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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen, together again.

    So we -- we start with a pretty tough story, Mark, and that is what's happened this week in Egypt, terrible turn of events, huge death tolls, so many more people wounded. What do you make of what's happened there, and what do you make of President Obama's handling of it?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, the context of it, Judy, is that the Egyptian military, more than simply restoring order, has gone to a brutal extent of punishing and killing its opposition.

    And I think that they're aware of the fact that there are very few repercussions, certainly based on Syria, for brutalization of a civilian population, that intervention is unlikely from the civilized world, that the United States, having been through a decade of two unhappy and ultimately unsuccessful wars to establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, have no will, no appetite.

    So it's a terrible situation. I think the president's options are quite limited. And the question is, is he seen as measured or passive? But I don't think cutting off the money at this point, which I think probably makes sense morally and ethically, the $1.3 billion, is going to have any effect.

    They can get the money elsewhere, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia. There's a number of countries that would love to see the Brotherhood put very much on the defensive and kept in place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Limited options?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so.

    I mean, your options are always limited in the short term. The effect you can have on a culture and climate is much bigger than the effect you can have on a specific politician. They're going to do what they want to do.

    I sort of appreciate some sense of caution. We don't really know what the military is trying to do there. Are they just trying to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood? That's bound not to work and to breed counterterrorism. Are they simply trying to set up a situation where a Muslim Brotherhood insurgency is crushed before it gets to start a civil war? Or are they trying to really have a period of monstrous chaos to establish red lines, so the Muslim Brotherhood goes back in the cave and they can reestablish their military rule, which they had for the past several decades?

    So if they're going all out, that's going to counterbalance, and we will just be stuck in terrorism. If this is a phase they're strategically thinking their way through to get to new lines, then maybe we react a little differently. The question is, what do they want in the long term?

    And I sort of respect the administration for trying to figure out what this is all about. I really don't think we know yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about the critics who are saying, the president, yes, the options were limited, but, Mark, that the United States stands for certain principles, and the U.S. doesn't look like it stands for anything right now?

    MARK SHIELDS: No, I mean, let's be very blunt about it.

    Egypt, we revere Sadat's memory, particularly for the courage he showed as far as Israel is concerned and the Camp David accords, but Egypt has been essentially a military dictatorship since King Farouk, who was no day at the beach himself. So, there's no democratic tradition. There's no respect for minority rights. There's no art of compromise.

    There's no pluralistic impulse. That, Judy, took us in this country, it took us 100 years of a civil war to accept diversity and grant rights. It took us 150 years before we allowed women to vote. So, I mean, the idea that this is going to happen, we go from Mubarak to a democratic well-being in 24 months, you know, is beyond unrealistic.

    But I think the president is right. He was right yesterday to emphasize that and to emphasize that it took us a long time to get there. I mean, we weren't born as a fulfilled society, a complete society.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I would say we understood, even from 1787, that the groups, people who lost the election got to have a role in the society, which doesn't seem to be respected, at least among the elites, in Egypt.

    (CROSSTALK) 

    DAVID BROOKS: I would say we have two things to worry about.

    The first is, we shouldn't be allowing people to massacre their own citizens. And we have allowed that to happen in Rwanda. And we have allowed it certainly to happen in Syria. And I do think, to underline Mark's point, Syria sent a message: This works. You can do it. No one else will do anything.

    And so when we decide not to go into Syria, we have to be aware of the downstream effects that will have. The second thing is, we should be promoting democracy, but only in ways that are fitting that society. If parts of that society, as in Egypt, are extremely sophisticated about democratic rights and understand things, then we should be giving them legal help to draw up constitutions.

    If parts of the society don't get the basic concepts of legitimacy, we should be having national institutes for democracy and other things to give them those concepts. But our emphasis should always be on the ideas, not the implementation, because our ability to influence another country's implementation is always going to be limited.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, for now, it sounds like you're both saying there's no choice, the U.S. has no choice but to make statements, and that's it.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I would -- I would be a little more averse to cutting off aid, just for -- if only to clean our own hands.

    It won't have any effect. Believe me, the Saudis will gladly give them $1.3 billion.

    MARK SHIELDS: I agree, but both sides are proving their bona fides.

    The Brotherhood did it when they were in power, and they continue to say the lack of support from the United States, Morsi -- they earn their bona fides domestically by opposing the United States, and that's exactly what the junta -- and it's a junta, the coup -- that's what they do, the generals do.

    And I just don't -- I don't see any impulse to compromise at this point in the society. We can't...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On either side.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I want to be careful we don't draw a moral equivalency here.

    The military junta, what they're doing is monstrous. There's no question about that. But they have had a -- if there's going to be any sort of stable, gradual course towards even a civilized society, it's not going to be the Muslim Brotherhood. It's much more likely the military who will get them on that path.

    And look what they're doing today. They're in the middle -- they're being attacked by the government. They are going off and killing cops and burning churches. That's a different order of dysfunction.

    MARK SHIELDS: And I'm not in any way rationalizing that.

    They have had two elections. They have won both of them. We can't all of a sudden say, because we didn't like the results -- we didn't like the results in Guatemala in 1954. We didn't like the results in Iran with Mossadegh. So, I mean, we just overturn that and...

    DAVID BROOKS: Sometimes, anti-democrats win elections.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, that's right, but, I mean -- but it does come back to values as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me bring you both back to the United States.

    North Carolina -- the state of North Carolina this week passed what's called a voter I.D. law, Mark and David, the first state to do this since the Supreme Court struck down part of the voting rights law.

    So my question -- this is a state that is Republican for the first time completely, the governor, the legislature for -- in decades. Critics say this is really meant to cut down African-American turnout. How do you see it?

    MARK SHIELDS: I -- Judy, North Carolina always held itself out as being different. Three great American statesmen of the 20th century, Terry Sanford, governor, president of university, Jim Hunt, the premier education governor, Sam Ervin, the great senator of Watergate.

    It wasn't Alabama. It wasn't Mississippi. It was not too busy to hate as Atlanta, but it was a different kind of Southern state. This is punitive. It's vindictive. It's vengeful. It's just a way -- there is no evidence of any voter fraud, of anybody using somebody else's identification to vote.

    If there were, you could say it's an overreaction. This is a created fabrication to basically discourage, if not make impossible, voting by groups, people who belong to groups who don't ordinarily vote Republican, who vote Democratic; 56 percent of the people in North Carolina voted on Election Day -- early voting, rather. That will -- there will be no early voting in this. It's just an attempt to make it difficult to vote.

    DAVID BROOKS: I guess I sort of agree.

    But I would say two things. First, one of the great stories in American history and in the South in the last couple of years, couple of decades, is the gradual empowerment and enfranchisement of African-Americans. I think one's basic attitude is you don't want to be on the wrong side of that story.

    And so I do think, if you're supporting this, you're putting yourself on the wrong side of that story. Having said that, do I think it's a huge deal? Well, here, we actually have academic research on this. And there are a number of states that have these laws on the books. To what extent does it diminish voting?

    And the studies suggest either very little or not at all, not significantly, statistically significant. I think if you looked at the data, you would say, in some states, it brings Democratic total vote down 0.4...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean by adding stricter -- these stricter rules.

    DAVID BROOKS: By adding these stricter rules. So, it has some effect. It's not a huge effect.

    I agree with Mark. There's no real cause for it. There's not all that much corruption. It doesn't have a huge negative effect, a huge positive effect. But I do think it looks morally wrong to me, I guess I would say.

    MARK SHIELDS: Those studies were done after 2012, when the effort, the all-out effort by a very well-financed campaign to get people to the polls.

    DAVID BROOKS: Some. But some...

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: But this is a way of not encouraging people to vote, not enlarging the franchise. That's what is behind the...

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It should be said, it's really popular. People -- if you ask people on the street should you show a photo I.D. to vote, people think, oh, you can't do that? Don't you always do that?

    DAVID BROOKS: Just looking at the polls -- I'm just giving you a raw political analysis.

    MARK SHIELDS: How about same-day registration?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    MARK SHIELDS: They won't -- they prohibit -- it goes to all sorts of -- an individual voter, I can challenge David's voting now if I'm a registered voter.

    It is -- this is beyond just making it more difficult or to have a voter I.D.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's being challenged. And we will watch it.

    Just less than a minute. One of the great reporters of the last generation, Jack Germond, passed away this week. What legacy? You both knew him.

    Mark, you covered politics, covered elections with him.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    Jack Germond is an American original. He broke all the rules. I mean, in the sense of, you know, in a generation now of people who get up and only eat vegetarian and run 18 miles a day, Jack drank too much. He ate too much. He was a great reporter. He did it 52 weeks a year.

    He believed that politics mattered. He believed that public policy mattered, and he liked the people in politics. He loved the rogues and the rakes. He liked Edwin Edwards. He enjoyed George Wallace. He liked Willie Brown. But he also liked Howard Baker. He liked Kevin White.

    I mean, he just -- he was just really awfully good at it. Before there were cell phones, Judy, before there was any kind of background check on us, Jack Germond did it, and he cared about it, and he was good at it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He had a lot of joy.

    DAVID BROOKS: It is worth pointing out it's impossible to remember for young people today The McLaughlin Group, how central that was and how central he was.

    It created this whole political talk, for better or worse sometimes, but that show riveted and really -- and he was an almost soap opera character in that show as the core old-time reporter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He had a lot of heart.

    MARK SHIELDS: He did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: living and playing the blues, then and now.

    They're from two generations, two different backgrounds and parts of the country. But 69-year-old Charlie Musselwhite and 43-year-old Ben Harper have a lot in common, most of all, a love of the blues.

    Their recent album "Get Up!" and their ongoing tour show off different shades of the blues, including country acoustical and Chicago electric, and make a case for the music as a living, renewable tradition. On a tour stop in Washington recently, Musselwhite, who was born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, told us his connection to the blues started early.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: The environment I grew up in, there was all kinds of music, hillbilly music and rockabilly, great gospel radio. Memphis has probably the best Gospel radio and blues.

    And I liked it all, any music that was from the heart, that had feeling. But blues sounded like how I felt.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what's that mean? How did you feel?

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: Well, I was a lonely kid. I didn't have any brothers and sisters. My dad had left and my mom worked. So, I was alone a lot. And blues was my comforter.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Ben Harper, music was in the blood. His grandparents and parents all played and performed, and the family has owned a music store in Claremont, California, since 1958.

    BEN HARPER: My roots were always in the home. And my mom used to play in bands. She's a musician, great singer, picker. And my dad was a percussionist. And so they would have people over every night making music. And they'd put us to bed around 8:00.

    And then I would wait until they were really cooking, and then, you know, where they wouldn't be watching for me to sneak out, and when -- I would sneak out of my room and sit under the -- hide under the piano bench.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Harper has gone on to become a leading singer, songwriter and guitarist, with a string of albums and two Grammy Awards.

    Charlie Musselwhite's musical education -- and what an education it was -- came in the 1960s in Chicago, where he went as a young man to look for a factory job. He wasn't even thinking of a career as a musician, just enjoying the local blues scene with the likes of Muddy Waters and Elmore James. He did know how to play the harmonica, though, and was ready when he got the chance to use it.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: Sitting in wasn't unusual.

    I mean, these clubs were open to 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, and that's a lot of time to kill. So, a guy like Muddy would have people sitting in all the time. A lot of musicians hung out there. They would sit in, or even, like, a housewife from down the street would get up and sing a song, or the bartender might get up and play guitar or something.

    It was real casual.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: But it was strictly adults. There was nobody my age in these clubs, and there was nobody white in these clubs.

    So, a young whippersnapper like me getting up on the stage to play was real unusual.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Accepted by Muddy Waters, Musselwhite started to get invitations to play and record with others, one of a handful of white musicians in such exalted blues company.

    Ben Harper heard these recordings as a child and says he admired the music and later the man.

    BEN HARPER: Charlie transcends race in a way that I have never witnessed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    BEN HARPER: Yes.

    And I have been a -- I have been -- being of a mixed race, I have had a heightened racial awareness, had to. And I have never seen anybody who just breaks down those barriers in the way Charlie does.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what explains that?

    BEN HARPER: If I could explain it, I would market it, because it is so special.

    BEN HARPER: He renders a room culturally neutral. He just makes everybody at ease with who they are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Of course, it's what Musselwhite does with his harmonica that most attracted Ben Harper and so many others over the years who've asked the master to collaborate.

    I think people look at a harmonica and say, that's a little instrument.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: It's a toy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's a toy in a sense for some people. How do you think of it?

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: I try not to think about it as an instrument. I just think about the feeling and the sound I hear inside and how to get that out. I'm not thinking about, well, it's got 10 holes and these reeds go this way and all these limitations.

    I just try to take what I feel inside and push it through there and give it to you.

    BEN HARPER: OK, now I have got to jump in, because, you know, I'm a music store brat. I mean, I grew up taking violins apart and putting them back together and re-hairing violin bows and such.

    I wish we had an open harmonica here, because you take off the faceplate of a harmonica, there is a lot going on in there, man. I mean, they are so complex.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite say they have been talking about recording and playing together for more than a decade. One thing or another always got in the way, until now.

    BEN HARPER: Every once in a while, if you time it right, you can grab that thing without -- you know, you have got to reach out, push, push. And this was like a moment to grasp.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: Playing with Ben is just fun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Fun, huh?

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: It makes me feel good. And this is what the blues is supposed to do, make you feel good. It's your comforter when you're down and it's your buddy when you're up. It's all-purpose music.

    BEN HARPER: All-purpose music.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All-purpose music.

    BEN HARPER: That might be the next record title. That's good, all-purpose blues.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Musselwhite-Harper tour continues this summer and into the fall.

     


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    Maria Abi-Habib, roving Middle East correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, joins Hari Sreenivasan from Cairo via Skype. Abi-Habib looks at the growing number of neighborhood civilian "committees" patrolling the streets, a trend born of a lack of confidence in the country's security forces. 

    Editor's note | Starting Sept. 7, the PBS NewsHour is expanding its family, adding a "PBS NewsHour Weekend" newscast on Saturdays and Sundays. The 30-minute show will be anchored by NewsHour senior correspondent Hari Sreenivasan. The above interview is a selection from the NewsHour Weekend's first rehearsal, produced by New York PBS member station WNET and broadcast out of the Tisch WNET studios.

    You can subscribe to Hari on Facebook, Google Plus and on Twitter @Hari.

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0

    Editor's note | Starting Sept. 7, the PBS NewsHour is expanding its family, adding a "PBS NewsHour Weekend" newscast on Saturdays and Sundays. The 30-minute show will be anchored by NewsHour senior correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.

    The above interview is a selection from the NewsHour Weekend's first rehearsal, produced by New York PBS member station WNET and broadcast out of the Tisch WNET studios.

    Zachary Lockman, professor of modern Middle Eastern History at New York University joins Hari Sreenivasan to speak about the wider issues raised by the ongoing conflict in Egypt.

    You can subscribe to Hari on Facebook, Google Plus and on Twitter @Hari.

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle ObamaPresident Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at the White House with the first family Sunday after a vacation at Martha's Vineyard, Mass. It's back to work this week for the President who begins a bus tour Thursday to promote his economic message. Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    A weeklong vacation behind him, President Barack Obama this week intends to get the jump on Congressional foes with a continued economic push two weeks before lawmakers return to Washington to face major fiscal challenges.

    The president on Thursday begins a bus tour through upstate New York and Pennsylvania to continue his series of speeches touting his own economic philosophy of investing in infrastructure. And he's expected to keep up pressure on House and Senate Republicans he says are standing in the way of compromise.

    Congress won't be back in business until Sept. 9, leaving Mr. Obama's efforts mostly unanswered. But the pressure is building back home, and Republicans face their own challenge amid a steady political drumbeat of using upcoming deadlines on government funding to scale back the president's health care reform law.

    The president criticized that approach put forward by some in the GOP during his weekly address, which focused on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

    "They're actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they've been sick -- and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process," Mr. Obama said. "And many Republicans are more concerned with how badly this debate will hurt them politically than they are with how badly it'll hurt the country."

    "A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they'll somehow be sticking it to me. But they'd just be sticking it to you," he added.

    In the GOP address over the weekend, West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito called on the president and Senate Democrats to take up a proposal passed in the House that would delay the health care law's individual mandate, which followed the administration's decision last month to push off the implementation of the employer mandate until 2015.

    "Let's delay this health care law not just for some, but for all Americans. That would only be fair. That would be government working the way it's supposed to," Capito said.

    For the president, his message mirrored what he told reporters at a press conference before heading to Martha's Vineyard, and one you can expect him to keep up over the next few weeks.

    But Republicans are far from united on how to approach the spending questions, and especially the funding of Obamacare.

    The National Journal's Shane Goldmacher rounded up the competing GOP viewpoints, noting that "infighting has left Republicans battling each other instead of the Democrats over internal political tactics heading into the next fiscal fight."

    On Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul said while he wants to see the health care law defunded, forcing a government shutdown is the wrong idea.

    The Heritage Foundation's political arm is doing a town hall tour of its own, headlined by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cruz is among a handful of Republicans in the Senate itching for a shutdown fight.

    And the Washington Post noted that the GOP is crafting an economic message in Spanish to try to get Latino voters to see their perspective on fiscal matters.

    White House aides said Mr. Obama's vacation -- interrupted several times by violent clashes in Egypt -- allowed him to decompress ahead of a very busy fall.

    On Monday it's back to work, as the president meets with financial regulators to tout the Wall Street reform law he signed during his first term.

    The bus tour, which will focus on higher education, starts Thursday at the University of Buffalo, with four stops total in New York, and finishing up with a speech Friday at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa.

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

    MARCH ON WASHINGTON

    The PBS NewsHour is devoting several conversations and reports to an examination of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

    Gwen Ifill began the series with William Jones, a historian and author, who explained that the march was not initially intended to focus on racial equality. It had more radical roots, Jones said, and was more about jobs and economic opportunity than a man with a "dream."

    Watch their discussion here or below:

    Watch Video

    And tune in Wednesday for the next conversation. Here's the outline of what's ahead this month.

    In addition, NewsHour Extra crafted resources for teachers looking to do March on Washington lessons in the classroom. Our partners at KPBS in San Diego gave some ink to Rep. John Lewis' new civil rights comic book as he made the rounds at Comic-Con.

    This weekend, the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb looked ahead to what the president might say during his speech marking the march anniversary at the Lincoln Memorial next week.

    LINE ITEMS

    The Washington Post noted Mr. Obama's "tension between ... pragmatism and idealism" as he made a public statement on the turmoil in Egypt Thursday that stopped short of cutting off military aid to the country.

    The New York Times has an Arizona-based piece on Sen. John McCain's continued fight to pass immigration reform.

    Politico's Manu Raju looks at Sen. Mark Pryor's re-election campaign in Arkansas, where the lone Democrat in the state's congressional delegation is attempting to beat back a challenge from freshman GOP Rep. Tom Cotton.

    The Washington Post's Rosalind Helderman and Carol Leonnig report that attorneys for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife will meet with federal prosecutors on Monday as investigators consider whether to file charges related to gifts provided to the first couple by a wealthy donor.

    As he returns to San Diego City Hall following therapy, Democratic Mayor Bob Fillner faces a recall petition.

    The Republican National Committee voted Friday to exclude CNN and NBC News from hosting 2016 GOP primary debates in response to the networks' plans to air programs about Hillary Clinton.

    Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday amid an ongoing spat that the GOP is large enough for both himself and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

    The New York Times' Jonathan Martin examined in detail Christie's re-election campaign strategy and how it is laying the groundwork for a national bid.

    Hillary Clinton will be giving a series of policy speeches.

    The New York Times' Amy Chozick and Nicholas Confessore took a deep dive into the Clinton Foundation and how that might conflict with the former secretary of state's presidential ambitions.

    Last week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker secured the Democratic nomination for New Jersey's special Senate contest, and former Bogota, N.J., Mayor Steve Lonegan won the Republican nod. The general election is Oct. 16.

    Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will serve 30 months in prison as part of a plea deal where he admitted he misused campaign funds. His wife will serve one year in prison for a related charge, but will not report to jail until her husband returns home.

    The partner of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, whose reports on surveillance programs by the National Security Agency were thanks to leaks from Edward Snowden, was detained and held for nine hours at Heathrow airport in London Sunday.

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., inked a book deal.

    The famed butter cow of the Iowa State Fair was vandalized with red paint by an animal welfare group "intent on sending a message in support of veganism," the Associated Press reported.

    Former Sen. Scott Brown spent his weekend at the Iowa State Fair. While he might be eyeing a 2016 bid, he says he will soon announce if he will run for governor in Massachusetts.

    Clinton veteran and Democratic operative Mo Elleithee was named the Democratic National Committee's new communications director.

    Republican Rep. Dave Camp won't run for Senate in Michigan. Republicans currently have a single candidate, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, running to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's seat.

    Dan Balz detailed the already nasty Democratic gubernatorial primary in Illinois.

    The Associated Press investigates the failures of Washington, D.C.'s fire and EMS department and notes that last Monday, an ambulance intended to be part of the president's motorcade ran out of gas at the White House because of fuel gauge problems.

    A federal judge struck down the 64-year-old law that bans demonstrations at the Supreme Court building.

    Sam Stein penned a long piece for Huffington Post evaluating sequestration cuts.

    Members of Congress: They're just like us! Roll Call has a look at what your representatives are doing during the August recess via a Pinterest board.

    First Lady Michelle Obama is releasing a hip-hop album. She won't be dropping a beat but will team up with Run DMC, Jordin Sparks and Doug E. Fresh to encourage kids to live a healthier lifestyle.

    The president Tuesday will honor the 1972 Miami Dolphins, which had the only perfect season in NFL history.

    Anthony Weiner sat down for an interview with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith. He didn't hide how he felt about the New York Times or BuzzFeed's reputation for posting cat videos.

    Correspondents checking correspondence. Get it?

    The latest crop of fellows headed to Harvard's Institute of Politics: former appointed Sen. William "Mo" Cowan of Massachusetts, former SBA Administrator Karen Mills, journalist Sasha Issenberg, Republican campaign veterans Ana Navarro and Beth Myers and Google's Ginny Hunt.

    Washington is on panda pregnancy watch.

    NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

    Judy's Notebook this week reflects on the NewsHour's upcoming historic changes.

    Mark Shields and David Brooks examined the president's reaction to Egypt and the voter ID law in North Carolina.

    Watch here or below.

    Watch Video

    The NewsHour paid tribute to longtime political columnist Jack Germond after his death last week. Among those weighing in: Dan Balz of the Washington Post and Susan Page of USA Today.

    Watch here or below.

    Watch Video

    We fielded a debate on a tough new voter ID law in North Carolina between Rep. G.K. Butterfield and one of the state senators who co-authored the measure.

    Politics Desk Assistant Jordan Vesey has a primer for why some primary contests matter more than others.

    NewsHour's Jason Kane has an amazing story exploring how a drug dealer and a nurse are working together to prevent the spread of HIV in Tanzania.

    TOP TWEETS

    WSJ: Biden allies think he can win 2016 Dem nomination even if Hillary runss, consider setting up PAC. http://t.co/45lPAq8YIk via @WSJ

    — Gerald F Seib (@GeraldFSeib) August 19, 2013

    Welcome @GovBeat, WP's look at politics beyond the Beltway, via @PostReid and @NirajC. 1st post: http://t.co/S3cOm2i9bt

    — David Beard (@dabeard) August 19, 2013

    hey buddy @senatorreid your face should be on a mountain. hug for u

    — Jose Canseco (@JoseCanseco) August 18, 2013

    Two Bidens, with a copy of The News Journal (@delawareonline), of course pic.twitter.com/uLLx8WFtwn

    — Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) August 18, 2013

    i can see it RT @mollyesque: Am I the only one who things the olinguito looks kind of like @Chris_Moody? http://t.co/TngMz0hgNs

    — darthinguito™ (@darth) August 15, 2013

    @PressSec Thank you for such a lovey welcome. I Would be happy to give a #Jackal tutorial in the press briefing room!

    — Allison Janney (@AllisonBJanney) August 14, 2013

    Butter Cow Support is pouring in. #supportButterCowpic.twitter.com/z12SfMoIIx

    — NYFarmer (@NYFarmer) August 12, 2013

    WH briefing room chgs: Real Clear Politics, Yahoo News to get seats. Sharing seats: MediaNews, Daily Beast, SiriusXM, Sky News, FT, Guardian

    — Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) August 12, 2013

    Well, Joe Biden finally destroyed the English language. http://t.co/lYBQnchIng

    — Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) August 12, 2013

    I'm pleased to announce I just edged past Chen Guangcheng for the last spot in the fall class of @HarvardIOP fellows. http://t.co/wrP20AgNxK

    — Sasha Issenberg (@sissenberg) August 12, 2013

    Bo, stop trying to make fetch happen. pic.twitter.com/Ez6hWGFpFc

    — The White House (@whitehouse) August 13, 2013

    McCain said a guy approached him in the airport, said he looked like John McCain and asked if the resemblance made him "mad as hell"

    — Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) August 14, 2013

    Politics reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz and desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

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    A picture taken on Aug. 14 shows the facade of the Prince Tadros Coptic church after being torched by unknown assailants in the central Egyptian city of Minya. Photo by stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

    While thousands of Egyptians in Cairo rejoiced over President Mohammed Morsi's overthrow in July, others were concerned about possible reprisals against the country's minority Coptic Christians.

    It turns out they had reason to be. Among the reported incidents of intimidation, eyewitnesses in Luxor, central Egypt, told the research group the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights that gun- and knife-wielding crowds surrounded Christian homes, "shouting hostile, sectarian chants." Some homes, including those in al-Dabaiya in northern Egypt, were robbed and burned, along with churches in dozens of towns.

    "The Copts are an easy target," said Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. (Views expressed are her own.) Deeb also was born and raised in Egypt. Churches are easy to identify but not easy to protect in Egypt's current state of "chaos," she said. "There's no security and ability to protect particular places or people."

    Pope Tawadros II, patriarch of the Copts in Egypt, had been critical about the treatment of minorities under Morsi. In April, he criticized Morsi for failing to protect Copts and their main cathedral in Cairo after gunmen attacked the church during a funeral.

    Morsi backers viewed these declarations as support for the opposition, and when Morsi was ejected from office, they blamed Christians in part for his removal. Long-standing tensions between the Muslims and Christians, which boiled over from time to time, erupted into widespread attacks against churches and other Christian institutions more recently after Egyptian security forces stormed two encampments of Morsi supporters on Wednesday.

    The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which has been documenting abuses of Coptic Christians since Morsi's overthrow, recorded 39 attacks on Coptic churches, schools, monasteries and businesses in just the two days following the security forces' raids on the pro-Morsi encampments.

    "We've not seen this level of violence before," said Dwight Bashir, deputy director for policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom who specializes in human rights and religious freedoms in the Middle East and North Africa. "Clearly, the scapegoats are the Christians."

    What's making the problem worse is the sense that people can act with impunity, whether it's because they can escape punishment in the current turmoil or the apparent lack of interest in pursuing the perpetrators, said Bashir. But he did note the importance of documenting the acts of violence for a future governing body to mete out justice.

    It's hard for the Copts to defend themselves, because when they take up arms, they are accused of inciting violence against Muslims, said Deeb. "The Copts are very much in a Catch-22 situation," she said.

    Some have chosen to leave the country temporarily in light of the recent violence, but in general Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million people, want to remain in their homeland.

    Copts are among the first Christians in the world, and the first church was in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Deeb explained. "They've always been there and they see their history going back to ancient times. Over the millennium, they've been attacked and survived. They see their destiny as being rooted in Egypt."

    Related Resources

    USA Today maps the attacks on Christian churches and institutions in Egypt following the crackdown on the pro-Morsi encampment on Aug. 14.

    In March 2010, PBS NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reported from Cairo on how tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians sometimes erupted into violence.

    PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez reported in September 2012 that as stricter interpretations of Islam have become more widespread in the Middle East, more and more Christians are choosing to leave their homes for fear of harassment or violence:

    Watch Video

    We'll have more on the situation in Egypt on Monday's NewsHour. View all of our World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    By Larry Kotlikoff

    Larry Kotlikoff explains the Social Secuirty benefits available to married and divorced couples. Photo courtesy of Mike Kemp/Getty 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.

    Jim T. -- Carlsbad, Calif: I am unmarried but wish to leave my Social Security benefits to my partner. As man and wife, how long must we be married?

    Larry Kotlikoff: If you are married for just nine months, your new spouse can qualify for survivor benefits. And you only need to be married for one year to permit your new spouse to qualify for spousal benefits. But if you get divorced before 10 years, you'll qualify for neither spousal nor survivor benefits. If you get divorced after 10 years, you'll qualify for both.

    As I've pointed out in the past (see the answer to Nicholas' question last week), the system provides a better deal to divorcées who have stuck it out in their marriage for 10 years or more. The system permits both divorced spouses (assuming they don't remarry) to collect full spousal benefits after reaching full retirement age, while postponing the collection of their own retirement benefit until age 70.

    Richard -- Stoneham, Mass.: I was recently informed by Social Security that my wife could not receive half my Social Security because she worked a state job for 24 years and therefore does not qualify because of the windfall act. Is this true?

    MORE FROM LARRY KOTLIKOFF: Treat Social Security as Insurance Against One of Life's Most Expensive Accidents: Failing to Die on Time

    Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, the Government Pension Offset provision will reduce, if not wipe out, the spousal and survivor benefits that would otherwise be available to your wife. The reduction equals two-thirds of her state pension.

    There are a couple of exceptions, but they surely don't apply to your case. If your wife can delay her own pension and have it grow while she delays it, she can then take her Social Security benefits (spousal and retirement), without getting zapped, until she starts her state pension.

    If your wife's state pension is large enough to fully wipe out her spousal or survivor benefit (after you pass away) but is not inflation indexed, she may, at some point in the future, be able to collect a partial spousal or survivor benefit. That's because two-thirds of a fixed nominal benefit will, over time, become smaller and smaller, relative to Social Security benefits, which rise through time to keep pace with inflation.

    Dolores Howard -- Greenfield, Tenn.: I am 57 and thinking about an early retirement. My first husband is deceased. Can I draw benefits from him even though I have remarried? By taking early retirement due to poor health, can I do this at age 57?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Since you remarried before age 60, you can't collect survivor benefits on your deceased first husband's earnings record. Were you to get divorced, you could. The earliest you can collect your own retirement benefit is 62. That's also the earliest you can collect your spousal benefit on your current husband's earnings record. But to collect a spousal benefit, he has to be over 62.

    Your total check if you do take your own retirement benefit early will be the sum of your reduced retirement benefit (reduced because you are taking it early) and your reduced excess spousal benefit, which is equal to half your spouse's full retirement benefit less 100 percent of your full retirement benefit. If the excess spousal benefit is negative, it's set to zero.

    This is one of Social Security's miserable gotchas: You take your own retirement benefit and expect to get a spousal benefit, but it doesn't happen. Furthermore, as soon as you file for your retirement benefit, you'll be forced to take your spousal benefit (assuming your spouse is at least 62).

    One last point: if you are forced to stop working due to health reasons, you may qualify for disability benefits. As I wrote in a previous column, taking disability benefits does not preclude you from withdrawing them prior to their converting at full retirement age to retirement benefits. By withdrawing them now, you can collect a full spousal benefit starting at 66 and then wait until 70 to start collecting your own retirement benefit.

    Shirley -- San Jose, Calif.: I am 62 and my husband is 63. He has a pension that we are receiving now from his former employer. My employer is offering me a retirement package that would act as a bridge to age 65, so I can collect my pension now. (I also get full medical and vision for me and my husband for life.) The severance package also includes 54 weeks of pay (two weeks for every year I have been with them). My husband is still working and wants to retire at age 64 or 65. Can he apply and suspend Social Security at age 63 so I can collect on his benefits and then wait to collect on mine when I'm 70? Also in the last 35 years for Social Security taxes, I have six years with no income as I stayed home with the children. Will that affect how much I get at age 70?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your husband must reach full retirement age before he can file and suspend. And you can't opt to collect only your spousal benefit until you reach full retirement age. So if he files and suspends at 66 (his full retirement age), and you apply for a spousal benefit at 65, you'll also be forced to take your retirement benefit due to Social Security's "deeming" provision.

    And, once you are taking your own retirement benefit, your spousal benefit will be calculated not as your full spousal benefit, which would be equal to half of your husband's full retirement benefit, but as your excess spousal benefit (or your full spousal benefit less your full retirement benefit). Your excess spousal benefit could well be negative, in which case it's set to zero.

    So, by having him file and suspend as soon as he can so that you can seize the opportunity to collect your spousal benefit immediately, you will disadvantage yourself terribly. So let's not do that.

    Instead, let's have you wait until 66 to collect just your full spousal benefit and then hold off until 70 to collect your own retirement benefit. Or, when you are 65, you can file for your retirement benefit and permit your husband to collect his full spousal benefit off of your earnings record. When you are 66, you can suspend your retirement benefit. Your husband can then keep collecting a full spousal benefit until 70, when he can collect his retirement benefit. And you can restart your retirement benefit at 70. Depending on your earnings records, this may be the optimal thing to do. Only very smart software can say which option is best.

    Michael Zappei -- New York, N.Y.: I am 72 and have been collecting Social Security since shortly after I turned 62. My partner is 62 and plans on working until full retirement. His earnings are much higher than mine were. We are getting married now that it is possible, so what are our options regarding spousal and survivor benefits should he die before me?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Mazel Tov from Paul and me. Please get married and live in a state that has legalized same-sex marriage so that you don't run into some craziness about Social Security not recognizing your marriage. After the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, I wrote how same-sex couples can take advantage of the same perks as other married couples. But in a nutshell, you can receive spousal benefits (after you have been married one year) and survivor benefits (after you have been married nine months) off your partner's work record and he can receive spousal benefits off of yours, although you can't both get spousal benefits at the same time.

    Now what's the best collection strategy for you two? You can collect an excess spousal benefit as soon as your partner files for a retirement benefit, which he can do now. But if he does this, he'll be forced to take an early retirement benefit which is the full retirement benefit hit by a reduction factor. He can, however, collect until full retirement age, suspend his retirement benefit at that point, and then restart his retirement benefit at 70. But this may not be the optimal strategy to maximize your joint lifetime benefits. It may be best for your partner to wait until full retirement age and collect a full spousal benefit based on your earnings record and then take his own retirement benefit at 70.

    What's best depends on your maximum ages of life, the rate at which you choose to discount future benefits (i.e., how you value your Social Security benefits coming in future years), and your past covered earnings histories. Consider using commercially available software to weigh these options.

    Ed -- Mayfield, N.Y.: I retired at 62 but won't collect Social Security until 65 or 66. Will the four years I'm not working between 62 and 66 significantly affect my Social Security benefits?

    Larry Kotlikoff: My answer is a firm maybe. If you were to earn enough between now and 66 to replace some of what would otherwise be your highest 35 years of past Social Security-covered earnings, you'd get higher benefits for the rest of your days thanks to Social Security's recomputation of benefits. Indeed, if you were to earn above the covered ceiling, you'd automatically be making this replacement.

    But if you can't go back to work at this point, the question is rather moot. Your benefits will be what they will be. The only way you can make them larger is to wait to collect them or, if you are married, come up with a strategy for your and your spouse that makes your joint benefits over your lifetime as large as possible.

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


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    In a monthly column for PBS NewsHour, Dr. Howard Markel revisits moments that changed the course of modern medicine, like the invention of the stethoscope. Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images.

    Long before Hippocrates (ca. 460-380 B.C.) taught his disciples the importance of listening to breath sounds, references to it appeared in the Ebers papyrus (ca. 1500 B.C.) and the Hindu Vedas (ca. 1500-1200 B.C).

    But it was not until the early 19th century that physicians began to systematically explore the precise clinical meanings of both breath and heart sounds by correlating data gathered during patient examinations with what was ultimately discovered on the autopsy table.

    René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec

    This was the period when Paris reigned as the international center for all things medical. Drawing from a system of hospitals affording limitless access to what was then referred to as "clinical material," the Paris medical school boasted a talented faculty that represented the vanguard of medicine.

    One of the brightest stars in this firmament was the man credited with creating the stethoscope, René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec (1781-1826). Before he assumed the position of chief of service at the teeming Necker Hospital in 1816, Laënnec became adept at a technique called percussion, which involves striking the chest with one's fingertips in search of pathologic processes.

    Yet neither percussion nor the time-honored technique of listening to breath sounds by placing an ear against a patient's chest satisfied Laënnec's demand for diagnostic precision.

    He was especially critical of physicians' inability to hear muffled sounds emerging from the chest of an obese person, and he balked at what he described as the "disgusting" hygiene of his patients, many of whom were unwashed or lice-ridden.

    Laënnec examines a consumptive patient with a stethoscope in front of his students at the Necker Hospital.

    One day in the fall of 1816, Laënnec was scheduled to examine a young woman who had been "laboring under general symptoms of diseased heart."

    He was running late, according to the most charming version of the tale, and so took a shortcut through the courtyard of the Louvre, where a group of laughing children playing atop a pile of old timber caught his attention.

    A pair of youngsters toying with a long, narrow wooden beam especially entranced Laënnec. While one child held the beam to his ear, the other tapped nails against the opposite end; all had a jolly good time transmitting sound.

    Whether or not this instructive event ever occurred, Laënnec would later record that his invention was inspired by the science of acoustics and, in particular, the fact that sound is "conveyed through certain solid bodies, as when we hear the scratch of a pin at one end of a piece of wood, on applying our ear to the other."

    Upon entering his patient's room, Laënnec asked for a quire of paper and rolled it into a cylinder. Placing it against the patient's chest, the doctor was amazed to find how well he could "perceive the action of the heart in a manner much more clear and distinct than [he had] ever been able to do by the immediate application of the ear."

    Between 1816 and 1819, Laënnec experimented with a series of hollow tubes that he fashioned out of cedar or ebony, arriving at a model approximately 1 foot in length and 1.5 inches in diameter, with a 1/4-inch central channel. He would name his invention the stethoscope, derived from the Greek stethos, meaning chest, and skopein, meaning to observe.

    In the mid-1950s, Jackie Chambers listens to Selma Perry's heartbeat at the Smithsonian Institute through a replica of Laënnec's third model stethoscope. Photo by Orlando via Getty Images.

    A superb flautist who often used music to console himself during his own long and ultimately losing battle against tuberculosis, Laënnec pursued his studies with a vigor that belied the frailty of his frame.

    He became the first physician to distinguish reliably among bronchiectasis, emphysema, pneumothorax, lung abscess, hemorrhagic pleurisy, and pulmonary infarcts. He also opened the door to our modern understanding of cardiac maladies by describing their associated heart sounds and various murmurs.

    On Aug. 19, 1819, when Laënnec's magnum opus on the stethoscope, De l'Auscultation Médiate, was published, the two-volume book caused hardly a stir in the medical world -- even at the price of 13 francs, with a stethoscope thrown in for an extra 3 francs.

    By the late 1820s, however, the book had been reprinted and translated into other languages and had managed to triumph over poor publicity and distribution. This success, combined with the gradual acceptance of the stethoscope by practicing physicians, allowed Laënnec to revolutionize clinical medicine.

    Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour website, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine and the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

    He is the author or editor of 10 books, including "Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892," "When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed" and "An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine."

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    Do you have a question for Dr. Markel about how a particular aspect of modern medicine came to be? Send them to us at onlinehealth@newshour.org.

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    "Life hacks" are little tricks and tips that helpmake life more efficient in some way. On Aug. 8 we published a list of seven life hacks, and since then readers have added several of their own. Graphic by Elizabeth Shell.

    Earlier this month PBS NewsHour took viewers to Boston, where an organization in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill has become a national model for helping seniors maintain independence in their own homes and avoid moving to retirement communities. The group provides supportive services ranging from basic assistance like changing light bulbs to transportation to doctors' appointments and even social outings to the symphony.

    The philosophy is that most people are healthier, happier and more productive in the long-run if they can "age in place" in familiar surroundings. And often, the tricks to make that a reality are pretty simple.

    To go along with this story, the NewsHour partnered with Allyson Evelyn-Gustave, a senior occupational at the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University to compile "Seven Life Hacks to Keep You Out of the Nursing Home." A "life hack" is a simple tool or trick that some people find make a big difference in their lives. Evelyn-Gustave and several other Hopkins employees are helping implement these changes throughout Baltimore as part of the CAPABLE project, aimed at helping low-income seniors "age in place."

    After reviewing her original list, many NewsHour viewers added some "life hacks" of their own to the discussion. Here are 19 more simple fixes and tricks that could help keep you out of the nursing home:

    From viewer Mary Guercio:

    Think large, deep drawers instead of shelves in kitchen.

    Remove doors from upper cabinets so items can be more easily retrieved. Remove doors from vanity for safer, easier access.

    Install portable handle grips (OXO makes a great one) on surfaces where having something to grab would help provide stability, i.e., mount on vanity counter, shower walls (non-porous surfaces only).

    Use remote controls for light fixtures and the devices that can be simply touched rather than reaching up into lamps.

    Small aluminum ramps are helpful for those in wheelchairs and scooters to allow safer egress from home onto patios and walkways.

    Consider opening up a wall between your bedroom and bath for shorter, straighter and safer access.

    Mount the bathroom faucet on the side of sink where it can be more easily reached. Use your tub chair (with arms!) at your vanity, too, for shaving, oral hygiene, etc. Place a few quality "grabbers" throughout the home to retrieve items that would require reaching or bending.

    From viewer R.I. Pettigrew, during a recent PBS NewsHour Twitter chat:

    Have things to look forward too, such as family gatherings and planned Skype dates.

    From viewer Dawn Rogers:

    Remove extension cords from walkways.

    Get rid of throw rugs.

    From viewer AJ Wielondek:

    Store heavy and/or awkwardly-sized cookware at an easy-to-reach level to eliminate the necessity of step stools and ladders and to avoid back wrenching stooping by reaching down below.

    From viewer Foxrepublican:

    I have my father email a joke everyday by 10 a.m. This way I know he's OK.

    From several seniors, to PBS NewsHour Producer Mary Jo Brooks:

    Live near the sound of children to keep your spirits young.

    From viewer Marilyn:

    Use a nightlight that lights up automatically when the room is dark and shuts off automatically in daylight.

    Replace doorknobs with door openers that push down.

    From viewer Katharine Shishkovsky:

    For people who tire easily or have balance issues, use a shower chair, along with rails in the shower.

    From viewer Nancy Best:

    Replace existing low toilets with high ones. Raising and lowering one's body on a raised toilet is kinder on the knees and the process is more comfortable.

    From viewer Barbara Hannon:

    Live on one floor, if possible.

    From viewer Gwendoline Spurll:

    Install railings on both sides of the stairs to ensure you can always hold on.

    Do you have more "life hacks" for maintaining independence longer? Leave them in the comments section below.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: The crisis in Egypt deepened today with the news that former president Hosni Mubarak may be allowed to leave prison. He was detained in 2011 after the revolution that deposed him.

    Within a month after a military coup ousted his successor, Mohammed Morsi, the state of emergency remains in place amid continuing violence.

    Even as Cairo's streets were relatively calmer today, the Mubarak news came as an Egyptian court said it no longer had grounds to hold the former autocrat on corruption charges. It remained unclear, however, whether he would in fact be released and, if so, when.

    The announcement came just hours after suspected Islamic militants ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty police officers in the Sinai Peninsula. Twenty-five officers were shot dead.

    Yesterday, in his first televised address since President Morsi's ouster, Egypt's military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, warned that violence would not be tolerated.

    GEN. ABDEL FATTAH AL-SISI, Egyptian Defense Minister (through interpreter): We will not stand behind traitors and those who cause menace. And schemers know we don't have any of this, I assure you. We are reaching out with good intentions to all Egyptians, if it is good they want. If it other than good, then we are just left with no other choice but to stand against this with all our strength and might to protect Egypt.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That pledge came even as the government acknowledged that its security forces had killed at least 36 pro-Morsi detainees. Authorities claimed it was a thwarted jailbreak. But Muslim Brotherhood officials described the deaths as assassinations and said the detainees had been shot through the windows of a locked police van.

    And earlier this weekend on Saturday, more than 70 people were killed in clashes between Morsi supporters and police. All told, Wednesday, the fighting has claimed some 1,000 lives. In the meantime, the military-backed interim government continued its efforts to control media coverage of the unfolding events.

    Officials have scolded Western journalists for not portraying the crackdown as a war against terrorists. And, Sunday, authorities arrested an Al-Jazeera correspondent on charges of inciting sectarian violence. On American television Sunday, several politicians condemned the Egyptian government's crackdown.

    And on CNN's State of the Union, Arizona Senator John McCain, who traveled to Egypt recently for talks with both sides, called on the White House to cut off aid to the country.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: But for us to sit by and watch this happen is a violation of everything that we stood for. And when we threaten something, as we did, that we would cut off aid, the administration did, and then not do it, then you lose your credibility and your influence.

    We have no credibility. We do have influence, but when you don't use that influence, then you do not have that influence.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But at the State Department today, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the review of U.S. economic assistance is still in progress.

    JEN PSAKI, State Department: We have not made a policy decision to put a blanket hold on economic support -- on the Economic Support Fund, ESF assistance. Clearly that review is ongoing, as we have talked about in here quite a bit.

    That review includes military assistance, security assistance. It also includes economic assistance. We're going to abide by legal obligations. And we will make adjustments as needed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, a new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 51 percent of Americans say it is better for the United States to cut off military aid to Egypt to put pressure on the government. That's nearly double the percentage saying it's better to continue military aid in order to maintain influence in Egypt.

     

     

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: A short time ago, I spoke via Skype to Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers in Cairo.

    Nancy, welcome once again.

    So, what kind of reaction have you gotten today to the possible release of Hosni Mubarak?

    NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Well, given that Egypt rose up against Mubarak just two years ago, saying that Egypt needed to see major reforms, it was surprisingly muted. And, I dare say, some people were fine with the news that the president who they rose up against now could be released.

    There's so much anger at the Muslim Brotherhood, the party through which Mohammed Morsi rose to the presidency, that it's almost ground out what was outrage against Hosni Mubarak.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nancy, what about the killings in the Sinai? What's known about who did it, the policemen who were killed there, who did it and what kind of -- where they're getting the support?

    NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, the government says that those officers were killed in an RPG attack, that they were burned, that weapons had come from overseas, suggesting now that there are international elements supporting the Islamists and supporting the Morsi supporters and further branding them as terrorists.

    The killing that really galvanized people around going after the Brotherhood, it was the deadliest attack on police officers in Egypt's recent memory. And the images of their coffins coming back to Cairo really upset this public, which is already in a sort of emotional place in light of all the violence here.

    But the idea that their officers could be killed by Islamists in their own borders really refueled ideas and notions amongst them that it was important for the government to keep going after Islamists, to charge them, to even kill them, to bring back stability to the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then the other incident over the weekend, the government now acknowledges that detainees, Muslim Brotherhood detainees, were killed.

    But, of course, there's quite a discrepancy in versions of that story.

    NANCY YOUSSEF: That's right.

    The government claim that they were accidentally over-tear-gassed. But the Islamists claim that they were tortured. And I can tell you that we have spoken to officials at the morgue who have handled some of those bodies. And they say that they have seen signs of torture.

    And what's particularly disturbing about that incident is that it suggests that perhaps that we're seeing death squads emerge and a real concerted effort to not prosecute those who are suspected to be terrorists or extremist elements, but to actually kill them even while in government custody.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, we mentioned the pressures being put on some Western journalists and others as to how this story is told.

    How do you and your colleagues feel that? How is it -- I don't know. What kind of pressure do you feel?

    NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, you feel it every day.

    The government has come out and said that the Egyptian population is very, to use their words, bitter about the coverage by the international press corps. They feel that they are being called human rights abusers, when, in fact, from their perspective, they're going after terrorist elements that threaten to destabilize the country.

    It's now almost impossible to go out to an event without being questioned by a security force official, who will then ask you what your perspective is and tell you that you're against the Egyptian state. A number of journalists have been detained for several hours. Some have been beaten.

    I can tell you that I was at an event a couple days ago. And a police officer yelled at the men around me that I was an American and therefore should be beaten. And the men began to manhandle me in an effort to suggest that I was somehow part of the problem.

    And it's been, I dare say, a systematic campaign going on by this government because there's so much anger that the international community has suggested that what they're doing is anything short of defending the state.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy in Cairo, take care. And thanks again for talking to us.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to a closer look inside the thinking of the Egyptian government and its actions over the last week.

    I'm joined by the country's ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Tawfik.

    Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to the program.

    MOHAMED TAWFIK, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States: Thank you. Good to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you first about the -- what -- reports are Hosni Mubarak, former president, may be released.

    Will he be released? And, if he is, does that mean there's been an exoneration of any wrongdoing by his administration -- his government?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: No, no.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the executive branch, with the government. This is a purely legal issue. It's up to the courts to decide. And Mubarak is no longer president of Egypt. He's a citizen who has basically to face the courts and either be judged in whatever way the courts find necessary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the first opportunity we have had to speak with an Egyptian official since the crackdown last week.

    Should the world expect continuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, as what we have seen over the last week?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Well, I think we have to agree on a number of basic principles.

    First of all, this is not about religion. This is not about God. This is not about martyrdom. If you have political grievances, you should express those political grievances in the ways that the law allows you to do that.

    The second thing that we have to agree upon is you cannot go on a demonstration carrying heavy machine guns and shooting at people. That -- immediately -- if, say, a few people are armed and using those weapons, they put the other demonstrators who are unarmed in danger.

    So the third thing that we have to agree upon -- and we do agree upon -- is that it is perfectly legal for people to demonstrate peacefully, without burning down churches, without attacking police stations, without attacking museums. Demonstrate peacefully, and you have the right to do so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But eyewitnesses, I'm sure you know, Mr. Ambassador, say that the majority, the vast majority of the shooting was done by government, by soldiers, by troops, by police, and not by the demonstrators, who were largely peaceful.

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: If that were true, then we wouldn't have a hundred, almost a hundred dead policemen today that have been shot by pro-Morsi, different types of pro-Morsi groups.

    We have almost 700 policemen injured. So, again, the police have an obligation to respect the freedom of people to demonstrate, provided they do not use weapons and they don't attack people and people's property.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think the question many people are asking, though, is, why was it necessary to shoot to kill? Was there a nonlethal way to work with these demonstrators? Why not wait them out? Why not give them time to make a different decision?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Actually, that was what the police were trying to do.

    They started to surround the area where the demonstrators were situated in order to allow people to leave. But, basically, what happened is that they were attacked by armed gunmen, and police officers were killed. And it became evident that this wasn't going to be peaceful because of the fact that some of the demonstrators, not all of them -- most of them were not armed, but some of them were armed and were willing to use those arms to kill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you comfortable, though, with the -- with now the impression that your government has left on the world that it is prepared to crack down in this way, leaving, what, 1,000 civilians dead after just a week?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Well, I -- first of all, I'm not comfortable with the notion that any Egyptians are being killed.

    As far as I'm concerned, one Egyptian dead is one too many. However, we have to look at this in an objective way. When the people are attacked by armed people in the middle of unarmed demonstrators, then you're -- there's going to be a gunfight, and people are going to get hurt.

    It is up to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership to make a decision that they will not use weapons. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a place for the Muslim Brotherhood in the government, in the current government, or is it better, in the view of the government, for the Muslim Brotherhood to be eliminated?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: I want to make this point very clear.

    There is room for Egypt -- in Egypt for all Egyptians. There's room. This is not a struggle for one side to eliminate the other side. This is not objective of the Egyptian people or of the Egyptian government. We have in our government, in the new government a minister whose sole portfolio is to talk with all the parties and to arrive at a national reconciliation.

    So, this is the objective. There's a political process in place. The Muslim Brotherhood were invited to participate in the government, to have ministers in the government. They were invited to participate in meetings to discuss how to move forward.

    We cannot keep on in this vicious cycle of recriminations and killings. We have to move forward. We have to look towards the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There's been extensive reporting just in the last few days, particularly in The New York Times yesterday, about the great lengths that U.S. officials at the highest level went to try to persuade General al-Sisi, the leading military -- the military leader, and others in your government not to use this massive force. Why were the pleas of Secretary Hagel, Secretary Kerry and so many others not heeded?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Again, the objective wasn't to use massive force.

    The objective wasn't to get anyone killed. The objective was to apply the rule of law. You had in those areas where you had the sit-ins, you had people who had been killed, who had been tortured. You had bodies surfacing. You had people who had been left for dead and then somehow they miraculously survived, and they told their story.

    How could the government just stand aside and say we're going to allow these people to continue to -- bringing arms there and to continue to break the law there?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The reporting we're hearing, Mr. Ambassador, is that the U.S. -- we just heard the spokeswoman at the State Department. They are still looking at whether the aid that the U.S. provides to your country, military aid, $1.3 billion, should be continued.

    A new poll out today says most Americans believe it shouldn't continue. How much does that aid matter to your country?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Well, the -- I have been saying this so many times. Let me say it one more time.

    The U.S. assistance to Egypt is part of a strategic partnership that serves both countries enormously. It's a win/win situation. So, basically, we would like it to continue to be a win/win situation, particularly since we agree on the objective. We have the same objective. We want to see a democratic system in place in Egypt.

    We do not want to see Christians attacked, nuns being treated like they're prisoners of wars, churches burned down, museums -- museums -- being attacked. We don't want to see this. We want to have a flourishing country, a democracy, a country where every individual can feel free, can have human dignity.

    This is what we're working towards. And this is what we are going to achieve.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying regardless of whether the aid continues?

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Again, I'm not going to comment on the decisions of the United States government.

    What I'm saying is that this assistance is of use and is of tremendous importance to both sides.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik, we thank you very much for being with us.

    MOHAMED TAWFIK: Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.

     


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    KWAME HOLMAN: The number of Syrians streaming into Iraq has grown dramatically in the last five days. The U.N. reported some 30,000 refugees have entered the Kurdish region of Iraq. They mostly are Syrian Kurds believed to be fleeing attacks by al-Qaida fighters involved in the Syrian civil war. The U.N. set up an emergency transit camp in the Iraqi town of Irbil to house the new arrivals. They bring the overall number of Syrian refugees in Iraq to nearly 200,000.

    SUHA SHAMO, Syrian refugee (through interpreter): We left Syria because the situation is getting worse, and my young brothers who are here had sent after us, telling us to come to the Kurdish region. We came three or four times before, but we couldn't cross because each time, they told us the borders were closed. I only just made it.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has requested thousands of tents and other supplies from Jordan that are due to arrive by the end of the week.

    Heavy monsoon rains spawned severe flooding across parts of the Philippines today. The downpours drenched the capital city, Manila, and several nearby provinces, killing at least three people. The torrential rain, strengthened by a passing tropical storm, turned Manila's streets into waist-deep rivers. The flooding forced the closing of schools, businesses, and embassies.

    In the U.S., a wildfire raged across central Idaho today. Some 2,300 homeowners near the resort communities of Sun Valley and Ketchum were forced to evacuate. The blaze, which was sparked by lightening nearly two weeks ago, now has scorched about 160 square miles; 1,200 firefighters are battling the fire. It is eight percent contained. Even as the Idaho fire burned, so far, 2013 is shaping up to be the second mildest fire season of the last decade.

    Lyme disease is ten times more common than previously thought, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors report about 20,000 to 30,000 illnesses a year, but a CDC survey shows as many as 300,000 Americans actually are diagnosed annually. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through the bites of infected deer ticks. If diagnosed early, it can be cleared by antibiotics, avoiding potentially severe symptoms.

    Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee Olympian, was indicted in a South African courtroom today on a charge of murdering his girlfriend a year ago. In court for the indictment, he wept openly before the proceeding. Prosecutors say witnesses heard a woman screaming before shots were fired, which contradicts Pistorius' account. He said he believed he was shooting at an intruder. His trial is to begin in March.

    Same-sex weddings took place across New Zealand today, as it became the 15th country to allow them. About three dozen couples exchanged vows in both traditional and nontraditional ceremonies. One couple was married on an airplane at 39,000 feet after winning an airline promotion. New Zealand's same-sex marriage law was enacted in April and took effect today.

    Gary Knell, the president and CEO of NPR, formerly National Public Radio, is moving on after less than two years on the job. Knell succeeded Vivian Schiller, who resigned after a former NPR fund-raising executive was caught on camera accusing the Tea Party of being racist. Knell plans to leave in late fall to run the National Geographic Society.

    Trading was light on Wall Street today, as investors await clues about the Federal Reserve's future bond-buying plans. The Dow Jones industrial average logged its first four-day losing streak of the year, dropping more than 70 points to close at 15,010. The NASDAQ fell 13 points to close at 3,589.

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Jeff.

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: Next: a story about the increase in police seizures of personal property, in the name of fighting crime.

    Ray Suarez has our look.

    It's called civil forfeiture. The seizures have long been a tool in the fight against illegal drugs. And the program is an enormous moneymaker for local police departments.

    New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman wrote a lengthy and revealing report for the magazine, and joins me now.

    And, Sarah, let's start at the beginning.

    What is civil forfeiture? How does it work?

    SARAH STILLMAN, The New Yorker: Well, most people are familiar with this idea of criminal forfeiture.

    And that's a widely supported notion that, if you're profiting from crime -- let's say you're a big drug kingpin -- and you have bought your Malibu mansion and your Gulfstream jet with the proceeds of your crime, then those things will be taken away from you. And that make a lot of sense again to people.

    But many folks are unfamiliar with the idea of civil forfeiture, which is actually a case brought against, directly against a piece a property, where you don't need to be proven guilty of a crime for your goods to be taken away. And many of the conventional protections that you have under the criminal process are not afforded to you in a civil forfeiture case.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, there's no trial. There's no requirement to provide evidence to prove the state's suspicion. They just take your stuff.

    SARAH STILLMAN: Exactly.

    And you don't even have the right to a lawyer. So, conventionally, if you're facing the loss of your home or the loss of your car or cash, normally, at the very least, you would have someone who is able to represent you in these claims.

    In places like Washington, D.C., you have to even pay $2,500 simply for the right to contest the case. And you're, again, not entitled to representation when you do that. So it can be a very costly process and also just a very confusing, arduous process to figure out, how do you contest?

    RAY SUAREZ: People are probably sitting at home and saying, but how could this happen? Doesn't the Constitution forbid the government seizing your property without due process?

    SARAH STILLMAN: Right.

    And there are a lot of constitutional arguments that have been -- that have gone on around this issue. And people have argued, for instance, the Eighth Amendment protects against excessive fees -- or excessive fines for things like a case I looked at in Philadelphia where a family lost their home, a couple, an elderly couple.

    The man was struggling with cancer. And it was found that his son had allegedly sold $20 worth of pot on the porch to a confidential informant. And the son has still not actually been convicted of any crime, but yet the parents, the homeowners are facing the potential loss of their home.

    RAY SUAREZ: Now, people probably remember, probably recall seeing news conferences where very proud local law enforcement show off cars, show off boats, show off houses, the things that they have gotten as the fruits of investigations.

    When did this become a common tool in use by police departments across the country?

    SARAH STILLMAN: Well, it's interesting, because, actually, civil forfeiture has its origins at the very, very beginning of our country, when they needed a way to go after pirates who had these vessels that the owner may be all the way in Europe, so let's just go after the ship if we can't get the guy who owns the ship, which made sense.

    But it really fell by the wayside pretty soon thereafter. And not until the one drugs took off in the '80s in kind of the Reagan years did it become common for police -- legislation was written that allowed police to actually in many cases keep the proceeds that they got, the things you mentioned, and actually use them, funnel them back into crime fighting.

    RAY SUAREZ: Now, your report indicated that it's pretty hard if you're caught in this, if you're a citizen who has been stopped by a county sheriff or something, to fight back, to get your property, your cash back from a law enforcement agency.

    SARAH STILLMAN: Yes.

    And I think one thing that is important to emphasize is that these laws vary tremendously from state to state, so, in many places, again, with things like not being entitled to a lawyer and also with the idea that often you have maybe 20 days to contest or 30 days to contest. And if you can't figure out how to do so in that time period, your goods are automatically seized.

    So many people lose them simply by default.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, the clock is ticking from the moment they find cash in your glove compartment or a TV in your trunk. And often these are, your reporting indicates, either poor or working-class people with no access to attorneys, under-banked or unbanked. They're not people who know how to sophisticatedly work the system.

    SARAH STILLMAN: Yes.

    That was a big sort of surprise for me looking at this, is that these laws were really created, again, to go after kingpins or mafia people or Wall Street con men who, in those cases, you're able to actually take the proceeds of crime and give them in some cases back to victims, which is again a very kind of appealing idea.

    Instead, often, I was seeing cases of like very petty drug crimes or cases where people were actually proven to have committed any crime at all, but simply had cash that they claimed was going to maybe buy a used car or they were paid in cash for whatever reason, and simply were pulled over on the side of the street, in some cases were even told -- in a case I mentioned in Tenaha, Tx., the main case I write about in The New Yorker, they were actually told -- some couples were told, we will either let you -- we will either take your money and you can go on down the road if you sign away your rights to it, or we will press money laundering charges and take your kids away from you and put them into child protective services.

    RAY SUAREZ: Has anybody successfully fought back against the seizure of their property without trial and without due process?

    SARAH STILLMAN: Absolutely.

    And that -- one of the surprising things is actually that when people did get it together to push back, often, the cases were just dropped. And it sort of indicated this was really often preying upon people who didn't know how to fight back or didn't have the resources to or had reasons to be scared to.

    And in cases where people really did bring a case, including in Tenaha after this happened to hundreds -- perhaps even 1,000 were stopped in this drug interdiction program there -- it's a very small town. It's mostly people who were driving through in rental cars from out of state. They actually brought a successful -- or they had a settlement in class action lawsuit recently.

    RAY SUAREZ: A very interesting read.

    Sarah Stillman from The New Yorker, thanks a lot.

    SARAH STILLMAN: Thanks for having me on the show.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now: a second look at what some schools are doing to make sure students don't lose ground during the summer. 

    The NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, reports about efforts in Rhode Island to reduce the academic gap between the wealthy and the poor.

    JOHN MERROW: Summer is a time when some kids get to go to camp, travel with their families, explore museums.

    It's also a time when social and economic inequalities are evident. Many children in low-income communities miss out on these stimulating opportunities. They spend summer break in their neighborhood, hanging out.

    GIRL: I don't do a lot of math in the summer. And I don't think my skills are improving.

    BOY: My friends just sit home and watch TV. Yes, they don't do much.

    JOHN MERROW: This difference in summer experiences has serious consequences. Educators call it summer learning loss. Children who don't have stimulating summer experiences forget more of the math and reading skills they need to do well in school.

    By the time summer ends, the achievement gap between rich and poor is actually wider than it was in June. So, is summer school the answer?

    HILLARY SALMONS, Providence After School Alliance: When kids hear summer school, they hear loser, failing, more school in an un-air conditioned building.

    JOHN MERROW: Typically, summer remediation programs are held in the classroom. Students complete worksheets and practice math and reading skills for hours at a time. In many districts, including Providence, R.I., this type of learning wasn't working.

    SUSAN LUSI, Providence Public School District: We could have remediation until the cows came home, and, one, substantial numbers of kids didn't attend, and, two, it wasn't effective.

    JOHN MERROW: Providence is trying to change that by turning summer school into an experience that supports classroom learning and excites students.

    This summer, 716 low-income students enrolled in Summer Scholars, a four-week program for middle school students. The program, which includes transportation and two meals a day, is free for kids, but costs about $1,200 per student. About half of the money comes from private sources, and the school district funds the rest.

    At a time when 20 percent of districts across the country have eliminated summer school, Providence has redirected its summer remediation funds and is trying something different.

    Sixth, seventh and eighth graders spend two mornings a week in the field with an instructor from a local organization like Save the Bay and a teacher from the district who ensures that students are practicing skills they struggled with during the year and will need in the fall.

    In the afternoons, it's back to the classroom. There, teachers like Matthew Pierce create lessons to help students deepen their understanding of concepts they learned in the field.

    MATTHEW PIERCE, Roger Williams Middle School: You have to work to keep their attention, especially at this middle school to early high school level. They will not -- they will just shut down on you if you don't do something fun and get them engaged.

    We will add salt and we will see if it will make it float.

    GIRL: Oh!

    MATTHEW PIERCE: So, if you add salt and make it dense enough, it will float.

    JOHN MERROW: Students worked collaboratively in the field and then applied what they learn back in the classroom to solve complex problems.

    This is what educators call deeper learning. The Summer Scholars program is a partnership between the school district and 30 local organizations like the zoo, the YMCA and the Audubon Society. Public schools often work alone, but Providence has been building these relationships for years.

    WOMAN: This is the knotweed. What we're trying to do is to get rid of it, let it know it's not taking over here.

    JOHN MERROW: Today, students are learning about invasive species. Rick Taylor has been teaching in Providence for 17 years.

    RICK TAYLOR, Nathan Bishop Middle School: I think, on a very basic level, we could say that they're just pulling weeds.

    But in reality, they're also learning concepts that they can bring back into school during the school year that will help them, terms like biotic, abiotic. What's the difference between an environment and a habitat?

    You could read about that in a textbook or you can actually go into the field and learn it firsthand. I think that firsthand experience, actually doing it, makes a dramatic difference.

    DENISE JOHNSON, student: We do math, like circumference, diameter, but we have fun with it, because you get to explore outside, instead of like sitting inside and having your teacher teach you about it, and you still don't know how to, like, do it.

    JOHN MERROW: Hands-on-learning is actually not a new idea. John Dewey wrote about it over 100 years ago. Montessori schools do it every day.

    But it's appearing now in Providence because educators here were not happy with the results they have been getting using traditional teaching.

    This district doesn't have terrific scores.

    SUSAN LUSI: We have horrible scores.

    JOHN MERROW: Don't your kids need remediation, instead of this summer fun?

    SUSAN LUSI: I think the kind of drill and remediation that might lead to a temporary bump in scores is not the kind of education that really any parent wants for his or her child.

    RICK TAYLOR: I think that's a branch from a tree. I don't think we're going to get that out.

    What I have seen is a tremendous amount of growth very quickly in children. Kids are more actively involved and engaged. This program is very different from the traditional classroom setting.

    BOY: Well, it's kind of like school because we're learning about stuff. And at the same time, we're having a lot of fun.

    BOY: I found a web.

    JOHN MERROW: Superintendent Lusi says programs like this are one way to level the playing field.

    SUSAN LUSI: There are students who never leave Providence or maybe even their neighborhood. And I think people underestimate what the experiences and interactions that middle-class children tend to have, how that equips kids to engage with education.

    So, this is a thoughtful, organized, but very fun way to provide those types of opportunities. The evaluation shows that students who attended these programs had better engagement in their classes and better grades, particularly in math.

    JOHN MERROW: In the afternoon, students participate in activities like basketball, computers, art, and dance. It may have felt like camp to some, but even these activities incorporated learning into the fun. And students weren't the only ones having fun at school.

    RICK TAYLOR: I'm learning to relate to children in a much different way. I like the way that I have been able to interact with them. It's very different from what I would do in a normal setting.

    SUSAN LUSI: I have had teachers say to me, you know, we need to figure out a way to make school look more like this.

    I think we have to get better and better at giving kids opportunities to apply their learning in ways that are interesting, as well as informative.

    JOHN MERROW: The obvious goal of the Summer Scholars is to curb summer learning loss. But this way of teaching might change the way Providence schools approach teaching and learning all year long.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And now: the problem of governing in America today.

    These days, it's unusual for a pollster to find anyone who's happy with Washington, and politicians themselves regularly air their frustrations. We begin our series of conversations examining this phenomenon with some historical perspective.

    Beverly Gage of Yale University, former Senate historian Richard Baker, co-author of the new book "The American Senate," and Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University, welcome, all three.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Thank you.  

    JEFFREY BROWN: Beverly, start us off here. In your historian's hat, what do you see going on in Washington today? How would you describe it?

    BEVERLY GAGE, Yale University: Well, I think some of what's going on in Washington at the moment is stuff we have seen before in the past.

    We tend to romanticize past periods as being cooperative, beautiful periods of compromise.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Everybody worked back then, right?

    BEVERLY GAGE: We look back on the laws that were passed and think they were the right laws for the right moment, and, in fact, it's always been very, very messy.

    That said, I do think that we are seeing a particular level of dysfunction that is different from what they have seen before and in many ways is a little bit more extreme.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will pick that up.

    But, first, Richard Baker, in your book, you looked at this one institution where you sat for many, many years, right, the Senate. Do you see a clear evolution, devolution? What have you seen happen?

    RICHARD BAKER, author: All of it, everything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All of it?

    RICHARD BAKER: You pick out where you want it.

    There have been times of great heartburn, hurt feelings, and then times when they thought they were really going to pull themselves out of the hole and pass some reform legislation and move on into the future.

    One of the most recent times was in the mid-1970s. The Senate, maybe coming out of the Nixon era, passed some fairly significant legislation, war powers legislation, budget legislation, and also reorganized their committees so that every member of a committee could hire his or her own staff member.

    Well, what did that do to the committees? That immediately fragmented the committees, which used to be these sources of great power in the Senate. Now we're in an era where the power rests with the floor leaders, and not the committee chairmen. So, it's a different time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Richard, we have talked many times about the evolution of the presidency vis-a-vis Congress, right? So, where do you see us now?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Well, you know, it's funny.

    Maybe the biggest single -- I would argue maybe the biggest single difference between 40 or 50 years ago, if you think of the '60s or the '70s, when the presidency was in some ways paramount, no one would confuse that with an era of good feelings. It was a tumultuous time in this country.

    And yet it was also a time of extraordinary legislative and governmental productivity. What's different? One thing is the nature of the party themselves. In the 1960s, the Republican Party was a broadly conservative party. The Democrats were broadly liberal. But each party was a coalition.

    So there were Javits Republicans. And there were Richard Russell Democrats. What that meant was that, if you were a newcomer to the Senate -- I remember hearing at various times Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole say to me, the advice they were given when they first arrived here, Bob Dole said, go spend some time with Senator Eastland from Mississippi, and Ted Kennedy said Dick Russell.

    The fact is, you learned within your own party caucus how to deal with people with whom you fundamentally disagreed, and that in turn was great preparation for the larger Senate, and indeed the larger body politic.

    That's gone. We now have a rigidly conservative and rigidly liberal party.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about -- Beverly, you pick up there because you look a lot at political engagement and civic action, right?

    How has that changed, and how does that fit into the kind of strife that we're talking about here in Washington?

    BEVERLY GAGE: Well, I think both of my friends here at the table, as they would say, in the Senate, my friends here...

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Distinguished.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Before not accomplishing anything.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Right.

    BEVERLY GAGE: My distinguished friends and colleagues, I think they're absolutely right that if we want to make sense of what's happening now, the moment to look back to, when a lot of these things began to change, is the '60s and '70s.

    And that was a moment when many people on the right and on the left looked at what they would have described as the Washington establishment and said, this isn't responsive enough to the people. And they thought there were a number of ways you could go about dealing with that.

    One is by having parties that were more ideologically consistent within themselves. That was going to give the people a real choice. Another one was having the primary system and having primaries that actually mattered coming out of the crises of the 1968 Democratic Convention in particular.

    So, a lot of these things, which were initiated as real democratic reforms and were things that people on the left and the right agreed upon throughout the 1970s, I think now have led to a very, very combative situation and one that nobody ever intended.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And part of that, especially -- I was thinking as you were talking about in the Reagan era of moving towards calling for smaller government.

    We have more -- we have people in government, I don't want to say disdaining government, but who are calling for less government all the time.

    RICHARD BAKER: The irony of it -- the irony of it all, here they come to an institution called Congress, which basically means coming together.

    And you hear people saying, well, if I can't get my own -- anybody to agree with my immigration legislation, I'm going to take it off and do it on my own. Well, where are you going to do it on your own? It's the sense of, we're going to talk past each other.

    You mentioned the party caucuses earlier, and the fact that they were quite heterogeneous. The fights would take place behind closed doors. And then they would come out behind those closed doors with a uniform position.

    Now there are more homogeneous party caucuses, because the Democrats from the South became Republicans. And so we have a much less diverse Democratic Party. And, of course, then you add the media picking up on -- and all that, I mean, to get ahead of the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Well, no, but we haven't -- the media atmosphere, of course, weighs into all this.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yes.

    The fact of the matter is, 40 or 50 years ago, whether or not it was a golden era, there was a mainstream media. And they were gatekeepers.

    RICHARD BAKER: Right.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Everyone knew what the fringe was.

    Those walls have come down. The Internet has removed those walls. Cable TV, cable news and talk radio thrives on the fringe. The way you get noticed in this town overnight is to say something outrageous.

    RICHARD BAKER: Right.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: That has had, I think, an enormous impact.

    The 24/7 news cycle, we have to feed the beast every day.

    RICHARD BAKER: Right.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: All of that, I think, is affecting this.

    I think the -- but to get -- I mean, to get back to the notion of liberals and conservatives, there's a -- let's be honest. There's also a real libertarian movement in this country, which is not limited to the Tea Party.

    If you're on the left, you have lots of reasons to suspect government. You didn't like Iraq. You didn't think Katrina was responded to very well. You don't like the NSA revelations. If you're on the right, distrust of big government has always been an article of faith. But it's not just cynicism and it's not just media exploitation. There is a genuine reaction against in part philosophically, but also what is perceived as the incompetence of government.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about the idea or ideal of a public good that has run through our history?

    BEVERLY GAGE: The founders of course spent much of their time contemplating this idea of a public good, trying to set up a situation in which partisan impulses, internal impulses, regional impulses, state impulses, in which all of these would be tamped down enough that, in fact, the government would function and, in fact, we would produce legislators who would act in a broad public good.

    This was the essential of the small-R Republican idea originally. And, of course, that's worked better and less well over the years since. I think what we have really lost now is a conversation about it. Right? I mean, it's sort of been taken for granted that this doesn't exist anymore, that there is nothing else beyond partisan warfare in Washington. And we used to have more gestures toward the public good.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, you get a very brief last word here on that.

    RICHARD BAKER: I just want to introduce campaign finance.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICHARD BAKER: Back in those earlier days, all you had to do to be elected to the Senate was to convince some of your state legislators to vote for you, and that was it.

    Now, all of a sudden, we have, in the case of Nevada, with Harry Reid's last election, it cost his campaign $69 per vote in terms of expenditures, something that would have been unimaginable even 20 years earlier.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    Well, you know what? We have put a lot on the table for this conversation series.

    Beverly Gage, Richard Norton Smith, Richard Baker, thank you, all three. And we will continue this series in days ahead.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Great. Thank you.

    RICHARD BAKER: Thank you.

     


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: the future of the U.S. space program and the many questions surrounding it, the mission, the money, and the politics.

    More than two years ago, space shuttle Atlantis touched down for final the time at the Kennedy Space Center.

    CHRIS FERGUSON, NASA: After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history and has come to a final stop.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The landing marked the end of a more-than-three-decade-long era for the shuttle program and came after NASA's glory days with trips to the moon.

    Manned spaceflight has not been the sole focal point of NASA's success. Powerful telescopes have revealed new insights about thousands of potential planets. Astronauts still do research on the International Space Station. And robotic rovers on Mars have beamed back images and information about the red planet's surface.

    But facing budget cutbacks and political pressures, NASA now faces a looming question: What comes next?

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history.

    (APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a 2010 speech on space exploration, President Obama pressed for further discovery. The space program heeded the call, and recently launched Asteroid Redirect Mission, an ambitious program to capture a small asteroid.

    NASA is also already at work on the Orion and the Space Launch System, new designs for manned space exploration.

    Joel Achenbach is looking at all of the questions connected to NASA as part of a new series by The Washington Post. The first article ran this week. It focused on the asteroid project, called "Mission Improbable."

    Joel Achenbach joins me now.

    Why mission improbable? And, by the way, welcome back to the NewsHour.

    JOEL ACHENBACH, The Washington Post: Well, thank you, Judy. Great to be here.

    This is a challenging situation for NASA. If you're the agency, where are you going to go? What are you going to do? This is a question that's been posed really for decades now. They want to go to Mars, but that's really hard. It would be very expensive. It's very challenging technically to go to Mars with human beings and to bring them back alive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's so far away, cost so much.

    JOEL ACHENBACH: It's far. It would cost many billions of dollars.

    The current policy of the United States is to go to an asteroid. This is the 2010 national space policy. President Obama said, let's go to an asteroid. What I didn't know until I did my research, my reporting on this, is that to go to an asteroid would take about a year, even a near-Earth asteroid.

    You always think, well, where are they? Well, they're in orbit around the sun. They come close to the Earth, but they're moving at different speeds. And any trip to an asteroid would take a long time. And NASA doesn't have the hardware to do that, doesn't have the money to do that. It's a very daunting challenge.

    And so they have come up with this fallback plan, which is to bring the asteroid back to orbit around the moon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that even possible?

    JOEL ACHENBACH: Yes, it's possible.

    I mean, will this actually happen? Well, that's a big question. That's what we looked at. A lot of the scientists say, we don't have a good target. If you look at the near-Earth asteroids, the ones you might potentially go grab...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That are out there orbiting the sun.  

    (CROSSTALK)

    JOEL ACHENBACH: Yes. They orbit the sun, just as the Earth does.

    But they're moving at all different speeds. So, it can't be spinning too rapidly. It can't be tumbling. It can't be just like a loose bag of rocks. It can't be too big, can't be too small. And so there's all -- and it can't be moving too quickly, too rapidly relative to the Earth.

    And so to find a target rock -- they haven't found one yet. They don't have their target rock yet. So, that's the first challenge is which rock are they going to actually grab if they try to do this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you write in the article about there's disagreement in the NASA -- in the science -- the space community about whether this is even a good idea.

    JOEL ACHENBACH: It's not the most popular mission that NASA has ever proposed.

    The space scientists, they have a list of what they would like to do. Every 10 years, they do a survey. What are our top priorities? This was not on their list.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not even on the list?

    (CROSSTALK)

    JOEL ACHENBACH: This is not really considered a science mission. It's more of a technology-driven, capabilities type of mission to show that we can do something like this.

    And, most importantly, it gives a destination for this new rocket that they're building and the new spaceship. They're building a spaceship called Orion, which is a capsule that will go on top of this heavy-lift rocket called the SLS, the Space Launch System.

    Where is this rocket going to go? What are you going to do with it? Now, President Bush said, go back to the moon. We will build a big rocket. We will build the Orion capsule and we will build a lunar lander. Obama killed that back-to-the-moon program, saying, we have been there, we have done that.

    And this is a big debate. Should we go back to the moon or not? Where people want to go is Mars. An argument could be made that to go back to the moon doesn't really get you to Mars. But, in the meantime, we still have this big rocket and this space capsule. What are you going to do with it?

    Well, the Asteroid Redirect Mission, where you capture this rock, bring it into orbit around the moon, go up, visit it in lunar orbit, do an EVA, a space walk with a couple of astronauts, they will examine it, bring back samples, that is the idea. It's a lot of moving parts, though. And we call it mission improbable because I don't think you would want to gamble this is really going to happen, at least on NASA's current timetable. They're hoping to do it by 2021.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it's all caught up in this question of what is NASA's mission now going forward.

    JOEL ACHENBACH: Yes. What is NASA trying to do? What's the point of this?

    This is an agency that's done incredible things. And, someday, maybe NASA will lead an international effort to put people on Mars. That's the goal that everyone wants to do. Short of that, maybe you could put people in orbit around Mars. Short of that, maybe someday you could go to a near-Earth asteroid. This is one step behind that. This is examining a rock that you have captured and put in orbit around the moon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick last question. Is this all about a lack of money that's making it so hard to figure this out, or is it more than that?

    JOEL ACHENBACH: Spaceflight is hard.

    And, with human beings, it's very difficult. It's very expensive to do it, if you want to do it safely and do it the way NASA does it, which is the presumption is, our astronauts are going to come home alive from this mission. So, yes, it costs a lot of money to do it.

    And NASA for years has had a flat budget. It's now been declining a little bit. And so an argument can be made that they have been asked to do really difficult things, but they have not been given the money to do it. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joel Achenbach, fascinating first piece. And we will be looking for what's next in the series.

    JOEL ACHENBACH: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

     


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    A volunteer organizes materials promoting new insurance options under the Affordable Care Act in a New Jersey neighborhood. How will the law impact premiums? Depends on who you ask. Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    Premiums will skyrocket next year! Premiums will be lower than expected! Premiums will be about the same!

    Consumers are understandably confused after weeks of conflicting pronouncements about the expected cost of plans, for individuals and small groups, to be sold in new online insurance marketplaces under the federal health law beginning Oct. 1.

    New York regulators said average premiums on those plans will be half of what they cost now, while Indiana warned of an average 72 percent increase. Florida's insurance officials projected 30 to 40 rate increases, while the White House trumpeted a report saying that rates in 10 states and the District of Columbia will average 18 percent less than forecast.

    How is a consumer to make sense of this? For starters, state rates vary considerably because state regulations differ, although that is expected to lessen under the health law. But a bigger factor is that state officials who have opposed the health law are inclined to compare measures that show a big increase, while those in favor are inclined to do the opposite.

    "Premiums across states vary a whole lot less than the spin does," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research organization. (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

    Most policy analysts concur that average premiums will go up for younger, healthier people - and that they will get better benefits than they do now - but that rates may fall for older or sicker Americans, as new rules go into effect Jan. 1. Increases may be offset for many of those buying coverage through tax credits available to people with low and moderate incomes.

    In general, the rates for individual policies look an awful lot like what employers pay now for workers' coverage, said William Custer, who studies health insurance at Georgia State University.

    "The goal was to let people buy comparable coverage to what employers get with comparable prices. It seems like that's the premiums we are seeing," he said.

    To help you parse reports in your state, here are five things to keep in mind when evaluating claims about the cost of coverage that starts in 2014:

    1. Comparing apples to apples is virtually impossible.

    The first thing to understand is that policies that will be sold to individuals and small businesses in online marketplaces are brand new and must cover a range of essential benefits that were not always covered in the past. That includes prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity coverage. Consumers cannot be turned away or charged more because of health problems, as they can now in most states. Women cannot be charged more than men. In addition, the amount you'll have to pay out of pocket will be capped at $6,350 for singles or $12,700 for families.

    Currently, almost a third of individual policies have caps that exceed those amounts, according to a report by Kaiser Health News and U.S. News & World Report. "You have to compare apples to apples, to the extent you can. But those apples don't exist," said Joseph Antos, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "There isn't a good way to do a comparisons."

    2. Look for which premiums state regulators are using for their comparisons.

    Under the health law, coverage sold through new marketplaces to individuals and small businesses include a range of types, from the lowest-cost bronze plans that have the highest deductibles to higher-premium platinum or gold plans, where you pay fewer out-of-pocket costs.

    But premiums are just one part of the cost of health insurance. When considering a report on rates, ask which type of coverage was highlighted and how much the deductibles and co-payments are. Was it the low-cost bronze plan price, the slightly higher priced silver plans or the highest priced platinum or gold? Or some combined average?

    3. You are not average.

    Many of the estimates are based on averages, which really don't reflect what any individual consumer will pay. Premium prices will vary based on a person's age, where they live and the insurer they select.

    Generally, younger people -- especially those few who are buying high-deductible coverage now -- may see an increase in premiums, while older or less healthy people may see their rates go down.

    4. Subsidies will offset costs for many people.

    Most people shopping in the new marketplaces are expected to qualify for a subsidy to offset part of the cost of the premiums. Sliding-scale subsidies will go to those earning between about $11,590 and $46,000 a year as individuals. Those who get subsidies will also likely pay a portion of their household income -- from 2 percent to 9.5 percent -- toward the premium cost.

    5. Premium changes are unlikely to affect you at all.

    The rates submitted to states and the federal government are for coverage sold to individuals and small businesses with fewer than 50 workers that are not self-insured. Currently, the vast majority of Americans with insurance coverage get it through their jobs -- and they generally work for companies with more than 50 workers. Large firms already offer coverage similar to what the health law will require insurers to offer individuals and small firms, so little change is expected.

    The new rates are most likely to affect people who buy their own coverage. About 15 million do so currently and an estimated 7 million more are expected to do so next year because of the health law.

    Do you have questions or concerns about Obamacare? Leave them in this Public Insight Network form, and the PBS NewsHour will try to answer them in the weeks ahead.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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    By Nick Corcodilos

    San Francisco Hirevent; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Don't let a conviction determine your career trajectory, advises headhunter Nick Corcodilos. Photo courtesy of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares 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.

    Question: My brother was convicted of driving while intoxicated and has been fully compliant with the terms of his probation. However, the conviction is on his record. Recently, his job has become stagnant and there is an opportunity at another company. I say he should go for it, but he is concerned his conviction will come up and be a problem. He works in a small community, and he is worried word would get back to his current employer. Should he take the chance?

    Nick Corcodilos: There are really two questions here. First, should your brother worry that the conviction will prevent him from getting the new job? Second, should he avoid job interviews because he might hurt his current employment?

    If your brother wants to get past his record, he must distinguish choices related to his conviction from choices everyone faces. If he views himself first as a convict, he'll never get to make the career choices others do.

    Your brother seems to have established a good work record and is also re-establishing his credibility and reputation. If he hesitates to move forward in his career, he'd be letting the conviction shadow him all his life. If he has spent at least a year at his current job and has shown he is a good, reliable worker, he owes it to himself to move ahead. In an interview, he should be candid, but speak only briefly about his conviction, and focus on how he will do the job to help the new employer be more successful.

    MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?

    If he's rejected, he should continue to pursue other jobs. Most people are rejected in most interviews. It's normal. If he gets the job, he will distance himself all the more from his conviction and improve his future.

    There's one more step he can take, but he must feel comfortable with it or he should not do it. This is a bit extreme, but unusual situations sometimes require that we stick our necks out.

    If his conviction appears to be an issue, I'd make this comment to the employer:

    "I made a terrible mistake X years ago and I regret it, but I also take responsibility for it. I realize a black mark like this on my record may make you hesitate to hire me. And I understand. So I figure it's up to me to make it as easy as possible for you to hire me. I'll make this commitment to you: If you decide to hire me, take me on probation for whatever time period you think is fair. If for any reason you're not happy with me, I'll leave, no questions asked. I make this offer to you because I'll do a great job for you and you'll want to keep me on the job. The rest is of course up to you. If you like, I'd be happy to show you how I'd do this job in a way that would make the work more profitable to you..."

    I really believe that it's best to tackle a problem like this head-on, and to make a commitment that shows your brother respects an employer's natural concerns. Legally, the employer may not be permitted to discriminate against him for his conviction. But we all know decisions get made based on a manager's gut -- and that's what your brother must deal with, unless he wants to sue if he gets rejected.

    As for the second question, any job interview puts a person at risk if the old employer finds out. Your brother should politely ask that his interviews be kept strictly confidential. But he should assume word will get out. He must be ready to tell his current boss that he is exploring an opportunity because his skills are in demand. Sure, it's a risk, but it also shows that other employers are looking beyond his past to see his marketable qualities. His employer might even consider promoting him to keep him.

    Your brother must decide for himself to take the chance.

    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


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    The Chinese commercial cargo ship Yong Sheng makes its way from east Asia to western Europe through the new northern "shortcut" above Russia. The Northeast Passage is made possible for a few weeks to months this summer due to melting Arctic sea ice. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

    When Europe-bound cargo ships leave the port of Dalian, China, the route is quite a study in geography. Southwest through the Pacific along China and Vietnam; west past Malaysia and India towards the Arabian Sea; northwest between Africa and the Middle East via the Red Sea; north through Egypt's Suez Canal to head west into the Mediterranean Sea; north along the far west of Europe through the Atlantic ocean and finally calling at the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

    If pirates don't get in the way, ships will need about 48 days, according to the Financial Times, to complete the 12,000 mile journey known as the southern sea route.

    But last Monday, a Chinese ship set sail for western Europe using a previously-unavailable shortcut. The commercial cargo is heading north from Dalian along Japan and past Alaska through the Bering Straight, following the Northeast Passage as it chugs towards Europe through the melting Arctic sea ice above Russia.

    "Each summer we've lost more than half of the ice cover that we typically have," said Ignatius Rigor of Washington University's Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory. "We've also lost a lot of the thickness of sea ice, so taken together the total volume of sea ice is down to less than 40 percent of what it used to be."

    The NewsHour interviewed Rigor during a reporting expedition that included a stop in Barrow, Alaska -- the ninth northernmost city in the world -- for our continuing coverage of coping with climate change. We will have several upcoming reports, including the science behind melting sea ice and what it may mean for commerce.

    The Yong Sheng is China's first commercial ship to attempt the route. The Northeast Passage is estimated to be 40 percent shorter than the Suez Canal route. A trip from Shanghai to Rotterdam is estimated to be about seven days and 2,750 miles shorter.

    Ship traffic, including this sailboat in Barrow, Alaska, has become a more frequent sight in the Arctic. Photo by PBS NewsHour's Mike Fritz.

    The Northeast Passage (also known as the Northern Sea Route) isn't completely viable yet. A short summer season with ice-free conditions for a matter of weeks would keep traffic volume low; many uncertainties remain about Arctic weather; navigation routes aren't fully defined; there is currently a lack of infrastructure for search and rescue. Yet Reuters reports that experts are predicting the new route will produce as much as a 20 percent savings in cost compared to using the Suez, and that by 2030 a quarter of shipped cargo between Asia and Europe will use this route.

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