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

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Next: an organization that believes there's no place like home when it comes to growing older.

    Ray Suarez has our report.

    MAN: How you doing today?

    JOHN SEARS:  Pretty well. Thank you.

    RAY SUAREZ: Once a week, 82- year-old John Sears gets picked up at his Beacon Hill townhouse, and driven to a nearby grocery store. Sears looks forward to that weekly outing, and not just to replenish his pantry.

    JOHN SEARS:  Oh, super. Thank you.

    MAN: What else can I get for you?

    RAY SUAREZ: But for the simple joy of getting out, seeing people, catching up on neighborhood news.

    JOHN SEARS:  I'm taking all of your lobster rolls.

    RAY SUAREZ: All the harder to do as age makes it more challenging to get around.

    JOHN SEARS:  Are we loaded up, Bob?

    MAN: We're all set.

    RAY SUAREZ: His driver, Bob Spicer, works for Beacon Hill Village, a nonprofit membership organization which provides low-cost services to seniors who want to continue to live in their own homes.

    JOHN SEARS:  They call all the time. A couple times a week, someone will call up and say, are you still there? And if so, why? And what can we do to help you?

    RAY SUAREZ: The village offers transportation to doctors and grocery stores, and provides free exercise classes and lectures on current events. It organizes social clubs like the weekly Second Cup gathering at the Beacon Hill Bistro, where members discuss books, movies and, perhaps most importantly, politics.

    WOMAN: She failed as the -- as an effective governor. But she was -- she was smart.

    RAY SUAREZ: And there's a biweekly Terrific Tuesdays happy hour where women gather at a local restaurant to plan trips to concerts and art galleries.

    WOMAN: You really have to look into that early.

    RAY SUAREZ: In short, Beacon Hill Village offers all of the amenities of a retirement community, distributed, you might say, in the dense streets of an urban neighborhood. So getting old doesn't mean leaving a cherished life behind. Instead, a senior can age in place.

    When people hear about the Beacon Hill Village concept, when they learn they don't have to leave their homes, they don't have to leave everything that's familiar to them, they want to know more. And they want it for themselves. There are now 110 such villages around the United States and nearly twice that many in development.

    RAY SUAREZ: Twelve years ago, Susan McWhinney-Morse and her neighbors got together to devise a way to stay in their Boston neighborhood even as their needs changed, and increased with age.

    SUSAN MCWHINNEY-MORSE, Beacon Hill Village: When we initially started Beacon Hill Village, there were 11 of us who got together one cold November day with this abstract determination that, we're not going anywhere.

    But we wanted to be responsible by not going anywhere. We didn't want to have to depend upon our children, who might live across the country. So, after two years, we formed this organization that seemed to fit our needs. And it was at that point we understood, began to understand that maybe we had tapped into a whole movement.

    RAY SUAREZ: Beacon Hill Village now has 400 members who pay an annual fee of about $100 to $1,000, depending on their financial circumstances.

    The organization has just four full-time employees and a small office space. The Village depends on donations and the work of volunteers to survive. Many of the activities take place in borrowed community spaces. Members are charged additional fees for driving and social outings. And the Village negotiates reduced prices for members to receive medical care and home repair services when needed.

    When we visited John Sears, he was getting a window screen replaced.

    JOHN SEARS:  I have a bar for the shower and a bar for the tub that they put there and tiles fixed and bulbs inserted. Come downstairs, I have a computer. And they sent a teenager over to help get me back online. It's kind of wonderful that there are a bunch people who simply give a hoot about us old-timers around here, and that matters so much.

    JOANNE COOPER: This little hut actually...

    RAY SUAREZ: Is where you...

    JOANNE COOPER: That's where we went down.

    RAY SUAREZ: For years, Joanne Cooper, an active 78-year-old, didn't think she needed the Village because she was busy traveling. She showed me photos of her and her partner, Bill, on an archaeological dig in Israel three years ago. But Bill had a massive heart attack, and everything changed.

    JOANNE COOPER: I knew that when he came home from the hospital, which was after a very brief stay, that we would need help. And so we said, it's about time. I think it's time we have to join the Village. And the Village was great.

    We had a fabulous woman who would come practically every day and, when he was stronger, take him for walks, do all kinds of things. 

    RAY SUAREZ: Bill never recovered and died six months later. That's when Cooper discovered she needed the Village even more.

    JOANNE COOPER: We had a great life, and you want to maintain that. And then you're by yourself and you have to sort of renegotiate how you're going to do things. And I started going to things at the Village.

    And I began to do all the things that I did before Bill got sick, and then more.

    RAY SUAREZ: The Beacon Hill Village has spawned a national organization to advise other communities.

    But McWhinney-Morse says it's important for every Village to be different, tailored to the specific needs of each community. What works in an urban setting like Boston may not work in a rural town in Iowa.

    SUSAN MCWHINNEY-MORSE: That's perhaps one of the geniuses in the way the village movement has been set up, because it takes into account the fact that we are all aging in different ways with different needs at different times.

    People said, you cannot retire on Beacon Hill. It just won't work. You have bricks to fall on, stairs to climb, and that's not appropriate for older people. And my answer to that is that, if I stop climbing stairs, I won't be able to climb stairs.

    RAY SUAREZ: And she's convinced the village concept works in neighborhoods with people of all different socioeconomic levels.

    SUSAN MCWHINNEY-MORSE: We are probably a terrific answer to particularly people who are low and moderate income and middle class, who simply have no other options, who can't move to retirement communities, who don't have the resources to go to Sun City or.

    RAY SUAREZ: Still, it's not easy to create a village. It takes strong leadership and commitment from residents, and a lot of money. It took an initial investment of $80,000 to start Beacon Hill Village. And, every year, the organization must raise nearly $200,000 in grants and donations to keep the operation running.

    But John Sears says it's worth it. He is convinced staying in his own home is what keeps him feeling young and active.

    JOHN SEARS:  I love the fact that we have some kids on this little old street that, when the snow comes, they will toboggan down those cobbles that you just walked across. And they keep us a little younger and feeling that we're still part of the world.

    RAY SUAREZ: Sears acknowledges not everyone will be able to stay in their own homes. Not everyone can. Mobility issues could make such a lifestyle difficult. Only 10 percent of Beacon Hill members use wheelchairs, scooters or walkers.

    But he other and the other members think America should be looking at the village concept, as tens of millions of baby boomers enter their 70s and 80s in the coming years. 


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    Politics editor Christina Bellantoni

    Join PBS NewsHour politics editor Christina Bellantoni for a reddit "Ask Me Anything" 1 p.m. EDT, Friday.

    Since joining the PBS NewsHour in January 2012, Political Editor Christina Bellantoni has directed coverage of a marathon presidential campaign, a budget crisis or two on Capitol Hill and a number of thought-provoking conversations with newsmaker politicos.

    You've watched her give on-air political analysis, host our online election coverage, "hang out" with voters and talk with authors about a range of topics from technology to political cartoons. And if you subscribe to the Morning Line, you've read team politics' rundown on Washington.

    She's also a winning softball player and recently got embraced by the saint of hugging.

    Want to know more? Here's your chance to ask her anything!

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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    GWEN IFILL: The 2012 presidential election lasted nearly two years, cost billions of dollars, and featured any number of twists and turns. But how will it shape elections to come?

    I sat down recently with Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz, who tackles that question in his new book, "Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America."

    Welcome, Dan.

    DAN BALZ, author: Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: So, you said you chose to tell this book from the outside in, rather than the inside out. We're all used to election recaps which tell us all the granular, little inside details. Why from the outside in?

    DAN BALZ: I thought that this book deserved that because I thought that this campaign was somewhat different.

    There's inside detail in this book, as there are in all campaign books. But I thought this was a campaign in which larger forces were as important as the decisions of the candidates, and particularly the operatives.

    This is a changing country. We're divided red and blue. And I think that those forces, along with the economy, were as decisive or more decisive than anything the candidates or their staffs did.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the things that you write about is that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, that his family didn't really want him to run a second time. This was going to be his second shot at this.

    DAN BALZ: Right.

    It was one of the fascinating and, to me, one of the more surprising things. We always assume that people who run for president have that incredible fire in the belly, as we say. But there was a family meeting around Christmastime in 2010, that the whole Romney family fathered, and they took a vote, should he run for president a second time?

    Now, when they did this four years ago, the vote was unanimous, yes, he should run for president. This time, the vote was 10-2 against running. And among those who voted against it was Mitt Romney himself.

    Now, I don't think that he was ever not going to run. All the machinery was moving forward. He was doing all the things a prospective candidate would do. But it tells you that there was some element of doubt. When we talked about it in the interview, a couple of things came out.

    One was he felt that there were others in the party who might be better suited, who might have a better chance of beating Barack Obama in the election. And he mentioned Jeb Bush by name. The other is, I think he felt that the party that came out of the 2010 election wasn't exactly the Mitt Romney party, a heavy Tea Party element, an evangelical party. He was Mormon. A Southern-based party. He's a Northerner. A very conservative party. He's more of a moderate.

    And I think he had this -- at least some element of doubt that he was exactly the right fit.

    GWEN IFILL: If there was one actually one thing that seemed to run through the book, through all these candidates and some of the players who weren't necessarily candidates, was this credibility question, whether you were credible in the money you put into a campaign, whether you were credible seeking reelection, whether you were credible, in Mitt Romney's case, as a rich guy, rather than a man of the people.

    DAN BALZ: I asked Romney -- I did a long interview with him in late January, about a week after the inauguration of the president.

    And I said -- we had talked about the 47 percent comment, and he recognized how damaging that was, though he felt that it was misinterpreted. But I said, do you think this was a moment in which, given where the country was, in shorthand, that a lot of people thought the rich were doing very well, and that the average person was getting left behind, that someone with his profile would have enormously difficult time winning?

    And he said there's no question that there was some element of that, but he said, I thought I could overcome it. And he clearly couldn't.

    GWEN IFILL: Did he really think about dropping out at some point early on?

    DAN BALZ: Well, he had a moment. He was due to give a speech about health care, because he knew that there was a serious doubt among a lot of Republicans about what he had done in Massachusetts with health care, and how much that paralleled what President Obama had done with his health care plan.

    The Wall Street Journal clobbered him one day in an editorial. And he woke up and he called his oldest son, Tagg, and he said, I'm not going to run. I can't do it. If I can't convince the most conservative editorial page in the country that I am worthy of this nomination, I'm not going to be able to make it.

    And he was due to have a conference call with his staff shortly thereafter. This was a very early-morning call. And he got on the conference call. And it was to talk about the editorial and kind of how to respond. And basically the staff said, look, don't take this that seriously. These things happen. You will be able to get through it.

    He never shared with them that sort of gut feeling that he had gotten up with that morning, but Tagg Romney said he felt that up until the moment he actually formally announced, he was looking for a way not to run.

    GWEN IFILL: There are so many characters throughout this election, people who were supposed to be a big deal and turned out not to be, Rick Perry, people who had their brief moments in moments in the sun, like Michele Bachmann, but -- we haven't got time to get to them all.

    But I do want to ask you something more broadly, I guess, about this idea of the Obama campaign, and what it seized on to, and what was different in 2012 from 2008. Was it all technology, or was it that they had a vision that somehow superseded the Republican vision?

    DAN BALZ: It wasn't all technology.

    Certainly, they did extraordinary things with technology. The effort that they put into it, the amount of money they invested in it, and the sophistication of what they were trying to do was well beyond what they did in 2008, and we all thought in 2008 they had kind of broken the mold. Technology was an important factor in it.

    I think another was that they did an enormous amount of research about what the right message was. And part of that was to try to get a better understanding of kind of where voters were, what were their hopes and dreams, what were their anxieties. And they came out with this idea that if this campaign was fought on the question of Barack Obama's handling of the economy, then he was going to have a very difficult time winning.

    If they could, in fact, leapfrog beyond that to force a debate about, as you look into the future, which of these candidates is going to be better for you as a middle-class parent or family? And they came up with that frame which he unveiled really at the speech he did at the end of 2011 in Osawatomie, Kansas, and that was a very important part of what they were able to do.

    GWEN IFILL: And, at the same time, they were speaking to a different demographic model than the Republicans were at the end of this election.

    DAN BALZ: Well, I mean, one of the -- one of the great failings, if you will, of the Romney campaign was an inability to recognize what the shape of the electorate was likely to be like.

    I mean, one of the things we have seen election by election by election is that the white share of the electorate in a presidential election has gone down steadily as the country has become more diverse. And the Romney campaign, I think, believed or wanted to believe that that might be at least reversed or even held steady.

    And, in fact, the Obama campaign -- I mean, I sat down with Jim Messina, the campaign manager, in the spring. And he said, here's the demographics on Election Day. And he was exactly right.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, Dan, you have covered a lot of elections, not to age you or date you in any way.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: But does this one -- did this one feel different for you in terms of what it will -- how it will set the stage for elections to come?

    DAN BALZ: It felt different.

    I don't think I have seen -- everything changes from one cycle to another. I don't think I have seen as many changes in one cycle as we saw between 2008 and 2012. I mean, we have talked about technology, and particularly the rise of social media, and, specifically, the importance of Twitter in the way it affects communications in politics.

    The role of the debates. Debates have always been important, but they took on an outsized importance in this election. The Citizens United decision and the aftermath of that in creating super PACs and...

    GWEN IFILL: Super individuals.

    DAN BALZ: Super individuals who, in the primary races, had the capacity or the ability to keep alive candidacies that otherwise might have been forced to the sidelines for lack of money.

    I think all of those are harbingers of where we're heading, unless something significant happens. There will be new changes in 2016, but I think everybody is kind of going to school on what happened in 2012 as they look to 2016 and get ready.

    GWEN IFILL: Dan Balz, we will talk more about this online. Thank you for joining us.

    The name of the book is "Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America."

    Not too big a topic.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAN BALZ: No.

    GWEN IFILL: Thank you.

    DAN BALZ: Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: Thank you.

     


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

    Judy Woodruff has our book conversation.

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

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

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

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

    And welcome to both of you.

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

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

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

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

    BRUCE KATZ: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

    BRUCE KATZ: Sure.

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

    BRUCE KATZ: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BRUCE KATZ: Of course.

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

    BRUCE KATZ: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BRUCE KATZ: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What should people know about this?

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

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

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

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

    We thank you both for being here.

    BRUCE KATZ: Well, thanks for having us.

    JENNIFER BRADLEY: Thank you.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight, the latest thing in child-raising and technology, so-called baby apps, software products that light up mobile device screens to keep young children occupied.

    Some companies promote them as educational. But that's met some resistance, including from an advocacy group called the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. It filed a complaint yesterday asking the Federal Trade Commission to step in.

    To tell us about the phenomenon and the debate, we turn to Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

    Welcome to you.

    First, tell us about the world of apps for very young children. How much is out there, and what range of activities and experiences is offered?

    DR. MICHAEL RICH, Boston Children's Hospital: Well, there are many, many apps out there for children, and they grow exponentially really over just days, it seems, because what people have discovered is that a smartphone with an engaging app will keep their child busy and quiet in a restaurant or in a waiting area for -- in an airport, et cetera.

    So I think what we found is a very convenient electronic baby-sitter.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, tell us -- take us into the dispute, then.

    What are the claims of this advocacy group and others who are worried about what they see happening?

    DR. MICHAEL RICH: Well, I think this particular case echoes one that happened just a few years ago around infant DVDs, or baby videos, like Baby Einstein, in which the same group brought a suit with the Federal Trade Commission against them for claiming that they were educational.

    There really is no evidence that these apps can teach a baby anything. In fact, the research over years on educational television and other electronic screens shows that babies really can't learn anything from a screen under the age of about 30 months.

    But I think what's happened is that these app developers have recognized that parents are using their smartphones and their tablets to divert and engage their kids anyway, and are providing something that feels to them less guilt-inducing in terms of distracting them. So, if they can claim it's educational, even if it's not, they will get sales from parents who both feel guilty and want the best for their children.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what do they say, the companies say in their defense when they're pushed on something like this?

    DR. MICHAEL RICH: They say that parents and children like them and want them and will buy them.

    They don't dispute that there's no research on this. And, interestingly, they don't do any research of their own, which is kind of ironic in a business that does a great deal of research on their products to find out how well they will sell or how well they will do the job that they purportedly do.

    So I think that what we have here is a product that is designed to fill a void that's being filled with less good material, if you will, violent video games, et cetera, if they don't step up and put something innocuous, but certainly not educational, in that space.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Has the research looked into the differences in so-called touch devices -- these are the tablets -- vs. television, whether there's differences in the response or the reactions from young children?

    DR. MICHAEL RICH: Well, the research is looking at it now.

    This is a field that is evolving so quickly, in terms of the technology and the capabilities of that technology, that research is not able to even keep up with the new developments. Not only that, but what we're talking about here are outcomes that are two and five and 10 and 15 years out in terms of how this interaction affects the way the child's architecture of their brain actually develops.

     We do know that the stimulus they receive affects their brain architecture, and at least there's theoretical basis for believing that a software or an app that engages the eyes, the hand and the mind at the same time may have more teaching ability than a screen that they passively watch.

    But the jury is still out on that. And the research is being done as we speak.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And does the research make interesting distinctions among ages, different ages? What do you tell parents of a very young child, up to a year, and then after? What's the difference -- what are the differences?

    DR. MICHAEL RICH: Well, the American Academy of Pediatrics has now for over 10 years recommended against the use of screens in children under the ages of 2.

    And, as a pediatrician, I follow that. And I think that many parents do follow that mode. The problem is that, you know, these screens are so ubiquitous in our environment now that the little kids are watching as their older brothers play on a handheld video game or watch as mom or dad is surfing around the Net on an iPad.

    So I think that what we're seeing is that they are noticing that the kids are getting engaged with the material. The kids are being distracted and falling quiet around this material. And, so, they're using it anyway. The nice thing, if you will, about so-called educational apps is that parents don't have to feel quite so guilty about using them as the electronic baby-sitter.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And let me just ask, briefly, if you would, yes, it's true there are more -- these appliances, these devices are ubiquitous. But these kinds of debates have been with us a long time, right, back to -- and this is a very similar debate as in television.

    DR. MICHAEL RICH: Absolutely.

    And, in television, we do know that the content of that television programming does affect how kids respond. If you were looking at Sesame Street or other educational programs vs. violence, you're going to see a difference in outcomes over time.

    And one would presume that the same thing will occur with apps. But what we're dealing with, with these very young children is the fact that their brain is developing, and their brain is very, very different than the brains of even a child a year or two older, let alone the adults who develop this software.

    And the fact of the matter is, this software is developed to sell to adults, not to 2-year-olds or 1-year-olds. And so all one has to do is convince those adults that this is good for their child in order to sell it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, very interesting.

    Dr. Michael Rich, thanks so much.

    DR. MICHAEL RICH: Thank you.

     


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    I am in the business of slapping together what we call the first draft of history every day, so it has been a little jarring to suddenly be making history myself.

    But that's what Judy Woodruff and I will be doing a little of beginning in September, when we combine forces to co-anchor the PBS NewsHour.

    Each of us has spent decades covering Washington, especially its politics. Both of us have fielded our share of questions about what it's like to be a woman in the news business. But I can safely say our intent this time was not to make history. It was to continue to make a good news program.

    Still, I have been taken aback -- and gratified -- by the response of so many to our new roles. At a gathering of television critics this week, Judy and I were asked to comment on whether what we are doing is historic.

    Herewith, my response:

    We would like for the day to come when it's not news anymore, when two women sitting side by side, who have the depth of experience that Judy and I bring to the subject at hand and to the task at hand, would just be another thing that girls see every day, but they don't see it every day right now. And I know we're both really proud, and I've gotten amazing reaction from young women who are touched by the idea that this is break‑through for them, that they're going to see something different. So we want to live up to that.

    And here is what Judy said:

    We all talk about wouldn't it be great to be in a day and a time when it's not remarkable anymore, but it's still as exciting. This is a kind of a glass ceiling. Clearly, women have come a long way in journalism and in television news, and this is one more barrier that's been broken down. So we celebrate that, but now it's time to get to work.

    And, Judy added, we're not the first anyway. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey broke that barrier on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." We're just doing it for real.

    We are turning a page here at the PBS NewsHour -- expanding the program to seven days (with weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan), freshening the look and the feel of the broadcast, while not sacrificing what we know to be important.

    Hari put it this way:

    Over time you're going to say, 'You know what, who is going to make sense of this for me at the end of the day,' whether it's a lean‑back or lean‑forward experience on a weekday or a weeknight or on air or online. 'Who is going to help me understand what just happened and why it happened?' Because I think, in my opinion, opinion is cheap. Fact is expensive, and we're still in the fact business, and I think that over time you're going to see that, while we can't get to the plane crash as fast as somebody who was on the plane crash, we can help you understand why it happened.

    Opinion is cheap. Fact is expensive. I warned Hari that I intend to steal that line, because it perfectly sums up what is essential about programs like the PBS NewsHour and Washington Week (where I will continue to spend my Friday nights).

    There are plenty of places on television to find out what other people think about the issues of the day. But if you're looking for news programs designed to help you decide what you think, the pool of destinations continues to shrink.

    That's where we come in. And if we make a little history on the way to that destination, so be it.

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    Watch President Obama's Friday news conference at 3 p.m. EDT via PBS NewsHour's live stream.

    WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says he'll hold a news conference Friday afternoon at the White House.

    Mr. Obama will answer reporters' questions in the midst of a terror alert that led the government to close nearly two dozen embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa.

    And just this week, Mr. Obama canceled a one-on-one summit next month in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in part because of Russia's decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

    Meanwhile, the crisis in Syria, arms control and missile defense headline what are expected to be chilly talks between top U.S. and Russian foreign and defense chiefs, a sit-down tainted by the case of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, which led Mr. Obama to cancel his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Russia's decision last week to grant temporary asylum to Snowden put a damper on U.S.-Russia relations, which were already on a slide. Then, on Wednesday, Mr. Obama canceled his summit with Putin, planned for early September in Moscow, because of what the White House called a lack of "significant progress" on a wide array of critical issues.

    "Summits of leaders are, tend to be designed around making progress on significant issues," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday. "And we had not seen that progress sufficiently on a range of issues to merit a summit."

    The scuttled summit means that talks scheduled Friday at the State Department between Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will be awkward at best.

    U.S.-Russia discord had been simmering since Putin regained the Russian presidency more than a year ago.

    On returning to power, he adopted a deeply nationalistic and more openly confrontational stance toward the United States than the man he had chosen to succeed him as president in 2008, Dmitry Medvedev, whose tenure roughly overlapped Mr. Obama's first term in the White House.

    The U.S. is upset about Moscow's backing of President Bashar Assad in Syria's civil war. The two nations also have been at odds over Russia's domestic crackdown on civil rights, a U.S. missile defense plan for Europe, trade, global security, human rights and American adoptions of Russian children.

    The Kremlin expressed disappointment that the White House canceled the summit and blamed it on Washington's inability to develop relations with Moscow on an "equal basis." Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, added that the decision was "clearly linked" to the Snowden case, a situation that he said wasn't of Russia's making.

    Carney said Snowden was a factor in canceling the summit, but not the only one. Carney said the U.S. would continue to press Russia to return Snowden to the United States to face charges for the unauthorized public release of classified information.

    "We have a lot of fish to fry, if you will, with the Russians. We have a lot of issues to engage with the Russians over," Carney said, emphasizing that Snowden was not the main focus of U.S. engagement with Russia.

    "But it is not something that we're dropping, by any means, and, you know, it remains our position that there is ample legal justification to return Mr. Snowden to the United States," he said.

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Russia "a diminished power" and said that Mr. Obama was right to cancel the summit with Putin after the "slap in the face" over Snowden.

    "On any given day, it's the 16th economic power" in the world, Rice said on "CBS This Morning" Friday.

    Asked how the United States could explain dropping the Obama-Putin summit, she said, "You have to start with the fact that we have very few overlapping interests any more with Russia." Rice, who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said, You say to Putin,Look, we are not going to sacrifice our national interests to court you."

    Meanwhile, three meetings among the U.S. and Russian top defense and diplomatic officials were scheduled for Friday.

    Hagel and the Russian defense minister were to meet separately in the morning, followed by the meeting of the foursome. In the afternoon, Kerry and his counterpart were to hold a bilateral meeting.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the meetings were aimed at making progress on key issues, and not focused specifically on setting the groundwork for a Putin-Obama summit.

    "I think there's an openness to doing that in an appropriate time where there's an opportunity to make progress," she said. "But I don't expect that's going to be a major part of the focus" of the meetings.

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    By Paul Solman

    Merle Hazard performs "The Great Unwind," his latest economics music video, produced by Nashville Public Television.

    In his latest music video, which we debuted on Wednesday, econo-crooner Merle Hazard, aka Nashville money manager Jon Shayne, addresses the problem the Federal Reserve Bank faces with the more than $2 trillion it has created since the Crash of '08.

    Read how Jon developed the idea for Merle's latest hit, and check out the lyrics here.

    Should the Fed continue to run the moral hazard of printing and circulating money that may cause inflation? Or should it shut off the money flow to the banking system, beginning the "great unwind," and risk another mega-contraction? "Are we on the mend?" asks Merle, "or near the end of fiat money as we know it?"

    But how worried about "the great unwind" should we be? Thursday, we heard from Reaganomics muse Arthur Laffer and George W. Bush's Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs John Taylor, both of whom share Merle's concerns. We also heard from MIT's Simon Johnson, who took issue with Merle's contention about "bond-buying destabiliz(ing) inflation expectations" and a serious, imminent "unwind." (We'll get to Merle's response to Johnson a little bit later).

    Art Laffer, John Taylor, Simon Johnson On the Fed's 'Great Unwind' Problem

    Friday, we turn to four more of our economist friends to respond to Merle. That their responses cannot be categorized into neat, ideological camps perhaps says just as much about the complexities of Fed policy as it does about Merle's lyrical content.

    First, Kenneth Rogoff (part of the Harvard Rogoff-Reinhart duo whose controversial work has made such a mark on the international debt debate) delivers a surprising response to Merle, suggesting that growing income inequality is a bigger concern than the "great unwind" and that maybe the "great unwind" isn't such a big deal after all:

    Another great performance from Merle Hazard. However, I would worry more about the long-term effects of lingering unemployment and growing income inequality than the risks of quantitative easing (QE). QE may seem mysterious, but in fact there is not much difference between quantitative easing (when the Fed buys long-term Treasury debt in return for very short-term Federal reserve debt) and simply having the U.S. Treasury issue more short-term debt and less long-term debt. After all, the U.S. government owns both the Treasury and the Fed. What matters is their consolidated balance sheet. In either case, the real risk is that there will be a sharp rise in interest rates making it very expensive to roll over growing issuance of short-term debt. As long as that doesn't happen, the "great unwind" will be a non-event.

    Far removed from Rogoff on the ideological spectrum, an economist whom we might have expected to be the one to raise income inequality, but who seems to share some of Rogoff's "non-event" prediction: The University of Texas' James Galbraith, author of "Inequality and Instability." Here's what he had to say about Merle's latest:

    The great problem of the great unwind? I'm unimpressed.

    One possibility is that the economy grows and the Federal Reserve can unload its holdings into a rising market with few problems. The other is that the economy stagnates and it can't, in which case, after a try or two, it will stop.

    And as Stephen Foley pointed out in Thursday's Financial Times, the Fed has already announced that it won't, after all, try to sell the $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed-securities that it now owns.

    Is there a third possibility? There may be some who would "greatly unwind," damn the consequences, even though it causes a crash. I doubt they will prevail.

    P.S. I did like the three suits, though.

    Next, we turn to the University of Michigan's Justin Wolfers, whose impressions of the Fed are somewhat more hopeful and plauditory than Merle's:

    Country music star Merle's Hazard's latest turns to a far more important theme than the usual fare of unrequited love, dead dogs, old trucks and 'merica, worrying instead about how the Fed will unwind it's balance sheet. Is Ben Bernanke a monetary outlaw or the trusted sheriff who'll restore order? I'm betting on the latter, but either way, I tip my (ten-gallon) hat to the strumming balladeer and dismal scientist.

    And finally, back over on the right, we hear from Harvard's Greg Mankiw:

    The Federal Reserve faces some daunting challenges ahead, as it pursues the endgame of its recent unconventional measures. Perhaps these challenges can be made a bit more manageable if put to music. Thank you, Merle Hazard!

    Now that we've heard from seven economists whose politics and (and somewhat unpredictable) responses to Merle represent an ideological range, we return to Merle Hazard himself for the last word. Here he responds to Simon Johnson, whose critique you can read in Thursday's post, and to Ken Rogoff, whose comments appear above.

    First Merle develops several of his points, and responds to Rogoff's concerns about income inequality:

    I beg to differ, at least a little, with the professor. I think Ken has alluded to the points I am about to make, but I think it worth fleshing them out, all the same.

    We are not in exactly the same shape as if the U.S. Treasury had issued Treasury bills (very short-maturity paper) instead of long-maturity bonds. If the Treasury had done that, the amount of bank reserves would not have increased at all. In fact, what has actually transpired since the crisis is that the Federal Reserve bought long Treasury debt by "printing" new money. Bank reserves held at the Fed have increased by more than $2 trillion. These reserves enable new lending by banks, even though that lending mostly has not happened yet. The reserves create a potential for inflation at some point. It is likely, as Ken's research shows, that we are years from facing that inflation, so in that sense, no harm done. But there is potential for it, and risk, coming from the printing. High inflation causes high interest rates, so this could be the trigger for the rise in rates that Ken mentions. We would not face this scenario under the alternate scenario of the Treasury simply borrowing short rather than long.

    Ken is surely correct that high unemployment and income equality have the potential to rend the social fabric. If Congress could do more than it has, it would help. The Fed may be straining its capacity to address these problems. By kicking this problem to the Fed, Congress has helped Wall Street, because when the Fed buys securities from Wall Street firms, and pays banks an above-market rate of interest on reserves in order to sterilize these reserves, as it has been doing, the benefit to investors and Wall Street is direct. The benefit to the public is only indirect. I wonder whether this helps address income inequality, or worsens it.

    Also, readers should understand that the Fed has not limited its buying to long-dated Treasuries. They have also bought over $1 trillion of mortgage securities from quasi-governmental corporations such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So, again, there is distance between what has actually happened and what would have happened had the U.S. Treasury simply issued short debt instead of long.

    This is nothing that Ken doesn't know. I see a little more to worry about in it than he does, however.

    And to Simon Johnson, Merle suggests they may not disagree that much:

    Not worried about moral hazard? I should remind professor Johnson that "Merle Hazard" is my middle name! I mean, my stage name. It is a problem -- a big one. I commented on it (with some much-appreciated help from him, come to think of it) two years ago in the song "Diamond Jim." So yes, ultimately moral hazard is at the root.

    I agree that inflation is not a problem now, and, most likely, will not be one for years to come. This is why I put the words "some day" into the song:

    If they sell off bonds, the markets tank; If not, some day inflation.

    Having been a teenager during the 1970s, I have vivid memories of a time when the U.S. economy was weak, but inflation was high. In our current crisis, the damage to the credit system has been so severe that we almost certainly have some time before serious inflation becomes a problem again. But I think the Fed is, itself, worried about inflation to a degree: paying banks interest on reserves is a way of tamping down the money supply, broadly measured, without selling off bonds. If the Fed had no concern at all, I don't think it would be offering banks money not to lend. So I do think inflation is always an issue, even though it is almost certainly off in the distance now.

    Banks, and non-bank banks, need to be regulated tightly and have very high capital requirements, so I am in more agreement with Simon than he probably realizes from the song.

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


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    Watch Video

    CAPABLE is a Baltimore-based project that offers help from occupational therapists, nurses and handymen to low-income older adults to "age in place." Video by Justin Scuiletti and Joshua Barajas.

    BALTIMORE -- With a bad back and arthritis in her knees, Nancy Dessesaure struggles to walk down the dozen or so steps outside her home to go to church. Afraid of falling, the 73-year-old often opts to stay inside rather than brave the loose railings out front.

    But inside, Dessesaure's home proves a challenge to navigate as well. Frayed rugs and wayward lamp cords are consistent tripping hazards. And with no grab bars, lowering herself into a bathtub puts more pressure on her weakened knees. Despite these challenges, Dessesaure wants to avoid moving to a traditional retirement home.

    "This is where I feel comfortable," she said. "I really don't want to be away from here. I'm happy here."

    A research project led by a Johns Hopkins University team aims to allow seniors like Dessesaure to "age in place."

    Seven 'Life Hacks' to Help Keep You Out of the Nursing Home

    Called CAPABLE, which stands for Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders, the project focuses on an older adult's ability to take care of themselves through occupational home visits and handyman repair.

    "What CAPABLE does is decrease that gap between what the person can do and what the environment requires of them," said Sarah Szanton, who leads the project.

    The four-month program consists of 10 home visits -- six with an occupational therapist and four with a nurse. Each participant also gets $1,100 in home repairs and modifications, provided by Civic Works, a CAPABLE partner.

    "Very simple $10, $20, $30 modifications can really change how someone can stay safely in their home," said Sarah Szanton, a Hopkins associate nursing professor.

    Civic Works employees installed grab bars in Dessesaure's bathtub, shored up the railings outside her home and tacked wires and cords against baseboards to prevent tripping. Dessasaure's occupational therapist, Allyson Everlyn-Gustave, noticed her fast-paced breathing, which made it difficult for Dessesaure to speak.

    "I didn't know until working with them that I had shortness of breath," Dessasaure said. "I never thought I had to give myself breathing exercises."

    The breathing exercises helped Dessesaure conserve her energy, Everlyn-Gustave said.

    "It's not common to come into someone's home and see what they need and it's not common in our current medical system to ask people about their functions," Szanton said. "Questions like, 'Do you have any difficulty getting off the toilet' ... if we asked these questions more often, we'd get answers and we'd know more what we need to do."

    Related Content

    Senior correspondent Ray Suarez travels to Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood to learn how one nonprofit group is helping seniors enjoy all of the security and social amenities of a retirement community without leaving their homes. Watch the full report here.

    How One Group of Seniors Bucked Convention and Avoided the Retirement Home

    Why We Want to Age At Home

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  President Obama pledged new oversight of government surveillance programs today, but said the intelligence gathering is legitimate and will continue. His comments came in the first full-scale news conference since April, lasting nearly an hour in the East Room of the White House.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The president followed those remarks by outlining four steps his administration would take to provide more safeguards and greater transparency around the government's surveillance activities.

    They included working with Congress to reform the Patriot Act's Section 215, the law that allows the government to collect phone metadata, adding a privacy representative to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, releasing the legal rationale for collection of data, and appointing an NSA representative committed to privacy, and inviting outside experts to review how the government does its surveillance.

    The measures come as the administration has faced mounting scrutiny over its intelligence gathering programs following the leaks from former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

    Mr. Obama was asked if thinking about today's moves reflected a change in his mind-set about Snowden.

    QUESTION: Is he now more whistle-blower than he is a "hacker," as you called him at one point, or somebody that should be filed charges? And should he be provided more protection? Is he a patriot?

    BARACK OBAMA: No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot. As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks. My preference, and I think the American people's preference, would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws; a thoughtful fact-based debate that would then lead us to a better place, because I never made claims that all the surveillance technologies that have developed since the time some of these laws had been put in place, somehow didn't require potentially some additional reforms.

    That's exactly what I called for. And a general impression has I think taken hold not only among the American public, but also around the world, that somehow we're out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody and doing what we please with it. But that's not the case.

    Our laws specifically prohibit us from surveilling U.S. persons without a warrant. And there are a whole range of safeguards that have been put in place to make sure that that basic principle is abided by.

    But -- but what is clear is that whether because of the instinctive bias of the intelligence community to keep everything very close, and probably what's a fair criticism, is my assumption that if we have checks and balances from the courts and Congress, that that traditional system of checks and balances would be enough to give people assurance that these programs will run properly.

    You know, that assumption, I think, proved to be undermined by what happened after the leaks. I think people have questions about this program.

    And there's no doubt that Mr. Snowden's leaks triggered a much more rapid, passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board to go through, and I had sat down with Congress, and we had worked this thing through. It would have been less exciting; it would not have generated as much press.

    I actually think we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The president was also asked about threats by some congressional Republicans to shut down the government unless funding for the health care law is eliminated.

    BARACK OBAMA: They used to say they had a replacement. That never actually arrived, right?

    I have been hearing about this whole replace thing for two years. Now I just doesn't hear about it, because basically they don't have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates.

    And the idea that you would shut down the government at a time when the recovery is getting some traction, where we're growing, although not as fast as we need to, where the housing market is recovering, although not as fast as we would like, that we would precipitate another crisis here in Washington that no economist thinks is a good idea.

    I'm assuming that they will not take that path. I have confidence that common sense in the end will prevail.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The president also fielded questions on his upcoming decision to appoint a new Federal Reserve chairman this fall, saying it was one of the most important decisions that remained in his presidency. And he also urged House Republicans to move forward with an immigration reform bill once members return from their summer recess.

     


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    KWAME HOLMAN: American government personnel left Lahore, Pakistan, today because of a specific threat to the consulate there. The U.S. shifted nonessential staff from Lahore to the capital, Islamabad. Embassy officials wouldn't say when the consulate might reopen. The closing came amid a flurry of militant attacks, including one on a mosque in Quetta today that killed six people. Gunmen opened fire on worshipers as they were leaving.

    Saudi Arabia arrested two suspected al-Qaida militants in connection with the recent closure of Western embassies in the region. They were from Yemen and Chad. The Saudi Arabian interior ministry said an investigation found the two were plotting suicide attacks. Computer hardware, electronic devices and mobile phones were seized along with the suspects.

    Fire crews in Southern California today battled strong winds as they raced to gain ground on a fast-moving wildfire. More than 1,600 firefighters are working to put out the flames across the San Jacinto Mountains. The fire has grown to 25 square miles and is 25 percent contained. The blaze broke out Wednesday afternoon. Since then, it's destroyed more than two dozen homes, and forced some 1,800 residents to flee.

    President Obama signed a bipartisan compromise on student loans into law today, just in time for the fall semester. He made it official during a ceremony in the Oval Office. The deal will tie interest rates to the performance of the financial markets. Undergraduate students would see their borrowing rates fall back below four percent. But costs would rise over time as the economy improves.

    The International Trade Commission in Washington found today that Samsung Electronics violated two Apple patents on mobile devices. Apple claimed Samsung slavishly copied its iPhone and iPad tablet computers. As part of the ruling, U.S. imports, sales and distribution of those Samsung products are prohibited. The import ban is subject to review by President Obama, who could overturn it on public policy grounds.

    Stocks on Wall Street today finished the week in negative territory and closed out the worst week since June. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 73 points to close at 15,425. The NASDAQ fell nine points to close at 3,660. For the week, the Dow lost a percent-and-a-half; the NASDAQ fell nearly 1 percent.

    Those are some of the day's major stories.


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  • 08/09/13--15:09: Why We Want to Age at Home
  • As profiled recently on the PBS NewsHour, there are 110 "villages" in the U.S. that help support independent living for seniors who choose to forgo retirement communities and "age in place" in their own homes and neighborhoods. But what about seniors who live alone without that kind of support? Here are some of their stories.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Despite heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia recently, high-level talks in Washington today tried to find some common ground.

    Margaret Warner has the story.

    One of the first questions in today's news conference was about the rocky U.S.-Russia relationship, made even rockier this week after President Obama canceled a summit with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When President Putin came back into power, I think we saw more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American, that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia.

    I don't have a bad personal relationship with Putin. I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is, is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimes, it's very productive.

    MARGARET WARNER: Even before the president spoke, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began talks with their Russian counterparts.

    U.S.-Russia relations had grown frosty even before Putin granted asylum to Snowden, as was evident when the two presidents met in Scotland in June. But opening today's session, Secretary Kerry said he hoped the two sides could still engage on a wide range of issues.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: It's no secret that we have experienced some challenging moments and obviously not -- not just over the Snowden case. We will discuss these differences today, for certain. But this meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and the moments of disagreement.

    MARGARET WARNER: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he too hoped for progress in the day's talks.

    FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV, Russia (through interpreter): I remember that when I first met John in his current role, he said that our countries have a special responsibility and there is much that depends on us so we need to work together as grownups. We will try to do this and count on a similar attitude in return.

    MARGARET WARNER: And after the meetings, speaking to reporters at the Russian Embassy, Lavrov insisted progress had been made.

    SERGEI LAVROV (through interpreter): The overall mood is very positive, which inspires optimism, and I hope the consultations help bring our approaches closer and respect to strategic stability, and I'm sure they will continue and be instrumental in strengthening security and stability globally.

    MARGARET WARNER: But he took issue with President Obama's comments about Russia's inclination to slip into a Cold War mentality.

    SERGEI LAVROV (through interpreter): Through our work with our counterparts, it is clear there is no cold war that we should expect. The relationship is quite normal and we shouldn't expect any aggravation.

    Thank you very much.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yet, on a couple of contentious issues, like Syria and missile defense, Lavrov offered no concrete evidence of progress made today.

     

    JEFFREY BROWN: Margaret was at the Russian Embassy today and joins me now.

    And, Margaret, so tell us a little bit more about this meeting. What is your sense of what came out of it?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, going, in of course, the big question was how would the Russians arrive? What would be their attitude about the cancellation of the summit? Would they be infuriated or actually ready to do business?

     

    From what we're told we both sides, the Snowden affair was dealt with at the top. They repeated their positions, and in fact there was a more -- quote -- "pragmatic tone" dealing with all these specific issues.

    You could, however, see that, from what President Obama said -- and his news conference was scheduled after the meetings -- that as far as he was concerned, certainly, there is no breakthrough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have been talking to U.S. officials, I know, all day. Can you sum up the problem from their perspective?

    MARGARET WARNER: The problem from their perspective is, of course, you have these intractable issues that the U.S. and Russia are trying to cooperate on, like Syria. How do you bring a political solution to that?

     

    But Kerry and Lavrov were at least talking on that all the time. The thing that really stuck in the White House's craw, the administration's craw, was that President Obama wrote a very careful and extensive letter in April laying out what he thought they really should accomplish before this summit, and in particular, offering -- suggesting further arms reductions, but offering what -- at least the U.S. side -- was a kind of creative way of dealing with President Putin's concerns about missile defense.

    And surprisingly to the United States, they didn't even get the -- it was an insult that there was no real reply. There was no real counterproposal. It was a lot of talking, talking in circles. And so that to them was evidence that Putin just is not serious really about engaging with the United States right now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how much of it -- this personal Obama-Putin relationship is playing in? I mean, we heard the president talk a little bit about it.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

     

    JEFFREY BROWN: He also pointedly referred to his progress with then-President Medvedev, right, as opposed to President Putin.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes, absolutely.

    And that was a calculated move on the president's part during those two years that -- three years that Medvedev was president. They did make progress. It is rooted in their different personalities. I mean, the two men are oil and water, but I think it's also rooted in President Obama's temperament. That is, he is not seeking a chummy relationship for its own say, as it's been described me.

    This isn't Bill Clinton wanting to embrace Boris Yeltsin in a bear hug. This is a transactional guy. He wants to have deliverables, and if he thinks that Putin isn't interested in that -- and the White House theory, or the administration theory is that's because of Putin's own domestic political problems -- then he's not interested.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how much -- from the Russian side, how much were you able to gauge the lingering effects of the president's decision this week not to go to the summit, for example?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, there are two strains.

    In the Russian media, it's being portrayed as Obama being the one weak politically at home. He couldn't withstand the pressure over the Snowden matter. He was responding childishly. So, the state-influenced media is playing it that way.

    The officials who came here actually at least gave in body language and in tone that they really do want to do business. And, in fact, the defense minister made a curious statement when he was asked about this. He said, oh, far from lowering the temperature on our relationship, it's actually heated it up, something about -- he didn't mean hotter as in more contentious.

    The question is really, though, will there be meat on the bones? And on that question, the U.S. administration felt, OK, they seem to be taking the missile defense proposals more seriously. I won't get into the details of those, but they still weren't prepared to come forward with the kind of proposal that then you could start having real negotiations and something for the two presidents to sign or agree on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So when we hear the president talk about assessing the relationship, the overall relationship -- and, remember, of course, he came in saying he wanted to reset the relationship four-plus years ago now. What does that mean at this point?

    MARGARET WARNER: It means that the proof is in the pudding, that I'm -- again, I'm not interested in just a relationship for its own sake, whereas he lavished a lot of attention on Medvedev, but that's because they thought there was a prospect of getting real deals, which there were.

    I think at this point it's clear that President Obama has concluded, you know, show me the money. Show me your interest. And at the very end, he has a background briefing, State Department officials today, and one of them said, there will be another summit if and only when, or words to that effect. It's the kind of summit that demonstrates that the U.S.-Russia relationship matters.

    It's kind of one of those "ouch" comments.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    Margaret Warner, thanks so much.

    MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure.

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: Margaret was at the Russian Embassy today and joins me now.

    And, Margaret, so tell us a little bit more about this meeting. What is your sense of what came out of it?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, going, in of course, the big question was how would the Russians arrive? What would be their attitude about the cancellation of the summit? Would they be infuriated or actually ready to do business?

    From what we're told we both sides, the Snowden affair was dealt with at the top. They repeated their positions, and in fact there was a more -- quote -- "pragmatic tone" dealing with all these specific issues.

    You could, however, see that, from what President Obama said -- and his news conference was scheduled after the meetings -- that as far as he was concerned, certainly, there is no breakthrough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have been talking to U.S. officials, I know, all day. Can you sum up the problem from their perspective?

    MARGARET WARNER: The problem from their perspective is, of course, you have these intractable issues that the U.S. and Russia are trying to cooperate on, like Syria. How do you bring a political solution to that?

    But Kerry and Lavrov were at least talking on that all the time. The thing that really stuck in the White House's craw, the administration's craw, was that President Obama wrote a very careful and extensive letter in April laying out what he thought they really should accomplish before this summit, and in particular, offering -- suggesting further arms reductions, but offering what -- at least the U.S. side -- was a kind of creative way of dealing with President Putin's concerns about missile defense.

    And surprisingly to the United States, they didn't even get the -- it was an insult that there was no real reply. There was no real counterproposal. It was a lot of talking, talking in circles. And so that to them was evidence that Putin just is not serious really about engaging with the United States right now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how much of it -- this personal Obama-Putin relationship is playing in? I mean, we heard the president talk a little bit about it.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He also pointedly referred to his progress with then-President Medvedev, right, as opposed to President Putin.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes, absolutely.

    And that was a calculated move on the president's part during those two years that -- three years that Medvedev was president. They did make progress. It is rooted in their different personalities. I mean, the two men are oil and water, but I think it's also rooted in President Obama's temperament. That is, he is not seeking a chummy relationship for its own say, as it's been described me.

    This isn't Bill Clinton wanting to embrace Boris Yeltsin in a bear hug. This is a transactional guy. He wants to have deliverables, and if he thinks that Putin isn't interested in that -- and the White House theory, or the administration theory is that's because of Putin's own domestic political problems -- then he's not interested.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how much -- from the Russian side, how much were you able to gauge the lingering effects of the president's decision this week not to go to the summit, for example?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, there are two strains.

    In the Russian media, it's being portrayed as Obama being the one weak politically at home. He couldn't withstand the pressure over the Snowden matter. He was responding childishly. So, the state-influenced media is playing it that way.

    The officials who came here actually at least gave in body language and in tone that they really do want to do business. And, in fact, the defense minister made a curious statement when he was asked about this. He said, oh, far from lowering the temperature on our relationship, it's actually heated it up, something about -- he didn't mean hotter as in more contentious.

    The question is really, though, will there be meat on the bones? And on that question, the U.S. administration felt, OK, they seem to be taking the missile defense proposals more seriously. I won't get into the details of those, but they still weren't prepared to come forward with the kind of proposal that then you could start having real negotiations and something for the two presidents to sign or agree on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So when we hear the president talk about assessing the relationship, the overall relationship -- and, remember, of course, he came in saying he wanted to reset the relationship four-plus years ago now. What does that mean at this point?

    MARGARET WARNER: It means that the proof is in the pudding, that I'm -- again, I'm not interested in just a relationship for its own sake, whereas he lavished a lot of attention on Medvedev, but that's because they thought there was a prospect of getting real deals, which there were.

    I think at this point it's clear that President Obama has concluded, you know, show me the money. Show me your interest. And at the very end, he has a background briefing, State Department officials today, and one of them said, there will be another summit if and only when, or words to that effect. It's the kind of summit that demonstrates that the U.S.-Russia relationship matters.

    It's kind of one of those "ouch" comments.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    Margaret Warner, thanks so much.

    MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, from Detroit, the largest U.S. city ever to file for bankruptcy, a look at what life is like for citizens of a city that for decades has been withering around them and some recent efforts to reverse the decline.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports.

    RICK PIORNACK: This is...

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Wow, this is bad. So all these yards are like this?

    RICK PIORNACK: All these yards, we have probably four vacant homes all in this condition.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is your neighborhood.

    RICK PIORNACK: This is my neighborhood.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What happened to Rick Piornack's neighborhood is just the most visual reminder of what's happened to Detroit. But for Piornack, it's one that hits close to home.

    Compared to what it was like when you were a kid, this has got to be pretty sad to see.

    RICK PIORNACK: Very sad, very sad.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Piornack spent more than 30 years fighting fires across this city. Now retired and on a fixed income, he and his wife, Brenda, are staying put in the home they have lived in for more than four decades despite the eroding houses around them.

    RICK PIORNACK: This is our little bit of heaven.

    WOMAN: Yes. We sit here and watch the sun go down.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Piornack is feeling Detroit's financial woes in other ways, too. He's just one of nearly 30,000 current and retired city workers who expect to see cuts to their pensions and health care benefits as the city tries to dig itself out of financial ruin. Detroit can't pay its bills, and is looking to cut an estimated $18 billion of debt, according to city officials.

    RICK PIORNACK: I feel very let down. My father was a police officer in the city. I have been a fireman in the city. My son is a fireman in the city. I feel like I have really been let down.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Just weeks ago, Detroit became the largest municipality ever to file for bankruptcy. There are many unknowns as the city attempts a restructuring plan.

    Stephen Henderson, editorial editor at the Detroit Free Press, grew up here and is intimately aware of the city's fighting spirit, but says bankruptcy may be the city's toughest challenge yet.

    STEPHEN HENDERSON, Detroit Free Press: There's not much difference between most places in Detroit and post-Katrina New Orleans. It's not as shocking because it happened over a long period of time, but it's just as devastating.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Detroit's decline from an industrial powerhouse into a financial ruin has been slow and long. At its height in the 1950s, Detroit boasted more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Now that number is less than 30,000.

    That 90 percent decrease has left huge holes, like the ones in Piornack's neighborhood, all across the city. There are at least 60,000 parcels of vacant land. Blighted houses are a frequent reminder of just how deep Detroit's problems are. The city's population peaked at 1.8 million, but now is down to about 700,000. That means a much smaller tax base for a city that is trying to provide all the same services.

    Forty percent of the city's streetlights don't work for lack of repair crews. The average response time for the Detroit Police Department to a 911 call is 58 minutes. And buses are constantly late if they come at all, making it hard for residents like Ivory Drake to make it to work and keep his job.

    IVORY DRAKE: It used to be I could get on the bus and be anywhere, and be -- have to sit and wait an hour before I could start work. But now, if you don't get out early enough, or two hours before you have to be to work, you're late.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The city has promised that reinvestment in these key services will be the silver lining of the bankruptcy. The city's recently appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, says they hope to reinvest $1.25 billion in service upgrades and infrastructure.

    Here's Orr in a conversation with NewsHour’s Ray Suarez in July.

    KEVYN ORR, Detroit Emergency Financial Manager: What Detroiters should expect is that services are going to get better. We're already focusing on lighting, blight, police services, health, safety and welfare concerns.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Detroiters like Kim and Ivory Drake are still skeptical about whether the bankruptcy process means the city can improve their East Detroit neighborhood.

    KIM DRAKE: I bet if you come back...

    IVORY DRAKE: Next year.

    KIM DRAKE: ... next year...

    IVORY DRAKE: My lights will still be out.

    KIM DRAKE: It will probably still be looking the same. You will probably still have them houses over there that's vacant, the one right next to me, the one right down the corner. It's not going to help at all.

    STEPHEN HENDERSON: I think the legitimate cynicism people have is that bankruptcy will just be about making a bare-bones, bare minimum city financially solvent, with spartan services, and not that many people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some communities are beyond waiting for the city to turn things around. They have taken matters into their own hands.

    Every day, residents in this northwest corner of Detroit are rolling up their sleeves and using whatever tools they can get their hands on, even pickup trucks, to tear down vacant houses. They're transforming urban wastelands into gardens and boarded-up storefronts into murals. We dropped by a busy meeting in the community of Brightmoor, where residents like Jody Scarlett discuss neighborhood needs and then delegate the resources necessary to tackle them.

    JODY SCARLETT: If you ask the city for something, it's just bureaucracy, just wait -- it's like a hurry up and wait and wait and wait, and nothing ever gets done. The community group helps us to get things done that the city just doesn't provide.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Community action has been fueled by private and nonprofit investment. Just weeks ago, these 14 blocks in Brightmoor were full of 84 tons of debris, overgrown weeds, and rotting trash. Now the land has been cleared. It's a $500,000 privately funded project that local nonprofits hope to see replicated around the city.

    Terrance Gore lives in this cluster of blocks. Gore started out just picking up trash. Now he works full-time driving a tractor to combat the blight that surrounds him in Brightmoor. He used to call the neighborhood the Moor, because he could not see anything bright about it.

    TERRANCE GORE: You're talking about just every day smell -- it stinks from the trash people dump. And now just to wake up, you can smell fresh air. You can look, and it's like, it's -- I'm amazed. It's a good feeling. It's like I can't really explain how that feels every day just to wake up to a cleaner neighborhood.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He is hopeful that the bankruptcy is a chance to reset the deck for the whole city and that it will only bolster his neighborhood's efforts.

    TERRANCE GORE: I'm just seeing this as just a start. If we can get this done while going through bankruptcy, what can we get done when we're financially stable? A whole lot more than this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It won't be easy; 40 percent of Brightmoor's families live below the poverty line, and in a single decade the neighborhood's population dropped by 35 percent. Even those who are working to better this community are cautiously optimistic.

    JODY SCARLETT: I'm hopeful that it will get better, but at times, I just want to just get out. At times, I just want to leave my house behind and go.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reviving neighborhoods is critical, but so are jobs. And that's where new industries closer to the city center might make a difference. Many are high-tech startups, but Shinola is bringing manufacturing back to the Motor City. It's making craft bicycles, watches, and fine leather goods.

    Business has taken off. And in terms of the city's bankruptcy filing, CEO Steve Bock says the company knew what it was getting into.

    STEVE BOCK, Shinola: We knew that when we came to Detroit several years ago that there were financial challenges, that there were challenges in the city. Had we made a decision today after the bankruptcy had been declared, we would have made exactly the same decision.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Shinola assembly line leader Willie Holley has even more ambitions for the future.

    So what's your best-case scenario two years from now, five years from now? What do you see happening?

    WILLIE HOLLEY, Shinola: I see us expanding, especially, like, on our other wing, trying to make leather goods and journals and things of that nature, and just having like a huge work force, sort of, that can compete even with the big three. So, I mean, I want -- it would be nice if Shinola was in lights next to GM near the Renaissance building or something like that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right now, that seems like a far-off dream. But other investments and young people coming to the city may make that dream possible.

    STEPHEN HENDERSON: I think, in general, Detroiters are so used to bad news, and they are so used to things not really breaking our way, and they're used to getting up the next morning and going, well, I can't stop. I have got to keep going. I have got to keep -- keep trying.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That resilience might turn out to be the city's greatest asset that not even a bankruptcy can liquidate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Online, will other cities follow in Detroit's footsteps? You can take a second look at our health of cities conversation. That's on our home page.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is off today.

    So I want to ask you both about the president's news conference.

    But, first, David, what we just saw coming from Detroit, is there some reason then for us to be hopeful, or what?

    DAVID BROOKS: Maybe.

    It's not good when one of your leading industries is tearing things down. But there's amazing gains to be made from concentrating population. Density of population creates creativity gains, creates economic gains. And so there's actually some development in downtown Detroit, which is sort of like yuppies coming back. And so if they can shrink the city back to a more concentrated core, there may be some rebound. Property values are pretty low.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you take some hope away from this?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, I thought the discussion of community organizing, I know that's a little bit of a dirty word, but community action and the energy of the nonprofit sector was very uplifting and very hopeful.

    But, in the end, you cannot have a city without a functioning city government. And when people are waiting for an hour for an ambulance...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's tough.

    RUTH MARCUS: ... that it's time.

    Hopefully, the bankruptcy will help it get back with the community, will help Detroit get back on track, but you really do have to cross your fingers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tough, 40 percent of the streetlights not working. That's tough.

    Let's talk about what the president said today, afternoon news conference, David, announced more steps to provide more transparency, more safeguards around government surveillance programs. Why is he -- why is he announcing this now?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I think -- I saw the law professor back.

    We had Federalist 10. Go back to the Federalist Papers. We have a system of government based on the idea of clashing interests. And in national security, there is a clash, a clash of interests between liberty ask security. And when we built all the post-9/11 stuff, we built up all these structures for security, kind of left out structures for the liberty piece.

    And so even those of us who really think the programs are successful, think they work, don't think there have been too many abuses should acknowledge there's need for a structure for liberty. I don't know how strong the structures are that the president built in, but he built in a component in the courts, in the private FISA courts of liberty, built some outside review boards to emphasize that side of the equation.

    And so I think we're getting closer to a mature system which has both sides represented, the clashing of legitimate interests. And so I think today was the maturation of our security state.

    RUTH MARCUS: I have a shorter answer to your question of why the president announced this, and it's two words, Edward Snowden.

    I am not a partisan or fan of Mr. Snowden, but it has to be said that we wouldn't be having this discussion were it not for him. And I think it's long, long overdue. The president alluded to it in his previous speech that he mentioned today at the National Defense University. But the fact of the matter is, is that Snowden's disclosures really prompted an assessment of the kind of tensions that David is talking about that really was long overdue.

    I have to say, there's a little bit less here than meets the eye. He sort of announced a four-point plan to have a four-point plan. The details are kind of to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he said these changes are coming anyway. He said they were going to come. They just came faster because of what Snowden did.

    DAVID BROOKS: That strikes as about right.

    There's no question we wouldn't be talking about this without Snowden. My paper was doing all these stories on NSA, and things were dribbling out, and it was sort of the stuff we would write about, but it wasn't a big, hot political item until Snowden. There's no question about that.

    The one thing I would say is, we're never -- I think it's wrong to codify this entirely. When you have got a national security issue, we really have to rely on the discretion of the civil servants who are involved in this. When you have got a serious threat, we want them to lean a little forward. When you don't, we want them to lean a little back, but it requires an awareness of the specific context we're in.

    And the president alluded to something interesting, that he trusted the system, but he understood people outside Washington don't trust the system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Don't understand it.

    DAVID BROOKS: The one thing I would say is -- and this doesn't get said enough -- even if you're not a big fan of government, the people, the civil servants who actually work here are surprisingly competent, surprisingly committed. And I think they're worth having some trust in, the career people who are in these sorts of jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, are you saying you don't -- you think the steps, what he announced today is unnecessary then?

    DAVID BROOKS: I wouldn't say that.

    I do think you need those counterbalances, but I do think that the people doing these jobs are probably -- they're not particularly political. They're not particularly aggressive, and, as he said, there have not been abuses. We're talking about the potential for abuse, but so far, there haven't been tremendous abuses.

    At the same time, we have really done tremendous damage to al-Qaida.

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, and we saw it this week with all of the warnings about the problems in Yemen and the closing of the embassies.

    We do want, when things like that happen, a little bit of leaning forward, though I think I do disagree with David about the need for codification, because, while I think that the people who work in this field, and as many people in Washington, are very dedicated public servants, they do not have the built-in desire -- and, in fact, the president mentioned their instinct to keep things secret.

    And you do need to build in more protections, more oversight, both in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, and in terms of disclosure, and in terms of congressional review than the existing system has had.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think I hear a difference of opinion.

    DAVID BROOKS: I think so, but it's not clear what's been announced, and it's not clear how it's going to be enacted when it's put into place.

    RUTH MARCUS: Right. Well...

    DAVID BROOKS: There might be an advocate in these courts, these FISA courts, but how strong will that advocate be? What kind of leverage will that person have? That, seems to me, is still pretty murky.

    RUTH MARCUS: Definitely murky.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, connected to Snowden, the president -- although he said today it is not the only reason -- he canceled his meeting, coming meeting, with President Putin of Russia.

    And where does this leave U.S.-Russian relations? He went on to dissect the relationship and compare Putin to his predecessor. Where...

    RUTH MARCUS: And nobody slouch.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, nobody slouch.

    RUTH MARCUS: Everybody sit up. Don't be Putin.

    DAVID BROOKS: You know, it's bad. We're in a dark point of the relationship. Part of it is at the top.

    Putin is a guy who likes to compete with other men. Obama is a guy who likes to compete with other men. And they seem to have gotten a little psychodrama, as Putin got in a psychodrama with Bush before him.

    RUTH MARCUS: He did.

    DAVID BROOKS: And a lot of it was personal. A lot of it was petty, when you hear the backroom stories of the mano-a-mano thing. You think...

    RUTH MARCUS: My dog is bigger than your dog.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, my dog is bigger than your dog. We're being run by 14-year-olds. But...

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: Until the women take over.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. But there was a competition about whose dogs were bigger. And Putin had a bigger dog than Barney.

    But -- but -- so there's that element. But the bigger problem is that we have gotten Russia into a spot where they're benefiting from this. Putin benefits from this. He's in dicey political straits. He gets to take the U.S. on, both on Snowden and on gay issues, really popular for him back home.

    I think there probably was a more supple way not to put him in this confrontational mode where he would benefit from dissing us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's what you think has happened?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And I don't think we have been supple enough about that.

    RUTH MARCUS: And I think this was a pretty carefully calibrated snub.

    In other words, yes, it's a dark relationship, but we do not want to break it. In some ways, we need them more than they need us. We need them, Russia, on Syria, on Iran. They hold the seat on the Security Council. And so, even -- as Margaret's piece said, even as we are canceling the summit, we're having these other meetings.

    And so it -- you want to -- the relationship is frayed, but you don't want to break it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One other -- the one domestic issue that came up today was health care reform.

    Ruth, the president pretty passionate in terms of going after the Republicans for threatening to shut down the government. Should we read something into this?

    RUTH MARCUS: Yes.

    Maybe the president finally, a year-plus after the fact, is getting his groove on health care. I thought this was the most effective presentation he's made politically against the Republicans, saying, I don't quite get this. They want to shut down the government to make sure that more people don't get health care.

    And I thought it was a pretty good line, and particularly because the Republicans have helped him in two ways, by having this really unfortunate and irresponsible threat to shut down the government, by refusing to do or even consider the normal tweaks that he mentioned that you would want to do to help fix any new law which is not going to be fully functional immediately, and also because the Republicans haven't really come up with an alternative beyond, defund Obamacare.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally getting his groove?

    DAVID BROOKS: I thought he was fine. But he is not going to allow the government to shut down. He will blink.

    And he had his strongest about -- whenever the last government shutdown thing was, I thought it was his strongest moment to really take on the Republicans, just thinking strategically. That was the moment for him to say, OK, shut down the government, boys. And he decided not to do that, for a legitimate reason. They were afraid of what would happen to the economy.

    And so he folded a little there. I think they will know he will do that again.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Because he thought they would act on it? Is that what you're saying?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, he was afraid of going to the brink and shutting down the government, because he thought the economy would take a hit, which he was absolutely right about, so he caved in a little. And I assume Republicans know that will probably happen again. And so I'm not sure he's going to -- I'm not sure he's going to...

    (CROSSTALK)

    RUTH MARCUS: I think there's incentive to blink on both sides, at least in terms of the government running out of money. We will see what happens when we get to the very close issue of what happens with the debt ceiling.

    But, yes, the president has had a history of blinking. I don't think he's going to -- I think the Republicans may be more likely to blink over at least the defunding of Obamacare as the price for shutting down the government.

    DAVID BROOKS: I totally agree with that.

    RUTH MARCUS: All right.

    DAVID BROOKS: The Republicans have a strong incentive to blink, too. So, that is probably good news.

    RUTH MARCUS: Everybody is blinking.

    DAVID BROOKS: Everyone is blinking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, nothing to do with blinking, but Ruth, the newspaper for whom you write for which you write your column, The Washington Post, big sale announced this week to the man who started Amazon.

    Surprised? How did you -- you and your colleagues, what did you think?

    RUTH MARCUS: Surprise is not a strong enough word. Stunned.

    This was something -- I said it was the day our earth stood still. This was something we never in a million years contemplated, because the Graham family is The Washington Post. The Washington Post is the Graham family. We had always understood that their ownership structure -- we are a publicly held company, but they had the controlling shares -- was our bulwark against bad things happening to the paper.

    That said, this was a very sad day for people like me, who spent 30 years working at The Washington Post, love the Graham family. I have worked for Mrs. Graham, for Don Graham, for Katharine Weymouth, the current publisher. And she will continue as publisher.

    But the Graham family decided in the end to transfer the newspaper, sell it to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, in order to help protect it. And so there's reasons to be -- I'm stunned. I'm sad. But there's reasons to be hopeful here. First of all, Jeff Bezos has a lot of men to help the paper.

    Second of all, he's got patience to work it out. And, third, he's got experience in this new age of the Internet. My Amazon products come very quickly and effectively. And if he can do for The Post what he did for Amazon, God bless him.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You write for another newspaper. How do you see it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, another newspaper that is owned by a family, if I can kiss up to my...

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you were doing?

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: I don't know.

    RUTH MARCUS: I don't care about them anymore. They're history.

    DAVID BROOKS: The sainted Sulzberger family, they have taken hits for us. And the Grahams took hits for The Post, financial hits to save newsroom jobs.

    And I think people should be grateful for them. The Grahams, Katharine Graham, Donald Graham, one of the most humble people in Washington, maybe the only ones, actually.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Katharine Graham, a testament to a life. If anybody hasn't read her memoir, really read that thing, a life, a fully, rich growth through life.

    And so they were trustees to a great institution, treating it not only as a business, but as an act of public service. And I agree with Ruth. At the end of the day, The Post was doing what newspapers are doing these days, and this is a way out. But newspapers are going to be less like a business, a little more like a university in the years ahead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you both.

    David Brooks, Ruth Marcus, thank you.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Next: an often undiagnosed disease known as valley fever is spreading throughout the Southwest.

    Ray is back with our science story.

    RAY SUAREZ: The Mojave Desert is known for extreme heat and fierce wind. Recent years of hotter and drier seasons have only intensified those conditions. Drivers sometimes need headlights to navigate through thick dust storms.

    You might think of a blast of gritty breeze as uncomfortable, rather than threatening, but Westerners have good reason to worry about what that wind is carrying.

    ANTJE LAUER, Biologist: This is a good spot. Looks real interesting, soil.

    RAY SUAREZ: Biologist Antje Lauer is at the desert's western edge, the NASA Dryden Center to study one tiny local inhabitant she suspects is actually benefiting from prolonged drought, a microscopic fungus called coccidioides, or cocci.

    ANTJE LAUER: They adapted to desert soils. So they can tolerate high temperatures and they can tolerate higher pHs. That's unusual for Fungi. Usually, Fungi like lower pHs.

    So, I take a sample a little deeper from the soil, because I want to find a site where it is actually growing, and not just have been blown into.

    RAY SUAREZ: While a continued drought may be good news for the cocci fungus, it's very bad news for humans, because this fungus can be deadly. All it takes is a gust of wind.

    When the fungus becomes airborne, it's easily inhaled. Once in moist lungs, it can cause an infection called valley fever. That infection can cause illness ranging from flulike symptoms to severe pneumonia, even death. Valley fever is not contagious, and it's not new to people who live in California and Arizona deserts, particularly those who work outside.

    But the CDC reported this March that the number of valley fever cases in endemic areas soared between 1998 and 2011 from 2,000 to over 24,000.

    ANTJE LAUER: We have about 900 percent increase in valley fever cases, and people try to speculate why that is the case.

    And one hypothesis that I'm pursuing is that the drought is actually favoring, or the continuous drought is favoring any spore formed in the soil, which includes the valley fever fungus, and outcompetes all the microorganisms that are not easily forming spores.

    RAY SUAREZ: While Antje Lauer looks at the cocci's ability to thrive in dry soil, scientist Vic Etyemezian, from the Desert Research Institute, explores the role of dust in valley fever's dramatic rise.

    VIC ETYEMEZIAN, Desert Research Institute: Valley fever is very much a -- sort of a dust-related event. So, you can imagine if you have much more abundant areas where valley fever spores can be suspended into the air, then you can imagine that the exposure for people could potentially go up in the future.

    RAY SUAREZ: Etyemezian and a colleague move a measuring device propelled by a baby jogger across the rutted desert landscape.

    VIC ETYEMEZIAN: What we're doing is measuring the potential for wind erosion and the potential for dust emission at different equivalent wind speeds. So we're trying to understand if the wind is blowing at, say, 35 miles an hour, which of these areas is most susceptible to -- to dust becoming airborne?

    And this instrument we have is something like a wind tunnel. It's a very compact version of a wind tunnel, and that's exactly what it does. It simulates higher wind speeds and, as the wind speed gets higher, you measure the dust, and you can kind of figure the dust climatology.

    RAY SUAREZ: The scientists are part of a bigger project funded by NASA to study possible impacts of climate change on NASA centers. Climate change is not the only suspect in the increased illnesses.

    You also have to take into account the human footprint on the land. These days, the deserts sprout subdivisions, shopping centers, and oil derricks, and every time you disturb the land you can release the cocci spores into a stiff wind like this one, and they can fly as far as 75 miles.

    At the edge of the desert in fast growing Bakersfield, California, infectious disease specialist Dr. Royce Johnson, an expert on valley fever, says anyone can get sick, even if you just drive through a desert area.

    DR. ROYCE JOHNSON, Infectious Disease Specialist: All you have to do is take a breath at the wrong time. It will impact your lower lung, and the infection starts from there, and can spread anywhere it wants in your body. If you roll down the window driving from San Diego to Seattle, you could catch cocci while you're driving through, no question. That could happen, and it has happened.

    RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Johnson says so little is known about valley fever, it is still unclear why reactions to the infection are so varied.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: Most people in fact will successfully fight off the infection, and have no symptoms, and have lifelong immunity from it.

    About 40 percent of the people that are infected get a flulike illness.

    RAY SUAREZ: For a small fraction of the population, people like Al Rountree, the condition can be life-threatening. His lungs became so inflamed, he was put on breathing machine in the intensive care unit.

    AL ROUNTREE, Suffered from Valley Fever: I thought I was dying. That first weekend, I -- I mean, I thought for sure. I have been sick a lot, but nothing like -- I have never been this sick in my life. I have been -- like I said, I have had a lot of things happen, but I have never been this sick in my life. And it's just -- it's devastating.

    RAY SUAREZ: Now, after months of intensive infusion of an antifungal drug that is very tough on the body, Rountree is finally on the mend.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: So, we will transition you to an azole oral drug and probably be treating you for the next three years or so.

    RAY SUAREZ: Al Rountree's infection was confined to his lungs. Valley fever is most dangerous when the fungus spreads, or disseminates. That condition is often fatal. Since 1990, more than 3,000 people have died.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: If it goes to your brain and produces meningitis, that can kill you by a variety of mechanisms. It can also kill you if it goes through the bloodstream, and goes back to your lung, and you get respiratory failure. You can end up on a ventilator in the ICU.

    And then it can also kill you sort of like cancer does. You can just waste away from having a lot of disease, and not being able to control it.

    RAY SUAREZ: While people with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable, it is not known why some healthy individuals can get just as sick.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: So then this thing bursts open and these little babies come out.

    RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Johnson says much of the general public and many physicians have never heard of valley fever, leading to patients going untreated as the disease worsens or getting treatment for the wrong illness.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: I tell my medical students that they will know more than 99.9 percent of all the physicians that ever lived about this disease.

    RAY SUAREZ: Higher-profile diseases, like West Nile virus, receive 20 times as much in federal funding, even though more people get sick from valley fever.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: West Nile virus came to the United States in New York City, one of the world's most famous metropolises. It also has multiple medical schools, but New York City, Bakersfield, Tucson, maybe not equivalent in terms of international notoriety. I think resources were put together because of where this virus landed.

    RAY SUAREZ: Antje Lauer agrees.

    ANTJE LAUER: There are no valley fever cases, and there is no incidents of coccidioidomycosis on the East Coast, where all the politicians are sitting, so they are never reading anything in the news about valley fever around Washington. So they are not that concerned.

    RAY SUAREZ: There's a lot more scientists say they must know about cocci spores: how they grow, where they blow, as the tiny spore makes more Americans sick.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And a postscript to Ray's report: This week, a federal judge ordered the California Department of Corrections to transfer 3,000 more inmates at high risk of contracting valley fever. Attorneys say 18 inmates have died in the past two years from complications related to the disease. The state has 90 days to move them from two prisons located in the San Joaquin Valley.

    Online, you can find the CDC's list of 10 things that you should know about valley fever, including symptoms of the disease and other important information. 


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: an unusual way to weed a cemetery.

    Kwame Holman is back with the story.

    KWAME HOLMAN: It's a part of Washington where only one barnyard beast is most often invoked.

    MAN: Pork.

    MAN: Pork.

    SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: Pork-barrelers.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That's pork.

    KWAME HOLMAN: In a city filled with animal mascots and icons, from the Democrats' donkey, to the Republican elephant and the RINO, or Republican in name only.

    This week, with Congress well and gone from its Hill during these dog days of summer, it was the goats' town for the taking. A trailer-full was loosed on a once-neglected quarter of Capitol Hill, the 200-plus-year-old historic congressional cemetery.

    PAUL WILLIAMS, Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery: We have a lot of English ivy, poison ivy, kudzu, and the goats were the solution to take care of that.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Paul Williams is president of the association that safeguards the cemetery. It is not affiliated with the U.S. Congress, except in name.

    PAUL WILLIAMS: About 20 years ago, the cemetery was all but abandoned. It was pretty -- horrible conditions. It had lots of weeds and trees and lots of toppled headstones.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Even though it's been cleaned up since, the large trees bordering the cemetery were so overgrown, they were in danger of falling on graves.

    So, instead of gallons of herbicide and roaring chain saws, they opted for a green alternative from a farm near Annapolis, Maryland

    BRIAN KNOX, Sustainable Resource Management: They should be here for about six to seven calendar days. We're figuring -- it's 12 grazing days, using two herds.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Brian Knox runs Sustainable Resource Management. He's the goat's shepherd and this week, with outsized media attention, their quasi-agent.

    BRIAN KNOX: It's hard not to get this much press and not get calls. Usually, any time there's an article, there's a whole flurry of activity.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The goats aren't here in the cemetery proper, but there are some 200 memorials to members of Congress, including a herd of bold-faced names from two centuries of Washington life.

    We asked NewsHour regular and presidential historian Richard Norton Smith to join us at the cemetery. He said the ground-clearing goats were not in fact trailblazers.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Back in World War I, the White House put a flock of sheep on the front lawn for the same...

    KWAME HOLMAN: An iconic photograph.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Same purpose. Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, who was dubbed Little Bo Peep in the press. Then, as now, the presidency involved a good deal of theater.

    KWAME HOLMAN: He also acquainted us with some of the once-leading lights laid to rest here.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Well, of course, I guess the stars include J. Edgar Hoover, who was buried here after his death in 1972.

    John Philip Sousa is not only buried here, but is regularly serenaded. There's a whole host of quasi-historical celebrities who are here, Belva Lockwood, who is the first woman the run for president back in 1884. She couldn't vote.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Ran for president when women couldn't vote.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: She got 4,000 votes from sympathetic men.

    There's a man named Preston Brooks, who was a congressman from South Carolina, who caned Charles Sumner senseless on the floor of the Senate. We think Congress is contentious today. At least so far, they have left the canes at home.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Beyond that, Richard said this quiet place recalls a timeless majesty now all but lost.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: There are no red states and no blue states here. It doesn't matter if you have season tickets to the Redskins games. It doesn't matter who is on your wall. It all winds up here in what is the ultimate form of democracy.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The goats are above partisan rancor. When we arrived, the goats were on their break.

    PAUL WILLIAMS: They are not union goats. They cost -- we have 58 goats here today. They will be grazing for about six days on a 1.6-acre parcel. And the cost is about $4,000.

    KWAME HOLMAN: And in bottom-line-conscious Washington, these billies come in under budget.

    PAUL WILLIAMS: If you break it down, it's about 25 cents a goat per hour, below minimum wage, but it's all you can eat.

    KWAME HOLMAN: There was Millie and 007 and the pygmy goat called Weird Al. He's a bit of a loner, says Knox.

    BRIAN KNOX: Oh, sure. Every goat's got its own personality. The analogy of high school actually is great for goats, because, within a herd, you have got these little subgroups that are very, very clique-like.

    KWAME HOLMAN: One local resident brought her dog for a walk and was glad to see the cemetery get its due.

    PATTIE CINELLI: The cemetery is often said to be one the best-kept secrets in Washington. However, with the publicity we're getting from the eco-goats here, people are saying, wow, what a neat place and coming to visit. And that was the whole purpose.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Retired surgeon Massimo Righini has lived in Washington for 50 years. And some visitors asked about cleaning up the cemetery's namesake institution.

    MASSIMO RIGHINI: I don't think there are any goats in the world that could clean up Congress right now.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MASSIMO RIGHINI: It's probably undigestible.

    (LAUGHTER)

    KWAME HOLMAN: Be that as it may, the herd has four more days to work its wonders on at least this part of Capitol Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: See, progress is being made here in Washington.

     


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    Fried butter at the 2011 Iowa State Fair. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    While one should never underestimate the allure of deep-fried butter, it would appear that 2016 presidential ambitions were the main factor drawing some folks to Iowa over the weekend.

    Among them, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has said he would be "open" to launching another bid. The former Pennsylvania senator's three-day visit included stops at the Iowa State Fair and a Lyon County GOP fundraiser.

    He also addressed a gathering of social conservatives on Saturday, issuing a challenge to Republicans to reach out to working-class Americans with a message of economic populism.

    "We don't talk to them," Santorum said, adding that the GOP needs to "start putting forth an agenda of ideas to raise up folks who want to vote for us."

    Santorum, who narrowly won the 2012 Iowa caucus, said the election showed a contrast between President Barack Obama, who "went out and talked to them," with Republicans, who "marginalized them."

    "We need to reject this idea that if we just build the economy, all boats will rise and everybody will be fine," Santorum said. "I don't know about you, but most people I know have holes in their boats, and when that tide rises sometimes they don't rise. Sometimes they sink."

    Attendees of the Family Leadership Summit also heard from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who delivered plenty of red meat, blasting the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups and pledging to defund the president's health care reform law. The Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs reports that Cruz also asked those in the crowd to pull out their cellphones and send a text that would link them to his grassroots network.

    But Republicans did not have the state to themselves this weekend.

    At a forum on Friday hosted by the Democratic women's group Emily's List, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill was on hand to help bolster the organization's campaign to election a woman president in 2016.

    And McCaskill made clear that when it came to that goal, she had one person in mind.

    "Getting everyone excited now about what I hope will be that moment in 2017 when we all get to say, 'Madam President,' to Hillary Rodham Clinton," McCaskill said.

    The prospect of electing a woman president is a subject Clinton herself has raised in recent months, notes Philip Rucker of the Washington Post:

    Unlike during her 2008 presidential campaign, when she waited until her concession speech to fully embrace the historic nature of her candidacy, Clinton these days talks freely about women breaking barriers. She has woven a theme of women's empowerment throughout almost all of her public remarks in the seven months since she stepped down as secretary of state.

    Clinton's advisers said that there is no political agenda behind her recent remarks and that she has made no decision to launch a campaign. They said the comments are simply a natural continuation of her lifelong focus on advocating for women.

    While Clinton remains quiet on her future plans, one of her potential rivals in 2016, Vice President Joe Biden, is stoking speculation with a September visit to Iowa to attend Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry. The event, a premiere stop for future Democratic presidential contenders, will also feature San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year.

    As for the current occupant of the White House, it's going to be a quiet week. Mr. Obama gave a press conference Friday before heading to Martha's Vineyard on vacation, outlining his administration's efforts to make its surveillance program more transparent and criticizing Republicans for attempting to defund his health care law.

    Watch our lead segment from Friday's show here or below:

    Watch Video

    Editor's note: For the rest of the summer, the Morning Line will only publish once a week, on Mondays. Visit our home page for news and show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    BIG NEWSHOUR NEWS

    Hold onto your hats! We've got a lot of exciting changes underway at the NewsHour.

    Last week PBS announced that Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff have been named co-anchors and managing editors of the show, which has not had a permanent anchor since founder Jim Lehrer retired in 2011.

    Gwen and Judy, who made history as the first female co-anchors of a political convention, will do it again on a nightly basis. They will both anchor Monday through Thursday and then Judy will anchor solo on Fridays so Gwen can host the program "Washington Week."

    Jeff Brown, Ray Suarez and Margaret Warner will have new exclusive beats, and will still appear on the show and offer the smart reporting and analysis you're used to.

    The shift comes as Hari Sreenivasan, just named a senior correspondent, prepares to launch our new NewsHour Weekend show beginning Sept. 7.

    Gwen made the news the subject of this week's "Gwen's Take," touching on the historic nature of the announcement. But she also outlined the importance of what we do:

    There are plenty of places on television to find out what other people think about the issues of the day. But if you're looking for news programs designed to help you decide what you think, the pool of destinations continues to shrink.

    That's where we come in. And if we make a little history on the way to that destination, so be it.

    LINE ITEMS

    Attorney General Eric Holder Monday will outline a change in minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that he hoped Republican opposition to the president's policies is not based on race.

    As the president begins his vacation, Walter Shapiro explains why Democrats like Martha's Vineyard.

    Twitter has registered to lobby.

    Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says he will veto a measure loosening a ban on state schools using Native American mascots.

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday that the organization's debate boycott is aimed at companies putting Hillary Clinton programming "on the air" and not those responsible for producing the content. The comments came after Priebus was asked on CNN about reports Fox Television studios might produce a Clinton miniseries for NBC. The RNC sent letters last week to NBC and CNN calling on the outlets to cancel productions about Hillary Clinton or risk not being allowed to host any of the 2016 GOP primary debates.

    Jesse Benton, who previously ran Ron Paul's presidential campaign, told a conservative activist in a phone conversation earlier this year that he was "sort of holding my nose" by serving as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager because it would "be a big benefit" to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul if he ran for president in 2016.

    NewsHour partner Kantar Media CMAG is tracking Obamacare-related tweets.

    Texas state senator Wendy Davis told members of the National Press Club last week that she is only considering running for governor or for her state senate seat, dispersing all rumors of a possible candidacy for lieutenant governor. "Some of you probably have never heard of my name before June," Davis said in reference to her quick rise to stardom in the Lone Star State after her 11-hour filibuster of the abortion bill known as the SB5. She used the speech to talk about her signature issue of education policy, along with women's health, veterans' rights, voting and transportation.

    In her weekly Cook Political Report column, Amy Walter discusses the War for Women.

    Organizing for Action is looking for ways to help Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, taking its closest step yet toward electoral politics.

    RealClearPolitics went door-knocking with Anthony Weiner.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott is evaluating voter rolls to purge non-citizens from the list.

    Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., will not seek re-election in 2014, and instead will serve in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.

    Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg waded into immigration reform by making his first public remarks on the topic at the premiere of Jose Antonio Vargas' film "Documented" in San Francisco last week.

    Matt Cooper tells the story of relationships on Twitter.

    Outgoing Hotline Editor-in-Chief Reid Wilson rounds up the five rules of politics he's learned from years of 6 a.m. #HotlineSort.

    Sunlight highlights Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' political influence over the years.

    The only surviving TV news archive from the civil rights era in Virginia now will be available to the public online.

    The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia released this beautiful color-coded map showing population distribution and racial makeup across the U.S.

    The New York Times' Dan Barry uncovers the secret behind the "Nick Beef" gravemarker next to Lee Harvey Oswald's final resting place.

    Christina was on "Up with Steve Kornacki" this weekend, discussing congressional politics, early reviews in Iowa, Chris Christie, the news coverage of the IRS targeting scandal, the Clinton film, New Jersey's Senate primary and the awesomeness of our NewsHour news.

    For the record, we like Apple Jacks, Peanut Butter Toast Crunch and Frosted Mini-Wheats.

    Very clever, Zillow.

    FanGraphs evaluates presidential first pitches. George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy rate highly. William Howard Taft and Dwight Eisenhower, not so much.

    NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

    Newshour Desk Assistant Mallory Sofastaii looked at the role young people play in the implementation of Obamacare. The NewsHour heard directly from young adults impacted by the health care reform law.

    Christina did a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" on Friday, touching on everything from marijuana legalization to journalism ethics, and getting into an intense discussion about maple syrup and Showtime's "Dexter." But perhaps most interesting was a spin on a classic AMA question. See her video response to "Would you rather fight 100 Barbara Mikulski-sized John Thunes or one John Thune-sized Barbara Mikulski?" here.

    David Brooks and Ruth Marcus offered analysis on Mr. Obama's press conference and the president's relationship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

    Following the sale of the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos, Don Graham granted the NewsHour his only television interview. Watch:

    Watch Video

    NewsHour reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz collected some of history's most memorable political cartoons.

    Gwen interviewed Dan Balz about his new book "Collision 2012," and the two also discussed Chris Christie's presidential ambitions.

    Watch Video

    NewsHour's Lorna Baldwin writes about a gathering of Golden Retrievers in Scotland. No, really.

    Congressional correspondent Kwame Holman hung out with goats and historian Richard Norton Smith at Washington's Congressional Cemetery, and we can't help but use the phrase "Herd on the Hill."

    NewsHour reporter-producer Larisa Epatko put together this handy primer for what it means when an embassy is shut down.

    Are you a PBS nerd? Take the quiz!

    TOP TWEETS

    There's another Anthony Weiner pic from the @nydailynews but you're gonna have to click to see it...yeah http://t.co/VHWF6CcbF3

    — Ethan Klapper (@ethanklapper) August 12, 2013

    1,103 lbs. MT @chuckgrassley: Biggest pig Iowa State Fair pic.twitter.com/DiJK76sXT8

    — Byron York (@ByronYork) August 12, 2013

    Totally forgot to wish @BuckMcKeon an Eid Mubarak. And to offer him some halal tacos. http://t.co/OYZ8LLUVwU

    — Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 10, 2013

    RT if you agree: Nothing smells worse than #Obamacare! #NoseGatepic.twitter.com/J0jUdcwxte

    — Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) August 8, 2013

    President congratulates her on her new baby, she asks him why Americans should trust him. Tough crowd.

    — Dave Jamieson (@jamieson) August 9, 2013

    Either you love bacon or you're wrong.

    — Chobani (@Chobani) August 8, 2013

    Never change, America. pic.twitter.com/mO2G4sEOfM

    — Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) August 7, 2013

    "Scalia and Ginsburg on an elephant" http://t.co/COwzV4Dqik

    — Alex Wagner (@alexwagner) August 7, 2013

    You go girls! Best of luck to the dynamic duo of @gwenifill and @JudyWoodruff on @NewsHour!

    — Katie Couric (@katiecouric) August 7, 2013

    Another barrier falls! @JudyWoodruff@GwenIfill to be 1st women co-anchors nightly newscast @NewsHour both veterans share past w/ @NBCNews

    — Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) August 6, 2013

    Best PBS decision since greenlighting Downton Abbey ! - @gwenifill@JudyWoodruff will be the first female co-anchors of an evening newscast

    — Betsy Fischer Martin (@BetsyNBC) August 6, 2013

    Congrats @GwenIfill& @JudyWoodruff on being named co-anchors of @PBSNewshour, a 1st for women! http://t.co/xCDEcuHPIB#offthesidelines

    — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) August 6, 2013

    It's going to be a long recess if they don't restock the twix in the Senate basement vending machine

    — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) August 5, 2013

    Oh, hey, it's just a picture of Chelsea Clinton with Rick Ross, two friends, hanging out and having fun. pic.twitter.com/we9cWWEsqx

    — ItsTheReal (@itsthereal) August 5, 2013

    Mom, helping me reach my goals in school. At first she wanted me to be a nun, but I had different plans. #tbtpic.twitter.com/d1TFOH3IHy

    — Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) August 8, 2013

    I'm a Dem but lately I've been siding with people like @repjustinamash. Guess it doesn't matter what party you are if you do the right thing

    — Ben Creech (@shiek276) August 5, 2013

    I got hit with poison ivy while chasing goats around the Congressional Cemetery. WORTH IT.

    — Chris Moody. Yahoo! (@Chris_Moody) August 7, 2013

    #BREAKING: KOJO NNAMDI TO THROW OUT FIRST PITCH AT NATIONALS-METS GAME. FRIDAY, AUGUST 30.

    — Michael Martinez (@MikeMartinezDC) August 5, 2013

    Actor @BryanCranston checked out a pair of LBJ's shoes on his visit this week. He was an 11.5 btw. http://t.co/DCd9Ev0sTc

    — LBJ Foundation (@LBJLibraryNow) August 9, 2013

    Simone Pathe, Katelyn Polantz and desk assistant Ariel Min contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @ljspbs

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    //

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    WASHINGTON -- With the U.S. facing massive overcrowding in its prisons, Attorney General Eric Holder is calling for major changes to the nation's criminal justice system that would scale back the use of harsh sentences for certain drug-related crimes.

    GRAPHIC: Federal Prisions Are Over Capacity

    In remarks prepared for delivery to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, Holder also favors diverting people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment and community service programs and expanding a prison program to allow for release of some elderly, non-violent offenders.

    "We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate -- not merely to convict, warehouse and forget," Holder says in the speech he's scheduled to deliver Monday.

    In one important change, the attorney general is altering Justice Department policy so that low-level, non-violent drug offenders with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels won't be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimum sentences.

    Mandatory minimum prison sentences, a product of the government's war on drugs in the 1980s, limit the discretion of judges to impose shorter prison sentences.

    Under the altered policy, the attorney general said defendants will instead be charged with offenses for which accompanying sentences "are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins."

    Federal prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity and hold more than 219,000 inmates -- with almost half of them serving time for drug-related crimes and many of them with substance use disorders. In addition, 9 million to 10 million prisoners go through local jails each year. Holder praised state and local law enforcement officials for already instituting some of the types of changes Holder says must be made at the federal level.

    Aggressive enforcement of federal criminal laws is necessary, but "we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation," Holder said. "Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it."

    Holder said mandatory minimum sentences "breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive."

    Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have introduced legislation aimed at giving federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimums to certain drug offenders.

    Holder said new approaches -- which he is calling the "Smart On Crime" initiative -- are the result of a Justice Department review he launched early this year.

    The attorney general said some issues are best handled at the state or local level and said he has directed federal prosecutors across the country to develop locally tailored guidelines for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.

    "By targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime `hot spots,' and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency and fairness - we can become both smarter and tougher on crime," Holder said.

    The attorney general said 17 states have directed money away from prison construction and toward programs and services such as treatment and supervision that are designed to reduce the problem of repeat offenders.

    In Kentucky, legislation has reserved prison beds for the most serious offenders and refocused resources on community supervision. The state, Holder said, is projected to reduce its prison population by more than 3,000 over the next 10 years, saving more than $400 million.

    He also cited investments in drug treatment in Texas for non-violent offenders and changes to parole policies which he said brought about a reduction in the prison population of more than 5,000 inmates last year. He said similar efforts helped Arkansas reduce its prison population by more than 1,400. He also pointed to Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Hawaii as states that have improved public safety while preserving limited resources.

    Holder also said the department is expanding a policy for considering compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances, and who pose no threat to the public. He said the expansion will include elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences.

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