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- 08/02/13--15:47: _Researchers Steer O...
- 08/04/13--04:36: _Detroit Today, Wash...
- 08/04/13--16:40: _Detroit May Be Bank...
- 08/05/13--06:35: _Congress Breaks for...
- 08/05/13--08:46: _Ecuadorian Rainfore...
- 08/05/13--09:15: _Losing Your Breadwi...
- 08/05/13--11:14: _Mars Rover Mission ...
- 08/05/13--12:04: _Fine Art Can Be Fun...
- 08/05/13--12:06: _13 Cartoons That Ro...
- 08/05/13--12:33: _Snapshot of Species...
- 08/05/13--12:38: _How the World's 'Mo...
- 08/05/13--13:00: _Treatment for U.S. ...
- 08/05/13--13:48: _What Do the Embassy...
- 08/05/13--14:29: _Monday on the NewsH...
- 08/05/13--15:02: _Biggest Single-Day ...
- 08/05/13--15:13: _News Wrap: U.S. Joi...
- 08/05/13--15:15: _Threat of al-Qaida ...
- 08/05/13--15:17: _How Does Latest Ter...
- 08/05/13--15:24: _Can Amazon's Founde...
- 08/05/13--15:30: _As Iran Ushers in N...
- 08/04/13--04:36: Detroit Today, Washington Tomorrow
- 08/04/13--16:40: Detroit May Be Bankrupt, but as an American, You're Not
- 08/05/13--06:35: Congress Breaks for Recess With Plenty of Business Left to Finish
- 08/05/13--08:46: Ecuadorian Rainforest Wonders
- 08/05/13--11:14: Mars Rover Mission Team Celebrates First Birthday
- 08/05/13--12:06: 13 Cartoons That Rocked Art and Politics
- 08/05/13--12:33: Snapshot of Species in Ecuador's Yasuni National Park
- 08/05/13--13:00: Treatment for U.S. Opioid Addicts Often Inadequate, Researchers Say
- 08/05/13--13:48: What Do the Embassy Closures and Worldwide Alert Mean for Travelers?
- 08/05/13--15:13: News Wrap: U.S. Joins Efforts to Mediate Egypt's Political Conflict
- 08/05/13--15:15: Threat of al-Qaida Attack Keeps U.S. Diplomatic Posts Closed
- 08/05/13--15:24: Can Amazon's Founder Help Washington Post Turn Page Towards Profit?
JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, new research that could lead us all in a different direction.
In June, a 213-foot luxury yacht sailed off the southern coast of Italy, when, suddenly, it veered off course. But this was no sinister act worthy of a spy flick. Instead, a team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin had deliberately coerced the $80 million vessel from its track, without physically taking the helm.
With the blessing of those aboard, Professor Todd Humphreys and his graduate students employed a technique called “GPS spoofing” to effectively disorient the ship's positioning system. Changes went undetected by alarms, and the autopilot system shifted the yacht to what it thought was the original course, not one selected by Humphreys' team.
The demonstration was the first to show GPS spoofing could pose a real threat to the world's civilian maritime industry. A year earlier, the Texas research group showed the same danger also exists in the civilian aerospace sector. They successfully used their GPS spoofing system to commandeer an unmanned aerial vehicle on U.T.'s campus and repeatedly brought the small helicopter-like drone to the ground by altering information sent to its altitude navigation system.
And Todd Humphreys, the University of Texas researcher behind these projects, joins us now. Also with us is Milton Clary. He works with federal government agencies to identify such threats. He's a senior analyst at Overlook Systems Technologies.
So, Todd Humphreys, this has a kind of innocuous, funny even, name of spoofing, but it sounds rather serious. You're, in essence -- you're tricking the GPS system?
TODD HUMPHREYS, University of Texas: That's right. We convincingly fake the GPS signals and make a receiver think that it's at some other place or some other time.
JEFFREY BROWN: And why do it? What's behind this experiment?
TODD HUMPHREYS: Well, you know, we had done experiments in our laboratory and we'd convinced ourselves that we could hack a GPS receiver, make it believe it's some other place, but what does this mean? What does it entail? Could you, for example, remotely and clandestinely lead an expensive and enormous ship at sea off course without the crew even knowing?
That was the question we sought to answer, and it turns out the answer is yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Milton Clary, how do you view this spoofing? What -- what -- how do you think about it?
MILTON CLARY, Overlook Systems Technologies: Well, spoofing is certainly a real phenomenon.
And essentially spoofing is -- boils down to just being a very believable lie that the receiver gets down and thinks it's getting direction -- data from the satellite, but in effect think of it as just being in a neighborhood and someone has switched all the street signs around. You think you're on the right street, but you're really not.
JEFFREY BROWN: And why is it -- why are these kinds of experiments -- I will ask you the same question. Why is it interesting? Why is it important?
MILTON CLARY: Well, it's important to understand what can be done so we can in turn learn how to prevent it from being done.
And there are capabilities. For the last several years, there's been national policy to develop capabilities to preclude these types of basically threats to spoofing. But, unfortunately, certain elements within the federal government have sort of been a Chihuahua in a china shop when it comes to actually getting the work done.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what kind of -- what kind of -- when you think about what's vulnerable and what's not, what kinds of things are really bound by a GPS system?
MILTON CLARY: Well, when you consider what GPS does, people think of it as, you know, how far am I to the green? Or how do I get to the local shopping center?
But GPS is embedded in so much of our critical infrastructure. All our communications system depend on the timing from GPS. All the emergency responders rely on GPS. Emergency 911, if you dialed that on your telephone, it will show the operator right where you are based on the GPS in your phone.
If that gets -- if GPS goes away or it gets spoofed, that could be very disruptive. All our ground transportation, water transportation, rail transportation, positive train control, which is a very important thing to the Federal Railway Administration -- want to know where these trains are and where they are in time.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, Todd Humphreys, how hard is it to do or easy to do? You used that word hacking. Is that what it's about? Is it the proverbial hacker, the teenager who can do this or what?
TODD HUMPHREYS: It is a kind of hacking attack, but I wouldn't expect a teenager to be able to do what we have done. It took a team of about four Ph.D. students several years to come up with the box that we developed that can convincingly fake these GPS signals.
The real worry I have is that someone who is perhaps not a Ph.D. could operate a box like we have. So if the software ever got out onto the Internet or if someone else replicated the box, then it wouldn't take a Ph.D. to run the thing.
JEFFREY BROWN: So pick up on this question where of where the vulnerabilities are and using what -- the research you have been doing, how would one protect those?
TODD HUMPHREYS: Well, we have been looking into protections at the University of Texas, and Cornell University, Stanford, many other universities and agencies across the globe.
What we have found over the last couple years is that the most practical protections are also the least effective and the least expensive and so forth. But the impractical, somewhat cumbersome protections are the most effective. And so we're in a bit of a conundrum right now, but I'm hoping that within a couple years, we will find a sweet spot, we will be able to implement something that effectively defends and doesn't break the bank.
JEFFREY BROWN: But your feeling is that at this moment it's important to talk about, to do the research, to make it public precisely to get to that next step?
TODD HUMPHREYS: I think so. I think we have waited long enough for solutions to come about on their own. Now it's time to go to the public, to expose the problem, and get more people thinking about it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Milton Clary, I know you do a lot of work with the Defense Department. How much -- when you were talking about the various vulnerabilities, how much is it in the military?
MILTON CLARY: Well, the military GPS is a completely different system than what the civilians use. It has a much more sophisticated signal structure and that, in itself, is embedded in a very sophisticated encryption.
So to be able to get into the signal and fool it, you can't even get there to really mess with it in the way that Dr. Humphreys has done. Now, as far as trying to give ourselves some resilience, one of the biggest uses of GPS is not the position data, but the timing information. And there's countries -- United Kingdom, Japan and Korea all have a system called LORAN.
It was an American navigation system that goes back to the '40s. And they're building an enhanced LORAN that would provide timing signals as a backup. And that system, LORAN, would be very, very difficult to jam.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so, countries, companies, everybody's watching this right now.
MILTON CLARY: Oh, yes. There's a lot of people that care about it or work in it pay close attention.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, fascinating stuff.
Milton Clary, Todd Humphreys, thank you very much.
MILTON CLARY: Thank you. I enjoyed being here.
By Larry Kotlikoff
The official debt total is well below the true "fiscal gap," argues Larry Kotlikoff, who has helped draft the INFORM Act. Photo courtesy of Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Paul Solman: Larry Kotlikoff is a dear friend of both mine and the Making Sen$e Business Desk, appearing weekly on PBS NewsHour online to answer your questions about Social Security as "Ask Larry" and showing up at the local tennis court to flail about with me.
But his longest-standing passion may be what he calls "generational accounting" and its abuse by the U.S. government, a passion that has bubbled over in books like "The Clash of Generations" and "The Coming Generational Storm," co-authored with Scott Burns and reviewed when it came out in 2005 by Paul Krugman in the New York Review of Books. (Read Larry's response to Krugman's review here.)
Larry has now helped craft, with economist Alan Auerbach, a bill for Congress, the so-called "INFORM Act." It is designed to rectify what they see as the depredations wrought on the U.S. economy by what I once called, in reference to Enron, "ledger-de-main" accounting.
In the next post, I'll respond since I don't happen to think the United States fiscally resembles Detroit, Greece or, god forbid, Cyprus, though it's often put in the same sentence with them. But first, let's hear Larry out.
Larry Kotlikoff: Detroit just filed for bankruptcy, endangering, among other things, the pensions and health care benefits of 21,000 municipal retirees. But Detroit didn't just go bankrupt. It's been bankrupt for years. Yet no one, particularly its accountants and actuaries who spent years cooking the books, was paid to admit it.
Washington is also bankrupt and has been for years. Just like Detroit, successive administrations and Congresses from both parties have spent decades hiding the real magnitude of our county's fiscal liabilities.
The debt Uncle Sam publicly acknowledges -- official federal debt in the hands of the public -- is now $12 trillion. But the true measure of our debt -- the one suggested by economic theory -- is the fiscal gap, which totals $222 trillion. The fiscal gap is the present value of all future expenditures, including servicing outstanding official federal debt, minus the present value of all future receipts.
Detroit's main means of hiding its true liabilities was discounting its future obligations at a rate far higher than appropriate, thus giving the appearance that less saving was needed to cover the shortfall.
Washington's dirtier trick has been to keep virtually all of its future liabilities off the books, which creates the vast ocean separating the fiscal gap and the official debt. Decisions about what debts to put on and what debts to keep off the books are not grounded in economics; this duplicitous accounting is grounded in linguistics.
The different checks my 68-year-old friend Paul receives from the U.S. Treasury are a good example. Except for the amounts, the greenish-yellowish checks are identical, with "U.S. Treasury" printed in majestic old English font and a lovely engraving of the Statue of Liberty. One of these periodic checks is for Paul's Social Security benefits. The other is for interest and principal on his U.S. Treasury bonds. Each comes like clockwork. Each is owed to Paul in every economically meaningful sense.
The difference between the two is that the present value of the checks for interest and principal is carried on the government's books, whereas the present value of the checks for Social Security benefits is not.
If anything, the Social Security benefits, and not the Treasury bond payments, should be recorded as official debt. The chances that Uncle Sam will renege on Paul's Treasury bonds (large gobs of which are held by Chinese and other foreigners), via inflation if not outright default, are much greater than the chances it will stop paying his Social Security benefits. If you doubt this, ask the 38 million American voters organized with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) how they'd react to a cut in their Social Security benefits.
The reason that Paul's future Social Security benefits are not official I.O.U.s is because Congress chose to call Paul's contributions to the system "taxes" rather than "borrowing" and his future benefits "transfer payments" rather than "return of principal plus interest."
In short, it is the words that the government attaches to its receipts and payments, not the economic content of these receipts and payments, that determine what is labeled debt and what is left off the books. Indeed, with the right choice of words, Uncle Sam can report any level of the debt at any time in the past, this year or in the future regardless of the true underlying fiscal policy that he's running.
The fiscal gap doesn't suffer from this economic labeling problem; it generates the same present value shortfall of expenditures over receipts no matter what labels are applied. The reason is simple: The fiscal gap measures all future expenditures (all outflows) net of all future receipts (all inflows) regardless of what they are called.
No measure of fiscal sustainability is perfect. But surely we need measures that reflect what we are actually doing, not our word choice. By the careful choice of fiscal labels, post-war administrations and Congresses have accumulated potential off-the-book liabilities many times greater than our nation's official debt. Unless we begin to systematically measure and address our long-term fiscal imbalances, no government programs, whether it's the military or Social Security, will be secure.
This said, acknowledging our potential fiscal obligations and deciding how to deal with them rules out neither productive government investments in infrastructure, education, research or the environment nor pro-growth tax reform. The fiscal gap tells us whether current policy is sustainable, what's needed to make current policy sustainable, and the tradeoff between adjusting policy now or later.
Given the $222 trillion fiscal gap, which is measured based on the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) long-term fiscal projections, current policy is clearly not sustainable. Making it sustainable requires either an immediate and permanent 64 percent increase in all federal taxes or an immediate and permanent 38 percent cut in all spending or some combination of tax increases and spending cuts.
Failure to make one of these adjustments or a combination of them leaves an even larger fiscal gap for our children and future generations to cover. Thus, fiscal gap accounting is an integral part of generational accounting -- knowing which generations will pay for what the government spends.
Foreign governments and international agencies like the International Monetary Fund have being doing fiscal gap and generational accounting either on a routine or periodic basis for decades. This analysis has led Norway to set up a Generational Trust that preserves oil revenues for future generations. It's led the Dutch to reform their pensions without overly burdening today's and tomorrow's Dutch children. And it's influenced generational policymaking in countries as near as Canada and as far away as New Zealand. In contrast, the U.S. continues to let official debt determine its generational policy.
Fortunately, Senators Tim Kaine, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., introduced in late July a bill called "The Inform Act," which I helped draft together with Alan Auerbach of the University of California at Berkeley. (If the link doesn't work, you can go to www.theinformact.org.) The bill would compel the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and CBO to do fiscal gap and generational accounting on an annual basis and, upon the request of Congress, for major new fiscal initiatives. Senators Chris Coons, D-Del., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are co-sponsors of the bill.
The Intergenerational Financial Obligations Reform Act, as it's known officially, has received the endorsement of 11 Nobel laureates in economics, including Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University, James Heckman of the University of Chicago, Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago, Eric Maskin of Harvard University, Roger Meyerson of the University of Chicago, Dale Mortensen of Northwestern University, Edmund Phelps of Columbia University, Thomas Sargent of New York University, William Sharpe of Stanford University, Vernon Smith of Chapman University and Oliver Williamson of University of California, Berkeley.
Getting 11 economists, let alone 11 Nobel laureates, to agree on anything is no small feat. But these economists, who lean to both sides of the political spectrum, are economists first and political economists second. They realize that our country is facing a grave long-term fiscal crisis, that we have been using accounting not even worthy of Enron or Bernie Madoff to describe our fiscal stance, that fiscal gap and generational accounting is long overdue, and that the welfare of our children hangs to a large extent on passage of the INFORM Act.
Other prominent former policymakers, leading economists, business leaders and social activists are beginning to endorse the bill, which is being pushed by The Can Kicks Back, the outreach partner for the millenial generation of the Fix the Debt campaign that former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., co-founded.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who also served as secretary of the treasury, director of the Office of Management and Budget and secretary of labor, leads the list. I met with him a few days back to discuss the bill. Secretary Shultz, who is incredibly spry, physically and mentally, at 92, virtually leapt at the opportunity to publicly support the bill. Our country doesn't have a lot of elder statesmen to guide us. But this tough ex-marine knows our country is broke, knows our children are threatened, and knows we've been hiding the truth.
By Paul Solman
Paul Solman dispels the fear that the fate of Detroit foreshadows the fiscal future of America. Photo courtesy of Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.
Earlier on this page, our regular Social Security columnist Larry Kotlikoff argued in favor of "generational accounting" and the recently introduced Intergenerational Financial Obligations Reform Act (INFORM Act), which he helped draft and which has garnered the support of 11 Nobel laureates in economics. He claims that Uncle Sam is grossly underestimating America's official debt and borrowing from future generations of Americans.
I agree with Larry that "getting 11 economists, let alone 11 Nobel laureates, to agree on anything is no small feat" -- not to mention signing up former Secretary of State George Schultz, who also supports the bill. An even greater feat, however, might be getting Larry Kotlikoff to give an inch on his generational accounting obsession. But let me give it a whirl, and in the process, try to provide some balance for readers to his broadside against our mutual Uncle Sam.
Sam's "dirty tricks," according to Larry are:
Using a finite rather than infinite time horizon for calculating his and our future obligations. That's where the $222 trillion total tab that Larry cites as our nation's true "fiscal gap" comes from. Over the next 50 or 75 or even 100 years, the gap between revenues and spending is much, much smaller.
Concealing the true enormity of future obligations by discounting them at too high a discount rate, thus implying that what happens to people (and debts) in the far future is hugely less important than what happens to them in the near future and present.
Nefariously mislabeling payroll taxes as "taxes" instead of "loans" and guaranteed benefits like Social Security as "transfer payments" instead of "repayment of debts."
With regard to finite versus infinite time horizons, I've tried to parry Larry before, relying on the eminently expert economist Alicia Munnell, the Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College's Carroll School of Management who also serves as the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
"Other stuff also happens over a long period of time," Munnell pointed out in an interview this spring. "We have benefit commitments, but we also have people earning longer and payroll taxes being paid for longer and perhaps at a higher rate."
Other stuff that may happen over a long period time: benefit trims for Medicare and Social Security, perhaps especially for the wealthy; a hike in the income ceiling currently capping payroll taxes for the well-to-do; extending the retirement age for both Social Security and Medicare, and it goes on. I mean seriously, who can possibly say what stuff will happen from here to eternity except that plenty will happen, and some of it will positively astound us.
Deborah Lucas, former assistant director at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is Sloan Distinguished Professor of Finance at MIT's Sloan School of Management. She was kind enough to share her reaction to Larry's INFORM Act.
"To be blunt," she began, "I am strongly against this bill on both intellectual and procedural grounds. I think it is misguided to do fiscal gap estimates over an infinite horizon.
"The results of such analyses are extremely sensitive to highly uncertain assumptions about growth rates and discount rates. It also makes little sense to carry a current law baseline (the assumption that current laws will remain unchanged) out into the infinite future.
"Furthermore, if the fiscal gap were to become politically focal it can easily be gamed: for example, Congress could close the fiscal gap by legislating a huge increase in taxes 50 years into the future and of course, that would be overturned when the time came; it does nothing to encourage a reasonable time path of policy reforms.
"Policies that are unsustainable will change. To strongly make the point that fundamental fiscal reforms are needed, it doesn't take reporting numbers where the economy goes to zero or the present value of future liabilities goes to infinity (which comes out of some of the models used for these analyses).
"Furthermore, CBO and Social Security (among other government agencies) already report on long-term imbalances at regular intervals.
"In preparing those reports, the question perennially comes up of how to best communicate the size of structural imbalances in a way that is policy-relevant. That debate has not been settled (to say the least -- I've been in rooms with very prominent people arguing on both sides), and to legislate the solution is completely inappropriate. In fact, CBO in the last few years pulled back from emphasizing the infinite horizon."
A former student of mine at Brandeis, Evyn Rabinowitz, is part of the generation Larry Kotlikoff worries about. But after reading Larry's most recent argument on these pages, Evyn asked a question: Do we really want to be putting aside money today "for people hundreds of years in the future"? I'd go further and wonder if this isn't a legitimate question to ask even about one's future self: How much do I want to sacrifice in the present for some alte codger who may not even know who I am? (I'm not saying I'm sold on an answer, mind you, and my wife and I have in fact been assiduously saving for the older versions of ourselves. I do, however, think it's a legitimate question.)
Larry's second point, the one about discount rates, flows directly from Evyn's question. How much is money a million years from now worth today? To whom? Is it unreasonable, say, to ask people to provide for their own progeny by borrowing from the future and investing the money themselves? What if I'm a starry-eyed techno-optimist of the Ray Kurzweil variety, or at least a techno-realist like the great economic historian Joel Mokyr, who posted here recently? Why not borrow from the bounteous new Atlantis of tomorrowland?
There's no question that municipalities like Detroit have been pulling a fast one when it comes to their pensions and overall accounting by using too high a discount rate, as Larry explains and as we've reported for years. Our earliest explanation was about corporate pensions. More recently, we looked at the pension persiflage in Rhode Island, which you can watch here and here. The story featuring the roguish former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci was especially amusing and revealing.
Larry's final point turns on what he calls "linguistics" and full disclosure. Here, as often, I'm of two minds. One mind thinks it's ridiculous for the government to refer to the Social Security and Medicare "trust funds" as if they were stowed away somewhere, even more ridiculous to report government deficits (or surpluses, under President Clinton) without factoring in the future liabilities that Social Security and Medicare represent.
The other mind, however, thinks that if people understand what's going on, the language doesn't much matter. I can only say I have been doing my darndest to explain these issues since the 1980s on the NewsHour. I'd agree that it's quirkily insightful to label payroll taxes as loans to the federal government. But is it an epiphany that will change public policy? I rather doubt it.
In the end then, is America bankrupt? Not so long as people in the world are willing to exchange their goods and services for U.S. dollars; not so long as Uncle Sam can tax us to pay our way, at least in part; not so long as many of the world's most enterprising people flock here to create wealth. Call me Paulyanna, but I don't see those trends coming to a halt anytime soon.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., Rep. Keith Ellison, D.-Minn., and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D.-N.Y., leave the Capitol as Congress begins its summer recess Friday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Barack Obama turned 52 Sunday, celebrating privately with family and friends at Camp David before returning to a Washington that is as divided as ever.
The nation continues to cast a skeptical eye at its government and its leaders, with voters consistently telling pollsters that Congress is ineffective and failing to meet its basic obligations.
That's what lawmakers are facing as they spend time at home for five long summer weeks and with so many major fiscal battles awaiting their return.
Before Congress adjourned last week for recess, members worked out an agreement on student loans and the Senate approved a slew of Mr. Obama's nominees, including Todd Jones at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations.
Speaker John Boehner told reporters that while it's not ideal, he wants to see another continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government in lieu of members coming to an agreement on the bigger picture issues. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on "Fox News Sunday" there is "a great opportunity" this fall for lawmakers to work with the White House on entitlement reform. Still, lawmakers left unfinished any agreement about spending and debt and the farm bill. Not to mention a lack of progress on immigration reform legislation the president had long said he wanted on his desk this summer.
Just as they have for eons, members of the minority party criticized the break as members beat it out of town.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, complained the GOP went home "skipping out on the American people for a five-week vacation without lifting a finger to fix the mess they have created," and "leaving behind a wreck in Washington."
Mr. Obama will likely offer a similar drumbeat as he keeps up his campaign-style appearances across the country. Tuesday he'll focus on his plan to help homeowners while speaking in Phoenix before heading to Los Angeles to yuk it up with Jay Leno.
The Washington Post's Matea Gold writes that just because lawmakers have managed to escape Washington, that does not mean they will be able to avoid interest groups eager to ramp up pressure on an array of pressing issues:
The sophisticated operations aim to drive a political narrative throughout the month, hoping to produce a strong display of voter sentiment that lawmakers will not be able to ignore when they return to Washington after Labor Day. At that point, they will immediately contend with a showdown over the budget, a House debate on immigration reform and the launch of new state health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.
So this month, the pressure is on. At town hall meetings, lawmakers will face activists calling for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. On walks in local neighborhoods, they could run into gun-control advocates, who plan to blanket key districts with fliers. During visits to the county fair, they are likely to encounter voters demanding defunding of President Obama's signature health-care law.
The president's allies are just starting to ramp up efforts to raise awareness of the October enrollment period for Obamacare. Over the weekend, volunteers across the country met with people in their community about the health care law, with varied success.
The NewsHour will be examining Washington's gridlock over the next few weeks. Tune in.
Lawmakers from both parties over the weekend said they agreed with the Obama administration's decision to close two dozen diplomatic posts across the Middle East and North Africa because of a potential security threat.
Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Sunday that he would be open to running again in 2016. The former Pennsylvania senator will be in Iowa this week for a series of events, including a GOP fundraiser and the Family Leadership Summit.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger in the 2014 Kentucky Senate race, Alison Lundergan Grimes, traded insults Saturday at the annual Fancy Farm picnic. McConnell took a shot at Grimes' father, a former state Democratic Party chairman, joking that he made a pitch for the women's vote by sending Anthony Weiner a check. Grimes went after McConnell's record of obstruction, saying that if doctors told the Republican he had a kidney stone, he would refuse to pass it.
Jonathan Martin of the New York Times finds that there is little support among the country's Republican governors for shutting down the federal government as part of an effort to block funding for the president's health care law.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters Saturday at the National Governors Association meeting that he is laying the "framework" for a potential 2016 presidential bid.
A green car firm connected to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its visa practices.
The wealthy donor at the heart of the probe into Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is cooperating with authorities, the Washington Post reports.
Arkansas GOP Rep. Tom Cotton announced last week he will challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in 2014.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's email and Facebook were hacked, and he denies rumors of an affair with a Romanian diplomat who he wrote to.
Same-sex couples in Minnesota were able to marry starting last week after the legislature voted to allow them in the spring. The Associated Press covered some of the ceremonies.
The Oregonian profiled Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who revealed that Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The New York Times examines the Huma Abedin-Hillary Clinton relationship.
Our partners at Louisiana Public Broadcasting crafted this detailed look at the life of the late Lindy Boggs.
Time's Patrick Witty talks with White House photographer Pete Souza about his decision to join Instagram.
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith will interview New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner next Monday.
The Hill proclaims the 50 Most Beautiful.
Catch up on your intern shenanigans.
The residents of Dorset, Minn., re-elected their 4-year-old mayor, Robert "Bobby" Tufts, on Sunday.
The Atlantic Cities found this excellent interactive map of Brooklyn that shows every building color-coded by its age.
Beyoncé proves she is awesome. Again.
Someone found a 15 million-year-old whale skull on the banks of the Potomac River.
Whistleblowers tell the NewsHour that the National Security Agency collects "word-for-word" every domestic communication.
We got two takes on how to curb sexual assault in the military.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand explained her push here:Watch Video
And Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., gave their take:Watch Video Sen. John McCain told Gwen Ifill that Sen. Chuck Schumer is Kennedy-esque when it comes to keeping his word and reaching across the aisle. Watch below. Watch Video
Gwen dishes about her summer political reading list.
David Brooks and Ruth Marcus analyzed the week's political news and weighed in on the Pope's comments about gays.
The Solman Scale "U7" -- our more inclusive unemployment metric -- ticked down to 16.15 percent, and business correspondent Paul Solman suggests baby boomer retirement may have something to do with it. He dug deeper into July's unemployment numbers and a potentially slowing recovery on Friday's broadcast.
Do zero-income-tax states know something the rest of us don't? On the Business Desk, Reagan White House economist Arthur Laffer and Univeristy of Michigan tax economist Joel Slemrod debated the impact of eliminating state income taxes on states' economic growth.
NY Post headline writers earn their pay with A-Rod headline this morning pic.twitter.com/RLlb7iKSt2— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) August 5, 2013
The whole family having fun yesterday at Wisconsin State Fair. Everyone was so friendly. We had a great time pic.twitter.com/QwefmqKCdv— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) August 3, 2013
Political junkies might enjoy this WP feature on Liz Cheney's Senate run. My Aunt Patty Sue is quoted at the end http://t.co/2o6tAaE8up— Dana Perino (@DanaPerino) August 5, 2013
FUN FACT: The Pope is now more progressive than the GOP's nominee for governor in Virginia.— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) July 29, 2013
Katelyn Polantz and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.
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With an estimated 5,500 species in the Yasuni National Park, Ecuador has some of the largest biodiversity in the world. But Yasuni is also home to nearly 850 million barrels of crude oil, which Ecuador may choose to leave untapped if the world community compensates the nation to leave the oil permanently in the ground.
Yasuni National Park
Ecuador's Yasuni National Park covers an area of approximately 6,100 square miles, roughly the size of Delaware. The park is 155 miles from Quito and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
The national park lies within the Napo moist forests ecoregion and is primarily rainforest. Photo: Danita Delimont/Getty Images
Gas Flares Near National Park
Gas burns off from an oil facility near Yasuni National Park in Orellana Province, Ecuador.
The Miami Herald reports that the Ishpingo-Tambacocha-Tiputini (ITT) field contains an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil, which conservationists are hoping to leave untapped in order to preserve the forest’s complex and diverse ecosystem. Photo: Alejandra Parra/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Industrial Signs Near Yasuni
A ferry loaded with construction machinery sails along the Napo river, next to the Yasuni Ecuadorean National Park.
In 2007, the government of Rafael Correa offered the proposal of not allowing extraction of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil fields in Yasuni, if the world community compensates to leave the oil permanently in the ground. Photo: Pablo Cozzaglio/AFP/Getty Images
Broad-headed Tree Frog
Yasuní National holds about one-third of all of the Amazon’s amphibian species, including this broad-headed tree frog, even though it represents just a small fraction of the total area of the Amazonian rainforest.
There are 150 species of frogs living inside the park, more than 50 percent of all the frog species found in the U.S. and Canada combined. A dozen of the Yasuni's frogs have been discovered only in the last decade. Photo: Pete Oxford/Getty Images
A family of red howler monkeys eats nuts from palm tree off Napo River. Photo: Rebecca Yale/Getty Images
White Chinned Jacamar
A white chinned jacamar perches on branch over Napo River. Photo: Rebecca Yale/Getty Images
Water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes), which bloom in the Yasuni, are capable of doubling in size every seven to 12 days.
The park is home to an estimated 5,500 species, which makes Ecuador one of the 10 most biodiverse countries. Photo: Pete Oxford/Getty Images
Tapir and her Young
A South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) with her young. Photo: Ben Queenborough/Getty Images
Huaorani Call Rainforest Home
These Huaorani Indian hunters are carrying the bushmeat they have killed with their blowgun. The catch includes three howler monkeys and one coati.
The Huaorani Amerindians voluntarily live in isolation of the outside world. Photo: Danita Delimont/Getty Images
Hunting to Survive
A Huaorani Amerindian makes curare tipped darts.
Curare is one of the most toxic poisons known to man and is made from a liana. The poison is boiled on the fire. The dart tips are dipped into the poison which hardens into a shiny, lacquer-like coating. Photo: Danita Delimont/Getty Images
The Huaorani have ancestral rights to the same land that the Ecuadorian government is considering for oil drilling. They once were a nomadic people, but are changing their hunting lifestyle for more permanent agriculture. Photo: Danita Delimont/Getty Images
David Romo, a director at the University of San Francisco de Quito’s Tiputini Biodiversity Station, told The Miami Herald, “There are so many wonders and so much information that Yasuní is holding that will be beneficial to humans.
“We just don’t know it because we haven’t had the chance to explore it.” Photo: Pablo Cozzaglio/AFP/Getty Images
By Larry Kotlikoff
Claiming benefits as the caretaker of a deceased spouse's children may reduce the survivor benefits of the children. Photo courtesy of Thanasis Zovoilis/Flickr via Getty.
Larry Kotlikoff's Social Security original 34 "secrets", his additional secrets, his Social Security "mistakes" and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature "Ask Larry" every Monday. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Kotlikoff's state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its "basic" version.
Danielle M. -- Lake Charles, La.: My husband passed away at the age of 31 in 2011. Our four children, ages 12, 7, 5 and 3, receive survivor benefits based on his record. I was told that I might be able to receive a benefit as the parent of the minor children, but that it would reduce the amount that they receive. How does that work, and is there anything else available to help us?
Larry Kotlikoff: It's a joy to help people with their Social Security questions, but also heart-wrenching because life has hit so many people so very hard. There is, sadly, a maximum to the amount of benefits you and your children can receive on your husband's earnings record. Each child can receive 75 percent of the basic benefit rate, which is your husband's Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). But the maximum all the children, plus you as a surviving mother of young children, can receive is generally equal to 150 to 180 percent of this PIA. If we multiply four kids by 75 percent, that's 300 percent of the PIA, which surely means your family is already receiving maximum benefits at the moment. So were you to file to collect benefits as a surviving spouse with children under age 16, you would simply move some of their benefits from them to you.
But (there are always buts with Social Security), the family maximum benefit can, in some cases, exceed 180 percent of your husband's PIA. Jerry Lutz, a former Social Security technical expert, who checks over my answers each week, tells me that the family maximum benefit can be as high, if not higher, than 225 percent of your husband's PIA.
So, while we're both quite sure you are already maxed out on your family benefits, we both think applying for your benefit won't hurt except for one thing, which I'll get to.
Assuming your children aren't disabled, they will, over time, exceed the age cutoff for receiving child survivor benefits. At the point where three of your children, and certainly when only two of your children, and most certainly when only one of your four children, are under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school), you should apply for your survivor benefit based on caring for a deceased worker's children.MORE FROM LARRY KOTLIKOFF: Ask Larry: Why I Advised a Terminal Cancer Patient Not To Take Social Security Right Away
You will be able to collect survivor benefits as a mother at some point. But if you are working, you may lose some or all of these benefits to the earnings test if your income is over a certain limit. If you get hit by the earnings test while collecting benefits and your family benefit is at the maximum, don't worry. Social Security won't give you and the kids jointly less than the family maximum benefit. Instead, they will reallocate any benefits you lose via the earnings test to your children.
Now for the above "but." The only way you can get hurt by applying for your benefit as a surviving spouse with children in your care is via federal income taxation of the benefits you would receive. If, for example, your kids are already jointly being paid the family maximum benefit and you apply for your benefit, some of the same total family benefit will be reallocated to you and get reported to the IRS as potentially taxable income.
For more on the topic, see one of my earlier columns, "How Unfair is Social Security's Maximum Family Benefit."
Mary Hom -- San Mateo, Calif.: I am 63 and my husband is 52. We have been married for 21 years and he works full time. I worked over 30 years and can get my own Social Security checks now at age 63. My question regards our age difference: Can I collect on my husband's benefit, which is substantially higher than mine?
Larry Kotlikoff: Unfortunately, you can't collect a spousal benefit until your husband files for his retirement benefit, and the earliest he can do that is age 62. In your situation, you may do best to wait until age 70 to collect your highest possible retirement benefit. And your husband may do best to wait until full retirement age to collect a full spousal benefit. (That benefit will equal half of your full retirement benefit -- not half of what you'll be collecting, which will be your full retirement benefit augmented by the delayed retirement credit.) He should then wait until 70 to collect his highest possible retirement benefit.
Margaret -- Charlotte, N.C.: At age 58, I am divorced and work part time. What financial help is there for me when I'm not able to work?
Larry Kotlikoff: Unfortunately, you can't collect a spousal benefit based on your ex's earnings record unless you were married for 10 years, have reached age 62, or your ex is either collecting a retirement benefit or is over 62 and it's been at least two years since you divorced. In your case, if your ex is older than you, you'll be able to collect a reduced excess spousal benefit starting at age 62. But if you wait until full retirement age (66), you'll be able to get a full spousal benefit and then delay taking your own retirement benefit until 70. The full spousal benefit is half of your ex's full retirement benefit. The excess spousal benefit is the full spousal benefit less your own full retirement benefit.
Furthermore, thanks to Social Security's deeming provisions, if you take your divorced spouse retirement benefit before full retirement age, you'll be deemed to be applying for your own retirement benefit as well. This will condemn you to collecting a reduced retirement benefit for the rest of your life (unless you suspend your retirement benefit after reaching full retirement age and start it up at or before age 70, when it will start up again at its former level, apart from an inflation adjustment, but inclusive of a delayed retirement credit for the months you weren't collecting).
What's more, there's a very nasty Social Security gotcha that can get you if you take your divorcée spousal benefit early or, indeed, at any point after you file or are forced to file for your own retirement benefit. In this case, your divorcée spousal benefit may be partially or fully wiped out because, recall, it will be the excess spousal benefit, which is your full spousal benefit reduced, potentially to zero, by your own full retirement benefit.
Now, let's look at my answer. You asked a simple question. But for me to answer it fully, I had to write something that you or anyone else will surely find very hard to follow unless you read it several times. And I spend quite a while trying to make it as easy to read as possible. It's just insane that the system is this complicated. It turns retirement planning into a near impossibility. But I have no choice but to give you the full spiel. Were I to give you a shorthand answer of the type you'll find on Social Security's website, you could end up thinking you could do X or get Y and learn, at the end of the day, that this wasn't the case. This, in addition to the fact that Social Security is 32 percent underfunded (see Table IVB6 of the most recent Social Security Trustees' Report) is why I advocate freezing the system in place, paying off what's owed to current retirees and workers, and setting up the Purple Social Security Plan.
Sheldon Stromberg -- Rushford, N.Y.: I am 63 and my wife is 62. We have roughly equal lifetime earnings, and neither of us has yet filed for benefits. If we are divorced prior to my 64th birthday, at age 66 (my full retirement age) can I file for spousal benefits, which would be half of her benefits at her age of 65? Can she, one year later, at her full retirement age, file for spousal benefits, which would be half of my benefits at my age of 67?
Can we then each, upon reaching age 70, file for our own benefits, which presumably will have been increasing all along? In addition, will the death of either former spouse during the period we are each receiving spousal benefits affect those benefits, or the ability at age 70 to file for our own full benefits? In short, will divorce under these circumstances allow us each to receive spousal benefits, and then allow each of us at age 70 to switch to our own, higher benefits?
Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, once you are divorced for two years, you can both, at full retirement age, file just for a full spousal benefit and then both take your own retirement benefits at 70 and, thereby, have it start at its highest possible value. The ability for you both to receive full spousal benefits is an advantage provided to divorced spouses. In the case of married couples, only one can collect a full spousal benefit because to do so, the other spouse has to have filed for his or her own retirement benefit, and once someone files for his or her own retirement benefit, the ability to get a full spousal benefit is forever eliminated. What's possible for married couples is for one spouse to receive a full spousal benefit and then once that spouse files for his or her own retirement benefit, have the other spouse collect an excess spousal benefit (if it's computed to be positive).
Finally, your getting divorced and taking your full spousal benefits will have no impact on your ability to collect survivor benefits (which will likely be higher than the spousal benefit if you aren't taking your retirement benefit at the same time) based on your ex's work history.
Caron Coache -- Apple Valley, Calif.: My domestic partner worked for the state of California but had Social Security deducted from her pay. Since she has passed on, am I able to receive Social Security benefits now that things have changed on a federal basis for domestic partners and same sex spouses?
Larry Kotlikof: No, not as far as I know. The Social Security survivor benefits are provided to former married spouses only. Sorry to convey this. If you do get married and stay married for one year, you'd qualify to apply under the right conditions (age 62 or over or have children under age 16) for spousal benefits on your new spouse's earnings records.
John -- North Fort Myers, Fla.: Like a lot of folks, I have been out of work for 20 months. I will be 62 in August of 2014. If I take Social Security at 62 and later find a job, can I stop withdrawing my benefits? My goal is now and has always been to not draw until my "normal age" which is 66, but I don't know if we can live on my wife's income until age 66.
Larry Kotlikoff: First, best of luck in finding a new job. Second, if you draw early, you can't stop drawing until you reach full retirement age (66 in your case), at which point you can suspend your benefit and start it up again, say at 70, when it will begin at a 32 percent higher level adjusted for inflation.
But if you do find a job and earn enough so that your reduced retirement benefits are fully or partially wiped out by Social Security's earnings test, you'll get compensated, indeed, more than compensated by being given higher benefits starting at full retirement age via Social Security's "recomputation of the reduction factor." This means that a single person who takes retirement benefits starting at 62, then earns enough to lose all those benefits until he or she reaches full retirement age, will be treated by Social Security the same as someone who never applied for benefits. Furthermore, such a worker can suspend his benefits at full retirement age and start them up again at 70 (as long as he or she pays Medicare premiums out of pocket) and be treated, at age 70, just like someone who never applied for retirement benefits before age 70.
The Mars Curiosity Rover team celebrates on Aug. 5, 2012, inside the spaceflight operations facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the first pictures appear on screen after a successful landing on Mars. Photo by Brian van der Brug-Pool/Getty Images
Just after 1:30 a.m. E.T., a year ago today, the one-ton, SUV-sized Mars Curiosity Rover spacecraft blasted into the Mars atmosphere at more than 13,000 miles an hour, deployed a supersonic parachute, fired eight rocket engines, unfurled a giant sky crane and lowered itself to the Martian soil. Almost immediately, the clever craft began beaming back images of its own shadow against the ground of its landing site, the Gale Crater.
Meanwhile, in mission control at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, blue-shirted engineers and scientists broke into furious applause, tears of relief, high fives, shouting and fist pumps. After the heart-pounding wait, it was a cacophony of pure joy.
Miles O'Brien covered the high-stakes entry, descent and landing here:Watch Video
Since then, according to NASA, Curiosity "has provided more than 190 gigabits of data; returned more than 36,700 full images and 35,000 thumbnail images; fired more than 75,000 laser shots to investigate the composition of targets and collected and analyzed sample material from two rocks."
It has been sniffing soil and atmosphere, drilling into rocks and snapping photos with its suite of 10 highly sophisticated scientific instruments.
It's unearthed some interesting discoveries: stream bed deposits show that freshwater streams once flowed through the Gale Crater. And by drilling into rock on Mars, it has found evidence of a past environment -- millions, possibly even billions of years ago -- that was suitable for life.
This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the rover shows downhill flow features on Mars called "linear gullies." Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
"This ancient wet environment was not harshly oxidizing, acidic or extremely salty," wrote Joy Crisp, Deputy Project Scientist with the Mars Science Laboratory team during a recent conversation on Reddit. "All the necessary chemical building blocks were available."
The six-wheeled roving science lab has inched about a mile so far, and has more than four miles to drive until it reaches the base of Mount Sharp, an 18,000-foot high mound that rises up from Gale Crater. Once it arrives, Curiosity will work its way up the lower flank of the mountain and through different rock layers, searching for more evidence of this past environment. Traveling from the ancient rocks at the base to the younger layers will also give clues as to how environmental conditions may have changed over time, Crisp said.
In early March, a hardware failure forced the team to switch to the rover's backup computer, on which it's now running.
The Reddit chat, hosted by an all-female sampling of the Mars Science Laboratory team, is a great read, and includes some fun inside intel. For example, the rover, like a sea vessel, is referred to using female pronouns. And while it's mission is only two years, it's built to survive much longer and carries enough fuel to last a decade. (The rover Opportunity, remember, was built for a 90-day mission and is still alive and roaming after nine years.) Still, Curiosity will probably never leave the vast Gale Crater, which stretches 96 miles across.
Oh, and if you've ever wondered what the Mars scientists and engineers do with their spare time, they "read scifi and watch scifi movies," make quilts, umpire field hockey games, make Space Odyssey jokes and roast coffee beans, engineers revealed during the chat. And sometimes they hold dance parties.
Japan launched a talking humanoid robot astronaut into space on Sunday. The Christian Science Monitor reports, with video.
During the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland, fine volcanic ash got into airplane engines, and "the new hot-burning engines can actually melt the ash on the rotors and interfere with operation of the engines," according to Dork Sahagian of Lehigh University. Miles O'Brien reports for the National Science Foundation's* Science Nation.Interesting take by Carl Zimmer and the New York Times on a study on monogamy in mammals.
NOT SAFE FOR LUNCHWhat Does a Stem Cell Burger Taste Like?
*The National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post was changed to clarify that the Mars rover found evidence of a past environment on Mars that was suitable for life, not evidence of life itself.
Patti Parson contributed to this report.
Slide Show: A collection of cartoons that rocked art and politics.
One can write a number of things about David Levine's 1984 cartoon of Henry Kissinger, shirtless in bed, on top of an anthropomorphized globe. But seeing the cartoon is what made the staff of The Nation magazine revolt in anger.
Victor Navasky was editor of the weekly magazine then. He's used the experience with that cartoon to propel a retrospective on political cartoons throughout history. In his book "The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power," he looks at caricatures drawn by renowned artists, illustrations that have irked dictators and drawings that shaped modern American icons.
NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni interviewed Navasky about the book, and the question he seeks to answer: How can these drawings pack so much more power than words alone?
Their conversation is here or watch it below.
Navasky previously visited the NewsHour in 2005. You can watch his interview with Jeffrey Brown on opinion journalism here:
And for more insight into political cartooning, the NewsHour spent time with two masters of the craft for impromptu draw-offs at the Republican and Democratic National conventions. That story, featuring Scott Stantis of the Chicago Tribune and Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is here. Or watch below:
Weigh in and let us know what you've found to be a memorable political cartoon. Consider the comments section below an open thread for discussion.
In his book "The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power," journalist Victor Navasky writes about caricature's ability to disturb dictators, humble presidents and inflame readers. We present 13 of the most impactful cartoons featured in the book.
A Cartoon Taboo
After waves of protests swelled in the Muslim world over Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, Le Monde’s cartoonist Plantu illustrated the controversy in 2006.
He wrote over and over again “I must not draw Muhammad.”
Author Victor Navasky highlighted this cartoon and others in his book, "The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power." Photo: Copyright Plantu
Cutting Down a Brute
David Low regularly caricatured Hilter and Mussolini for the London Evening Standard before World War II.
He said, “No dictator is inconvenienced or even displeased by cartoons showing his terrible person stalking through blood and mud … What he does not want to get around is the idea that he is an ass, which is really damaging.” Photo: Solo Syndication / Associated Newspapers Ltd.
The Conqueror's Foe
English caricaturist James Gillray "did more than all the armies of Europe to bring me down,” Napoleon Bonaparte once said.
This cartoon from 1803 is called "Maniac Ravings, or Little Boney in a Strong Fit." Photo: Public Domain
Dark, Stinky, Vulgar London
William Hogarth, who drew this cartoon in 1751, is now considered the father of caricature.
“London at the dawn of the eighteenth century was democratic, gracious, aristocratic, bourgeois, and intellectual. But Hogarth, who as a child experienced Fleet Street Prison where he lived with his bankrupt father, captured its darker, stinky, brawling, crowded, filthy, and vulgar side,” Navasky writes. Photo: Public Domain
Caricature From a Master
Many consider Leonardo da Vinci the inventor of the caricature.
Art historian Werner Hofmann wrote that the master artist’s caricatures were “an extrapolation of realism taken to its logical extreme.”
This cartoon is called “Five Grotesques,” from 1490. Photo: Public Domain
Thomas Nast’s cartoons criticizing Boss Tweed not only helped oust the politician from his New York City office, they also put him in jail. A Spanish customs official caught Tweed after he recognized him from Nast’s drawings.
This cartoon, called "Who Stole the People's Money," was first printed in 1871. Photo: Public Domain
Nast's drawings for Harper’s Magazine and for a book titled "Thomas Nast’s Christmas Drawings for the Human Race," helped to solidify the modern image of Santa Claus. Photo: Public Domain
Willie and Joe From 'Up Front'
Bill Maudlin drew Willie and Joe, two World War II infantrymen, as "everyman" figures. Through them he conveyed the terrible impact of the war.
This cartoon is from 1944. Photo: Copyright Estate of Bill Mauldin LLC
“Who will ever forget that gifted American artist’s renditions of the ski-nosed schemer with frail, hunched shoulders, angry jowls, and five o’clock shadow?” Navasky writes of Herblock's famous Richard Nixon portrayal.
Herbert Block drew Nixon in 1954 in this sketch titled "Here He Comes Now." Photo: Courtesy The Herb Block Foundation
Ralph Steadman was a longtime collaborator of the late writer and journalist Hunter S. Thompson and associates himself with Thompson's concept of "Gonzo" journalism.
Steadman's cartoon, "Richard M. Nixon," was featured in Thompson's book about the 1972 presidential campaign.
Steadman told Navasky he believes what a cartoon has to say is often more important than its style. Photo: Copyright Ralph STEADman
David Levine depicts Henry Kissinger in a cartoon titled “Screwing the World," published in The Nation magazine in 1984.
“In something like thirty years at The Nation, first as the magazine’s editor, then as owner and publisher, only once did the staff march on my office with a petition demanding that we not publish something,” Navasky writes. Photo: Copyright Eve and Matthew Levine
Few Female Cartoonists
Frances Jetter, one of the fewer women working in political cartoons, carves an image in wood in reverse, then covers it with ink for printing.
This image is titled "The Republican Platform Against Choice" and is from her book "The Reagan/Bush Years," 1992. Photo: Copyright Frances Jetter
Fist Bump Satire
Then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama deemed this cartoon offensive when The New Yorker magazine published it on its cover in July 2008.
But New Yorker editor David Remnick defended it as satire on the political prejudices against the Obamas, and not a critique of the political couple themselves.
Navasky warns the problematic reaction to the cartoon came from the confusing mix of satire and caricature. Photo: Copyright 2008 by Barry Blitt
Photos of Yasuni National Park by Getty Images
Yasuni National Park in western Ecuador hosts a vast variety of critters from carnivorous caterpillars to pygmy monkeys as small as your hand. The Ecuadoran government is hoping the park's unique quilt of animal and plant species, not to mention two tribes who call it home and wish to remain uncontacted, will convince other nations' governments to pony up $3.6 billion to preserve the site rather than drill there.
Map of Yasuni National Park by Calvin Solomon
The PBS NewsHour teamed up with the Miami Herald to report on Ecuador's efforts to preserve the rainforest in Yasuni. You can view the Herald's article here. We'll have a broadcast report on the controversy surrounding the preservation efforts in the coming weeks.
Learn more about Yasuni's species in this 2010 biodiversity report by Margot Bass, et al.
National Geographic has a feature story, photo gallery and podcast about Yasuni.
Browse all of our World coverage.
Huaorani Indians in Yasuni National Park carry the bushmeat they've killed with their blowgun -- including three howler monkeys and one coati. Photo by Danita Delimont via Getty Images.
TIPUTINI RIVER, Ecuador -- Waving away a cloud of gnats, biologist Phyllis "Lissy" Coley scours the Amazonian underbrush for inga shrubs, whose young leaves are loaded with powerful toxins and chemicals that might be useful in medical research.
Coley and her team from the University of Utah have spent almost two years in the Amazon of Guyana, Peru and Brazil researching the plant -- but this patch of Ecuador was delivering surprises. In a single week, Coley's team found 60 species of inga, 40 of which were unknown to them -- and likely unknown to science. They also found a carnivorous caterpillar. While flesh-eating caterpillars exist in Asia, they've never been recorded in the New World.
The mysteries of this forest, which scientists like Coley are still discovering, could be at risk after this South American nation quietly began considering pulling the plug on one of the most innovative and ambitious conservation plans ever attempted.
The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was designed to leave more than 846 million barrels of crude oil untouched, in perpetuity, beneath Yasuní National Park -- rioting with unknown species and tribes living in voluntary isolation.
In exchange, the government asked the world to cover just half of the crude's $7.2 billion market price.
Environmental groups praised the plan as a novel way to slash greenhouse gases. In 2010, the United Nations threw its support behind the project, setting up a trust fund to receive and manage donations. There were hopes that crowd-sourcing conservation might be a model for other developing nations.
But six years after its launch, those goals are proving elusive. The plan has raised less than 10 percent of the $3.6 billion it's seeking. Ecuador's government says it has received $116.7 million and has pledges for an additional $220 million -- some of it in non-cash cooperation. The United Nations trust fund has just $9.8 million in the bank.
The shortfall is driving speculation that Ecuador might be forced to drill for crude in the ITT oil block (short for Ishpingo, Tambococha, Tiputini), which it says holds 20 percent of the nation's reserves.
"We want to keep 400 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere," Ecuador's president Rafael Correa told a crowd in April. "But if the international community doesn't help share the responsibility, we have to make the best decision for the Ecuadorean people."
Correa and his cabinet held a meeting about the fate of the project in June and are expecting to meet again in coming weeks. Officials say drilling the ITT is on the table.
In the balance is one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. The ITT block is among the most isolated areas of Yasuní National Park, a 2.4 million-acre U.N. biosphere reserve, which holds about one-third of all of the Amazon's amphibian species, even though it represents just a small fraction of the total area. In any given two-and-a-half acre plot of the Yasuní -- roughly the size of a soccer pitch -- there are more species of trees than in the United States and Canada combined.
"As a biologist, nothing makes me more awestruck than to work in an incredibly diverse and pristine area where every day you discover something that you couldn't even imagine or anticipate," Coley said.
A family of red howler monkeys eats nuts from a palm tree off the Napo River in Yasuni National Park. Photo by Rebecca Yale via Getty Images. View full photo essay here.
Even so, she understands the financial pressure Ecuador is facing.
"You can't expect countries just to save rainforest because they're amazing places and we would, as humans, like to keep them around," she said. "Given the potential to make oil money from here, I think it's a remarkably generous offer to say to the rest of the world 'Can you contribute and we won't develop this area.' "
Ecuador needs the money. One of the poorest nations in South America, oil represents more than half of its export earnings and is the country's top source of revenue.
Keeping oil underground is like "a very poor family trying to protect the family jewels, in the meantime most of the people are starving to death," said David Romo, one of the directors of the University of San Francisco de Quito's Tiputini Biodiversity Station, which borders the park and where Coley was doing her research. "So how do you do the trade-off here? The initiative gives us an option for that."
Ivonne Baki is the former Ecuadorean ambassador to the United States, a one-time presidential candidate who speaks six languages. Now, she's traveling the world on behalf of the government, marshaling resources for the project.
Photo of tourists in a dugout canoe in a black water stream in Yasuni National Park by Danita Delimont/Getty Images. View full photo essay here.
While the initiative has seen a groundswell of popular support, she admits the financing has been disappointing. The government is considering "Plan B," which includes tapping the oil in the ITT block in a "conscientious" way. But keeping the oil underground is still the administration's priority, she said.
"We believe in conserving and we have done it before," she said. Twenty-five percent of Ecuador's territory is in a national park or protected area, including the world-renowned Galapagos Islands. By contrast, 12 percent of the United States is under protection, according to the World Database on Protected Areas.
The Yasuní-ITT Initiative is "an environmental service we are providing to the world, not just Ecuador," Baki said.
But the world seems deaf to the plea. While countries like Italy, Germany, Spain, Turkey and Luxembourg have supported the effort, the United States -- Ecuador's largest oil buyer and which has a long and troubled history of polluting the Amazon -- has not contributed to the effort. Neither have gas guzzling nations like China, Japan or India.
Baki speculated that crude-consuming nations fear the model might be replicated and push fuel prices higher.
But critics say the country also has a credibility issue. The socialist-leaning Correa administration has broken pledges in the past, defaulting on the national debt in 2008, and unilaterally forcing oil companies to renegotiate their contracts.
And while the country touts the initiative, it's already exploring for oil in Yasuní National Park and has begun building a road in oil block 31, adjacent to the ITT area. It's also building a massive new refinery that's designed to process more oil than the country is currently producing.
"It might seem like the government is operating in bad faith," said Ivonne Yánez, one of the founders of the Acción Ecológica environmental group. "On one hand, they seem to be pushing Plan B, which is to extract the petroleum, and on the other hand there is Plan A that Ms. Baki is promoting."
Yánez said the government's mixed messages are likely hurting international support for the initiative.
But Baki said powerful business interests are also undermining the project. In particular, oil companies don't like its implications.
A White Chinned Jacamar perches on branch over the Napo River in Yasuni National Park. Photo by Rebecca Yale/Getty Images. View full photo essay here.
"They don't want to accept that oil contaminates," she said. "They say they have the best technologies and that the technology works. We saw what happened in the Gulf of Mexico with British Petroleum."
Ecuador doesn't have to look as far afield as the 2010 Gulf oil spill for cautionary tales. Beginning in the 1960s, Texaco and the state-run oil company began punching into the Amazon looking for crude. Critics accuse the company of using obsolete technology and pumping millions of gallons of wastewater into open pits and rivers.
Last year, an Ecuador appellate court ordered Texaco's successor Chevron to pay $18 billion to clean up the mess and reward local communities. The company is fighting the judgment and is suing Ecuador's legal team on racketeering charges.
But even cutting-edge oil exploration can have unintended consequences. In 1993, Maxus Ecuador built a 112-mile road that cuts through the northern boundary of Yasuní National Park. Only 19-feet wide, it was designed to disappear in a decade after the crude it targeted ran dry. The company also guarded the route to keep colonizers from moving in.
Twenty years later, the crude is still flowing and the road has the marks of permanence. A handful of Huaorani and Quichua communities have sprung up along the gravel route. Most of the proto-villages are just a few wooden shacks, but others have cinderblock schools and concrete volleyball courts.
For the last two decades, Terry Erwin, one of the world's top entomologists who works at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, has been studying the environmental impact of the road. While the construction has had virtually no effect on the insects that he monitors, the same is not true for larger creatures. When Erwin began studying the area, the forests alongside were home to five monkey species.
"By the end of three years, there were no monkeys left," he said. "Everything was out of there -- gone."
The Huaorani, who have ancestral rights to the land, had eradicated all the game animals for about one mile on either side of it, he said.
Some of the species are making a comeback, Erwin said, but that is largely because of changing Huaorani lifestyles -- they are giving up their nomadic hunting ways for more permanent agriculture.
In theory, there are ways to responsibly extract oil from the ITT, Erwin said, "but even with the best ideas possible to start out with, if you let a person in there it's gone."
In some ways, the Yasuní-ITT project is already a success. Yánez, with Acción Ecológica, said that before the initiative was launched few in Ecuador were aware of the area. Now polls show that more than 80 percent of Ecuadoreans don't want the country to exploit the oil in the ITT, even if the international funds don't materialize. If Correa lifts the drilling ban, he's likely to face a public backlash, she said.
Gas flares from an oil facility near Yasuni National Park. Photo by Alejandra Parra/Bloomberg via Getty Images. View full photo essay here.
One of the risks of tapping the ITT is that no one is sure what it holds. Researchers recently discovered a fungus near the area with intriguing commercial potential: it consumes plastic. Erwin says 85 percent of all the insects his team collects are unknown to science.
Damaging the forest before it gives up its secrets is analogous to the burning of the legendary library of Alexandria, Egypt in 600 B.C., said Romo with the university research station.
"There are so many wonders and so much information that Yasuní is holding that will be beneficial to humans," he said. "We just don't know it because we haven't had the chance to explore it."
Researchers say there are too many gaps between current treatment options for opioid drug abuse and the evidence-based practices utilized in much of the rest of the developed world. Photo by flickr user ep_jhu.
Just behind car accidents, opioid drug overdoses now rank as the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States. They're so frequent they qualify as an epidemic, public health officials say.
As of 2009, around 2.3 million Americans suffered from addiction to opioids such as heroin or the prescription drug oxycodone. And according to new research, many of them aren't getting the help they need.
In an article published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, Dr. Bohdan Nosyk and seven other experts in the field say there's a major gap between current treatment options and evidence-based practices.
"Forty-five years after the introduction of opioid substitution treatment, practitioners have at their disposal more tools than ever to treat opioid dependence," the researchers wrote. "Yet these tools are not being used to their greatest potential in the United States or Canada."
Nosyk -- an associate professor of health economics in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia -- said excessive regulation presents the biggest barrier for treatment in the U.S.
He spoke to the PBS NewsHour recently about the current state of opioid addiction treatment, options for closing some of the existing gaps and how the Affordable Care Act might play a role.
PBS NEWSHOUR: Dr. Nosyk, thank you so much for joining us. Let's start broadly. Tell us about some of the different methods for opioid addiction treatment that exist today.
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: There are really two dominant methods of treatment, and they're based on opposing philosophies: On the one hand, we have short-term detoxification, which is typically scheduled beforehand to last from three to 12 weeks and is focused on achieving abstinence from opioids.
On the other, we have maintenance treatment, which lasts indefinitely and is focused on reducing the individual and social harms associated with opioid abuse, such as the risk of detox death, criminal activity, and subsequent HIV and Hepatitis C infection.
Maintenance treatment with methadone is the dominant form of treatment for opioid dependence throughout most of the developed world. However, detox is still a popular option, particularly in the U.S.
That said, we've known for decades that detox is ineffective in getting, and keeping people off of opioids. This is true even in youths who don't inject and had relatively little experience with opioids before entering treatment. What we've learned in recent years is that addicts are at highest risk of death in the first two weeks of treatment, and in the two weeks following discontinuation of treatment. That means a three-week detox regimen exposes addicts to an extremely high risk of death for four out of five consecutive weeks. So, aside from being ineffective, it's extremely dangerous.
Click the graphic below for a breakdown of treatment options in the U.S. and Canada:
PBS NEWSHOUR: Why is the detox method used so frequently in the U.S.?
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: Detox is attractive to the public and also many clients, who would like to see a definitive end to their addiction. Unfortunately, more often than not, it just doesn't happen that way. Opioid addiction is a chronic, recurrent disease. Those who manage to survive it tend to cycle in and out of treatment, regularly relapsing back to illicit use.
Now what we've learned in the various longitudinal studies that have been done is that, over time, periods of treatment and abstinence -- if they're attained -- tend to get longer, while periods of relapse tend to get shorter. That's really the best way to characterize recovery from opioid dependence, and it absolutely requires long-term access to treatment.
PBS NEWSHOUR: From your perspective, what are the major barriers to this kind of treatment?
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: Structurally, I think the biggest barrier to treatment in the U.S. is the excessive amount of regulation involved.
Unlike most of the rest of the developed world, methadone is only available in specialized drug treatment centers in the U.S. They're regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and it's not available in regular physicians' offices. So these regulations were put into place to prevent methadone from being diverted. In other words, they weren't conceived with the patients' best interests in mind, but rather a concern, justified or not, for public safety.
In the meantime we've seen a dramatic increase in the illicit use of other medically-prescribed opioids -- oxycontin, vicodin and percocet, among others, which are much more attractive street drugs than methadone.
Because it is less likely to be diverted, Buprenorphine was allowed to be prescribed in physicians' offices in 2003, and it is thought that over 140,000 Americans now access buprenorphine in this way. Methadone is a more effective, and considerably cheaper medication, and may therefore provide better value for money while further expanding access to treatment.
PBS NEWSHOUR: The study stresses the importance of office-based treatment. Can you explain what that means and why it's significant?
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: Office-based treatment is simply making opioid substitution treatment available from general practitioners, with the medication being dispensed through community pharmacies. That's how it's done in Canada and that's how it's done in most of the developed world.
However, it's really about treating opioid dependence like the medical condition that it is. Aside from increasing access to drug treatment, I think there are other benefits as well. Substance abuse is very often associated with mental health conditions and drug injectors have high rates of HIV and Hepatitis C. Treating these clients in office-based settings provides an opportunity for more comprehensive medical care for the most difficult cases.
PBS NEWSHOUR: Coverage for many Americans will be changing in the coming months as the bulk of the Affordable Care Act takes effect. How will that play into all of this?
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: Within states that adopt the Affordable Care Act, there will be an immediate benefit to the uninsured who perhaps couldn't afford to access treatment in the past, so that will help.
However, this isn't going to come cheaply. Allowing drug treatment in office-based settings, and, critically, training the physician workforce in addiction medicine, I think are the keys.
Massive increases in access to opioid substitution treatment were witnessed in Canada after we deregulated in 1996. The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity and a stimulus, for efficient and effective policy change.
PBS NEWSHOUR: Are we seeing any other shifts in the way opioid addiction is treated or viewed in the U.S.?
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: It's funny, opioid substitution treatment was initially conceived in the mid-'60s as a long-term treatment option, but was soon restricted at the onset of the so-called "War on Drugs" in the early '70s.
Slowly, I think we're seeing the pendulum swing back towards evidence-based treatment, which I'd say is attributable to the volume and level of scientific evidence that's been produced, as well as, perhaps, changing public perceptions about the nature of addiction, and how best to respond to the social problems created by drugs.
PBS NEWSHOUR: Let's close with a segment of the population you say is at particular risk: Prison inmates. What do you see as the problem there?
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: A recent survey of state prison systems in the U.S. found that just over half reported offering methadone to inmates in very limited situations -- often exclusively for pregnant women or chronic pain management, and referrals to treatment after release are even less common. So very few opioid addicts that actually enter the prison system are actually getting treated.
The results of this survey showed it came to beliefs and ideology: Most survey respondents, who were wardens and other prison representatives, were not informed of the benefits of opioid substitution treatment, and preferred drug-free detoxification instead.
The good news is that now there's some really good research coming out on this topic from the Center for AIDS Research - Collaboration on HIV in Corrections. So the authors of this study estimated that some 200,000 individuals with heroin addiction pass through American correctional facilities every year. So that's staggering. You think of the volume of those problems.
The prison system has to be viewed as a rare contact point to treat substance abuse as well as HIV and Hepatitis C for individuals who are typically difficult to reach. This is especially important in the context of containing the spread of HIV/AIDS given the preventative benefits of antiretroviral treatment. Testing and treatment of addiction and infectious diseases has to become a priority moving forward.
PBS NEWSHOUR: Dr. Nosyk, thank you so much for joining us.
DR. BOHDAN NOSYK: Thank you.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Yemeni soldiers search a car at a checkpoint on a street leading to the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a on Sunday. Photo by Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images.
The decision to close U.S. embassies in the Mideast and North Africa might mean a quiet week while Americans are on heightened alert, but it doesn't lessen the overall threat from those meaning to do the United States harm, said Scott Stewart, vice president of analysis at Stratfor.
The State Department has decided to keep 19 U.S. embassies closed through Saturday -- many of which would have been closed this week anyway for the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The department made the decision after detecting an increase in communications about potential terrorist threats. Nine other embassies, including those in Baghdad, Kabul and Algiers, were allowed to reopen Monday as planned.
On Friday, the State Department also issued a warning to U.S. citizens traveling abroad about staying vigilant in light of the possibility of terrorist attacks. The travel alert extends through the end of August.
We asked Stewart about what the embassy closings and travel alert mean (answers edited for clarity and length):
How will closing the embassies for a week make them safer?
It's not really about making the embassies safer, it's about making the people safer and putting them out of harm's way. A lot of the embassies we're talking about are pretty hardened and fortified facilities, like in Sana'a, Yemen and Tunis, Tunisia. But people are vulnerable coming in and out of them. And if you're open with visa applicants coming in, you run the risk from them as well.
Why are some staying open, like Kabul, Baghdad and Algiers?
Probably because the country team in those places made the determination that the threat didn't apply to them. And all three of those places are fairly secure facilities.
Who should travelers contact if they run into trouble if the embassies are closed?
What you'll do is call the after-hours numbers for the embassies. With technology the way it is today, the duty officers have cell phones, so whether there's an operator or the Marines at post one (the main security command post usually at the primary entrance), they can respond.
What happens to the work load of those embassies, for example, people applying for visas?
In many countries, it's by appointment, so they will have to wait and have those meetings rescheduled. Normally, those lines are pretty long anyway, so it's going to cause an inconvenience for most people.
Will closing the embassies save the U.S. government any money, like a furlough?
No, the employees will still be paid. The good thing is they're not totally closing down the embassies. If they were totally closing them down and removing the people from the country, it would be expensive. You'd need to destroy all the classified information, remove the people, and when they came back, conduct security measures like sweeping for bombs.
Have any other Western countries followed suit and closed their embassies?
The British and French embassies are closed in Sana'a, Yemen.
What's notable about the travel warning?
What's interesting is the potential threat to aviation. I'm not sure if the travel alert was based on separate intelligence, or there could be tangential intelligence. But it makes sense with past threats from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. They're still very focused on aviation.
What's your take on the possibility of bomb implants?
What I'm concerned about more than implants is smuggling a bomb in body cavities, because you can remove it and place it in strategic parts of the aircraft. If it's an implant, your body would absorb some of the blast. But placing it on the plane can cause more damage, and it can be combined with other components. It's easier to spot an entire improvised explosive devise than if individual components, like the detonator, timing device and main explosive, are smuggled in separately.
The other thing that's important to remember in relation to these threats -- whether or not they're credible -- is that before Friday, there were undoubtedly people plotting attacks again embassies, and they'll be doing so after the worldwide alert expires on Aug. 31. We shouldn't panic, but we should take precautions.
We'll have the latest on the terror alert on Monday's PBS NewsHour. View all of our World coverage.
Musician Chris Thile performed for the PBS NewsHour at the Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan. Here he plays the final movement of Bach Sonata #1 in G-minor. Chris Thile is a musician consumed with restless passion and energy. At age two he told his parents he wanted to play the mandolin. At eight he formed the band Nickel Creek and by 13, he had recorded two albums.
First known for playing bluegrass, he has become famous for crossing and mixing genres. His current band, Punch Brothers, has expanded the genre well beyond traditional tunes. Thile has also joined forces with other musicians, including celebrated jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, as well as classical cellist Yo Yo Ma in a recording called "The Goat Rodeo Sessions," which won a Grammy earlier this year for Best Folk Album.
Monday on the PBS NewsHour, Thile explains to Jeffrey Brown why he despises musical boundaries. "They're just not helpful. If you sit down and say to yourself you want to write a bluegrass song, instantly you're limiting yourself."
When the MacArthur Foundation awarded Thile a so-called "genius grant" in 2012, the organization cited his creation of a "distinctly American canon for the mandolin and a new musical aesthetic for performers and audiences alike."
Now he has turned his attention to Johann Sebastian Bach, whom Thile calls the greatest musician who ever lived. Nonesuch Records will release his recording of solo mandolin sonatas and partitas in August.
RAY SUAREZ: Major League Baseball ejected a bevy of big names today in a doping scandal. The A-list of players was led by the man known as A-Rod, and his punishment topped them all: the rest of this season and all of next. He planned to appeal.
For weeks, the question had not been whether, but how long Alex Rodriguez would be suspended. Today, baseball's highest-paid player found out. It's the toughest penalty since Pete Rose was banned for life in 1989 for gambling on baseball. In 2009, Rodriguez, widely known as A-Rod, admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in the early 2000s.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ, New York Yankees: I screwed up big time, but I think the only thing I ask from this group today and the American people is to judge me from this day forward. That's all I can ask for.
RAY SUAREZ: But Major League Baseball said today Rodriguez continued to use and lied about it. He's part of a group that allegedly procured drugs from a company called Biogenesis in Miami.
In a statement, Major League Baseball said Rodriguez's suspension was "based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances and for attempting to cover up his violations by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the investigation."
Selig had already banned Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, the National League's most valuable player in 2011, for the rest of this year. Today, he also handed out 12 other suspensions of 50 games each, essentially the remain of the regular season.
Among the marquee names on that list, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta. But Rodriguez, a three-time MVP, has eclipsed all the others and joins Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and a host of others as fallen icons of the game.
The 14-time All-Star had off-season surgery, but as fate would have it, he's ready to return to big league play tonight in Chicago. He addressed the matter Friday night after hitting a towering home run in a minor league tune-up game.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I think there's a lot of people that are confused and a lot of people that don't understand the process. There is a lot of layers. I will say this. There's more than one party that benefits from me not ever stepping back on the field. And that's not my teammates. And it's not the Yankee fans.
QUESTION: Who is it? Who benefits?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I can't tell you. I can't tell you that right now. And I hope I never have to.
RAY SUAREZ: That clearly was a reference to Major League Baseball and the Yankees. The team reportedly has considered trying to void the $100 million-plus left on Rodriguez's 10-year $275 million contract. As to whether he would rejoin the Yankees?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Yes, unless I get hit by lightning. And these days, you never know.
RAY SUAREZ: For now, his appeal of today's suspension means A-Rod gets to play and be paid his $173,000 a game while the case goes to arbitration.
To help walk us around the bases of these penalties, I'm joined by Christine Brennan, sports columnist for USA Today and a commentator for ABC News, and by William Rhoden, a sports columnist at The New York Times.
And, Bill Rhoden, let me start with you.
Thirteen men heading for the showers today, but along with Alex Rodriguez, some pretty good players, no? Let's look at the rest of the list a little bit. Who stands out for you?
WILLIAM RHODEN, The New York Times: Well, yes, I mean you have Peralta, Colon, Bartolo Colon.
These are all people who were going to figure in mightily in their teams' pennant race. But make no mistake, Ray. The guy that they wanted, the big fish is Rodriguez. And I'm happy to see that he's going to fight it. Everybody else gets 50 games. This guy gets almost four times as many games.
He's going to fight it. He should fight it. I mean, I hope he fights it. I hope the Players Association fights it. I hope they take it to federal court if the arbitrator doesn't make the correct ruling. I just think that it's really not fair in terms of the process.
RAY SUAREZ: And why do you say that? Why do you hope he fights it?
WILLIAM RHODEN: Well, because of the due process.
You can't -- too often in this whole process there's been too much of a selection process. You know, Barry Bonds, you know, we don't like Barry Bonds so there's an added venom that goes into the pursuit of Barry Bonds, not only baseball, but the federal government. We don't like Alex Rodriguez. And what baseball has a way doing is whipping up or exploiting the fans' distaste for a particular player and then using that as sort of a cover to do things like this. Like, we're going to give everybody else 50, but we're going to give you 211.
RAY SUAREZ: Christine Brennan, the other 12 are taking their medicine for taking their medicine. What about Alex Rodriguez? What do you think of what William Rhoden just said?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: Well, Bill is a good friend, but I could not disagree more.
This is a lifetime achievement award for A-Rod. And, yes, it is four times more. Bill is right about that. But I think A-Rod is worth four times more. Let's look at the record here. He has admitted that he took steroids from 2001 to 2003, was never, of course, punished for that because baseball had not yet started its drug testing.
There's number one. Number two, according to Major League Baseball -- and we know A-Rod was trying to work a deal, so MLB has to have something right. I think they have probably everything right.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Just a second, Bill.
MLB, they were trying to have a -- you know, this deal with A-Rod. MLB says he obstructed the investigation. That is a very big deal. And, of course, A-Rod, if he was a Biogenesis boy to the max and using this stuff for several years, my goodness, is baseball going to get serious or not? Are they going to send a message not just around the league, but to kids, that their role models are going to be caught?
This is a major watershed for Major League Baseball. I think it's terrific what they're doing and I think A-Rod deserves the brunt of all of this.
RAY SUAREZ: Bill Rhoden, go ahead.
WILLIAM RHODEN: Yes, but, you know, Christine -- and you know I love you, Christine.
This is not about lifetime achievement. This is not a lifetime achievement award. This is about this specific penalty. This is about this specific incident. It's not about everything else. You know, you go back to that list, about four or five years ago, there were 99 people on a list of people who supposedly flunked the test.
The only name, the only name that came out was A-Rod's. So, you know, while we're talking about cheering, there are a lot of people who are going to work who are on rosters who are probably on that list, people who were using, who we never know.
Tonight, guess who is pitching, ironically enough? Andy Pettitte, who used. Roger Clemens is working in -- I think he's with the Astros. Mark McGwire is a hitting coach.
I just don't like this piecemeal approach. And if they have got the evidence, I want us to -- let's go -- let's follow the truth where it leads, Christine, because if you have noticed, there have been no executives named so far. The only people who have been whipped up on players.
You mean to tell me that there were no executives that knew about all this when the turnstiles were whirring? I think there were commissioners who knew about this. I think that, if we're going to really get to the bottom of this, let's not just punish these days and say the wicked witch is dead.
Let's follow the truth where it leads and find out everybody, who knew what when. I don't think Major League Baseball wants to do that because the implications will lead up to some very high places.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, I don't disagree with Bill on that at all, Ray.
As you know, I have been incredibly critical of Major League Baseball. They're so late here to the party. The Olympics started drug testing in 1972. Major League Baseball started in 2004. They're 32 years behind the Olympics.
And one of the reasons we know is because they love the home runs flying out of the ballpark, brought fans back after the strike in the '90s. So, there are a lot of issues here. I think, Bill, what you and I are disagreeing on -- and understandably so -- is the issue of A-Rod himself.
And I think it's a new world order. And if A-Rod does become the poster child for this, so be it. But I think the rules of the game going forward are different. I'm guessing Major League Baseball will end up with a punishment policy very similar to the Olympics, and it should. Two years for the first offense. Lifetime ban for the second.
A-Rod may be the beginning point here of this new get-tough policy, and I have no trouble with that.
RAY SUAREZ: There's one critical difference between Alex Rodriguez and some of the other players on that list, Everth Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz, some terrific players. He's 38. If he loses this arbitration, Bill, is that pretty much it?
WILLIAM RHODEN: Well, it is it. And I'm sure that has a lot to do with the appeal.
His career is basically done if this goes -- if this suspension holds. But, again, you know, getting back to Christine's point, yes, I do agree with you, Christine, that this is the new world order. And I do like the idea that now, just like with gambling, going forward everybody knows the rules. It's concrete. As soon as you go in the locker room, there will be rules.
But don't beat up on somebody to make a point. This is about justice. If it's 50, then it's 50. You're not going to fault this guy 200 extra times because of a lifetime achievement because of what you did three years ago, when the rules were ambiguous. I don't like that. And I think that every media person, every journalist, forget whether you like the guy or not. No, there's been too much of that. Same thing with Bonds.
Let's follow the truth where it leads. Let's deal with justice.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me get a quick response on Bill's point about equal penalty and facing equally harsh justice for this infraction.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: It seems to me from everything we have heard, all the reporting from Major League Baseball and what they have got, is that A-Rod was by far the worst offender. He was obviously impeding the investigation, according to Major League Baseball.
And if that's the case, then he deserves a worse penalty. I have absolutely no problem with this. You have got to start teaching players lessons, Ray. And what the bottom line is, is baseball going to be tough on this or not? This is absolutely baseball's chance and Bud Selig's chance to say enough is enough after all the years of cheating.
RAY SUAREZ: Christine Brennan, William Rhoden, thank you both.
WILLIAM RHODEN: Thank you, Ray.
KWAME HOLMAN: Turkey's former military chief and scores of others were convicted today of trying to overthrow the government. Retired General Ilker Basbug was among some 250 defendants in a trial that lasted five years. They allegedly plotted to oust Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Outside the court today, police fired tear gas at protesters against Erdogan's Islamist-leaning government. And the main pro-secular opposition party condemned the verdicts.
The U.S. has joined efforts to mediate a political solution in Egypt. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met today in Cairo with a jailed senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He met with leaders of the military-backed government over the weekend. Meanwhile, supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi continued their sit-ins, defying warnings to leave.
In Zimbabwe, longtime leader Robert Mugabe has secured another five-year term as president in another disputed election. His supporters cheered and danced in the streets over the weekend as officials announced Mugabe captured 61 percent of the vote. The election was a week ago. The main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, called the results a massive fraud.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, Zimbabwe presidential candidate: The fraudulent and the stolen election has plunged Zimbabwe into a constitutional, political and economic crisis. The people of Zimbabwe should be allowed a fresh opportunity to freely, fairly elect the government of their choice.
In this regard, a credible, free and a fair, legitimate election must be held as soon as possible.
KWAME HOLMAN: The African Union endorsed the results, but other observers said one million people may have been barred from voting.
It was a quiet day of trading on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 46 points to close at 15,612. The NASDAQ rose three points to close at nearly 3,693.
A leading lawyer in the civil rights movement was being mourned today. Julius Chambers died Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina. He won eight cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including a 1971 decision that forced crosstown busing to desegregate public schools in Charlotte. Julius Chambers was 76 years old.
Those are some of the day's major stories.
GWEN IFILL: There was new information today about the closure of American embassies and consulates in the Muslim world.
According to a number of news organizations, the United States intercepted communications between the leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahri, and the terrorist branch of that organization based in Yemen. According to these reports, al-Zawahri asked his colleagues to carry out an attack as early as yesterday. American embassies and consulates in 19 cities around the world remained shut today as diplomats and travelers alike grappled with the fallout from the closings which were announced this past Friday.
As travelers checked in for international flights over the weekend, many had more on their minds than the trips ahead.
EMAN ALI, traveler: We're not really scared. I mean, whatever happens happens. But we have family over in Egypt. And they told us everything is OK.
JAMES MELBY, traveler: If I was going to the Middle East, yes, I would cancel my flight. I wouldn't go anywhere, North Africa, Middle East. I wouldn't do it.
GWEN IFILL: In addition to the travel warning, U.S. embassies in Kabul and Baghdad were closed over the weekend, but were given the go-ahead to reopen today.
But nearly a score of American diplomatic facilities across the Muslim world will stay shuttered all week through next Saturday, including in four African cities. Officials cited an abundance of caution, rather than a new threat.
MARIE HARF, State Department: As we all know, one of our top priorities is protecting people on the ground. So, going forward, we will continue to make decisions about when embassies will be open or not. As you know, this doesn't happen that often that we close a large number of embassies. So again our preference is not to have to do so, but security is our top priority.
GWEN IFILL: The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Saxby Chambliss, said yesterday it's the most serious threat from al-Qaida he's seen in years.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-Ga.: There's been an awful lot of chatter out there. Chatter means conversation among terrorists about the planning that's going on, very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.
We didn't take heed on 9/11 in the way that we should. But here I think it's very important that we do take the right kind of planning as we come to the close of Ramadan.
GWEN IFILL: The intercepted chatter made headlines worldwide and Britain, Germany and France closed their embassies in Yemen through today. Across the U.S., there was stepped-up security at the nation's airports and train stations.
GWEN IFILL: To assess the threat and the to assess the threat and the reaction to it, we turn to Brian Jenkins, a security consultant at the RAND Corporation, and New York Times intelligence reporter Mark Mazzetti, who is covering the story.
And, Mark, you reported today about these intercepted communications. What do we know about them besides what I just reported?
MARK MAZZETTI, The New York Times: Not a whole lot.
We're learning about some communications that Zawahri, the head of al-Qaida who took over after bin Laden, had with Wuhayshi, who is the head of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. There was some sort of direct or implicit order to carry out an attack as early as yesterday, Sunday.
And that's about the extent of what we know of these communications. It is very interesting, I think, that Zawahri has this continued ongoing relationship with Wuhayshi, especially because Zawahri has been sort of portrayed recently as this out-of-touch person deep in hiding who can't really handle a global terrorist organization. It does at least appear that he does have some degree of influence over al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been described as the most powerful and deadly affiliate that al-Qaida has.
GWEN IFILL: They made a big -- I want to ask -- stay with you for a moment, Mark, because they made a big decision to close all of these embassies and consulates and put out this travel alert.
And yet when your organization and others got wind of this, the White House or the government tried to warn you against reporting it. You did for a moment and then you didn't. Why not? Why did you in the end?
MARK MAZZETTI: As reported in our story today that there was -- the story got out in other places. The actual specifics of the communications got out. And we went ahead and reported it.
I think there was a feeling -- I wasn't involved in these discussions last week, but I think there was a concern about revealing the fact that these specific intercepts had happened. And so that was the government's case to withhold those details.
As you said, the closures have been incredibly broad. And I think they indicate that while that there may be some specific information about maybe the timing of the attack, it is very imprecise about where. And that's why they're really closing embassies and consulates all over the place.
GWEN IFILL: So, Brian Jenkins, precisely because of that kind of imprecision, how unusual is it to make such a blanket closure, a blanket alert as we saw here?
BRIAN JENKINS, RAND Corporation: Well, it is difficult to think of a precedent for a closure of diplomatic facilities on this scale. There have been some previous closures.
Obviously, there was one in 2003 that involved our facilities in Saudi Arabia after a number of terrorist attacks had occurs. And we were expecting a continuing campaign. In 2002, diplomatic facilities were closed in several Southeast Asian countries as a consequence of terror threats. But this is the broadest-scale closure that I can remember in response to terrorism.
GWEN IFILL: This chatter that Mark Mazzetti and others are reporting, how significant and how familiar does that sound to you as the reason for these kinds of closures and how significant is it that Ayman al-Zawahri might be involved in it?
BRIAN JENKINS: Well, with regard to -- it is imprecise. And that forces you -- if there were really precise information on this, they would be able to thwart the threat or they would be able to limit the scope of the disruptive effect that closures like these have.
With regard to Zawahri's position or the broader situation of al-Qaida as a whole, I mean, recently, as recently as two years ago, U.S. officials were saying that we were within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaida, that we had pounded the operational capabilities of al-Qaida central, that is, the core command led by Zawahri, so thoroughly that they were incapable of carrying out large-scale strategic operations, although al-Qaida in a Arabian Peninsula, the group believed to be responsible for this threat, still represented a serious problem.
This suggests that al-Qaida, far from being on the ropes, represents a -- still a continuing, very serious threat. And there's no question that al-Qaida is benefiting from the continuing turmoil across North Africa and the Middle East.
GWEN IFILL: Mark Mazzetti, one of the things we have been paying a lot of attention to lately is the surveillance notion, that we are keeping an eye not only on domestic recordings, domestic communications, but also especially internationally. Is this an example of payoff, payout or that kind of -- that PRISM program, those kinds of international networks we have been mounting?
MARK MAZZETTI: Well, defenders of the program certainly are pointing that out. And you heard a lot of members of Congress on Sunday talk shows yesterday citing this as an example of the necessity of this surveillance, although it should be pointed out a couple things, first of all, that some critics were saying that the most controversial aspect of the surveillance, which is the bulk collection of American cell phone -- phone records, wasn't the reason why this chatter may have been intercepted.
And, secondly, I think it should be pointed out that, you know, after all of these Edward Snowden leaks, you heard some officials talking about how the leaks would do irreparable harm to the NSA's ability to collect information, that terrorists were changing their communication patterns.
Well, maybe this information in the last few days indicates that they maybe haven't changed so much and maybe the NSA isn't as damaged or harmed as some may have led on.
GWEN IFILL: Sounds like a story that is just beginning to unfold.
Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times, Brian Jenkins of the RAND Corporation, thank you so much.
MARK MAZZETTI: Thank you.
RAY SUAREZ: Now: the sale of a legendary newspaper to an Internet legend.
The Washington Post Company sold its flagship paper to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, for $250 million.One family, the Graham, owned The Post for four generations. The paper faced financial difficulties. Revenues declined for seven consecutive years, including losses of $49 million in the first quarter of this year.
For more on the surprising sale, we turn to Tom Rosenstiel, the executive director of the American Press Institute. Rosenstiel was a veteran newspaper reporter before becoming the founder and director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism for many years.
And, Tom, if you live somewhere else in the country or if you're one of the millions of American adults who used to be a newspaper reader and isn't one anymore, why is it important that this pillar of American journalism has been sold?
TOM ROSENSTIEL, American Press Institute: Well, The Washington Post is the number one paper in the nation's capital.
It's the -- it's got readers all over the world who want to know what's going on in Washington. And it's one of the great journalism institutions in the United States. What happens in the federal government, there are more reporters at The Washington Post trying to cover that and understand that than anywhere else. So we all have a stake in what happens at this newspaper.
RAY SUAREZ: Katharine Weymouth's note to the staff -- she's the publisher -- Chairman Donald Graham's remarks to the staff, both took pains to point out that Jeff Bezos was personally buying the paper, not acquiring it for Amazon.
Why make that distinction? Why is it important?
TOM ROSENSTIEL: It's actually part of a trend.
We are moving from the publicly traded corporation era of media ownership and particularly newspaper ownership back toward individual owners. John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, earlier this week announced that he was buying The Boston Globe. Aaron Kushner, who is also an Internet mogul, owns The Orange County Register.
Bezos is famous for resisting short-term pressure and he's very customer-focused. So this insulates The Post from any of the pressures that a corporation would have -- publicly traded corporation would have -- in the way it stewards the paper.
RAY SUAREZ: He is a man who has understood how to use the Internet as a commerce vehicle perhaps as well as anybody on planet Earth. Is that a good fit for a newspaper ownership in the 21st century?
TOM ROSENSTIEL: Yes.
The readership of newspapers is going online. It's going mobile. Newspapers have held on to their readership if you look at total audience much better than many other media. According to Scarborough data, 59 percent of people 18 to 24 read newspaper media content every week.
This is a surprising number to people who think that newspapers have become irrelevant. But they are encountering that media on Facebook and social media and on digital devices, on mobile devices. So understanding how to engage audiences there and understanding how to monetize those devices is the future of media in America and worldwide.
RAY SUAREZ: Is this story really the story of the modern American newspaper? The Post Company, it's not like they didn't try. They got rid of properties that weren't performing. They bought Slate, the online magazine. They diversified their holdings, bought a real estate magazine when houses were buying and selling like crazy in America before the recession.
They really did try to right-size the stable for the 21st century, didn't they?
TOM ROSENSTIEL: Yes. What's happened with newspapers is that they were going through this transition, and then the economy turned in 2009.
So you have this sort of vortex of two things accelerating. And newspapers are adapting in many ways more than some other media. Television, the television industry, for instance, is less active online. The advertising model has held up a little bit better for television.
But that urgency has led to a lot of innovation, particularly in the delivery of content. The real crisis facing print publishers really is more a revenue crisis than it is an audience crisis, particularly for most community newspapers around the country, which is what The Post is.
RAY SUAREZ: A lot of the attention is going to go to what happened to The Post and why it's selling to Bezos.
But let's talk about it from Bezos' point of view, 49 years old.Why would he buy into a business that's perceived as failing, where millions of young adults have no use for it at all and the generation coming behind them has even less use for it?
TOM ROSENSTIEL: Well, I think that's something of a misnomer.
It was -- 20 years ago, before the Internet, there was really signs that younger people were not turning to traditional media. But what's happened with the Internet and particularly with mobile devices, they have made the audience for newspapers and other traditional media brands younger and more deeply engaged.
People read long form on mobile devices, even smartphones, more than they did on computers. The attention span is longer.These things are in our pocket. They're with us all day long. When you're trapped in line, you will read a longer piece.
So, someone like Bezos, who is now thinking about his legacy -- he's reached a certain age, one of the richest, most successful businessmen in America -- is probably thinking about, how do I save an institution and be known for something more than just being rich?
RAY SUAREZ: Tom Rosenstiel, thanks a lot.
TOM ROSENSTIEL: Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: Now to Iran the day after a new president was sworn in.
In his inaugural address, Hassan Rouhani promised moderation and transparency. Today, he proposed a Cabinet made up of reformists and conservatives.
Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports from just outside Iran's capital.
ALEX THOMSON: Southwest from Tehran on the road to the holy city of Qom, and it rises still unfinished dominating the countryside, four minarets, 89 meters high for the 89 years he lived, the burial place of the father of Iran's revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Pilgrims, of course, from all over the Shia world converge on this place, but, above all , Iranians, of course, paying homage to the personification of the country's revolution, the man who set its very tone dubbing the United States the great Satan.
What do they make of the new president with his talk of transparency over the nuclear issue?
WOMAN (through interpreter): He says we're not looking for war. We're looking for negotiations. I think he can handle everything. And we're really hopeful for him.
MAN (through interpreter): The West should compromise with us. We are not going to abandon our religion.
WOMAN (through interpreter): If they negotiate properly and listen to our leader and what he wants, Iranian people will accept that logic. There can be compromise and peace.
ALEX THOMSON: There's talk of a change, but be clear. This president announced he will defend the revolution. He's warned the West to change its style over the nuclear issue. And he wants a Cabinet of centrists, not radical reformers.
And that feeling that the West should now make concessions on the nuclear issue is very widespread. You just don't find it here at the Khomeini Mausoleum. But what about domestically in Iran itself? What about justice and rights in this country, something which the new president himself addressed only yesterday?
Chelcheragh magazine in Tehran tries to do new things differently through culture, art, media, to the recent election, of course, young readers, young writers, young aspirations across Iran, and people hearing right now a president say that rights and justice matter.
Immediately after the new president was elected, the magazine published a survey of young people's attitudes.
MAZADEH KHALILI, Chelcheragh (through interpreter): What they told us was that the Constitution says you can't force someone to publish something or prevent someone from publishing something. Young people said to us if they just followed this law that it would create an environment in which their wishes would be fulfilled.
ALEX THOMSON: The walls of the Khomeini shrine show one face of this country. The walls of a young magazine office show quite another, the two diverging worlds which somehow the new president must speak to.