted to be."
Coda, who also majored in psychology, graduated recently from Northwestern University. She echoes Vandre's sentiments about job prospects in the field, and will be joining Teach for America this fall.
"My major is in psychology, minor in French. You know those two are not so lucrative fields of study," she said.
Coda said she might be interested in making a career out of teaching, and that Teach For America will allows for her to have classroom experience with the ability to opt out after two years.
The Brooking Institution's Beth Akers said these service programs are a good option at a time when many graduates are facing unemployment or underemployment, particularly when they may offer student debt relief, and partnerships with companies and graduate schools.
"Your first job is extremely important is determining income trajectory," said Akers. "Students are, in a sense, delaying their entrance into the labor force."
Thomas, who is graduating from the University of California, Riverside, considered going on to graduate school or a credentialed program for education. She settled on City Year because it promised her a breadth of experience that she can take with her as she moves toward her career goals. The program also allows her to work in different parts of the country.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to grow," said Thomas. "I always had everything growing up. I've never seen the world."
Many of these organizations have fine-tuned its pitches to young graduates as a valuable experience.
In fact, none of these three service organizations is depending on the economic downturn to drive recruitment. Many of them have built strong relationships with college campuses.
City Year's Mueller said that the program's recruitment strategy now is making it a household name.
Liz Coda recently graduated from Northwestern University. She will be starting as a teacher for Teach for America in the fall.
"We wanted to move beyond this idea that this was something to do in between things," said Mueller. "We wanted this to be a deliberate career decision."
Teach for America alone recruits on more than 300 campuses around the United States, according to its recruitment director Chante Chambers. She added that the organization has also started to engage younger college students in social and education issues so that when they are ready to graduate, they will consider Teach for America as an option.
"We hold workshops, activities that dig deeper into the issue to get students to start thinking along those lines, and the role they play in the community," said Chambers.
With the recession creating an employer's market, more young graduates are positioning themselves to optimize their chances of getting work in the future. They're hoping the experience they gain with these service organizations will help them.
"I think that the Peace Corp will really help me develop into an honest and hardworking person," said Vandre. "You're thrown into this experience where you have no idea what you're doing. You have to learn a new language, a new field. I think it will make me a very well-rounded person."
It wasn't that long ago that President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. He did it quietly, literally in the dark of night. Less than three years earlier, he'd signed off on another law gay rights advocates hated and later lobbied to overturn -- the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military.
Only five years ago, during the 2008 presidential race, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton -- both then United States senators -- were willing to endorse same-sex marriage. Civil unions, yes. But marriage -- no.
This week, all three praised the Supreme Court for invalidating a law that would deny federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was erased in 2011.
History can run fast, and this was a head-snapping week.
On four separate occasions, bipartisan majorities in Congress have easily renewed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which, among other things, forced states with a history of voter suppression to meet strict tests when they redraw districts or shift polling places. Four Republican presidents signed the renewals, most recently George W. Bush in 2006.
The Supreme Court changed that course this week.
Everyone believes in equality, but not everyone agrees on what, exactly, that means.
Sentiment toward another issue the court weighed in on this week, affirmative action, is changing too. The justices approved preferential admissions as a method to achieve diversity in higher education only 10 years ago when it rejected a challenge to a University of Michigan admissions policy.
This week, the court stopped well short of striking down the practice when it had the opportunity. But it signaled a higher bar would be set in the future. It has already accepted another challenge for review next year. Slippery slopes loom.
It's hard to tell whether the court is following the public on these matters or the other way around. Depending on who gets to do the defining, polls show public opinion has been slipping and sliding on all these issues.
Definition turns out to be key. Everyone believes in equality, but not everyone agrees on what, exactly, that means.
One dictionary defines the word equality as a "state of being equal," and as "full quality under the law." This is an expansive idea that can mean all kinds of things, depending on where you sit.
I have no doubt, for instance, that our Founding Fathers were sincere in 1787 when they declared their constitutional intent to form "a more perfect Union." But it wasn't until 1865 -- 13 amendments later -- that anyone thought to abolish slavery. And it wasn't until 1870 that former slaves were allowed to vote. Women didn't get that right until half a century later -- in 1920 -- with the adoption of the 19th Amendment.
In other words, no one who looks like me was anybody's priority in 1787.
So, assuming that our reading of equality has always been an evolving ideal, this week's court decisions fit the pattern.
Both affirmative action and voting rights, which were born during a period when presidents and lawmakers of both parties thought a level playing field could be achieved through statute, have faded in the public imagination.
Chief Justice John Roberts said as much in his majority opinion on the Voting Rights Act: "Our country has changed," he wrote, "and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions."
That same strain of reasoning runs through affirmative action debates. If Americans are persuaded government has done enough, they are willing to pull back. That hasn't occurred yet with gay marriage.
But equality as an evolving ideal is a theme in our democracy, with leaps forward and steps back. The immigration debate now underway in Congress provides a fresh example.
No matter which side of the argument you find yourself on, it's always helpful to be reminded that our sense of who we are has never been a static one, and is unlikely ever to be.
JEFFREY BROWN: A bipartisan Senate majority today passed historic legislation reforming the nation's immigration system. The measure offers the hope of citizenship to 11 million immigrants now in the United States illegally. But the bill faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives.
Ray Suarez has our report.
FEMALE: Mr. Baucus?
SEN. MAX BAUCUS, D-Mont.: Aye.
RAY SUAREZ: Senators sat in their seats for the final vote on the immigration bill, reflecting the historic nature of the occasion.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The yeas on this bill are 68; the nays are 32. The bill, as amended, is passed.
RAY SUAREZ: And with that, the Senate approved a sweeping overhaul of the country's immigration system for the first time in almost 30 years. Supporters of the legislation praised the result, but acknowledged the fight was far from over.
New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez:
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J.: This is an opportunity to do exactly what we did, affect the lives of millions, promote the security of the nation, create a more robust economy, reduce the debt of the country. That's the opportunity before the House. I hope that they will take it.
RAY SUAREZ: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was grateful for a two-thirds margin from a body that has a hard time agreeing on anything.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Sixty-eight votes in a body that can't agree that Sunday should be a day off is a really -- step in the right direction. A bill becomes law when it's signed by the president. To our friends in the House, I understand that you may have a different approach. Speak with your voice. Speak in a way that you feel comfortable. Just don't ignore the issue. That's all I ask.
RAY SUAREZ: The Senate bill would create a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million people currently in the country illegally. The legislation also seeks to bolster security along the southern border by hiring 20,000 new Border Patrol agents and completing 700 miles of fencing.
Even with that border security initiative, at a cost of roughly $40 billion dollars, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the plan fell short of what is needed.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: One thing I'm fairly certain about is that we will never resolve the immigration problem on a bipartisan basis, either now or in the future, until we can prove -- prove -- that the border is secure as a condition for legalization. This, to me, continues to be the biggest hurdle to reform.
RAY SUAREZ: Other lawmakers expressed hope the border security elements could be strengthened in the Republican-controlled House.
Texas Republican John Cornyn:
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: One of our colleagues in the House called this bill a runaway train in the Senate. But that train is getting ready to slow down. And I think the American people will benefit from the Congress taking its time to make sure not just that we just pass a bill, but we pass a good bill.
RAY SUAREZ: Despite the strong bipartisan showing in the Senate, the bill faces a less certain future in the House. Speaker John Boehner says his chamber will chart its own course when it comes to immigration reform, a point he reinforced in a session this morning with reporters.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We're going to do our own bill through regular order.
And it will be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people.
RAY SUAREZ: Boehner added he believed any bill should have the support of a majority in both parties. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans would likely need Democratic support to move a bill through the chamber.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: If you want Democratic votes, we're just not voting for anything. We know it has to be a compromise. We know who is in the majority. But if you want our votes, it has to be something that our members can vote for.
RAY SUAREZ: The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe said the heavy lift will come when, and if, the two chambers have to reconcile their bills.
ED O'KEEFE, The Washington Post: What they have to do in the House first and foremost is come up with a plan on border security that is considered agreeable for most of the Republicans. And that would require strengthening, toughening what was passed in the Senate, and that might be a bridge too far for some senators of both parties who approved the bill on Thursday.
RAY SUAREZ: Boehner said today House Republicans would discuss their next steps on immigration reform once Congress returns from its July 4 recess.
In other news Thursday, the Obama administration suspended trade benefits for Bangladesh following two garment factory disasters within the past year. More than 1,200 people died because of poor working conditions. Also, surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was indicted on 30 federal and 15 state counts.
MARGARET WARNER: Next to Africa, where President Obama's multination tour comes as the world watches the day-to-day health of former South African leader Nelson Mandela.
President Obama today gazed out the Door of No Return on Senegal's Goree Island, a memorial to the multitude of Africans said to have walked through it bound for slavery in the new world. He described the experience, part of the first family's first full day in Africa, as a very powerful moment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a testament to when we're not vigilant in defense of what's right what can happen.
MARGARET WARNER: Earlier, Senegalese President Macky Sall welcomed his American counterpart to the capital city, Dakar.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is wonderful to be here in Senegal.
MARGARET WARNER: Both leaders embraced the importance of transparent government, economic development and food security efforts in the country. But they parted ways over gay rights. Homosexuality is a crime in most African nations, including Senegal.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions. But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally.
PRESIDENT MACKY SALL, Senegal: Senegal, as far as it is concerned, is a very tolerant country which doesn't discriminate in terms of inalienable rights of the human being.
But we are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality. We have respect for the rights of homosexuals, but for the time being, we are still not ready to change the law. But, of course, this doesn't mean we are all homophobic.
MARGARET WARNER: The president also spoke warmly of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who remains in critical condition in a Johannesburg hospital.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think he's a hero for the world. And if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we will all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages.
MARGARET WARNER: The Obamas will fly to South Africa Saturday for a visit long in the making. Whether he will see the ailing leader remains uncertain. From there, the president will wrap up his weeklong trip with a stop in Tanzania.
Noticeably not on the president's itinerary, Kenya, his father's birthplace. Mr. Obama visited as a senator, but his administration is now keeping its distance from the country's newly elected president, Uhuru Kenyatta. He is under indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges he bankrolled post-election ethnic killings in 2007.
This is only Mr. Obama's second presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa. The other was a 22-hour stopover and speech in Ghana in 2009. His predecessor, George W. Bush, made multiple trips to Africa, pushing his multibillion-dollar AIDS funding program, PEPFAR, and a major debt relief plan.
And President Bill Clinton was widely praised for the economic development spurred by his African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. So far, there are no big-ticket items on President Obama's agenda this trip. But he did today pledge to extend the AGOA, which expires in two years.
MARGARET WARNER: And for more on the president's visit and his administration's performance in Africa, we turn to Sarah Pray, senior policy analyst for Africa at The Open Society Foundations, and Todd Moss, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
Welcome to you both.
Todd, beginning with you, how do you rate or grade the Obama administration's track record on Africa so far?
TODD MOSS, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development: Well, so far, I think it's been a big disappointment, especially in contrast to Presidents Clinton and Bush that had elevated Africa within the foreign policy hierarchy and really had put their stamp, left a mark on U.S. foreign policy that's lasted, you know, up until today.
We don't yet see that kind of legacy coming from President Obama. And I think it's particularly ironic at this time, as Africa is doing better than ever before, and Africa is more important to the United States than ever before. We're seeing the White House step back from Africa and playing a much less active role.
MARGARET WARNER: Sarah Pray, do you find it disappointing? And do you hear from the people on the continent that they're disappointed?
SARAH PRAY, Senior Policy Analyst for Africa, The Open Society Foundations: Well, I think this trip is perhaps past due, but if nothing else, it's due. It's time.
And I think the fact that he has devoted such a significant period of time to this trip, visiting three countries and really prioritizing economic growth and democracy as the two pillars of this trip, I think that's very welcome on the continent. I think you mentioned some of the omissions that -- the places he will not visit. That clearly has raised quite a fuss on the continent. But ...
MARGARET WARNER: Such as Kenya, which is one of the economic engines of Africa.
SARAH PRAY: Yes.
What I think is important to note is that it was, I think, difficult for the president to choose three countries to visit because he wanted to visit places that were advancing in their path towards democracy and also offered this -- economic development opportunities.
And I think that shows the opportunity for President Obama that these twin pillars of economic development and promotion of democracy can be his legacy.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's step back for just a minute, and have you both tell me why this really matters. Why is Africa important? When you think of all the foreign policy issues that the president's had to deal with, from -- you know, from Iran, winding down two wars, we know the litany, why is Africa important to U.S. interests, or how important?
TODD MOSS: Right. Excellent question.
So, in a negative sense, as we have seen al-Qaida central get attacked, it's spread out into the rest of the world. In particular, we have seen al-Qaida groups in the Sahel across West Africa, and that's raised new security issues. And it's raised the necessity of working with African allies to try to contain this problem.
But I think, more positively, Africa is booming economically. I still think a lot of Americans think of Africa as it was maybe 20 years ago. Six out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. If you are a company and you're thinking about growth markets, you're not thinking about Europe. You should be thinking about Africa and, of course, Asia.
And so I think that the potential opportunities, the upside in terms of economic partnership on business, is really tremendous. And that is really why the president is starting to talk, finally, about these economic opportunities.
MARGARET WARNER: And that is a big focus, at least according to the White House, of this trip, is economic development, seeing Africa as a big market for the United States.
How is the U.S. doing on that front, especially when you have got some other big competitors for that, certainly China, Brazil, to some degree Turkey?
SARAH PRAY: So the latest figures that I saw for 2012 was that Chinese trade with Africa was about $200 billion dollars, and the U.S., it was about $100 billion dollars, so about half of that.
And what I think is important to underscore when looking at those figures is that U.S. companies want stable operating environments. They want to work with governments that are transparent and accountable to their citizens, because it makes for better business back home and in Africa.
And so I think, again, if President Obama can really hammer home that the U.S. expects the countries in Africa to continue on the road to democracy, to be more transparent and accountability -- accountable to their citizens, that that will translate into more investment dollars from U.S. companies.
MARGARET WARNER: But that does raise another difference with China. You look at this itinerary, or going to Ghana three years ago -- four years ago now -- it is countries not only that have elections, but are trying to make -- build institutions to make the governments more accountable. China will do business with everyone.
So, do you agree with Sarah Pray, Todd Moss, that this is the right focus for the Obama administration to take?
TODD MOSS: Well, look, we have many interests everywhere in the world, and we need to balance those interests.
I think that in large part the Chinese involvement in Africa is very positive. Africa has massive infrastructure shortages. China is really good at building infrastructure, and they're doing a lot of it. But what I think the administration wants to make sure is that American companies aren't frozen out of these markets and that potential growth opportunities for the United States are not missed out because we're not paying attention or we think, ah, it's just Africa.
MARGARET WARNER: Is there more that the U.S. government could be doing to help U.S. business? Aren't Chinese companies who invest there backed heavily by their government, for example, for the government -- by the government in Beijing?
SARAH PRAY: Well, from my perspective, I feel like the U.S. actually does help U.S. businesses.
And, for example, the extractive industries are obviously huge in Africa. That's the oil, gas, and mining industry. And the U.S. has been a leader in the extractive industry's transparency initiative, which is a multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to make these industries more transparent and more accountable. And that's good for U.S. business.
That's good for the U.S. government, and hopefully good for the citizens of these countries.
So, I have seen the U.S. playing a very positive role in that. I think there's other opportunities to translate that into other industries, not just the extractive.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think there's more that the U.S. government could do to help?
TODD MOSS: Well, certainly, when other countries' investors arrive in Africa, they come with the full backing of their government. The U.S. should play that role. We have done some of it. We have done it with one arm tied behind our backs, and we could do it a lot more efficiently.
MARGARET WARNER: What do you mean tied behind our backs?
TODD MOSS: Well, look, first of all, the U.S. business model is very different than the Chinese model.
The Chinese model is very state-involved. They can come with big packages where they will have a state-run bank giving a loan for a state-owned oil company that will build a state-run power plant. The U.S. is not like that. We have private firms. The firms like to stick to their core business.
But they still -- countries are still looking for the U.S. to give signals and the companies are looking for signals that Africa is open for business.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Todd Moss and Sarah Pray, we have to leave it there.
SARAH PRAY: Thank you.
TODD MOSS: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: Thank you.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Amy Walter, co-captains of their teams, shake hands before the Congressional Women's Softball Game. All images courtesy of Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com.
There were a lot of great things about the Bad News Babes victory in the fifth annual Congressional Women's Softball Game Wednesday night.
Sure, winning feels terrific. Especially the second year in a row.
And I adore all the members of the press team. Some were already friends, some I bonded with at 7 a.m. on the field over two months of twice-weekly practices, or at the batting cages in Arlington, Virginia after work. We're a supportive bunch.
And who doesn't love to heckle the people they cover day in and day out?
The members' team enjoyed needling the reporters, no doubt. They even took to the House floor to declare, "We want to defeat the common adversary which is the press corps" hours before the game.
In the end, it was the Bad News Babes who earned the headlines.
That's right, the press team prevailed 11-8 even as a thunderstorm boomed its warning nearby. A few raindrops fell in the final inning of what was a closely matched game all the way until the end.
But the best part was the core reason we all suited up in blue and pink. The game raised double the proceeds that came in last year -- bringing in more than $125,000 for the Young Survival Coalition.
(That's including an anonymous $5,000 donation that rolled in right around the time House leaders Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi showed up.)
YSC is such an important organization -- working to promote breast cancer awareness and help young women stricken by the disease.
I played because of my mom, eight years in remission but still battling lasting effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I played because of my dear friend Wafa'a, who died at the age of 26 after fighting lymphoma.
They were my reminders as I played, and everyone else on the field had their own inspiration as well. We all have sisters and partners, daughters and mothers, friends and other loved ones we've seen struggle with cancer.
That's what led to adding #beatcancer to each of our mantras to psych out the other team.
According to the official scorekeeper, Wednesday's game "featured seven lead changes, nineteen hits, and an electric atmosphere with over 1,000 fans in attendance."
Members team co-captain Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor herself and arguably one of the top trash talkers, was confident late Wednesday night at the after-party.
"Eventually we'll get the trophy back, but we are so proud we doubled what we raised last year," she said.
"You united us like no Congress has been united, so we'll see you next year," added Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who admitted after the game that pitching isn't easy, said that even in this hyperpartisan era, the field is an example of "one place that's not broken" in Washington. "It makes a huge difference," the New York Democrat said.
Kasie Hunt of NBC and Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois were named Most Valuable Players. The awards for Most Spirited went to Lisa Desjardins of CNN and Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., was named MVP of the members' team.
The members said they can't wait for a rematch, and Bustos told me she wouldn't mind meeting on another type of field, for a Powder Puff Football contest.
Co-captain Amy Walter noted the members were still trash-talking even after losing. She got cheers from her fellow Babes as she said she had two words for them: "Score. Board."
For those keeping track, my performance wasn't half bad. I scored a run, walked one inning and advanced a runner in the final inning, even though I was tagged out at first base.
People who chose Hunt and third base rock star Abby Livingston for their lineup in the Roll Call Fantasy Softball contest scored high. Check out the winner.
Don't miss the preview video put together by the NewsHour's Ellen Rolfes and Cindy Huang.
And see you next year.
JEFFREY BROWN: And now: the tough labor market for younger workers.
A new report finds underemployment among recent college graduates -- that is, young adults working in a job that does not require a degree -- has jumped to 45 percent.
The terrain is especially rough in the arts these days, as NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman learned, part of his reporting on “Making Sen$e of Financial News."
PAUL SOLMAN: Gustav Mahler's "Fourth Symphony," conducted by James Gaffigan, played by the orchestra of perhaps the world's foremost college of the performing arts, Juilliard, which costs $55,000 dollars a year to attend.
Though many are still undergrads, these kids make world-class music. No surprise, since they're immensely talented and most of them have been practicing practically all day, every day, since they were tots and were admitted to one of the world's most selective schools. Some Juilliard departments have less than a one percent acceptance rate.
So, what are the job prospects of some the world's most gifted and motivated young college grads?
DIANE WITTRY, Conductor, Allentown Symphony: For any orchestral opening in the United States, you might have, for one violin opening, 300 people applying that are all completely qualified to do that job.
PAUL SOLMAN: That includes the Allentown, Penn., orchestra, which Diane Wittry conducts.
DIANE WITTRY: They play great. They have fabulous technique, great sound, great intonation.
PAUL SOLMAN: So then the obvious question: How do you decide whom to hire?
DIANE WITTRY: It's almost like the Olympics. My harp player, I was just talking to her during rehearsal, and she had recently taken an audition. They give you a piece that's really hard, and if you do really well on that one, you get to play another piece, and then maybe you do really well on that one, you get to play another piece.
And she was on the sixth excerpt, and then she messed up and missed a note. And then it's like, thank you very much.
PAUL SOLMAN: Come on, one note?
DIANE WITTRY: Yes, you make a mistake and you're out. And that's how competitive it is in the audition process.
PAUL SOLMAN: And if you think it's tough for instrumentalists, what about dancers?
Each dance class at Juilliard starts small, 24 students or so, and gets even smaller, through attrition. There are job opportunities for male dancers, less competition for each slot. The women, however, face almost impossible odds.
Gallim Dance Company, a small and upcoming modern dance troupe based in Brooklyn, recently advertised an opening.
MEREDITH MAX HODGES, Executive Director, Gallim Dance: And we had 700 dancers audition for the slot.
PAUL SOLMAN: Seven hundred.
MEREDITH MAX HODGES: Seven Hundred.
PAUL SOLMAN: Meredith Max Hodges is Gallim's executive director.
MEREDITH MAX HODGES: Many of these dancers were graduates of conservatories, full-time dance programs. These were serious candidates. PAUL SOLMAN: But no matter how serious, how talented, in today's job market for the arts, there is no guarantee, or even much likelihood, of success.
Who's to blame? A familiar culprit has had a hand: the great recession. According to one survey, 75 percent of New York's nonprofit performing arts groups, those most likely to employ the classically trained, slashed budgets in 2009 and few, if any, are back to pre-crash levels.
A second villain of the piece is technology. When this Mahler work premiered in 1901, there was one way to hear it, in person, meaning dozens of people had to be paid to perform it over and over again. That same year, however, the Victor Talking Machine Company was established, allowing one recorded performance, or a few, to replace many hundreds of live ones.
A century later, searching online for video of Mahler's "Fourth Symphony" yields 25 million hits. So why leave home, pay real money to sit uncomfortably, so you can hear and see the same thing?
GREG SANDOW, Juilliard: We are in the business of selling buggy whips in the age of the automobile.
PAUL SOLMAN: Greg Sandow teaches a Juilliard course on the grim future of an art form that he says simply hasn't kept up with the times.
GREG SANDOW: The audience has been aging for around 50 years, so this is not sustainable. The people who are listening to classical music are getting older and are not being replaced by an equivalent number of younger people.
PAUL SOLMAN: One hope is that an aging population will continue to patronize work like this, and the musicians who perform it, for a while longer, though, for some older people, even works like this Bela Bartok violin concerto can be a challenge, and it was written 75 years ago.
But a 2009 National Endowment for the Arts study summed up the larger trend. Between 1982 and 2008, attendance at performing arts such as classical music, opera, ballet, has seen double-digit rates of decline, in short, fewer and fewer jobs for highly skilled classical performing artists, which means, by the cold law of supply and demand, stagnant or falling wages, except for the brand names who can still draw a crowd.
GREG SANDOW: It's not like, well, you hoped you were going to be a world-beating entrepreneur, but you end with a solid mid-level job in a corporation. In the arts, it doesn't really work out that way. You have 20-odd orchestras in what the League of American orchestras calls group one, and the minimum salary is quite respectable.
But then, beneath that, you have orchestras playing four, five, six concerts a year, and the musicians who play in those orchestras are racking up untold miles on their cars, going from gig to gig.
DIANE WITTRY: And a player in Allentown might make $6,000 to $7,000 dollars a year.
PAUL SOLMAN: Six or seven thousand dollars a year? What else do they do?
DIANE WITTRY: What they do is they play in Reading, in Harrisburg, and they play in the Philadelphia Opera, and they play in Delaware Symphony. And then many of them also teach privately and have teaching studios.
PAUL SOLMAN: So we're creating more and more musicians who, in order to earn a living, have to teach, creating more and more really great students, who then have to do the same thing. It's like a Ponzi scheme now.
DIANE WITTRY: Because you're thinking of it like an economist. But we, as musicians, we don't go into music for the money. We go into music because it's part of our soul. It's part of who we are. It's what we have to do.
We want to share music with the world, and we would do it whether we got paid or not.
PAUL SOLMAN: Now, of course -- and Sandow and Wittry agree -- it was in a sense ever thus. "La Boheme," act one, scene one, Rodolfo burns the pages of his new play to keep himself and roommate Marcello from freezing.
GREG SANDOW: But now the problem is worse, because there are fewer of the jobs that used to exist. And many of the ones that still exist, like those in orchestras, they feel precarious and musicians are taking pay cuts.
PAUL SOLMAN: Moreover, though Puccini's 19th century Bohemians were behind on the rent, even they weren't in the hole for tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, not unusual for today's fine arts grads, like 28-year old dancer Caroline Fermin, who says the market salary of $28,000 dollars that she earns from her highly coveted full-time job at Gallim Dance barely allows her to keep up with the payments on the $60,000 dollars she borrowed to attend Juilliard.
Indeed, many artists are calling it quits here in the U.S. and heading abroad.
CAROLINE FERMIN, Gallim Dance: I have a lot of friends that move somewhere to Europe or likewise to have a job that's supported by the government, that gives more money to the dancers.
PAUL SOLMAN: What percentage of the dancers you know or friendly with are now primarily abroad?
CAROLINE FERMIN: Maybe 50 percent.
EMILY TERNDRUP, Gallim Dance: Fifty sounds right.
PAUL SOLMAN: Twenty-four-year-old Emily Terndrup, graduated from the University of Utah, dances in an off-off-Broadway show to help make ends meet.
EMILY TERNDRUP: It seems like the work is getting divorced from the pay a lot here in America, where, if you like to do this, you should do this for free, where, in Europe, I still feel like it's, if we're asking you to come and do this, we will pay you for the time we are taking. It's disappearing in America.
PAUL SOLMAN: A common lament, though, of course, not just in the arts. But why do performing artists here still stick it out?
WOMAN: If you're doing something you love, you figure out how to keep it alive. If it's you and if it's your truth, you just keep on going.
PAUL SOLMAN: But chances are also that you won't necessarily make enough to live on.
FITZHUGH GARY, Student, Juilliard: All the more reason to create your job, your own job. Create your own project. Go out there and be your own boss, and figure out something that hasn't been done before, and chances are you will love it.
PAUL SOLMAN: But how does a performing artist who practices all day every day learn how to practice entrepreneurship as well? That is a story for another day, a story we intend to tell soon.
MARGARET WARNER: Online, conductor Diane Wittry gives Paul a lesson in leading an orchestra. You can watch that on our home page.
JEFFREY BROWN: And now the day after, as we look at the practical and political implications of the Supreme Court's pair of rulings on gay marriage.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We believe in basic fairness.
JEFFREY BROWN: In Senegal today, the president again praised the Supreme Court decision that struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. The provision had denied federal benefits to same-sex couples.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: What I think yesterday's ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody.
JEFFREY BROWN: And as celebrations broke out in some parts of the country yesterday, the heads of several federal agencies welcomed the decision and said they'd move quickly to comply.
But the president noted that both inside and outside of the executive branch, that could be tricky.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: But you still have a whole bunch of states that do not recognize it. It's my personal belief -- but I'm speaking now as a president, as opposed as a lawyer -- that if you have been married in Massachusetts, and you move someplace else, you're still married.
JEFFREY BROWN: Across the nation, either through the courts or the ballot box, 13 states and the District of Columbia have moved to recognize gay marriage.
Meanwhile, 35 others have either state laws or constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman. A host of other states have laws either permitting or denying civil unions and benefits.
And just today, the Supreme Court declined to take up two state marriage cases, one involving a ban on gay marriage in Nevada and another involving an Arizona law that denies benefits to same-sex partners.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we have two takes on questions being asked about the day after the rulings.
First, how the court's decision -- decisions impact federal benefits for same-sex couples and the continuing challenges ahead.
Winnie Stachelberg joins me to explain. She's an executive vice president at the Center for American Progress.
And welcome to you.
WINNIE STACHELBERG, Executive Vice President, Center for American Progress: Great to be here.
JEFFREY BROWN: I want to pick up first on what the president was just saying about this issue of couples married in one state moving to a state where perhaps that's not recognized.
How big a deal, first, is this patchwork system that we have?
WINNIE STACHELBERG: Well, the patchwork system is a very big deal, which is why we are eager to have marriage equality in all 50 states, because the patchwork just doesn't work for a married couple.
What exists right now is in the 13 states and the District of Columbia where are you legally married, you are legally married for the purposes of state benefits, and now, with DOMA's demise, federal benefits, the tricky issue comes up if you have a legal marriage in Massachusetts, one of those states, and then you move to Alabama. You're still married, and the question now remains, do you get federal benefits living in Alabama?
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, pick up on that. Now, that's after DOMA, right? So, what is happening right away after yesterday's rulings for federal agencies to start making decisions like that?
WINNIE STACHELBERG: Well, as you said in your setup piece, what is happening right now is federal agencies are moving to change forms, to promulgate regulations to make clear that if you are a married couple living in one of those states and you are legally married, federal benefits will flow to you, so whether that's Social Security survivor benefits, federal health benefits, benefits that go to people in the military.
Those will all flow to the people who are legally married in those 13 states and the District of Columbia. And the federal agencies are moving as quickly as they can. There's a 25-day window for the decision to take effect. But those agencies are moving now to train workers, to change forms, and to get in place the proper forms and statistics and all of that so that those benefits can flow to those couples.
JEFFREY BROWN: If I understand this right, one of the issues, though, is that these agencies define marriage, when a marriage is valid, differently, according to where it might have taken place, where a couple lives now, et cetera.
WINNIE STACHELBERG: That's exactly right. So, right now, there is a place of celebration or a place of domicile rule.
And various benefits flow depending on whether the agency follows a place of celebration or a place of domicile rule. For example, Social Security Administration, spousal benefits, survivor benefits, very important to gay and lesbian couples, very, very important, and those flow from a place of celebration.
So, for the purposes of Social Security benefits, those should start to flow to gay and lesbian married couples right away. There are other benefits that are dependent on a place of domicile rule. In other words, you are married in a certain state and you reside in that state, you're OK. But if you are married in a certain state and you move to another state, those federal benefits, it's a little trickier.
JEFFREY BROWN: And some of these other things, military veterans' benefits, immigration laws?
WINNIE STACHELBERG: Interestingly, on immigration laws, those follow a place of celebration rule.
So, for the purposes of immigration law -- in fact, yesterday, you saw -- minutes after the Supreme Court ruled, you saw a New York immigration judge grant a binational couple -- sort of ended their deportation proceedings because DOMA fell in New York State, where the couple was legally married.
JEFFREY BROWN: The president asked Attorney General Holder to review federal benefits at all of these agencies that we're talking about. Some of these things can be done by executive action. Do some of them require Congress?
WINNIE STACHELBERG: That is unclear, whether all of them can be taken care of through executive action. The advocates, we are asking this administration to issue an executive order to move that any agency that requires a place of domicile rule, in other words, where you are -- where you live, not where your marriage was celebrated or solemnized, that the executive order be issued to make clear that it is in fact a place of celebration.
JEFFREY BROWN: And do you expect all of this to -- to the extent that there is a continuing disconnect, where we started, among states, do you expect more litigation to rise out of all this?
WINNIE STACHELBERG: Well, I think right now we're focused on ensuring that the benefits flow to those couples who are legally married in these states.
One other interesting note is those in active military duty through the Pentagon, about 30 percent of the compensation of someone in the military is base pay, is salary. But about 70 percent of that compensation is actually benefits. And the Defense Department is moving very quickly to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples get the kinds of benefits that their heterosexual counterparts get as well.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Winnie Stachelberg, thank you. Thank you very much.
WINNIE STACHELBERG: Pleasure to be here. Thanks.
JEFFREY BROWN: And now we turn to some of the political reverberations of the decisions from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.
Well, welcome to both of you.
Eric Schneiderman, I want to start with you. You have been a strong proponent of same-sex marriage. Pick up first on the discussion we were just having about this patchwork of laws. How big a problem is it, do you think? What issues does it raise for you?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, New York: Well, we had a patchwork before. I mean, some states, like New York, in our state, our legislature passed, our governor signed a law allowing same-sex marriage.
But, up until yesterday, our marriages and our married couples, including Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the case that struck down DOMA, were not treated with the same dignity and respect as all other marriages. So, we still have a patchwork, but we now have the federal government taking its thumb off the scale, if you will, and saying that, at least for federal purposes, under the Fifth Amendment, the federal government cannot, as Justice Kennedy wrote, write inequality into the U.S. code.
And we expect the government to take action, as the president has indicated, to clean up some of the remaining problems administratively with that. But now New York marriages and marriages from Massachusetts and everywhere else, people who are legally married and the children they are raising are going to be treated by the federal government with the same dignity and respect as every other marriage. And that is a great step forward for New Yorkers and for equality.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, Congresswoman Hartzler, same question to you, as someone who has been a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. What do you make of the situation with the patchwork around the nation?
REP. VICKY HARTZLER, R-Mo.: Well, I think it speaks to why they passed that initially, that marriage at the federal level is between one man and one woman, because there's over 1,000 different federal laws that have to do with marriage.
And so it was for a very practical reason. It wasn't for -- against -- animus against anyone, as if Justice Kennedy portrayed. It was because of a very practical reason. And I believe in dual sovereignty, and that the states should be able to make laws governing states, and the federal government should be able to make laws regarding the federal government.
And it makes sense for children that we have and uphold marriage as between one man and one woman. It's for the best for them, and we should be able to uphold that ideal for them.
JEFFREY BROWN: Eric Schneiderman, where do you see the politics now coming out, out of yesterday's decision? Where are we now when you look around at different states?
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: That I think that -- I think the politics are and were clear, and I think the latest surveys show something like 80 percent of Americans under the age of 30 favor same-sex marriage and equality of all those marriages.
And I have to say that the politics were moving toward equality, the same way the politics of integration, an end to racial discrimination had been moving towards equality. This is a part of our American tradition. And it's not -- one of the most important things about the decision is it puts to rest the argument that there is anyone harmed by the recognition of same-sex marriages.
There is no person, there's no straight marriage, there's no institution that is harmed. That was -- they had years to come up with this. Justice Kennedy didn't find it. The only thing left after the Prop 8 case is cleared away is the decision of the district court in California, 136 pages, same principle. Equal justice under law requires the recognition of all marriages.
The only people who are being harmed were the millions of same-sex couples across America, and the children that those couples are raising, because you may not like the fact that there are gay people in loving relationships and that they're raising lots of kids, but they are. And now, since the Supreme Court ruled, they are entitled to equal treatment by the federal government.
And I think that that is just going to continue the trend in states around the country as we move, as we have always as a country, towards greater inclusion and greater equality with every generation.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask Congresswoman Hartzler, because, yesterday, I note you joined a group of conservative legislators, lawmakers, and talked about coming up with some kind of response to this. What kind of response would that be?
VICKY HARTZLER: Well, first, I think it's very important to note that the Supreme Court didn't make same-sex marriage the law of the land across the country, and they're going to allow and uphold the 35 states who have said that marriage is between one man and one woman.
And I would say that it's certainly not inevitable. We're going to continue this discussion, but we even had North Carolina last year that voted to uphold marriage between one man and one woman. And I think it's a disgrace for the democracy that the Supreme Court didn't allow the millions of people in California who spoke on this issue, not once, but twice, to have a voice and a say in this.
And their attorney general abandoned them. So, I think that's a real shame. And that's what was at stake yesterday, is, is the will of the people going to prevail or are five unelected bureaucrats going to override the will of the people and silence their voice? And that's what happened.
JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just stay with you. Do you not see the kind of cultural shift, as well as political shift, that Mr. Schneiderman was talking about?
VICKY HARTZLER: Well, it certainly is a discussion that we are having as a nation. But I don't think that the story is totally told on this at all.
And, like I said, there's a vast majority of Americans who support marriage between one man and one woman, because they know it's a special institution that sets up the best place to raise children in this society, and that's why government is in the marriage business. It's not because it cares about romance. It's because it cares about the rights of children and promoting an environment that is best for their upbringing.
And so I think many people still uphold that ideal, and still want that. And so we're going to continue to see that advanced in this country.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Mr. Schneiderman, it is true that the majority of states still have bans. So there is still ...
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: There were a lot of states in 1967 that banned interracial marriage when the court ruled that it was unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.
The only children that are being hurt by states that discriminate against marriage equality are the kids being raised by gay couples. There's no harm to our families, straight families who have kids or want to be married or get divorced from authorizing and empowering same-sex couples.
But there is a reason we have a Constitution in this country. There is a reason that there are some laws you just can't pass. You can't pass a law saying black people aren't equal to white people or women aren't equal to men. And, yesterday, there was a very strong statement that you cannot pass a law that has no other justification. And the proponents of these laws had years to come up with it, and they had nothing.
You can't pass a law that discriminates against gay couples and gay people from -- and that's just in keeping with our American tradition. And I think, in 20 or 30 years, people will look back on this as we now look back on Loving v. Virginia and the days of prohibition of interracial marriages and say, what were they thinking?
I'm proud to be an American, a New Yorker, and a part of the American legal tradition today. And I thank Edie Windsor and all the folks who have been fighting for their rights and the rights of all of us for years.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: And I look forward to other states following New York.
JEFFREY BROWN: And let me just have a quick last word from you, Vicky Hartzler. Do you think that we're seeing -- we're going to see more litigation potentially back up to the Supreme Court on this subject?
VICKY HARTZLER: Oh, absolutely.
There's going to be a lot of litigation on this ruling. There wasn't a clarity on a lot of it. And the American people still believe that fathers and mothers are important in the lives of their children, and they're going to continue to see that marriage does matter and that we need to continue to advance and uphold those ideals in our country.
JEFFREY BROWN: Vicky Hartzler, Eric Schneiderman, thank you both very much.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: Thank you.
VICKY HARTZLER: Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, online, our resident Social Security expert weighs in on the new benefits that can now be -- excuse me -- accessed by same-sex spouses. That's on our Making Sen$e page.
MARGARET WARNER: Finally tonight: new rules requiring healthier snacks to be sold in schools beginning next year.
Ray Suarez has the story.
RAY SUAREZ: Estimates suggest that many kids consume at least half their daily calories while at school. The new rules, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are designed to lower the amount of fat, salt and sugar in a child's diet.
Starting next summer, vending machines would not have traditional candy bars or full-fat cookies, for example. High schoolers will only be able to purchase drinks on campus that have fewer than 60 calories in a 12-ounce serving, much less than many sodas.
The regulations, which affect 50 million students, do not cover food sold after school or brought from home or at a fund-raiser.
For more, I am joined by Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
We invited several food and beverage companies, as well as their trade associations, to join us, but they declined our offer.
Margo Wootan, how does the federal government, by what authority do they reach out into all these thousands of school districts and compel this kind of new standard?
MARGO WOOTAN, Director of Nutrition Policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest: You know, school foods is a little different than other aspects of education.
You know, often, education is more regulated at the state and local level, but when it comes to school foods, it's for a long time been a federal program. Most of the money comes from the federal government, from Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And so they have nutrition standards as conditions for getting that funding.
If you're going to take this $13 billion dollars a year, you need to serve kids healthy food. And so Congress and USDA sets detailed nutrition standards for school meals. Now they are also going to have standards for foods that compete with those school meals.
RAY SUAREZ: Will cafeterias and companies that make prepared foods have to really significantly change what's on offer in order to qualify to be sold in schools starting next year?
MARGO WOOTAN: You know, we have been working on this issue for a long time, about a decade.
And so, over that time, states have passed policies and individual school districts have passed policies. And so companies have been working to change the mix of products that they make available to schools. This is just going to make sure that it happens in almost all schools across the whole country.
RAY SUAREZ: Aren't some products totally out from now on?
MARGO WOOTAN: It is true that some things like regular candy bars, cookies, sugary sports drinks, and sodas are not going to be sold in schools during the school day. But there are lot of other foods that kids like that will be sold. They're going to have water, juice, milk, and carbonated water in all schools, plus lower-calorie beverages in high schools.
And then for snacks, there are things like granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, fruit cups. It will be a much healthier mix of products, but things that kids have seen and like.
RAY SUAREZ: Opponents and skeptics point to a Government Accountability Office report that found that in schools that were ahead of the curve on changing these policies, there were garbage cans piled high with things like apples and lower-calorie snack foods, higher-fiber baked goods. The kids just didn't want them, and they just didn't eat them.
MARGO WOOTAN: In most schools, actually, things are going very well.
It takes a little time for schools to figure out what products the kids like. You know, for years, for decades, they have been serving the same things. And so when you're cutting back on the junk and replacing it with healthier foods, you have got to figure out what products the kids like.
So, things like taste testing, having the kids vote for their favorite options, getting the kids engaged really helps. And in schools where they have been doing this for a while, the waste isn't a problem.
RAY SUAREZ: Sandra Ford, who is the president of the School Nutrition Association, remarked that, "The new meal pattern requirements have significantly increased the expense of preparing school meals at a time when food costs were already on the rise."
Is there going to be an economic difficulty in reaching some of these new goals?
MARGO WOOTAN: For school meals, USDA has been providing the main source of funding for those meals. And as a result of a law that was passed in 2010, the Healthy Hunger for Kids Act, USDA is now providing more resources to schools for the school lunch, an additional six cents in reimbursement, and also some changing in -- changes in pricing structure that bring more revenue in.
So these new revenues should be covering the costs. For those schools that are struggling, I think mostly we need to give them some more training and technical assistance to show them how they can serve healthy meals at a reasonable cost.
RAY SUAREZ: So this doesn't necessarily mean that kids heading to the vending machine or standing in the tray line in the cafeteria will have to spend more money?
MARGO WOOTAN: No.
The prices that the kids pay will stay the same mostly. They have been -- for the kids, middle- and upper-income kids, they have been trying to bring the prices of the school lunches in line with what it really costs. In the past, a lot of times, schools didn't charge what it actually cost them to prepare the meals for middle- and upper-income families. And so schools were losing member from that.
USDA is giving schools some advice and some guidance about how to sensibly price the foods in order to cover their costs. But schools can do a lot of things. They can form buying cooperatives with other school districts, so that they can get a better price. They can work out better contracts with schools -- with the companies that make the foods for food service.
So, there are things that lots of schools are doing to bring down the cost. We know that tens of thousands of schools around the country are serving healthy meals at the current reimbursement rate. For those schools that aren't, we just need to get them the training and technical assistance they need in order to do what other schools are doing.
RAY SUAREZ: Margo Wootan from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, thanks for joining us.
MARGO WOOTAN: Nice to be here.