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- 08/12/13--09:12: _Social Security as ...
- 08/12/13--12:35: _The March on Washin...
- 08/12/13--13:08: _Primary Elections U...
- 08/12/13--13:10: _Snapshot of Mali: A...
- 08/12/13--15:02: _Holder Calls for Ne...
- 08/12/13--15:13: _News Wrap: NYC's 'S...
- 08/12/13--15:17: _Russia's Anti-Gay L...
- 08/12/13--15:28: _Broken Bolts Is Lat...
- 08/12/13--15:37: _In Court, James 'Wh...
- 08/12/13--15:43: _Do License Plate Re...
- 08/13/13--08:54: _Top 15 Lesson Plans...
- 08/13/13--10:24: _Ask The Headhunter:...
- 08/13/13--11:21: _Watching New Jersey...
- 08/13/13--11:30: _Egyptian Foreign Mi...
- 08/13/13--12:28: _Illustrating Death:...
- 08/13/13--12:42: _The Visionary Russi...
- 08/13/13--13:54: _Civil Rights Giant ...
- 08/13/13--14:50: _Egyptian Foreign Mi...
- 08/13/13--15:03: _Justice Department:...
- 08/13/13--15:11: _News Wrap: Israel M...
- 08/12/13--09:12: Social Security as Insurance Against Failing to Die on Time
- 08/12/13--12:35: The March on Washington at 50: What is its Relevance Today?
- 08/12/13--13:08: Primary Elections Unscrambled
- 08/12/13--13:10: Snapshot of Mali: A 'Thirst' for a Stable, Democratic State
- 08/12/13--15:02: Holder Calls for New Approach to Prosecuting Low-Level Drug Crimes
- 08/12/13--15:43: Do License Plate Readers Prevent Crime or Create Privacy Abuses?
- 08/13/13--08:54: Top 15 Lesson Plans for Back to School
- 08/13/13--11:21: Watching New Jersey: Booker's Fate on Line
- 08/13/13--12:28: Illustrating Death: Data from the Gallows to Stampedes
- 08/13/13--13:54: Civil Rights Giant Becomes Comic Book Hero
By Larry Kotlikoff
You should take your Social Security benefits with the expectation that you could live a very long time, and therefore, want them to be as high as possible. Photo courtesy of John Elk/Lonely Planet Images.
Larry Kotlikoff's Social Security original 34 "secrets", his additional secrets, his Social Security "mistakes" and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature "Ask Larry" every Monday. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Kotlikoff's state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its "basic" version.
Kent -- Medford, Ore.: I am 62. My spouse is 68 and can't collect on her own Social Security. Social Security told us to wait until I've reached my full retirement age (FRA) and then she can get half of my FRA benefit and I can suspend its collection. This was their final answer after giving us several different answers. Please give us a definitive answer on our best choice assuming we both live to 85. Thank you.
Larry Kotlikoff: Your own life expectancy may be 85, but that's not necessarily relevant. What matters is the maximum age of life to which you could live. Social Security benefits are an insurance policy against one of life's most expensive accidents -- failing to die on time. So unless you or your partner has a terminal condition, you probably should figure on living to 100 for the simple reason that you might.
Now, you say your spouse can't collect on her own. I'll assume that means she has fewer than the requisite 40 quarters of Social Security-covered earnings. So one option is for you to collect your own early retirement benefit, and therefore reduced retirement benefit, starting now, letting her get a full spousal benefit starting immediately, which would be equal to half of your full (not your reduced) retirement benefit.
Then, when you hit full retirement age, you suspend your retirement benefit and start it up again at 70, at a 32 percent larger value (adjusted for inflation) than when you suspended it.MORE FROM LARRY KOTLIKOFF: Losing Your Breadwinner with Kids: How to Get Maximum Benefits
But, there is a caveat to that option. If you are still working and apply for your retirement benefits and earn enough, you will lose those benefits as well as all your wife's spousal benefit via the earnings test.
Social Security will make up for the loss in your own retirement benefits when you hit full retirement age by permanently increasing your benefits via what's called the "adjustment of the reduction factor." But it won't make up for the loss of your spouse's benefits due to the earnings test. In this case, applying early for your retirement benefits will do no good. It's possible this is why the Social Security office gave you the advice it did. It's also possible the Social Security office just gave you partial advice, which is often the case.
Your spouse should qualify for Medicare based on your earnings record and can apply regardless of what you're earning. Medicare Part A is free, so even if you have good health insurance through your employer, it may be good secondary coverage. And it's important to know that the premium for Part B will become permanently higher for your wife the longer she waits to sign up, unless she has health insurance coverage through an employer group health plan.
Since the Social Security Administration has no software to calculate which collection strategies would maximize your lifetime benefits, it's not in a position to say that the above option is worse than their proposed strategy of having you wait until 66 to file for your retirement benefit, suspend its collection, and then wait until 70 to go for your retirement benefit. If you do that, you will, four years from now, permit your then 72-year-old spouse to start collecting a full spousal benefit.
For very little money you can run your situation through commercially available software programs, or check out this free version of my ESPlanner program available here, to find out what's going to maximize your joint lifetime Social Security benefits. My guess is that the first strategy I outlined beats what Social Security is advising (even though they aren't supposed to advise anything), but only a meticulously programmed computer knows for sure.
Reta -- Annandale, Va.: My husband is 75, retired from the Arlington Police Department and now has lung cancer. I will turn 65 in November but am still working and will not reach retirement age until 66. Should I claim spousal benefits now? I am making more money than he did when he retired.
Larry Kotlikoff: Paul and I are, of course, terribly sorry to hear this news about your husband.
Yours is a difficult question and the answer depends on your Social Security-covered earnings history compared to that of your husband's and also on when he started taking his benefit, which will impact your survivor benefit.
If your earnings were higher than his or pretty close, you will, by taking your spousal benefit before 66, be "deemed" by the Social Security Administration to be filing for your retirement benefit. Because you are filing for your spousal benefit before full retirement age, this will turn your spousal benefit into a reduced excess spousal benefit -- equal to half his full retirement benefit less all of your full retirement benefit.
So by taking your spousal benefit early, you may end up just with a reduced retirement benefit. This is a very nasty Social Security gotcha, but one that hits people every day. If you wait until full retirement age, this "deeming" doesn't occur, and you can take just your spousal benefit.
On the other hand, if your husband was the higher earner and didn't take his own retirement benefit too early, or even if he did and your survivor benefit will still exceed your own retirement benefit, it would then be best to take your spousal benefit and your retirement benefit right away. The reason is that once your husband passes, you'll get either the larger of your own retirement benefit or the survivor benefit.
My guess is that this latter move is optimal: apply for your spousal and retirement benefit now and then apply for your survivor benefit when your husband passes away. But to say for sure, you'd need to run your case through commercially available software.
Susan O. -- Birmingham, Ala.: My husband died when he was 58. Should I start collecting his death benefits at age 60 or wait until 66? He made a lot more money than I have or ever will.
Larry Kotlikoff: Your best strategy is probably to wait until 62 to take your reduced retirement benefit and then at 66 (full retirement age), take your survivor benefit. If you take your survivor benefit at 60, it will be permanently reduced, in inflation-adjusted terms, by close to 30 percent.
As I discussed in a previous column on the general rules for maximizing your lifetime Social Security benefits, one key strategy is to take one benefit while letting the other grow.
In this case, taking just your retirement benefit at 62 lets your survivor benefit grow through age 66, at which point you switch to collecting that one.
Or rather, you apply for your survivor benefit, and Social Security gives you the larger of either that survivor benefit or your own reduced retirement benefit. But note that Social Security will describe this as your receiving your reduced retirement benefit plus your excess survivor benefit, measured as your survivor benefit less your own reduced retirement benefit. In other words, Social Security will try to perpetuate the myth that you are getting your own retirement benefit even after you start collecting your survivor benefit (even though your total check would remain the same were your own retirement benefit zero).
Catherine -- Silver Spring, Md.: My parents were married for over 10 years before divorcing. After the divorce, my mother remarried. Since then, both my mother and her second husband have passed away. My father never remarried. Is my father eligible to collect any spousal benefit based on my mother's Social Security earnings? My father has his own Social Security benefit, but it is minimal.
Larry Kotlikoff: For your father to collect a divorcée spousal benefit based on your mom's earnings record, she would need to be living. He can collect a survivor benefit, which is higher than the spousal benefit (before any reduction for taking it early). If your father hasn't informed Social Security that he is an eligible divorced survivor of your mom's, he should do so right away. Depending on his age, he will be able to get the larger of either his survivor benefit or his own retirement benefit if he is already collecting his retirement benefit.
If he is already collecting his own retirement benefit and is between full retirement age and age 70, and his survivor benefit exceeds his current retirement benefit, he could suspend his retirement benefit and just take his survivor benefit through 70 and then restart his retirement benefit at a higher level at 70 (after it's been incremented by the delayed retirement credits for every month he didn't collect benefits between full retirement age and age 70). But it's highly unlikely that this would be worth it because he won't get his full survivor benefit between his current age and 70. Instead, he'll get his excess survivor benefit, which is equal to the difference between his survivor benefit and the retirement benefit he is now collecting.
Carolyn -- Saint Peters, Mo.: I collect Social Security now, and have for several years. In this article I have just read, are you saying that I can stop my Social Security for any reason I want, as long as I pay for my Medicare myself, and then I can restart my Social Security at the full amount? If so, how long of a gap do you need? Or is this only if you go back to work?
Larry Kotlikoff: If you are between full retirement age and age 70, you can suspend your retirement benefit, that you may have started as early as 62, and reactivate it at age 70 when it will be credited with the delayed retirement credit for every month you didn't collect benefits between full retirement age and age 70.
Nicholas -- New York, N.Y.: I am 65 years old and won't retire before at least 70, even though my full retirement age is 66. I was married for more than 10 years and divorced nine years ago. My ex is 64, and I don't know if she is collecting Social Security, but I was the higher wage earner. I would rather not try to guess which is the best move for me without your specific input since the rules seem so complicated.
Larry Kotlikoff: What your wife is up to, in your case, doesn't matter one iota with respect to collecting a divorcée spousal benefit. To collect such a benefit, you need to have been married at least 10 years and satisfy either of these requirements: your ex is 62 or older and you have been divorced for at least two years, or your ex is collecting a retirement benefit. You satisfy the first two requirements, so you're golden.
In your case, the best move is surely to wait until 70 to collect your own retirement benefit, but at full retirement age and no earlier, apply for just your spousal benefit. You'll get a full spousal benefit equal to half of your ex's full retirement benefit between 66 and 70 and then collect your largest possible own retirement benefit starting at 70.
All photos courtesy Leonard Freed Estate
On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people traveled in cars, trains, chartered buses and airplanes to the nation's capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
To kick off our coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march, PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown recently posed a question to NewsHour regulars Michael Beschloss and Ellen Fitzpatrick, along with Kenneth Mack of Harvard Law School and George Chauncey of Yale University:
When you look back from this distance, what strikes you about [the March on Washington's] relevance to today, the way it is remembered or not?
Fitzpatrick said the march served to remind the country about "the incredible power of individuals" who brought about "sweeping changes" after World War II.
"That's what brought down the edifice of segregation in this society. And it remains, I think, an incredibly inspiring moment in our history," she said.
Mack countered that the importance of the march "is still being debated" today.
"You have to remember, just this year, the Supreme Court invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act, one of the cornerstones of the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s," he said. "In fact, a lot of people would read the March on Washington as being about a broader and deeper set of challenges that we haven't yet overcome."
Beschloss added that one key takeaway from the march is that presidents "are almost always all afraid of popular movements and demonstrations that come from the grassroots, even if they're for things that they like."
He said that President John Kennedy, who had been skeptical about the march in the days leading up to it -- so much so that he decided not to attend -- changed his mind while listening to Martin Luther King Jr.'s words coming through his third-floor White House solarium window from the Lincoln Memorial that hot August day.
"[Kennedy] heard it, he knew how much this was going to help Civil Rights and he said to himself, 'I was wrong, I really should have been there,'" said Beschloss.
Chauncey said that because the march was so inspirational to so many, it allowed civil rights leaders a platform upon which they could frame issues of justice, equality and freedom.
"And although the issues that all those movements have made have hardly been settled today, that movement, the black movement, and that march played such an important role in opening up a huge debate in American culture, which we're still very much a part," he said.
Tune in to the NewsHour Wednesday, Aug. 14, for our first broadcast segment on the march. Gwen Ifill will be joined by William Jones, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of the book "The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights."
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Ifill talks to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., about her role as a march volunteer, and what it was like working for the march's openly gay chief organizer, Bayard Rustin.
Monday, Aug. 26, Ifill will get two generations' perspectives on the anniversary. Civil rights activist Cleveland Sellers attended the march 50 years ago. His son, Bakari Sellers, is now a South Carolina state lawmaker running for lieutenant governor.
Tuesday, Aug. 27, historian Peniel Joseph and filmmaker Bonnie Boswell Hamilton will join Ifill in the studio to discuss the different factions within the civil rights movement, both before and after the March on Washington.
On Wednesday, Aug. 28, we'll hear from Congressman John Lewis of Georgia -- the youngest speaker at the March, and the only surviving speaker from that day. Gwen talks to him in his office on Capitol Hill, surrounded by memorabilia from the civil rights era.
Thursday, Aug. 29, we'll take a look forward with author Taylor Branch and filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman, whose PBS Web series "The March@50" begins Aug. 26.
In addition, throughout the month of August, we will air taped interviews with people about their experiences with the March, collected by PBS stations around the country. More information about these short vignettes can be found here.
Although voter turnout is usually low, primary elections can be more important than the general election in certain states. Photo by Hill Street Studios/Getty Images.
New Jersey voters head to the polls Tuesday for two critical primary contests that will determine who will be competing in the Oct. 16 general election to find a permanent replacement for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat.
Each state sets its own laws governing when they're held, who can vote in them, and how candidates advance to the general election. In some states, primaries are considered to be more important than the general election.
Primaries come in two main categories: partisan and non-partisan.
In a partisan primary, each state holds mini-elections for each major political party before the general election date. Candidates of the same political affiliation face off to determine who will receive the party nod and advance to compete with the candidate of the other major political party in the general election. Who can vote in a partisan primary depends on the law.
There are three types of partisan primaries: open, closed, and semi-closed. Closed primaries are only open to those registered with that party. But some states opted for semi-closed primaries to avoid exclusion of independent voters. In that case, independents are allowed to cast ballots in either party's primary.
In some states, like Utah, each political party is allowed to choose the type of primary the party will hold, so Republicans hold closed primaries and Democrats hold semi-closed contests. There are a few different variations of this system. In 2011, Idaho passed a law allowing parties to choose preferred primary types, but that requires voters be bound to that party affiliation in the next election. In Arizona where the rules are even stricter, only people pre-registered with a political party are issued a ballot.
In an open primary all voters can select a ballot for any party, regardless of their political registration, but they can only vote in one contest. Most states require that voters be registered with some political party. Open primary supporters argue more people can participate when independent voters are encouraged to cast ballots.
Open primary elections were adopted during the Progressive Movement of the turn of the century because they were seen as a way to put power in the hands of the people. Citizens could choose their candidates for office through a popular vote, rather than leaving the selection of a candidate up to the caucus power of political party bosses.
Open primary critics say this system would allow members of one political party to vote in the rival party's contest in hopes of helping to nominate the weakest candidate. (See Rush Limbaugh's Operation "Chaos," for example). This is known as raiding, but there is little proof such a practice has ever actually affected an election result.
In states with closed primaries that lean heavily towards one political party, the primary is the election which usually determines who ascend to office.
In New Jersey, a Republican has not been elected to the Senate in over 40 years. There are two candidates running for the Republican nomination: Steve Lonegan, a tea party conservative who twice sought the gubernatorial nomination, and Alieta Eck, a doctor who has never held public office. This race is widely considered so difficult for Republicans to win that many potential candidates sat it out.
Similarly, the Senate race in Wyoming centers on the fight between Sen. Michael Enzi and Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. In a state as Republican-leaning as Wyoming, it is highly unlikely a Democrat would win statewide office. The last Democrat elected to the Senate from Wyoming was John J. Hickey who was appointed to the position to fill the vacancy left by the death of Keith Thomson, who suffered a heart attack before he could assume office in 1961.
California and Washington state have opted for a non-partisan blanket or "Top Two" primary election, sometimes called a "jungle" primary. In these states all candidates for office run on the same ballot in one primary, and the candidate who wins a simple majority of the vote (over 50 percent) wins. If nobody wins more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two candidates advance to a runoff election.
This was done in order to create more competition among candidates and give citizens who live in areas historically dominated by one party more choices. It is common under this system to have two candidates from the same political party compete against each other in the general election. Under this system, people who are not members of the dominant party can still have a say in which candidate better represents their views.
For an interactive map detailing each state's primary rules and regulations click here
Malians return on Feb. 1, 2013 to a village they vacated after Islamists arrived. A coup followed by an Islamist insurgency uprooted many Malians last year, before French-led forces helped restore order in January. Photo by Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images.
Nearly 50 percent of eligible Malians voted in presidential elections in July, followed by a relatively smooth runoff on Sunday -- signs of the West African country's deep-seated desire to restore democracy and peace after a tumultuous year-and-a-half, said Peter Chilson, an English professor at Washington State University who wrote the ebook "We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from the Lost Country of Mali."
"There's this real thirst for a return to democracy in Mali," he explained. "Malians are fiercely aware of their long, cultural heritage," which includes democracy.
Malians, motivated by that tradition, are making some progress toward stability, Chilson said, but that progress remains dependent on the continued presence of French troops and U.N. peacekeepers.
Mali's former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, pictured in Bamako on Aug. 9, 2013, is the frontrunner in the presidential election. His platform included a pledge to bring peace and stability to the country. Photo by Issouf Sanogo/AF/Getty Images.
Who's keeping the peace?
France has about 3,000 soldiers in Mali but is planning to withdraw about two-thirds of them as the U.N. peacekeeping mission builds up its forces. About 1,000 French troops will remain to patrol areas and help train the Malian army, said Chilson.
The U.N. mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, plans to have up to 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 police, making it the world body's third largest peacekeeping operation.
Regional governments also are lending a hand to try to keep the peace -- for Mali's benefit as well as their own. The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, sent poll monitors to Mali's elections, and has been assisting with negotiations between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels -- an ethnic minority based in the north who are seeking more autonomy.
Malians in the capital Bamako look at newspapers a day after Sunday's run-off presidential elections in the West African country of 16 million. In the first round, a higher-than-expected 48.9 percent of the electorate came out to vote. Results in the runoff are expected by Friday. Photo by Issouf Sanogo/AF/Getty Images .
What's threatening stability?
Earlier this year, the French military helped free much of northern Mali from al-Qaida-linked Islamists but left the Tuareg separatist fighters in some northern cities, including the population center of Kidal. The Malian army has moved to the area, too, to reestablish the government's presence, said Chilson, possibly setting up future standoffs with the Tuaregs if negotiations aren't successful.
"I wonder if the French didn't open up a can of worms" by pressing for the Malian government to be more flexible with the Tuaregs, he noted.
As for the jihadists, who were pushed out of the north, some fled to rural areas and others to the lawless border area between Libya and Mali, said Chilson.
"There's now a rising fear about jihadist forces reorganizing in Libya and contributing to the destabilization in that country. But their strength in Mali is still a force to be reckoned with or the French would not still be there."
Mali's musical tradition
Malian musician Salif Keita performs at the Apollo Theater in New York City on April 9, 2011. He's a "sort of dean of music" in Mali, and is from the same clan as the founder of the Malian empire, Sundiata Keita, whom he sings about in his lyrics, Chilson says. Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images.
One of the factors preventing a strict version of Sharia (Islamic) law from taking root in Mali is its tradition of music, said Chilson. Music was banned last winter in northern Mali when it was under control of Islamist militants. "The expression of music is so important, and to have a new regime come in and try to put a clamp on it is really foreign."
In addition, "Mali sees itself as the cultural anchor of West Africa," he said, including the preservation of a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu. "That's part of what motivates Malians to pull their country together."
Chilson gave as an example the village of Siby, about 30 miles southwest of the capital Bamako, where he found a tourist-oriented hotel that was just starting to take off, with guides available to give walking tours of sites related to the Malian empire, and certified climbers to take visitors to the surrounding cliffs.
"In October 2011 when I was there, I was the only one staying at the hotel. But as I was leaving, three carloads of U.S. Embassy dependents arrived and hired guides to take them to the different climbing spots."
Jan. 28, 2013: Malian, French Forces Retake Towns (Photo Gallery)
View all of our World coverage.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The nation's chief law enforcement officer said today it's time to scale back tough prison terms for low-level drug crimes. He announced he's changing the way federal prosecutors go after small-fry offenders.
The United States is home to just five percent of all the people on Earth, but accounts for more than a quarter of the world's prison population, more than 2.2 million people.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, in San Francisco, the U.S. attorney general said that number must come down. Eric Holder addressed the American Bar Association's annual meeting.
ERIC HOLDER: Although incarceration has a significant role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable. It imposes a significant economic burden totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone. And it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.
As a nation, we are coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts. And with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter, and to rehabilitate, but not merely to warehouse and to forget.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One step toward a solution, according to Holder, scale back mandatory minimum sentences for low-level nonviolent drug offenses. There are almost 220,000 prisoners in federal penitentiaries, now, 40 percent over capacity. Nearly half of those inmates are serving time for drug-related crimes.
Holder plans to tell federal prosecutors to change the way they handle those cases.
ERIC HOLDER: They now will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The attorney general wants states to do likewise, given that 225,000 people are serving time in state prisons for drug crimes.
There is longstanding, bipartisan support for such reform. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois has introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, co-sponsored by fellow Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Mike Lee of Utah. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul also has a measure to increase judicial discretion.
Durbin wrote the law that ended a longstanding disparity in drug sentencing that hit minorities hardest. The president signed it in 2010.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A bipartisan bill to help right a longstanding wrong by narrowing sentencing disparities between those convicted of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. It's the right thing to do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, Holder also cited the toll such harsh sentences take on some American communities.
ERIC HOLDER: They -- and let's be honest -- some of the enforcement priorities that we have set have had a destabilizing effect on particularly -- particular communities, largely poor and of color. And applied inappropriately, they are ultimately counterproductive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Holder added that programs to enable compassionate release for older inmates and to send drug offenders to rehab, not up the river, should help trim prison populations.
To examine the arguments on each side of the issue, we turn to Mary Price. She's vice president and general counsel of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, an advocacy group. And William Otis, he's adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School and former special counsel to President George H.W. Bush.
Welcome to you both to the NewsHour.
Mary Price, let me start with you. You think these changes are a good idea. Why?
MARY PRICE, Families Against Mandatory Minimums: Absolutely.
Our criminal justice system has become addicted to solving our social and public safety problems with incarceration. Today, Eric Holder said the department recognizes that and says that we have to step away from using those kinds of policies. We can't incarcerate our way to public safety, and, nor given the inequities, as we pointed out, should we do that.
So I think, it's significant. What he's saying is that, with more flexibility in sentencing, we can be actually safer, and I think that that's very important and something that we absolutely support.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, your argument is that it makes -- is there less crime, or...
MARY PRICE: Our argument is that we're locking up too many of the wrong kind of people for too long for the wrong kinds of crimes.
Certainly, I mean, people who we are afraid of, people who are committing serious crimes, they ought to be incarcerated. We need to be kept safe. But, as he pointed out, half of the people that we're incarcerating are in federal prison for drug crimes, and a significant proportion of them are nonviolent and low-level offenders.
We cannot continue to spend the amount of our -- the amount of our criminal justice dollars on locking up people while the Department of Justice goes looking for money for real public safety reforms.
JUDY WOODRUFF: William Otis, what's your take on these changes?
WILLIAM OTIS, former Special Counsel to President George H.W. Bush: I think the attorney general is making some mistakes.
Your segment started out by pointing out that he said that our criminal justice system is ineffective and unsustainable. It is very costly. No one doubts that. Any major social program that aims to increase public safety is going to be costly.
The attorney general saying that it's ineffective I think is just not so and paints a misleading picture of what our criminal justice system has done. It omits the fact that, far from being the failure that he portrayed, our criminal justice system over the last 20 years has reduced the crime rate by 50 percent.
That's not a picture of a failure. It's a picture of a success. Now, it's true that...
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you're saying that's largely due to these mandatory minimum sentences?
WILLIAM OTIS: It's due in significant part to the fact that we are incarcerating more people and incarcerating them for longer.
Now, it's not due solely to that, of course. There are other measures. Increasing hiring of police, more effective police work, more effective private security measures also contribute to that. But imprisonment has significantly helped bring about this enormous drop in the crime rate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mary Price, what about that?
MARY PRICE: But if there were that kind of link, you would think that when mandatory minimums and over-incarceration policies were adopted, that crime would go down and that when they were abandoned that crime would go up.
But, in fact, recently, the Pew Center on the States found that of the 17 states that had reduced their reliance on over-incarceration, their crime rates also didn't go up. So there's not such a direct link. And this led conservatives from a group called Right on Crime to say, no, this is not the kind of relationship that we can rely on.
In fact, we can reduce incarceration and keep ourselves safe at the same time by using our criminal justice dollars much, much more wisely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me.
William Otis, what about one of the other arguments the attorney general made, that the prison population -- it wasn't the only argument, but one of them certainly is that the prison population way, way overcrowded, and that this will be a way to keep -- to get minor offenders into alternative programs, where they can be rehabilitated?
WILLIAM OTIS: I think anyone would want criminals to be rehabilitated. And there are programs in prison, particularly in federal prison, that aim to do that because most criminals, after all, will be back on the street at one point or another.
What I think -- where I think the attorney general missed the ball was in concentrating on the three-quarters-of-one-percent of the population that is imprisoned, but never mentioning the 99 percent who are not and whose safety has been so significantly improved, again, in part, because of increased incarceration.
I think another problem that the attorney...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just pick up on that. So, you're saying -- you're saying that by focusing just on those who are in prison and not on those who didn't get caught, in other words?
WILLIAM OTIS: It's that and it's more than that.
The people who have not been crime victims on account of the strong measures that we have taken to prevent crime and to bring crime down, those people count, too. That they have not been victims have saved them money, and that's money that counts in the public fisc is well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to quickly respond?
MARY PRICE: Well, I just -- I think that punishment is important in certain cases.
What the attorney general is focusing on are not the -- he's not going to be releasing violent criminals or not charging them appropriately. What he's saying is, is that we can be smarter about the people that we lock up for lengthy periods of time under mandatory minimum sentences. This is a smart-on-crime move.
He's the top law enforcement officer in the country. His job on a day-to-day basis is to keep us safe. He wouldn't be taking these measures if he thought that doing so wouldn't keep us safe.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the other arguments I was reading today is that the -- or points, William Otis, is that the attorney general is not changing the law. The laws that requires mandatory minimum sentences are still on the books. The people now in the prison who were sentenced -- who received those sentences will remain in prison. These are future offenders.
So will this have much of an effect at all is the question.
WILLIAM OTIS: I think you make a very good point.
The attorney general's remarks today actually, I think, seem to be more than they are. At present, federal law contains two safety valves that already offer an opportunity for leniency and for offenders to go below mandatory minimums. One of those has some of the criteria the attorney general outlined today. They allow offenders who otherwise would be subject to mandatory minimums to get out of that if they are not violent, if they still...
JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying that -- I'm sorry. You're saying that the method is already there or the ability to make these changes is already there?
WILLIAM OTIS: And it's already there, and, as a matter of fact, it's frequently used in federal court.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about this point about this doesn't change the law? It's still on the books.
MARY PRICE: Exactly. It doesn't change the law.
And the safety valve to which Bill is referring is terrific. I mean, 80,000 people have benefited with shorter sentences over the years. But it's not enough, clearly. Our prisons are way oversubscribed. We're operating at 140 percent capacity.
What the attorney general is saying is, Congress, the ball is in your court. He made references to several bipartisan bills that would reduce mandatory minimums or provide larger safety valves to them. And he said, I'm going to take the -- we're going to take the first step. We're demonstrating what we can do to reduce the reliance on over-incarceration, and we are going to reach out a hand to Congress and we're going to work with Congress.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there for tonight.
Mary Price, William Otis, we thank you both.
WILLIAM OTIS: Thank you.
MARY PRICE: Thank you so much.
KWAME HOLMAN: A federal judge ruled today New York City police have violated the rights of thousands of people with a stop-and-frisk policy. The tactic is allowed based on a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.But the judge said officers stopped mostly black and Hispanic men using questionable criteria, so the policy intentionally discriminates based on race.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg denied that charge. And he said the policy is a vital deterrent to crime.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, New York: Today, we have fewer guns, fewer shootings, and fewer homicides. The fact that fewer guns are on the street now shows that our efforts have been successful. And there is just no question that stop, question, frisk has saved countless lives. And we know that most of those lives saved based on the statistics have been black and Hispanic young men.
KWAME HOLMAN: Bloomberg vowed to appeal. In the meantime, the judge also appointed an independent monitor to oversee substantial reforms to stop and frisk.
The governor of North Carolina, Republican Pat McCrory, signed a sweeping new voting law today. It mandates a photo I.D. for any would-be voter and reduces early voting by one week. Republicans said it will cut down on fraud. Democrats and voting rights groups said the real purpose is to suppress votes by supporters of Democrats.
Nearly all of the U.S. diplomatic posts that were closed by a terror threat now have reopened. The exception is the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, which remained shuttered today, and officials said it will stay that way indefinitely. In all, 19 diplomatic sites in the Middle East and Africa shut down last week amid warnings of an al-Qaida plot.
Egyptian authorities put off plans today to break up two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.Instead, an almost festive atmosphere prevailed. People marched and chanted slogans, while young men played ping pong and soccer amid drum circles. The military repeatedly has delayed carrying out its promise to use any means necessary to clear the pro-Morsi camp sites.
Britain is warning it may take legal action against Spain in a growing row over the territory of Gibraltar. The rocky outpost sits at the mouth of the Mediterranean, and has been ruled by the British for centuries.
We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.
JAMES MATES: The helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth this morning heading for the Mediterranean, a deployment planned long before this current spat over Gibraltar, but at least one royal Navy vessel will soon be docking in the colony.
However routine, symbols of Britain's continuing commitment are important.
JAMES MATES: Gibraltarians trying to cross back and forth into Spain have endured another trying weekend of long queues at the border, prompting London now to threaten legal action against Spain at what it considers a breach of European rules on free movement.
The flag flying over the rock may be looking a little tattered these days, but Britain insists its legal claims are as impeccable as ever.
This is the Treaty of Utrecht here in the British library signed exactly 300 years ago. It brought an end to the war of the Spanish succession and gave Britain its claim to Gibraltar. Here, it says that the town, the port, and the Castle of Gibraltar is to be enjoyed by Britain forever without any exception or impediment whatsoever.
But the waters, say Spain, were not included, which is why they have objected so strongly to the building of an artificial reef. They say that is to thwart Spanish fishermen. Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, is not retreating one inch, now threatening to join Argentina in an appeal to the U.N.
"That's a possibility," he said. The other is an appeal to the International Court in The Hague. So threats and counterthreats between two supposed E.U. and NATO allies, with the prospect that, for the first time, international judges will be ruling on this 300-year-old dispute. But at least the parties seem to want a resolution in the courts, rather than something much worse.
KWAME HOLMAN: If the issue does go to court, a decision could take years.
The week got off to a lackluster start on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than five points to close at 15,419. The NASDAQ rose nearly 10 points to close near 3,670.
Those are some of the day's major stories.
GWEN IFILL: Next, we turn to the growing criticism of anti-gay laws in Russia. They're generating protests around the world, just as the Russians gear up to host next year's Winter Olympics.
PROTESTERS: Gay rights in Russia! Gay rights in Russia!
GWEN IFILL: The refrains have been similar at demonstrations across Europe and the U.S.
PROTESTER: Hey, hey, ho, ho!
PROTESTERS: Homophobia's got to go.
GWEN IFILL: On Saturday in London, British comedian Stephen Fry didn't mince words in describing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government's new laws.
STEPHEN FRY, comedian: It's just a very convenient way of uniting brutal people, neo-Nazi people, to be your brute squad. And that's what I'm afraid Putin is doing and has done.
GWEN IFILL: Putin signed a measure in June banning public expression of homosexual identity and affection. Supporters said it's to protect the young.
ELENA MIZULINA, State Duma Deputy (through interpreter): It outlaws the spreading of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual attitudes among children, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations, and a distorted perception of social equality between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations.
GWEN IFILL: Gay rights activists argue it gives Putin's government free rein to suppress speech.
MARCIA POELMAN, protest organizer: Well, I think that the law is so vaguely formulated that you can use the law to criminalize every expression of being gay or lesbian. And I think, that way, you erase the homosexuality out of the minds and out of the street. You make it invisible.
GWEN IFILL: Another measure prohibits the adoption of children by foreign couples who are gay or lesbian.
MAN: No more Russian vodkas.
GWEN IFILL: Some opponents of the laws have taken to dumping Russian vodka to make their point. Others are urging a boycott of the Winter Olympics, set for February in the Russian city of Sochi along the Black Sea.
But, so far, there's no sign that appeal is gaining much traction. President Obama said Friday a boycott hurts the wrong people.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do not think it's appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We have got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed.
GWEN IFILL: In the meantime, the president of the International Olympic Committee says he's asked Russian officials to clarify how the law banning homosexual expression will be applied during the Games.
JACQUES ROGGE, International Olympic Committee: The Olympic charter is very clear. It says that sport is a human right and it should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation. And the Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination. So our position is very clear.
GWEN IFILL: The Russian ambassador to the U.N. answered Thursday, speaking to protesters outside his residence in New York.
VITALY CHURKIN, Russian Ambassador to United Nations: All athletes, I can tell you, are going to be just fine -- going to be just fine. But we do expect everybody to respect our laws as well.
GWEN IFILL: Russian police are already reinforcing that point, arresting protesters opposed to the laws.
With me now is Miriam Lanskoy, director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Tell me, how did this come to a head right now?
MIRIAM LANSKOY, National Endowment for Democracy: There's more than one thing going on.
The law itself is part of a general crackdown. There's been several pieces of legislation, laws against, NGOs against public protests.
GWEN IFILL: Non-governmental organizations.
MIRIAM LANSKOY: Non-governmental organizations against different forms of public protests, new restrictions on the Internet.
It's come to a head because to remain in power and to remain the dominant party at all levels, Putin's government needs to clamp down and it needs to find internal enemies and try to change the subject away from things like transparency or elections or government accountability.
GWEN IFILL: Is this a sentiment that runs deeper than the Moscow elites or the government? Is this something that is speaking to an underlying general feeling within the Russian population?
MIRIAM LANSKOY: There's polling that finds -- Russian society is very homophobic still.
They find that most Russians still consider homosexuality to be a disease or a perversion. It's trying to show it as a -- kind of a type of foreign influence. And what Putin has done is to try to use -- to try to create a narrative of what is truly Russian and to use very primitive, nationalist, homophobic, xenophobic attitudes against critics.
GWEN IFILL: Does the Russian Orthodox Church play a role in that?
MIRIAM LANSKOY: Yes, the church plays a role in that.
There was a very famous case of the Pussy Riot, a punk band that performed a song in a church that was against Putin, got three years in jail. Subsequent to that, there were laws to protect Russian values and Russian church.
So the part -- what is really a horrible campaign against gay activists and increasing in violence against gays is part of this larger picture.
GWEN IFILL: Is the debate happening just within Russia? Obviously, we heard the president of the United States speak on it, but are there other people weighing in internationally on this?
MIRIAM LANSKOY: There have been protests. Whenever Putin goes to Europe now, there are protests.
There are protests in Belgium, in Netherlands, in Germany, so it's definitely gathering steam. We have seen that with other types of human rights movements when there's a strong movement in Europe and the U.S. They start to express solidarity with other parts of -- with other parts of the world.
GWEN IFILL: Well, there used to be a law that banned -- outright banned gay sex that was repealed in, what, 1993.
MIRIAM LANSKOY: It was a Soviet law.
GWEN IFILL: It was a Soviet law. So why isn't this -- why aren't they making progress in some ways?
MIRIAM LANSKOY: They were making progress in -- and it became possible. Slightly more space was there. There were underground nightclubs that then became a little bit more open.
But, overall, the society, if you compare it to five years in prison for homosexuality, which was the Soviet standard, it made progress. But, still, a news anchor was fired for coming out publicly. What you also have that is very important in Russia is just heightened activism and the sort of -- a man who found that he couldn't report the news and keep talking about it as though it was happening to someone else, so he came out publicly, which is extremely, extremely rare.
So there is a new generation that's out there that is trying to speak up more and kind of assert ability to come out.
GWEN IFILL: How much would we be paying attention to this in the broader world if it weren't for the Olympics, and how much is the coming Olympics in February driving some of this international debate?
MIRIAM LANSKOY: I think the Olympics is an obvious kind of rallying cry for people.
I think we would be paying attention to it regardless, because there was a terrible killing in May, where a man was tortured and killed. There are Russian groups that have become better at getting their message out that use social networks and kind of get traction abroad. There's a more confident international gay rights movement.
The Obama administration has made gay rights a priority. And that's something that is -- from 2011, they have asked the State Department to start reporting on instances of abuses against LGBT. So there are a number of different things that are coming together, but the Olympics is a focal point for this.
GWEN IFILL: And is this also a focal point? Is this an important central issue for Vladimir Putin himself or is this something...
MIRIAM LANSKOY: Of course, yes. This is his prestige. It's extremely important, both in terms of being a leader on the global stage, in financial terms, and it's a point of pride for him. It's extremely important.
GWEN IFILL: Miriam Lanskoy of the National Endowment for Democracy, thank you so much.
MIRIAM LANSKOY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the nation's largest public works projects is a critical and iconic new bridge spanning San Francisco Bay. But, even as it nears completion, anticipation has been tempered by worries over recently discovered problems along its eastern span, as well as the political and engineering battles that have delayed construction for decades.
Spencer Michels reports.
SPENCER MICHELS: Construction may be nearly finished on a new portion of the Bay Bridge, but concern over broken steel bolts, possible corrosion and long delays has eclipsed any excitement over the upcoming opening of the new roadway.
In 1989, the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake hit the Bay Bridge, which had opened in 1936, causing part of the deck to buckle, killing one motorist and disabling for more than a month the span that still carries 270,000 cars a day between San Francisco and Oakland. It remains the second busiest bridge in the nation.
A design for a new span was proposed, fought over, changed, and eventually built alongside the old one to replace the damaged 2.2 miles that stretch east toward Oakland. But it hasn't opened yet, and as state Senator Mark DeSaulnier charges, the project is way too expensive and way overdue.
SEN. MARK DESAULNIER, D-Calif.: They said that they could do this signature span for $1.1 billion. It's now $6.3 billion and it's 10 years late. It's atrocious. Now, on these mega-projects, whether it's the Big Dig in Boston or this project, the people who advocate for the project tend to come in and lowball the price.
SPENCER MICHELS: While cost overruns are a huge issue, DeSaulnier also says the delays have put the whole Bay Area at risk.
MARK DESAULNIER: The people who I represent pay the tolls that have paid for that negligence. And they have also had their life put at risk by staying on the old bridge.
SPENCER MICHELS: The new span is designed to be much safer than the 75-year-old cantilever section it is replacing. Malcolm Dougherty is director of Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation.
MALCOLM DOUGHERTY, California Department of Transportation: It's also a bridge that's being built in between two major earthquake faults, the Hayward Fault and the San Andreas Fault. This is an incredible feat to build this bridge and replace that one. This bridge is built for ground motions that are expected over a 1,500-year period, 150-year life, which is way above and beyond any other bridge design.
SPENCER MICHELS: Steve Heminger directs the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, one of the lead agencies building the bridge.
STEVEN HEMINGER, Metropolitan Transportation Commission: If we had another Loma Prieta earthquake 60 miles away, it could still damage that old bridge. If we had a Loma Prieta earthquake nearby, it could drop that bridge into the bay. This bridge would survive both of those with relative ease.
SPENCER MICHELS: It's been nearly a quarter-of-a-century since the Bay Bridge was damaged, and since then, there's been no major earthquake since to make matters worse. But one is coming, geologists warn us, and then we will find out how well this fix holds up.
SPENCER MICHELS: New technologies allowed engineers to design the eye-catching 525-foot tower that supports the roadway below, making the bridge the largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world.
But that and other seismic features also came with problems that have cast a shadow over the whole project. The most recent was the discovery that steel bolts put in place to stabilize the bridge during an earthquake were becoming brittle and cracking due to hydrogen forming near them. Fixing the bolts may take months.
Thomas Devine, a professor of material sciences and engineering at U.C. Berkeley, is convinced that the improper use of high -strength steel was one of the reasons the bolts cracked.
THOMAS DEVINE, University of California, Berkeley: If people that are making use of these high-strength steels are not sufficiently tuned into the intricacies of high-strength steels, then they miss the fact that these steels have their limitations.
SPENCER MICHELS: Devine says that the problem should have been foreseen by engineers.
THOMAS DEVINE: There's two possibilities. One is that proper engineers were in place, metallurgists were in place, and yet their warnings were ignored. The other possibility is that the metallurgists were not in place, and that's the reason why we have this particular outcome.
SPENCER MICHELS: Bridge builders counter they had metallurgists on staff, and committees reviewing corrosion protection. That's not to say the broken bolts were not a real problem, says Caltrans' Dougherty.
MALCOLM DOUGHERTY: The bolts are a very real construction problem. Nobody expected 32 of those bolts to break once they were tensioned up in place.
SPENCER MICHELS: Berkeley's Devine says too few of the bolts have been examined to come up with a proper fix, a charge dismissed by Heminger, whose has come up with a solution.
STEVEN HEMINGER: Those bolts are going to be replaced with a saddle, so that the device that they were going to secure will be just as secure in the future.
SPENCER MICHELS: Other problems have plagued the construction project as well. Devine says tendons -- bundles of high-strength wire under tension -- were supposed to be grouted within a 30-day period to protect them, but were left exposed for 15 months. He charges that testing has been inadequate.
THOMAS DEVINE: During this period of time, corrosion has taken place. It's simply not known whether or not these strands sustain stress corrosion cracking, hydrogen-assisted cracking.
SPENCER MICHELS: That problem has been resolved, say the bridge builders, who chafe at the stream of bad publicity.
STEVEN HEMINGER: I have to say that most of the criticism that we have heard lately about this bridge, I would call phantom problems. They're not real problems. They're just somebody digging deep enough and finding some irregularity and blowing it out of proportion.
SPENCER MICHELS: He's also critical of the local press, which has covered the bridges woes extensively.
STEVEN HEMINGER: I have to say, lately, I think they have probably been overdoing it, in terms of scaring people so much about the integrity of this structure that folks are forgetting that the bridge we ought to be worried about in terms of safety is not the one I'm standing on. It's the one over there.
SPENCER MICHELS: In fact, from all indications, the public is concerned and angry about the delays and safety.
CAROLYN RAYMOND, San Francisco: I think they should get it right and not open it until it's absolutely safe. They need to go back to company and make sure that we have 100 percent safe bolts.
HILARY HIDE, San Francisco: I think that they should open it, the new bridge, because I think the current bridge is not a good solution to drive on.
SPENCER MICHELS: Some of that concern over safety and costs on the Bay Bridge parallels anxiety about other bridges and roadways across the nation, says Caltrans' Dougherty.
MALCOLM DOUGHERTY: It's very representative of a lot of infrastructure projects and the transportation needs throughout the country as far as aging infrastructure.
SPENCER MICHELS: But fixing large infrastructure requires good management, and that, Senator DeSaulnier says, has been lacking. Caltrans has taken the brunt of the criticism.
MARK DESAULNIER: Caltrans is dysfunctional. These are big insular institutions that are not responsive to the public.
STEVEN HEMINGER: When Caltrans was dealing with this project by themselves, there was very little oversight and there was very little transparency. We would go for years at a time and not know what was going on, and then there would be this huge cost explosion.
SPENCER MICHELS: As a result, the state legislature formed a three-agency committee to oversee the whole project, and keep it on schedule. Along the way, higher tolls -- now up to $6 a car -- were adopted to pay for bridge construction.
STEVEN HEMINGER: Ironically -- and most people I think tend to think that the federal government is still the big player in infrastructure in America. It's not. And this bridge is a very good example.
This $6 billion bridge has 5 percent federal money. You're going to be waiting a long time if you're going to be waiting around for Uncle Sam or for the folks in Sacramento to bail out our infrastructure problem.
SPENCER MICHELS: Still, some officials fear the annoyance at cost overruns and delays on the Bay Bridge may have doomed public support for other bridges and roads that need attention. And no one is yet certain when the bolts will be fixed or when the new bridge will open to traffic. It was supposed to be Labor Day, but it may be closer to Christmas.
GWEN IFILL: Work has now begun to replace the broken bolts with a steel saddle. Caltrans says the process will be completed by December 10.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the verdict in the trial of mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
A jury in federal court found him guilty on more than 30 counts today, including murder, racketeering and extortion, as the head of the notorious Winter Hill Gang. Bulger, now 83 years old, was convicted of 11 of 19 murders that prosecutors said he committed or helped orchestrate in Boston during the 1970s and '80s.
He spent 16 years on the run, becoming one of the FBI's most wanted, before he was finally captured in June 2011. During his days in Boston, Bulger also was an FBI informant, and the agency's own dark history with the gangster became a big focus of the trial.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz acknowledged that as she praised the verdict.
CARMEN ORTIZ, U.S. Attorney, District of Massachusetts: This day of reckoning for Bulger has been a long time in coming, too long, in fact, due to his decades-long of corruption and corrupting law enforcement officials in this city.
And it was a corruption that not only allowed him to operate a violent organization in this town, but it also allowed him to slip away when honest law enforcement was closing in. I hope that the victims, the family, and many others who suffered tremendously and in some cases were actually destroyed by James Bulger's criminal actions will take some solace in the fact that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Bulger's defense attorney, Jay Carney, said his client would appeal. But he noted that Bulger wasn't convicted of other murder charges made by the prosecution.
J.W. CARNEY, attorney for Whitey Bulger: Jim Bulger was very pleased at how the trial went and even pleased by the outcome.
I don't think he expected that nine times the jury would come back and say not guilty or not proven. It was important to him that the government corruption be exposed and important to him that people see firsthand the deals that the government was able to make with certain people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To walk us through the verdict, we're joined once again by Kevin Cullen. He's a columnist with The Boston Globe.
Welcome back to the NewsHour, Kevin.
First of all, tell us about the scene in the newsroom when the jury reported the verdict.
KEVIN CULLEN, The Boston Globe: Well, it was pretty obvious that the families -- one thing I saw, facing them -- I could see over Whitey's shoulder.
I was in the -- I actually was purposefully in the other courtroom where the camera was on Whitey, and I could see the families in back of him. And the Donahue family was obviously thrilled. The Davis family was crushed. The Leonard family was crushed, because those murders -- in the Davis case, that was one of the women.
He was charged with 19 murders, Judy. The only two he really objected to were the women, because that flew in the face of his phony narrative as this gangster with scruples. And he was convicted of the murder of Deborah Hussey, who was the stepdaughter of his partner in crime, Steve Flemmi.
And the jury came back with a verdict of no finding in the killing of Debra Davis. Now, I heard his lawyer just describe that he was pleased with the findings. I would say that that is putting the best face on a very bad day for Whitey Bulger, because the jury convicted him of 11 of 19 murders.
It was pretty obvious to us in press row that the jury did a very meticulous job. And in any murder or any criminal act that he was charged with there wasn't corroborative evidence, they didn't convict. So in a lot of the old murders in the '70s that involved gangland murders, when it was just John Martorano, the witness, when it was just his word, the jury said, we're not going for that.
Any time there was anything supported, there was a corroborating witness or corroborating event, the jury convicted. He was convicted of almost all charges. So, like I said, the defense can spin it as much as they want. Whitey Bulger is going to die in prison. And the idea that he didn't kill women, well, I'm sorry. The jury said otherwise.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What was his reaction when the verdicts were read?
KEVIN CULLEN: No emotion. No emotion whatsoever. I looked at his face. That's where my eyes were, right on his face. And he showed no emotions whatsoever. He played it like a poker player.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Explain a little bit more about the difference between the murder counts that he was -- of course, there were racketeering, extortion charges as well. But what were the principle differences between the counts he was found guilty on and the ones he wasn't?
KEVIN CULLEN: Well, it comes to corroborating evidence.
As I said, if we -- I went through the charges that he was -- they found not proven. I only heard one not guilty. And the not guilty was on an extortion of a bookmaker named Kevin Hayes. And that was the only one I heard.
Everything I else I heard wasn't proven. That's a distinction. And then, obviously, in the Debra Davis killing, it was no finding. That means the jurors were split. And some thought there wasn't enough evidence; some thought there was.
But, if you look, if you go down there and parse it, Judy, what you will see is that whenever it was just the word of John Martorano, not supported by either Kevin Weeks, a very key witness, or Steve Flemmi himself, that the jury didn't find him guilty of those counts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were saying families of the women -- the woman whose murder he wasn't found not guilty of, they were upset.
KEVIN CULLEN: Well, he was upset.
Steve Davis and I actually had lunch together waiting for the verdict. And, you know, we talked about it. Steve Davis is -- actually thinks that Steve Flemmi killed his sister. So in some respects, he didn't agree with it, the way the government presented it, per se.
But, as Steve said to me, he has no doubt that Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi conspired to kill his sister. He has no doubt in his mind. So he was upset. He was upset by the verdict. As he said to me, at least it wasn't a not guilty. At least it wasn't a not proven. They said it was no finding.
That means the jurors were split on this, that some obviously believed that Bulger wasn't present and involved in the murder, and some felt that the evidence was just too weak. It really did come down to Steve Flemmi's word, not necessarily against Whitey, because he didn't take the stand, but it was Steve Flemmi's word. And the jury had sat there for three to four days listening to how much of a degenerate Steve Flemmi is.
You have to understand, Judy, the bulk of the government case were from people, they're all admitted killers, drug dealers, and thugs. And so the jury had to parse that and go through it. From where I sit, I think they did a heck of a job. They did a really, really good job.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much damage was done to the FBI by this trial, by what was -- what -- Bulger's connection to the FBI?
KEVIN CULLEN: Well, this is -- actually, the damage to the FBI is going on for 20-odd years now.
I was part of The Globe -- The Boston Globe spotlight team that exposed Bulger as an informant in 1998. The damage began then. Nine years later, Judge Mark Wolf, one of the few heroes in this sordid tale, was able to force the FBI to admit that Bulger was their informant. And then, since that time, there has been a series of civil cases and other criminal cases.
His -- John Connolly, his FBI handler, is now doing 40 years for murder in Florida. This was the end. This was the denouement. This was the end of it all, Whitey going to trial. So we have actually known this. So the damage to the FBI was done. And that's one of the conflicts we saw, that the victims' families didn't like the way the government presented this case, because they believe the government was minimizing FBI and Justice Department corruption.
And that was a tactic, because the FBI didn't want to -- that was Bulger's defense. It was like, look at -- don't pay attention to me. Pay attention to these corrupt FBI agents. As the jury saw through it, Judy, the FBI clearly enabled and protected and actually helped Whitey Bulger kill people. But, at the end of the day, it wasn't the FBI that shot people in the head, buried them in shallow graves and removed their teeth for identification purposes. It was Whitey Bulger.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, a remarkable story.
Kevin Cullen with The Boston Globe, thank you.
KEVIN CULLEN: Thank you, Judy.
GWEN IFILL: We continue our ongoing look at surveillance and privacy.
Tonight, who's watching while you drive?
Jeffrey Brown has our look.
JEFFREY BROWN: You see them on roadsides, bridges, toll plazas and in the hands of police. More and more these days, when Americans take to the road in their cars, cameras are in place to photograph and record their license plates.
Police forces are widely adopting the technology. The date, time, and location of each image is uploaded into a database and can be used for a variety of things, from enforcing traffic laws to tracking stolen cars and suspects sought for criminal activity. But these license readers have also raised privacy concerns.
We look at the issue now with technology consultant Sid Heal, formerly a commander with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and Catherine Crump of the ACLU. She wrote a recent study evaluating the program.
Well, welcome to both of you.
Sid Heal, let me start with you. You have used this technology a lot. Tell us more about how these cameras work. Who's using them, and what are they good for?
SID HEAL, technology consultant: Well, they're still in their infancy as far as employment.
But in the simplest understanding, it's just an electronic hot sheet, although it saves the data, as opposed to a hot sheet, which we just compared the license plate with against known wanted license plates.
JEFFREY BROWN: A hot sheet, meaning you actually have the license plate number?
SID HEAL: Right.
Basically, what happens was is, for years and years and years, decades, we would get a piece of paper at the beginning of the shift that identified vehicles that were wanted for various crimes or for investigation. And then, if we came across them throughout the night, then we would stop time and ask them and basically finish the investigation.
The automated license plate reader does that same thing electronically, only far more efficiently.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Catherine Crump, you have looked into the usage of it. What questions does it raise for you?
CATHERINE CRUMP, American Civil Liberties Union: It really depends how automated license plate readers are used.
If they're simply used to scan a vehicle's license plate and then check to see whether that car is wanted for some reason, perhaps because it's stolen or there's an outstanding arrest warrant for the driver, the ACLU doesn't have a problem with that.
The problem, though, is that, increasingly, law enforcement agencies are saving all of the photographs these license plate readers take, and not just of individuals who are wanted for a crime, but for every single person whose car passes them. And that information is being stored for increasingly long periods of time.
Our concern is that what's happening is these plate readers are being used to create massive database us of where innocent Americans have traveled, and that these databases are being kept, tracking people stretching back for months, or even years.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is there evidence of actual misuse, or this more a fear or prospective or possible misuse?
CATHERINE CRUMP: There is evidence of actual misuse depending on how the plate readers are implemented.
So, for instance, the New York Police Department has purportedly driven-license-plate-reader-equipped vehicles by mosques in New York City to learn about their attendees. And in the U.K., there have been examples of individuals -- an individual who was a participant in a political protest having his plate added to a hot list because of his participation in those types of events.
So license plate readers do pose potential civil liberties risk.
JEFFREY BROWN: And let me ask Sid Heal to respond to that.
You feel this is effective as a tool for police. Tell us how effective it is. And respond to this question of the potential and the actual cases of misuse.
SID HEAL: Well, it's very effective.
Where we could run a plate maybe, oh, 20 an hour, and that would really be on the high end, the technology allows us to do 1,200 an hour. One of the advantages we have is behavioral profiling. There are certain characteristics that indicate criminal activity. And we have done that for years and years.
This doesn't change anything that we have always had the ability to do. We just have the ability of doing it better.
JEFFREY BROWN: And what about the allegations of misuse?
SID HEAL: That's oversimplified, for the simple reason is, is that same argument could be made against the hot sheet.
If somebody is going to abuse a system, they will abuse its regardless of how it manifests itself. In this particular case, you could do that same exact scenario and put it on a hot sheet. Nothing would change, except for the technology.
JEFFREY BROWN: So you don't find that there is a -- this is not a privacy question for you? It's -- as long as it's used correctly?
SID HEAL: I will just tell you, it's a privacy issue. There's no question about that. You don't get the amount of law enforcement you can afford. You get the amount that you can tolerate. And that's one of the things, that none of these technologies come without tradeoffs.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Ms. Crump, go ahead and respond to that, because that is the question, is the tradeoffs involved in better law enforcement.
CATHERINE CRUMP: You know, in some ways, I think that the two of us share some common ground.
We both agree that the technology can be quite effective and that there are legitimate uses. But I do think the fact that this technology allows police officers to examine far more license plates than was previously possible makes a difference.
We recently issued a report in which we demonstrated by looking at police departments around the country that the vast majority of data that these plates -- collect is about completely innocent people. You're talking about 99.99 percent of the data collected.
And I think that you shouldn't have vast troves of data tracking where innocent people have gone sitting out there for prolonged periods of time. It's one thing if police departments want to hang on to this data for days or weeks, but it shouldn't stretch on for months or even years.
JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just ask you both, finally and briefly, if you would, are there rules about this? Are there safeguards in place? Or are there ideas that you have -- let me start with you, Ms. Crump -- about what you would like to see to allow law enforcement to use these things the way you think they should be used, but not abused?
CATHERINE CRUMP: Today, there are not enough rules in place protecting privacy.
One example of that is the fact that there are only five states currently that have legislation in place regulating how police department cans use this technology. Otherwise, they're wholly unregulated. The report we have issued contains -- contains recommendations that we think can serve as the bedrock for good state laws protecting people's privacy and allowing law enforcement to use this.
So, for instance, we suggest that law enforcement agencies only use license plate readers to check plates against hot lists or where they have a reason to believe that a crime has been committed, and not to simply troll through these troves of data looking for evidence of crimes.
We also think that hot lists need to be updated regularly, and that police department should make their policies for use of license plate readers public, so that citizens have an opportunity to participate in deciding what those policies should be. So, so those are just some of our recommendations.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, Mr. Heal, what do you think about the safeguards that are already in place and what more could be done?
SID HEAL: She responded with about five or six different suggestions.
I will say this. We're in agreement that, by and large, it's unregulated. And without some demonstrable need, I would also have privacy concerns. But, on the other hand, the public are the ultimate arbiters of how much they're willing to put up with.
And I will give you just one example. There is no credit card, not even a library card, that is not indexing some database. And, as a result of that, there's a huge amount of information that's being gathered by businesses and your fellow citizens that have nothing to do with criminal activity and are completely beyond the purview of the U.S. Constitution.
The biggest problem I think I would have with it is the fact that a license plate is required to drive on the streets and highways of the United States. And now you're saying basically that I have to have this license plate, but it's not OK to look at it. I mean, there's a disconnect here.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will leave it there, but that -- this debate will continue, no doubt.
Sid Heal, Catherine Crump, thank you both very much.
With students heading back into the classroom, NewsHour Extra has compiled a list of our top 15 lessons and resources, which cover core academic subject areas ranging from civics to math, and shed light on some of the summer’s most important news stories, including the George Zimmerman trial and the ongoing turmoil in Egypt.
By Nick Corcodilos
LinkedIn charges premium job seeker subscribers to move their resumes higher up in the list of applicants employers see for specific jobs. Photo courtesy of Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares how he feels about the popular site LinkedIn and job boards more generally. LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and Monster declined to comment. Next week, he'll return to providing insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
You're a job seeker. You pay LinkedIn $29.95 per month for a "Job Seeker Premium" membership so that, when you apply for jobs, you can artificially "move your job applications to the top of the list as a Featured Applicant." But the employer sees a "badge" beside your name and knows you paid for the position. Do you feel a little slimy for doing it, or wonder what the employer thinks of you now? More to the point, did that 30 bucks pay off?
You're an employer and you're hiring. You pay LinkedIn $3,950 for 10 job postings to help you find the best, most qualified hires. When LinkedIn delivers job applicants, do you care that those at the very top of the list paid LinkedIn for their positioning -- while possibly better, more qualified candidates who didn't pay are pushed to the bottom? Do you care that you can't even turn this "feature" off?
Whether you're the job applicant or the employer, you'd probably feel cheated. Imagine LinkedIn was a headhunter who charged the employer to fill a job, but also took money from an applicant to submit her resume first. That's called double-dipping.
Welcome to the "job board" model for recruitment advertising, where the middle man charges everyone and manipulates the database, and where matching qualifications to job requirements is way down on the list of concerns, right beside those poor "basic users" who didn't pay to play.
(Clarification: Since I first wrote about this, LinkedIn has confirmed that you can pay to move your application to the top of the recruiter's list when you're applying for jobs that employers pay to advertise. When employers pay to search the entire LinkedIn database, LinkedIn says positioning is not for sale. So LinkedIn is double-dipping only some of the time.)
It's no secret that once a job is filled, a job board like LinkedIn loses two sources of revenue: the employer and the job seeker. So a successful business model requires that everyone keep searching. Job board revenues go up when employers and job hunters keep returning to post and search, and when both pay to play.
In the old days, before the Internet, only employers paid to fill jobs. They bought ads in newspapers and magazines to solicit job applicants, and they paid recruiters and headhunters for help. Charging the job seeker was virtually unheard of, especially for skilled and professional jobs.MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: Should You Disclose Your Salary to a Headhunter?
In the 1990s, the economy tanked and everyone in the employment business scrambled to get revenue any way they could. Big outplacement firms, normally paid enormous fees by companies ($15,000 a head was not unusual) to help their downsized workers find new jobs, started charging fees to other companies that hired those same workers. Recruiting firms often started selling services to job seekers -- resume writing, coaching, even the promise of a job when they had no control over any jobs -- at the same time they were billing employers.
By the time the Internet came along, everyone was primed to pay fees for everything related to employment. The new job boards were making money coming and going. Ironic, isn't it, that the hue and cry today is that there's a great talent shortage, even in the midst of the biggest talent glut we've ever seen?
Could it be that the job boards and business networks -- like LinkedIn -- are not doing the job? Could it be that simple recruitment advertising has turned into a two-faced employment system that charges for lists of jobs and lists of people, without reliably delivering jobs or hires? Indications are that this is exactly what's going on.
The Dirty Little Secret About Job Boards
My analysis of annual surveys by employment industry watchdog firm CareerXroads reveals that during the course of a decade in which job boards' revenues exploded, the percentage of hires made through the boards decreased by about 50 percent.Nick's analysis of annual surveys from CareerXroads shows a decrease in the percent of hiring through job boards. Graph courtesy of Nick Corcodilos.
Monster Worldwide, the parent of one of the biggest job boards - Monster.com -- generated almost $1 billion in revenues last year. It claims it offers employers access to more than 23 million job seekers. But careful analysis of CareerXroads' survey results suggests that Monster.com was reported by employers as the source of all hires only about 1.3 percent of the time.
CareerBuilder, the other big job board, is co-owned by Tribune Company, Gannett Company and The McClatchy Company. CareerBuilder claims more than 24 million unique monthly visitors and says it "helps match the right talent with the right opportunity more often than any other site." Yet employers reported to CareerXroads that they make only about 1.2 percent of all their hires via CareerBuilder.
CareerXroads has not included LinkedIn among job boards in its "source of hires" surveys, but when I asked co-founder Mark Mehler whether he and his partner Gerry Crispin think LinkedIn is a social network or a job board, Mehler said, "Gerry and I both believe it is both."
So, is LinkedIn a job board? Of course it is. In spite of a marketing push to distance itself from its competitors, LinkedIn does what job boards do: Takes money to post jobs, warehouses resumes (profiles) from job seekers, sells employers access to those resumes and provides job listings to job hunters. LinkedIn's job listings don't look any different from Monster.com's job listings. And LinkedIn sells job postings to employers almost exactly the same way Monster sells job postings. LinkedIn even charges the same price to post a job as Monster.com -- $395. (The two links to LinkedIn require that you log in to your LinkedIn account to view them)
The promise of online job boards is that algorithms help make good matches. The trouble is, employers complain they still can't find the hires they need. Keep in mind that, according to Paul Solman's Under/Unemployment Total, 26.2 million Americans are looking for full-time jobs while over 3 million jobs are vacant.
It seems that high-flying job boards like LinkedIn are actually in the business of selling you whatever you're willing to pay for -- and, nowadays, the employment industry is charging desperate job seekers and naïve employers alike.
Who's the Dummy?
LinkedIn isn't the only double-dipper on the profitable employment scene that takes money to manipulate who stands out when employers review job applicants.
CareerBuilder will "give your resume increased visibility" when employers search its database for qualified job seekers -- if you pay for it. You can buy "92% increased exposure" for $150. (CareerBuilder has been doing this for over 10 years, at the same price: "CareerBuilder's New Ad Campaign: What's a sucker worth?")
CareerBuilder's upgrade levels boost the visibility of a candidate's resume. Screen shot courtesy of Nick Cordcodilos.
Explains CareerBuilder: "Our resume database displays resumes by relevancy to the employer's search." You'd think that means the database matches people to an employer's defined criteria to find the right people, and that CareerBuilder then delivers the most relevant resumes.
You'd be wrong. CareerBuilder's "Resume Upgrade increases your relevancy score" without any changes to your qualifications. All it takes to manipulate the results of an employer's search for the right talent is $150.
Who's the dummy: the job seeker paying $150, or the employer paying thousands to get manipulated results?
Now let's take a closer look at one Ask The Headhunter reader's experience with LinkedIn.
Richard Tomkins: I received an e-mail from LinkedIn, with a vertical list of five or six firms and logos, suggesting that I could be interested in these jobs. One of them caught my attention and I applied. I simply clicked on the "View job" link, uploaded a copy of my resume, and clicked the submit button. Immediately, a very questionable pop-up appeared. For $29.95 per month, LinkedIn has offered to sell me an "upgrade" that will put me at the top of the results this employer will see when it searches the LinkedIn database for job applicants. I find this to be unethical and immoral. How about you?
When Richard Tomkins brought this to my attention, I had to see it for myself.
I found a LinkedIn e-mail in my Outlook mailbox about "Jobs you may be interested in." (These are delivered automatically and frequently to free users of LinkedIn. They're the bait.) I logged onto LinkedIn and applied for a job. This is the pop-up that appeared on my screen. (It's the hook.)
After applying for a job on LinkedIn, Nick received this ad to boost his visibility to employers. Screen shot courtesy of Nick Corcodilos.
LinkedIn was ready to make me look like a top candidate without any consideration for whether my qualifications were better than any other applicant's -- if I forked over 30 bucks and agreed to ongoing monthly fees.
"Move Your Job Application to the Top of the Recruiter's List!"
I couldn't believe that LinkedIn was going to sucker an employer -- who was paying thousands to find the best job applicants -- by putting me at the top of the applicant list just because I paid for it.
(Tomkins got the exact same pop-up ad six months ago, listing the same #2 and #3 profiles beneath his own. He notes they are in the "San Francisco Bay Area," thousands of miles from his own location. You'd think LinkedIn would gin up a pitch that at least delivers "results" that include "candidates" from the same geographic area!)
Could LinkedIn be taking money from job seekers and misleading employers with fake applicant rankings? Thinking that Tomkins and I had somehow gotten this wrong, I did what any LinkedIn user might do: I contacted customer service.
A LinkedIn representative, LaToya (no last name given), explained via e-mail that, if I pay the $29.95, the advantage "is that your at the top of the list rather than listed toward the bottom as a Basic applicant. [sic]"
But what about those other poor suckers, the Basic applicants, who ride free -- and whose qualifications might be better than mine?
And what about employers -- don't they get upset when they see someone paid to get bumped to the top of the list of applicants? Another customer service representative, Monica, told me that, "Unfortunately, there isn't a way for the employer to turn this off."
So job seekers pay for top billing, and the employer knows the top applicants paid for their positions because their names are highlighted and have a little badge beside them. (Wink, wink! You paid, but employers know you're not really the top applicant!)
This is today's leading website for recruiting and job hunting?
The Dive from Classy Business Network into a Cheesy Job Board
In a CMO.com article I wrote, "LinkedIns And Outs For Reaping The Network's Rewards," it's easy to see how LinkedIn made its reputation as the leading professional network online. It's the best online database of resumes and professional profiles. But around the time the company went public, new management reached for quick revenues, filling a boiler room with telemarketers on heavy quotas. LinkedIn decided the best model to adopt was not innovation in the social space, but the churn-'em and burn-'em business model of the job boards.
The changes came quickly. In summer of 2011, we were treated to "LinkedIn's New Button: Instantly dumber job hunting & hiring." A user merely clicked an on-screen button which made it ultra-easy to apply to lots of jobs, making it clear that quality of fit was certainly not a top concern. This was truly silly job-board-class "innovation," to be outdone only by the more recent, meaningless "endorsements" that accomplish little but generate enormous numbers of profitable clicks and traffic for LinkedIn.
But if this shift in business model was intended to impress Wall Street, Avondale Partners' equities analyst Randle Reece doesn't see the upside of LinkedIn turning into another job board. Reece explained:
"An exec of a big white collar staffing company told me his firm's recruiters had found LinkedIn to be valuable mainly for candidate research -- not recruiting. Too much wasted time, too low response rates. He said if LinkedIn settles into that niche, there's less value added and much more competition."
According to The Wall Street Journal, second-quarter sales for the company's marketing-solutions and advertising business are up 36 percent. What's more interesting is that sales of premium subscriptions -- like the one that boosts your resume to the top of the applicant list -- are up a whopping 68 percent to $73 million.
How is LinkedIn pulling this off? According to SEC filings, in 2010 LinkedIn had just 207 people working in sales and marketing. At the end of the last quarter, it had 1,822. Whether viewed by Wall Street or a casual observer, it seems that such extreme sales staff growth is not sustainable, and that it might even signal problems with the business model.
LinkedIn's offer to move you to the top of the applicant list, if you pay, suggests LinkedIn's reputation is in a race to the bottom of the highly competitive job-board business. (Well, maybe not the very bottom. That's probably occupied by TheLadders, which is today defending itself in a New York District Court class action suit.) Even at the end of 2012, LinkedIn signaled pretty clearly that its transformation was complete ("LinkedIn: Just another job board"). Gone was the network and connect theme on the homepage, supplanted by job board advertisements. Every LinkedIn professional profile -- once intended to promote high-quality networking -- is now a resume to be rented to employers after LinkedIn charges job seekers for "special placement."
LinkedIn seems less focused on helping its members compete for jobs based on their skills, qualifications, or even on the strength of their network connections -- and inordinately focused on conditioning its members to pay to get employer's attention with cheesy badges, yellow highlights around their names, and paid positioning on applicant lists.
The Lance Armstrong League
But let's get back to Richard Tomkins. LinkedIn recently awarded him a "blue ribbon" because his LinkedIn page is "in the top 10 percent of the most viewed entries."
Tomkins is upset:
"If I am in the top 10%, it's not translating into more interviews, let alone a job. 20 million people got this award? That's the size of a big city or a small country. Should I laugh or cry? What significance does this really have to me? I was okay with their business model, up to the point when they became a job board. If your name is at the top of the list only because you paid for it, that puts you in the same league as Lance Armstrong."
Then Tomkins speculates about the "pay for positioning" deal and guesses at how the professional network's business model is likely to evolve in the future:
"What if three different applicants -- all with premium accounts -- apply for the same job? Who gets to be on top? Maybe they have another pop-up stacked up, one that offers the user a premium-plus-plus, extra-premium account for $300."
Is a sucker "endorsed" every minute?
LinkedIn started out as a credible business network that became the business network online -- and potentially the standard-bearer for professional identity integrity. Since it started selling recruiting and job seeker services, it seems LinkedIn has slid down the slippery slope of inconsistent, questionable offers and business practices. A generous explanation is that one hand (LinkedIn marketing?) doesn't know what the other (LinkedIn product management?) is doing.
But the question for everyone else is, why are employers (who pay to access the database) and job seekers (who pay for database positioning) playing along while LinkedIn sells everyone out with this game of payola?
And where does it leave LinkedIn users who just want to meet one another to do business? While some of us are working to help job seekers form appropriate, substantive relationships that they can cultivate -- and benefit from -- over time, LinkedIn keeps coming up with silly products that cheapen the meaning of networking and connecting with other people.
This seems contrary to founder Reid Hoffman's original vision. LinkedIn is not innovating as a professional network. It's become a job board that's marketing relationships as commodities you can buy, while it pretends real reputations come from members throwing "endorsements" at people they don't know -- which seems about as useful as the old Facebook practice of "throwing sheep" at your online friends.
Robyn Feldberg is an executive resume writer at Abundant Success Coach who also creates LinkedIn profiles for her clients. Her comments underline the reputation train wreck LinkedIn seems headed toward:
"I didn't like it when CareerBuilder.com offered its premium placement service, and I don't like that LinkedIn has resurrected this deplorable practice... I understand that LinkedIn is a business with expenses and that they need to make a profit, but in my humble opinion, this is going to do nothing but hurt their reputation and eventually their bottom line. Relationships are built on trust, and you simply can't trust a company that engages in unethical business practices, and yes, I think this is unethical."
If a client paid me to fill a job, and if the top candidate I delivered to the client was one who paid me to submit her resume first, I'd be cheating. That's unethical. LinkedIn, what kind of headhunter or recruiter are you?
The Employment Crisis: It's Not Just the Economy, Stupid
As I've written often in the past, I believe the automation of recruiting, job seeking and hiring has exacerbated America's employment crisis. Online forms and tools like the "apply with LinkedIn button" make it too easy for the wrong applicants to apply for jobs, and harder for employers to find the right ones. But when a job applicant's position on the stack of resumes can be bought, the search for the best-qualified candidates is even further compromised, and so is our economy.
America's jobs crisis needs to be looked at as a failure of employers and job boards to ensure an accurate and fair employment process. Blaming unskilled and improperly educated job seekers is a fool's errand, as Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli demonstrates in his book, "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It." The talent is out there; it's just getting lost in a system that employers have permitted to supplant more sound, accurate recruiting methods and their own good judgment.
Everyone from employers to job seekers to the U.S. Department of Labor should be scrutinizing the mechanics that control recruiting, job seeking and hiring -- and how these systems contribute to the employment crisis.
Readers: Have you paid LinkedIn to boost your job application to the top of the list, and for "premium" standing? Does it pay off? If you're an employer, how do you feel about paying to view applicants who in turn paid for their position on the list? Is this an acceptable new standard of recruitment advertising?
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."
Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!
Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker speaks during a June news conference to discuss his plans to campaign for the Democratic nomination for the seat of late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Voters head to the polls Tuesday for the primary election leading up to October's special election. Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images
Voters are at the polls in New Jersey Tuesday to select candidates who will face off for the Oct. 16 special election to fill the Senate seat vacated in June with the passing of five-term Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
The Democratic candidates are Newark mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Frank Pallone, Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly Sheila Oliver, and Rep. Rush Holt.
On the Republican ballot is businessman and former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, who served as senior policy analyst for the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity. The other candidate is upstart Alieta Eck, a doctor.
Before he was mayor, Booker served as a Newark City Council member and is particularly well known for his charismatic public persona and lively Twitter profile. Pallone has served as a representative from NJ's 6th district since 1988 and played a leading role in passing the Affordable Care Act.
Rep.Holt is a former professor of physics and public policy at Swarthmore College, and appeared as a contestant on "Jeopardy!" where he beat the computer known as "Watson." Oliver is a veteran of the New Jersey legislature, having served on the General Assembly for nine years, and on the East Orange Board of Education for ten years before that.
Booker is leading strongly in a Quinnipiac poll released recently.
Most believe Booker will prevail Tuesday and go on to be elected as the next senator. We talked with three reporters covering the race to get a clear understanding of how that happened, what it means for Booker's relationship with Gov. Chris Christie and what it could mean for politics nationally. They are Kate Zernike of the New York Times, Matt Friedman a political reporter for the Star Ledger, and Jonathan Tamari a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
If elected Tuesday, Booker would be the first black senator since Barack Obama. The dynamics of this special election have been somewhat unusual, making him the most likely winner for a number of reasons.
It's not a secret that Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are close friends. From filming chummy web videos together, to publicly praising each other through Twitter and the press, the Newark mayor and popular Republican governor have undoubtedly found common ground. When Christie, who is up for re-election this year, decided to hold the special election in October instead of November, pushing the party primaries into the dog days of summer, many saw this as a mutually beneficial political strategy.
"They were very worried about running on the same ballot together," said Zernike. "Christie is spending $24 million to have the election earlier in October so that they don't run into this issue. Christie has really engineered this whole plan to help both of them. He has set the dynamics of this race."
The October date benefits Booker in a number of ways. Booker has a national profile, frequently appearing on television and winning endorsements from celebrities like Oprah. By narrowing the length between the primary and the general election, which is only about 50 days, Booker's Republican opponent will have a very short time frame to win over voters. This makes it more likely that voters will go for the candidate they are most familiar with. Setting the primary during the beach-going months also benefits a popular candidate like Booker because voter turnout is expected to be very low.
"In New Jersey it is hard to build name recognition because of the media landscape," said Friedman. "The local television news most people watch is centered around New York and Philadelphia, and they don't cover New Jersey politics very much. People often know New York politicians better than their own. And Booker already had that name recognition coming into this race."
The timing of the election benefits Christie as well, for it makes it less likely that Booker's liberal base will show up to vote in November when the Republican will be on the ballot. Neither of the two Republican challengers, Steve Lonegan and Alieta Eck, have been officially endorsed by Christie. Lonegan is considered the front-runner in Tuesday's GOP primary, as Eck has never held public office before and has much less money at her disposal.
Although Christie vowed to support the Republican nominee, the governor has stayed far away from the tea party candidate. "He has a fine line to walk," Friedman pointed out. "He can't be seen throwing Lonegan overboard, but in a blue state he doesn't want to associate too closely with Lonegan. Lonegan can also raise uncomfortable issues for Christie, like on climate change ... Remember he has those connections with the Koch brothers. He casts doubt on whether climate change is man-made very frequently."
New Jersey is a Democratic-leaning state, especially when it comes to statewide office. They have not elected a Republican to the Senate in more than 40 years. It is for this reason that politicians have viewed the real race to be for the Democratic nomination. Yet the three other Democratic candidates have struggled to get a real foothold in the race.
Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt have experienced a difficult time differentiating themselves from one another. Pallone built much of his platform around the fact that he was endorsed by members of the Lautenberg family, and therefore can be seen as the 'heir apparent' for the seat. Holt has set himself apart by campaigning as the true progressive, advocating to repeal the Patriot Act, and to impose a carbon tax. He has claimed to solve problems with knowledge-based solutions, frequently pointing to his profession as a physicist.
Sheila Oliver has appealed to the women's vote as the only female candidate, and the first potential female senator from the state. She is from the same part of the state as Booker, which is a bit of a wild card for Tuesday's elections. "Cory is honestly more popular outside of Newark," said Zernike. "There is a chance that [Oliver] could peel off some of the African-American vote. Only 25 percent of Booker's donations came from inside New Jersey. He is much more popular nationally than in the city, which could bite him."
Almost all of the candidates have tried to peg Booker as the "absentee mayor," claiming he has merely used the city to further his political career and has not truly helped the citizens of Newark. Yet there is little evidence that this knock has really affected Booker's popularity. "The Democratic primary was expected to be the toughest part, but the polls are showing that it's not really going to be a hard race," said Tamari. "It seems that Booker is going to have an easier ride than people had even thought previously."
Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy at a press conference in Cairo on Aug. 1. Photo by Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images.
Despite warnings of impending action, the Egyptian government is holding off using force to disperse two massive protest camps of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi -- for now. But "this can't continue endlessly," Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner on Tuesday.
The interview can be seen on Tuesday's NewsHour broadcast. (He comments on the Mideast peace process in this web-only interview.)
Fahmy spoke from the capital Cairo on a day of clashes there between pro- and anti-Morsi factions and with police.
He indicated that entreaties from the United States and Europe to avoid violence had stayed the government's hand for now. "They've been telling us privately, similarly to what they've been saying publicly, that efforts should be made to resolving this peacefully.
"It's always better to find a solution through dialogue if that's possible. At the same time, the stalemate on the ground cannot continue because it infringes on security not only of the inhabitants in that area but the security in the country as a whole. And you can't set up an economy, tourism and so on and so forth, in light of that," Fahmy said.
"So we will be patient, but at the same time, this can't continue endlessly."
The foreign minister acknowledged that the standoff over the pro-Morsi protest camps was hobbling the government's larger task of putting Egypt on a "roadmap" to restoring civilian democracy, with a new constitution and new elections. Solving the protest camps confrontation "would facilitate, in my view, the reconciliation process. That's why it has to be done in a reasonably short period of time." In early July, the Egyptian military promised that the process of writing a new constitution and holding elections would be completed in seven to nine months.
Efforts are still being pursued to persuade the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in the broader reconciliation process, Fahmy said. But he noted that any compromise that would include returning Morsi to power -- even briefly before resigning -- was a non-starter.
"Anything that attempts to rewrite history rather than to move forward from the 30th of June onward, would not carry much water, frankly."
Up until now, Muslim Brotherhood officials have insisted that any reconciliation deal include recognition of Morsi's stature as the country's elected president, even if just temporarily.
Morsi was removed from office on July 3 -- a year after taking office -- and moved by the military to detention in an undisclosed location.
On a recent trip to Cairo, U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on the government to release Morsi and other "political prisoners" as a necessary prelude to any dialogue. Fahmy responded by saying Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders are being held because they are being investigated for criminal, rather than political, charges.
Asked if a political resolution would be viewed as legitimate if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't participate, Fahmy repeated the invitation for them to participate. "Egypt cannot only be for Islamists, it cannot only be for secularists, it has to involve everyone," he said. "But it has to be based on building an inclusive society for the future, it can't be exclusive politics and it can't be a process that is not transparent and does not respond to the interests of the people."
July 3, 2013: Egyptians Celebrate Morsi's Ouster
View all of our World coverage.
The National Post has death on the brain. The Canadian newspaper posted a pair of beautifully illustrated data stories in July and August.
In 'A Short History of U.S. Capital Punishment' the death penalty is broken down by all its methods, demographics and offenses from 1676 to today. Doing so in such a way reveals little-known facts about the practice. Did you know that at least four people were sentenced to death for childbirth concealment in the United States?Click to see full U.S. Capital Punishment graphic and story by the National Post.
You probably already know that the U.S. ranks high globally for the number of people it executes, but less known is the capital punishment method. In the last 37 years, 152 people have been killed by electrocution, 11 were gassed and three each were hanged or shot, with 1,170 executed by way of the now-standard injection method. In all of U.S. history, 15 were reported gibbeted, hung in a device for public display, and at least one was pressed to death.
'Death in Transit' looks at plane, train, boat and crowd incidents (such as stampedes and natural disasters like tsunamis that affect densely-populated areas) across the globe, starting off with the Titanic in 1912 and continuing timeline-style to the crash of Bhoja Air flight B4-213 in 2012.
You will recognize "big" disasters that received a lot of media attention, like the 1990 stampede in Mecca, the 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami and the four flights involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, but this graphic includes many lesser-known events. Even a quick glance shows the long history of major transit-related deaths.
It also details road deaths by country per capita and per vehicles. The Nordic countries are the safest to get on a vehicle on the road, while Ethiopia is the most dangerous.
Under the direction and mentorship of Serge Diaghilev, the visual artists, composers and choreographers who worked with the Ballets Russes transformed ballet into an avant-garde art form, breaking with tradition and creating a reflection of 20th century modernity. Inspired by the National Gallery of Art's exhibit "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes," choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess developed a new work, "Revenant Elegy. Video shot by Cindy Huang, Justin Scuiletti and Ellen Rolfes. Edited by Ellen Rolfes.
Serge Diaghilev looked to the future, not the past, in producing new ballets. Founder of the famous Ballets Russes company, Diaghilev had an eye for talent, and brought his knowledge of visual arts, music and dance -- as well as passion -- to inject the art form with a new spirit of collaboration and innovation. His legacy is the subject of the National Gallery of Art's current exhibit, "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music."
As a Russian cultural diplomat, trained composer and art critic, Serge Diaghilev originally came to Paris in 1906 to produce two seasons of opera at the bequest of the Russian government. When the Russian Imperial family's coffers ran dry, Diaghilev remained in Paris, then the center of the Western art world and the avant-garde. He founded the Ballets Russes in 1909.
The exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington features original costumes, paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs and posters, all created for or inspired by the company's 20 years of performance in Paris and tours of Europe and North and South America.
Prior to Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, ballet was more concerned with virtuoso technique than with the concept of art creation. It was more like vaudeville than the dance form we know today, says National Gallery of Art curator Sarah Kennel. "Ballet had not really become a modern art form until the 20th century, until the Ballets Russes."
Kennel describes Diaghilev as the first great "cultural entrepreneur" of the 20th century. "Diaghilev had his finger on the pulse of modern culture," Kennel said. "He brought [artists] to Paris, to this place where they could creatively experiment. He had an ability to raise money and to convince people of very different stripes to work together. So it was kind of a laboratory of experiment."
Under the direction and mentorship of Diaghilev, the visual artists, composers and choreographers who worked with the Ballets Russes transformed ballet into an avant-garde art form, breaking with tradition and looking for something new, something that reflected the modernity of the 20th century.
Lynn Garafola, author of "Diaghilev's Ballets Russes" and professor of dance at Barnard College, says the artists who created ballets in the 19th century did not necessarily have an interest in how the choreography, costumes, music and set designs came together.
"Right from the start, Diaghilev was concerned with the total artwork, what he called the gesamtkunstwerk," Garafola said. "That all the pieces [of a performance] should somehow meld -- that the whole should be bigger than the individual parts ... that is what distinguished the Ballets Russes."Based off of designs by Pablo Picasso, this costume was created for the role of the Chinese conjuror from the 1917 Ballets Russes piece, "Parade." The costume was worn by Leon Woizikovsky both when he danced "Parade" with the Ballets Russes and the solo elsewhere. It survived the war buried in his native Poland. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.
Likewise, the historic garments, set pieces and music come together to tell the story of the Ballets Russes at the National Gallery. Faceless mannequins model fantastical costumes of fauns, sea creatures and burlesque side show performers, items designed by Russian artist Leon Bakst, as well as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, even Coco Chanel. Original stage backdrops hang 34 feet above the exhibit floor, while the scores commissioned especially for the company play in the background, including Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and Claude Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun."
Museum visitors can see movement of dancers and choreographers captured in still photographs and watch film excerpts of modern companies recreating performances of the Ballets Russes.
Normally, an art museum would not be in the business of commissioning dance, but without seeing the physicality of dance, Kennel says it is hard to understand the importance of the Ballets Russes.
"The Ballets Russes is not just a historical phenomenon that has left objects that we can show in a museum context. But it is also a spirit of innovation and collaboration," Kennel said. And it is for this reason that the National Gallery of Art invited musicians, dancers and choreographers, including Dana Tai Soon Burgess, choreographer and founder of Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company, to perform at the gallery.
An American choreographer with Scottish-Korean ancestry, Burgess has been based in Washington for more than 20 years. This is not his first time choreographing by commission for an art museum. In 2010, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington invited him to choreograph a new dance for an exhibit by American artist Spencer Finch on the subject of clouds. Both of his parents are visual artists -- another reason he was excited to collaborate with the National Gallery.
Burgess' new choreographic work, "Revenant Elegy," was inspired by "Le Bal," a 1929 Ballets Russes work choreographed by George Balanchine, with set and costume designs by Giorgio de Chirico and music by Vittorio Rieti.
"Le Bal" tells the story of a man who falls in love with a masked woman at a masquerade ball. When she takes off her mask, he discovers that she is not beautiful, but old and ugly. He flees before she takes off a second mask, revealing her beauty and youth.
"In a work like Le Bal, there was an interest on the part of the visual artist [and] the choreographer -- on the different ideas of masks. I see that as a kind of mystery aligned with the Surrealists," Garafola said.
Surrealists like Man Ray and Salvador Dali were fascinated by the subconscious and how it translated into art. Influenced by the Freudian concepts of free association and the study of dreams, the Surrealists wanted to expose the uninhibited mind.
With "Le Bal," de Chirico's sets feature classical columns in decay and bits of the outside world indoors. The costumes are stiff; they made the dancers appear as if they were partially made out of stone or brick.
Above: Sketches by Giorgio de Chirico, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.
Kennel says de Chirico's designs for "Le Bal" aligned with artists' struggle to reconcile modernism with classical forms of art, music and dance. The designs are "about [how] the modern self is sort of lost in the world. We [no longer] have a connection to our classical past. It's all around us, but not holistic," Kennel said.
In reanimating the spirit of the Ballets Russes, Burgess wanted to avoid choreographing something derivative by taking his inspiration from the psychological concepts that gained popularity in the 1920s. Instead of tangible masks, Burgess chose to explore the masks or layers within the subconscious and memory. "I was very interested in [this] internal emotional landscape that can be a major factor in the ability of someone to love or be loved."
In Burgess' dance, a middle-aged woman relives her memories of a thwarted romance, and feels the pain and loss of unrequited love.
Though Burgess choreographed "Revenant Elegy" with the Ballets Russes exhibit in mind, that influential heritage would be present in his work regardless, even more than 100 years after Diaghilev founded the company.
"We can really trace all our lineages as dancers back to this pivotal moment in time as contemporary and ballet dancers," Burgess said.
Many of the dancers and choreographers who were part of the Ballets Russes went on to establish some of today's most well-known ballet companies and schools in Europe and the United States, infusing their own work with the "Ballets Russes model" of collaboration, innovation and experimentation.
"This has given me an opportunity to research a ballet, to be inspired by the exhibition, and yet make contemporary art. And so that's one of the greatest outcomes of the exhibition, is that it's not just something stagnant that we walk by and cannot engage with, but it has really inspired a whole new choreography in this century."
While this front cloth was designed by Pablo Picasso for the Ballets Russes' 1924 "Le Train Bleu," the cloth was completed by Prince Alexander Schervashidze who painted the two giantesses off of Picasso's preparatory sketches. Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.
John Lewis began life as the son of sharecroppers on a farm in rural Alabama. He went on to speak alongside Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington and become a U.S. congressman. His incredible life story is now a graphic autobiography entitled "March." KPBS visited with Lewis when he came to San Diego for Comic-Con. Video by Katie Euphrat/KPBS
SAN DIEGO -- There is no shortage of superheroes in mid-July in San Diego.
When Comic-Con takes over the San Diego Convention Center, you can walk down aisles jam-packed with booths and bodies and easily count five Dr. Whos, three Wolverines and that one guy in an ingenious Transformers costume (you can even get your picture taken with the hulk, Lou Ferrigno).
Among all the fantastical figures parading down San Diego's streets this year, there was also an elegant and modest man who has earned the moniker "hero" in real life.
John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers in rural Alabama. When he got old enough, his parents demanded he worked on the farm, instead he hid under the porch so he could sneak out to the waiting school bus and get an education.
Lewis went on to be known as one of the big six of the civil rights movement, starting as a leader organizing student run sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville.
Lewis kept going, becoming chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC. He spoke alongside Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington. He was one of the original freedom riders, enduring bombings and bodily beatings. He has said that in the course of his non-violent protests, he sometimes felt he was going to die.
March 7, 1965 was a day that came to be known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala. Police fractured Lewis' skull as he led 600 protesters across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. He made it across the bridge, but he still bears the scars of that beating to this day.
However, this summer, the 73-year-old congressman was welcomed at Comic-Con in a completely new role -- a comic book author.
Every superhero has an origin story, and John Lewis' is no different, but it turns out that "March," the first in a series of three graphic novels that chronicle the congressman's life, also has a story.
First Steps in the March
It began with a young man who was working on the Congressman's 2008 re-election campaign. Andrew Aydin was 26 at the time and he said he expected to be mocked by his fellow campaign workers when he came out as a geek.
"It was towards the end of the campaign as things were winding down and folks started to talk about what they would do after, and unashamed I said I would be going to a comic book convention -- and there was a little teasing," Aydin said.
What Aydin didn't expect was for the congressman to come so rapidly to his defense.
Lewis said he had a reason to step in: "At another time, in another period, there was a comic book called the Montgomery story -- "Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Story" -- that inspired me."
That inspirational comic book was 15 thin pages of colored newsprint that depicted the protest sparked by Rosa Parks' 1955 refusal to give up her seat on a public bus. Yet, it wasn't just a comic book, it was a primer on non-violent protest.
It was the lessons of the book that Lewis and his fellow students put to use as they planned sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the south in the late 50s and early 60s.
In standing up for Aydin, Lewis was doing what he always did, looking out for the little guy. But Aydin, a self-professed fan boy, instantly became obsessed with the role the historical comic had played in non-violent protests among youth during the civil rights movement.
For Aydin, the next step was clear -- Lewis should tell his story in a comic book.
Rep. Lewis, it turns out, was not as easily convinced.
"I thought he was somewhat out of his mind," he said. "Why would I be writing a comic book?"
It wasn't really a hard sell, and Aydin was unrelenting.
"He didn't give up, he didn't give in -- he was persistent," Lewis recalled. "And he came back and said, 'Congressman, let's write a comic book.' And I do remember reading "The Montgomery Story" comic book, and then I said 'Yes, if you would do it with me,'" he said. "And it became a labor of love."
Aydin went to work for Lewis in Washington and he began to take notes. He recorded the congressman's stories in between meetings, or while waiting for flights or trains, and from these anecdotes, he began to weave together a narrative that would become the graphic novel.
"For so long this has been a project that existed in email, and on my couch, and my dog trampling over the script pages that have fallen on the floor," Aydin said.
It Begins With the Chickens
Andrew Aydin is the first to admit you can't really grasp John Lewis without understanding his love of a certain bird.
"I don't think you can start telling John Lewis' story without the chickens. If you ever go to his office, this is such an integral part of his story," Aydin said.
Lewis' congressional office is replete with chicken iconography, but it harkens back to his earliest memory of being in charge of the birds on the family farm.
These were the first creatures he cared for, and he did it with a stubborn love that finds a deep echo in his embrace of the ethos of non-violent protest. He loved his chickens with ease and went on to love his oppressors and tormenters and those who beat him with the same kind of stubborn, unrelenting love.
The chickens were his first congregation, and he practiced preaching sermons to them; they were literally his flock. Long before those that gathered to hear him at the March on Washington, the chickens were his rapt audience.
There is a memorable moment in the graphic novel, where Lewis decides to baptize the baby birds. He takes a small chick and dunks it in the water for the ritual, but the chicken goes limp, and he realizes he may just have killed the helpless fowl.
He lays the baby bird in the sun, praying to God that it might live again, and like a miracle the chick awakens, clucking back to life.
For the young Lewis, this isn't a narrow escape or a simple story of resurrection. Instead, it becomes a lesson about hubris, and about trying to control the fate of another creature too completely.
Telling a Story in Pictures
It is these intimate, human moments of learning to love on a farm that gave graphic artist Nate Powell a pathway to tell the congressman's story in pictures.
"I connected with his 5-year-old self so deeply," Powerll said. "Our experiences were pretty different; I also grew up in Alabama but I grew up in a relatively privileged white suburban life, but his relationship to animals and the landscape around him -- the way it seemed like he had an almost crystalized sense of self from such a young age."
Powell said because he began drawing the congressman's life story from the point of view of a child, the differences sometimes faded away, and he said that is a way for the reader to enter into the narrative as well.
Photo courtesy of Top Shelf Productions.
"There were certain moments free of context where I felt like I could slip into his shoes for that second and I precisely know what it was like to witness the baptism of these chickens, the loss of a beloved hen down a well, hiding under the porch so that he could sneak away from his house in order to get an education each day and hop on the bus with his mom chasing after him," he said.
That intimacy is evident in the shadowed, up-close visual perspectives that mark the early parts of the book.
But Powell said there were moments where illustrating the story did give him pause.
"I will hit a certain milestone within the narrative, like trying to find the appropriate and powerful way to respectfully depict the murder of Emmet Till," he said.
Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago, who on a visit to Mississippi spoke to a white woman and was subsequently murdered.
Powell said despite difficult moments of entering into painful national tragedy, he kept drawing out the story, even as the narrative turned from a child's perspective to the front lines of history.
A Primer for Non-Violence
While "March" covers a great deal of the history of the civil rights movement, its creators say it isn't just a retelling of what has come before.
Just like the comic book that inspired it, "March" is meant to be a primer to a new generation of the power of non-violent protest.
That message is something co-author Andrew Aydin said was never far from his mind.
"This may get me in trouble, but I really believe that the generation between the congressman and Nate and I, has in some sense failed us," he said. "I think they sold out a little bit. And I think, we, our generation needs to pick up a torch again."
Lewis is the first to admit that so much has changed since he fought on the front lines for civil rights. He said the strides have been great.
"When people say to me nothing has changed, I feel like saying, 'Come and walk in my shoes,'" he said. "People want to know if the election of Barack Obama is a fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream."
"No, it's just a down payment."
It is a big enough down payment to have become the framing narrative in which the graphic novel nestles the story of Lewis' rise from sharecropper's son to congressman. The story of "March" is bookended by the day of President Obama's inauguration.
Still, Lewis said, the journey to civil rights is a road that still needs to be paved.
"Too many people, even today, even in the 21st century, have been left out and left behind," he said.
Lewis said it is no longer about the color of one's skin.
"They are black, they are white, they are Latino, they are Asian-American and they are Native American," he said.
Lewis said the book has a simple message: "We all must continue to be restless."
That restlessness is born out in the time of Trayvon Martin and the recent Supreme Court decision on voting rights, according to Lewis. The congressman said just like he walked over the Edmund Pettis Bridge, he wants to build a bridge that connects young people to the greater struggle to civil rights and non-violent protest.
As he looked to the past to find the future, Lewis' face filled with emotion.
"I remember hearing Martin Luther King Jr. preach from time to time and his father would be in the pulpit and he would say 'Son, make it plain, make it plain' -- so between Nate and Andrew, they made it plain," he said.
And nothing is plainer than a picture. But a picture, they say, can also tell a thousand words.
Egypt's Nabil Fahmy discusses the prospects for Mideast peace.
As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepared to re-enter peace talks Wednesday in Jerusalem, Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said he considers the prospects to be "very, very difficult." His comments came in a web-only portion of an interview with PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner on Tuesday.
"I will never stop trying to fulfill the dream of a two-state solution, but at the same time, it's very difficult for me to be overly optimistic given how many times we've failed in the past. I have a continuous commitment to helping the process forward but a realistic assessment that this is going to be very, very difficult," he said, especially with Israel's recent announcement it is building more homes in disputed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he said. Israel has promised to release 26 Palestinian prisoners ahead of the talks.
A longtime diplomat, Fahmy has been involved in Mideast peace efforts for at least 20 years. He played a major role in the Madrid Peace Talks of 1991 as a top aide to then-Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and in the implementation in the years that followed.
Fahmy said Egypt wants to play a helpful role in this latest effort to make Israeli-Palestinian peace but conceded the current political drama in Egypt is consuming his government's attention for now. "We have been preoccupied with our domestic affairs. That will change out of necessity -- the world will not wait for us to finish our work. And you will see us more active on foreign policy in the days ahead."
Asked how closely the new interim Egyptian government and Israel are cooperating on the common security threat posed by jihadists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Fahmy said Egypt informs Israel when it wants to take certain actions beyond existing agreements. The Camp David accords limit Egypt's military operations in the Sinai.
But he wouldn't comment on whether Egypt had given Israel permission to strike inside the Sinai. Four militants reportedly were killed by Israeli drone strikes over the weekend. "There are different versions as to what exactly happened in that incident," he said.
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JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. Department of Justice moved today to block the latest and largest merger in the airline world. It means the deal joining American Airlines and U.S. Airways may be grounded permanently.
JEFFREY BROWN: It was all smiles and backslaps six months ago as the airlines' CEOs announced plans to merge.
DOUG PARKER, U.S. Airways: This really is about taking two airlines, putting them together and providing better service to customers. Our view is, it increases competition; it doesn't decrease competition.
JEFFREY BROWN: But, today, the Justice Department said it will hurt competition. Justice and attorneys general from six states plus the District of Columbia filed suit in federal court to ground the $11 billion merger at the 11th hour. The department said such a merger would leave just three so-called legacy carriers and make flying more expensive.
The new American would have been the world's largest carrier, dominating some U.S. domestic markets. At Washington's Reagan National Airport, it would control 69 percent of the space and 63 percent of the routes.
In a conference call with reporters, Assistant Attorney General William Baer said the merger would -- quote -- "substantially lessen competition." He labeled the deal "pretty messed up. It's bad for consumers."
For its part, AMR, the parent company of American, said in a statement: "We will mount a vigorous defense and pursue all legal options in order to achieve this merger."
Employees, creditors, shareholders of the two airlines, plus the European Union, had already OKed the deal. And the Justice Department did approve a series of earlier deals, including Delta's acquisition of Northwest in 2008, United's merger with Continental in 2010, and Southwest Airlines' purchase of AirTran a year after that.
Phil Mattingly is covering the story for Bloomberg News and joins me now.
Phil, this came as a surprise, to those of you -- at least to those of you following this, huh?
PHIL MATTINGLY, Bloomberg News: Absolutely.
Absolutely. If you want to have an example, all you need to do is look at the marketplace, U.S. Airways down more than 13 percent today, AMR, the parent company, down more than 43 percent in over-the-counter trading.
We spoke to some analysts who up to a couple weeks ago were rating this at a 99 percent chance this deal would approved. And there's a reason. That is that there's really no precedent for the Justice Department to step in.
As was mentioned, we have had a series of big merger deals, consolidation in this industry. And I don't think anybody really expected this.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us more about the reasoning of the Justice Department. What specifically did they say that would make this anti-competitive?
PHIL MATTINGLY: The antitrust chief today had a conference call with reporters, and his main point was a couple things.
One, this is going to increase fares, increase those fees that I think frustrate everybody on bags, legroom, those sort of things, but also it will lead the airlines to decrease service in some specific areas. Most importantly, I think, when you look at U.S. Airways, they have a program that they have been utilizing where they look to deliberately undercut these legacy airlines, the three airlines that they mainly compete with on one-stop flights, trying to undercut nonstop flights.
I think what they're saying is, there's no more economic rationale if this deal goes through for U.S. Airways to continue that program.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we're talking about DOJ, Department of Justice, but support from the states and the District of Columbia. What specifically are they looking at or what are they arguing?
PHIL MATTINGLY: Well, there's a lot of state interests here.
You look at hubs, you look at direct flights. You have Texas, which, oddly enough in the last couple weeks, has not been the greatest friend of the Justice Department. Their attorney general was happy to get on board on this, obviously Dallas being the headquarters.
So what you have is you have state interests, you have got jobs, you have prestige. And states really see this as an opportunity to get on board and block something that will have a negative impact on their state economy.
JEFFREY BROWN: Part of the reasoning from Justice is saying that these two are big and strong enough to go it alone, in spite of what they themselves say, I guess, right?
PHIL MATTINGLY: Right.
And it's an interesting statement because American Airlines, obviously, is coming out of bankruptcy right now. Actually, in 48 hours, they're supposed to introduce their reorganization plan for approval in New York.
JEFFREY BROWN: The timing is quite interesting, huh?
PHIL MATTINGLY: Very interesting.
But it's something to think about. Over the last couple quarters, even after a decade of really big losses, the airline industry has done great, and that includes American Airlines and U.S. Air, both with records numbers over the last couple quarters.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, as we said and you just repeated there, that the department has approved a number of big mergers in the last few years. So, today, how are they differentiating this one from those?
PHIL MATTINGLY: It's interesting.
Bill Baer, the chief of the antitrust division, said, we look at each case on a deal-by-deal basis. However, we looked at -- while they were doing this, during the investigation, they looked back at the deals that have led up to this one, that have led up to the current consolidation.
And what he said was basically, we have found this marketplace to be anti-competitive right now. So while they might not be regretting those deals or trying to look back and set new precedent, what they are doing is deciding that those deals, while they might have thought they were OK at the time, have led them to become a major problem for this current merger.
JEFFREY BROWN: It's interesting because they're saying, yes, we allowed those, those were fine, but no more now because of the world that's been created because of those.
PHIL MATTINGLY: Yes. Right. And I think what analysts are really trying to figure right now is, OK, is this the new paradigm? Are we shifting from a time where these mergers because of the good -- for the good of the industry the Justice Department was happy to let these go through generally very quick with few changes, if any at all.
Are we now to the point where mergers are done? This is one merger too many?
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, American says it's going to appeal. What does that mean? What happens next?
PHIL MATTINGLY: Well, we know the process is, is that these guys have been in the room. Both companies and the Justice Department, have been in the room for the months leading up to this kind of presenting their proposals, their arguments.
What American Airlines said today through their statement through AMR is they said that this is going to court now. They feel good. I think U.S. Airways also had a statement out where they were saying, look, this delays things for a little bit, but we feel good. Companies have come through this before.
Now, there's a couple of issues that come up. One is the Justice Department says they want this in court, they believe the best interest is to stop this. This also sets them up from a negotiating perspective to maybe take out certain parts, require changes to this deal, require concessions before they allow this to go forward.
JEFFREY BROWN: So it could still go forward.
PHIL MATTINGLY: Absolutely.
JEFFREY BROWN: Absolutely.
So, in the meantime, the airlines, consumers and travelers, what, status quo?
PHIL MATTINGLY: Pretty much.
So consumer advocates thrilled with this. They have been pointing to the consolidation in the marketplace for a long time, saying that this is playing a big role in those bag fees that everybody
hates. They're thrilled right now. In terms of the big changes, are we going to see -- when you go online at Kayak.com or something, are you going to see any big changes? No, not at the moment.
I think both airlines feel like they have got a good argument that this is a pro-competitive merger that would actually bring down prices. We will see if the Justice Department agrees.
JEFFREY BROWN: And let me just ask you finally, briefly, you cover Department of Justice. How does this decision fit into any larger antitrust strategy that you watched over the last few years? Is it a surprise in that context or does it fit?
PHIL MATTINGLY: You know what is interesting?
The division at the Justice Department is under new leadership. Over the last eight months, they have got a new head. And it's aggressive, veteran gentleman in Bill Baer, who has got a lot of experience. And while he really is kind of complimented around the legal arena for being fair, everybody almost to a person says he's aggressive.
And I think he's bringing -- brought kind of a new tact, a new perspective to the division. And while it's not going to be a massive shift in policy, I think they're looking for opportunities to get in and challenge issues if they feel like they're really anti-competitive.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Phil Mattingly of Bloomberg News, thanks so much.
KWAME HOLMAN: The government of Israel announced today it's moving ahead with plans to build nearly 900 new homes in East Jerusalem. The statement comes a day before peace talks are set to resume. The news was criticized by Palestinians, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he'd had a very frank discussion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kerry spoke as he traveled in Brazil.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Let me make it clear. The policy of the United States of America with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate. And we oppose settlements taking place at any time, not just the time of the -- of the peace process.
KWAME HOLMAN: In a separate move, Israel carried out a promise that led to the peace negotiations by releasing 26 Palestinian prisoners. Buses left a prison in central Israel after nightfall. The inmates had been held on charges ranging from rock-throwing to deadly bombings.
The Israeli military shot down a rocket launched at a resort town near the Egyptian border today. The attack targeted Eilat on the Red Sea. Officials said it's the first time Israel's Iron Dome defense system had intercepted a rocket there. Militants based in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.
Another apparent U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed two more militants late Monday. It brings to 37 the number believed killed in the last two weeks, amid warnings al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was planning attacks in the region. The group is considered the most dangerous branch of the terror network. The U.S. Embassy in Yemen remains closed as a result of the threat.
In economic news, retail sales edged higher in July by 0.2 percent. The increase pointed to higher consumer spending. And on Wall Street, stocks inched a little higher as well. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 31 points to close at 15,451. The NASDAQ rose 14 points to close at 3,684.