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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: The nation's largest bank admitted today that it misrepresented mortgage-backed securities that collapsed in the 2008 crash. With that, J.P. Morgan Chase agreed to pay $13 billion, the largest settlement ever between a private company and the government. We will hear much more on the details of the settlement right after the news summary.

    The problems with the healthcare.gov website got a new going over today in Congress.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The law came under fresh fire at the Capitol, with the latest news accounts providing the ammunition. The Washington Post reported private consultants warned in March there were serious risks healthcare.gov wouldn't be ready for its October rollout. Republicans seized on the document at a House hearing.

    Louisiana's Steve Scalise called it damning.

    REP. STEVE SCALISE, R-La.: If the president really didn't know about this, this report says the White House absolutely knew what was going on, and they didn't tell the president. He ought to be firing these people today.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Administration officials said they took action after the report. But Henry Chao, the top technology officer at Medicare, said he wasn't briefed on the consultants' findings.

    Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy pressed the point.

    REP. TIM MURPHY, R-Penn.:  And so, this is a major report that went as high up as the secretary, maybe others -- we don't know -- but saying that there were serious problems with this. And you're saying that even though you were interviewed by this, you didn't ever have this briefing yourself?

    HENRY CHAO, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: No, I didn't.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Chao did say 30 percent to 40 percent of the system that supports the online exchange still needs to be developed and tested.

    At a separate hearing, one private security expert warned the health care website has flaws that put consumer data at critical risk, but White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted today the information people give is safe.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The privacy and security of consumers' personal information are a top priority. When consumers fill out their online marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, House Republicans pressed for Senate Democrats to take up a bill that lets millions of Americans keep their existing insurance plans.

    Later, at a business forum, President Obama acknowledged the challenge his health care program now faces.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are going to have to, A., fix the website so that everybody feels confident about that. We're going to have to obviously remarket and rebrand. And that will be challenging in this political environment.

    KWAME HOLMAN: All of that as the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found the president's approval ratings and support for the health care law have reached new lows.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A freshman member of the U.S. House was charged today with misdemeanor cocaine possession. According to court documents, Republican Trey Radel of Florida was arrested on October 29 in Washington. If convicted, he faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. This evening, the former TV anchor and radio talk show host said he is profoundly sorry and that he has struggled with alcoholism.

    People younger than 21 won't be able to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products in New York City anymore. Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation today making New York the first major American city to make 21 the cutoff age for tobacco.

    Bloomberg said it's outrageous for cigarette companies and convenience stores to oppose the law.

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, mayor of New York: This century, a billion people will die from smoking around the world, and we don't want any of the people that die to be New Yorkers. That's the one thing we can do. And the people that try to change the argument to an economic one really ought to look in a mirror and be ashamed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The ban does have its limitations. Teenagers will still be able to possess tobacco, but not buy it.

    It turns out the National Security Agency has violated surveillance limits numerous times. The Obama administration released a stack of heavily censored documents overnight showing repeated violations and repeated promises to do better. Today, the chief lawyer for the director of national intelligence blamed complicated technology that amasses vast amounts of information.

    A pair of suicide bombings in Lebanon killed 23 people today and wounded nearly 150 others outside Iran's embassy in Beirut. It was the latest sign that the civil war next door in Syria is spilling over.

    We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

    Be advised: Some of the images may be disturbing.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: The Iranian Embassy was the target, but damage from this morning's attack spread across the neighborhood. The first blast killed the suicide bomber and possibly embassy guards, but it was the huge car bomb a few minutes later that killed and injured so many people.

    Some were hurt because they came out onto their balconies after the first blast to see what had happened, others because they rushed to the scene to try to help people.

    NASSER HAIDAR, witness (through interpreter): We work near here. First, I heard a small explosion near the Iranian Embassy. It looked like a suicide bomb. He blew himself up in front of the security. I went to help a guy there, and, within seconds, just 10 meters away, I saw a car exploding. There were many injured and martyrs, so we started to help them.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Such a huge blast conjures terrible memories of the civil war here in Beirut in the 1980s, when attacks and bombs were a daily occurrence. But, worse than that, people here fear that Lebanon is becoming the new front line in the war in Syria.

    This was no accidental target. Iran is President Bashar al-Assad's most fervent supporter. This is a largely Hezbollah area. The young men hanging around are militants loyal to the Shia group that has sent fighters to support President Assad across the border.

    FAISAL ABDEL SATTR, political commentator (through interpreter): We can't separate what happens in Syria from what happens in Lebanon. This blast today contains not only a military, but also a political message, because the Syrian army is winning on the battlefield. It's also because of the Iranian position on Syria.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Today's bomb points up what everyone here knows: Lebanon's peace is in peril. The country's divisions mirror those in Syria, and the war next door is a growing threat to this fractured, fragile state.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, state TV reported the army recaptured a key town along a route linking Damascus to the coast. The village of Qarah lies near the Lebanese border. Its capture closes off an arms-smuggling route used by rebels. This move follows recent army advances around Aleppo and Damascus.

    There's conflicting news on whether the U.S. and Afghanistan are close to a security agreement. The office of Afghan President Karzai said today they have agreed on a framework to govern any U.S. troops who stay on after 2014, but the U.S. State Department said, "We are not there yet." A meeting of Afghan elders convenes Thursday to consider a possible agreement.

    President Obama met with senators of both parties today on Iran and sanctions. The session came a day before negotiations on Iran's nuclear program resume in Geneva. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said the president asked them to pause on considering additional sanctions for a period of time.

    Corker said that seems likely, at least for a few days.

    SEN. BOB CORKER, R-Tenn.: You can talk about what-ifs, but I think one thing that is for sure, there will be is no amendments that will pass the United States Senate, for sure, until we -- relative to this, anyway -- until we come back from Thanksgiving.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the president said he's not sure if the nuclear talks with Iran will yield an agreement. But Iran's foreign minister said he thinks there is every possibility of working out a deal in Geneva.

    Recovery efforts began in earnest in the Midwest today after Sunday's barrage of tornadoes and thunderstorms. Early estimates indicated damages could total $1 billion. Today, people combed through wreckage in Washington, Illinois, where hundreds of homes were flattened, and crews across the region worked to restore power to more than 320,000 customers.

    The cost of typhoon recovery in the Philippines could come close to $6 billion. A government official estimated today that that is what is needed to rebuild homes, schools, roads and bridges. Meanwhile, much-needed supplies continued to arrive from countries around the world. The U.S. government has now provided $37 million in humanitarian aid.

    Wall Street edged lower today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly nine points to close at 15,967. The Nasdaq fell 17 points to close at 3,931.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: J.P. Morgan's $13 billion settlement brings months of delicate, high-stakes negotiations to an end.

    Under the terms of the deal, $4 billion will go to struggling homeowners in the form of reduced mortgage payments, lower loan rates and other assistance; $7 billion will go to investors as compensation. The remainder will be fines paid by the bank.

    The agreement comes as investigators are said to be pursuing cases against other financial institutions as well.

    Some assessment now of the deal's significance and its problems.

    Lynn Stout is a professor of business law at Cornell University. She closely watches financial regulation. And Bert Ely is a banking consultant. He joins me here.

    Bert Ely, what's your first sense of this deal? Was it a good deal for anybody?

    BERT ELY, banking consultant: Well, I think, as much as anything else, it gets these problems behind J.P. Morgan Chase.

    They had a tentative deal two weeks ago, and then that blew up. They're finally getting things solved, so they can get this behind them and move on with their business.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynn Stout, what do you think overall? A good deal for whom?

    LYNN STOUT, Cornell University: I think it's a great deal.

    It's a good deal for the citizens and the taxpayers. I think this is the first time we have seen one of these big banks get hit with consequences that are large enough to get their attention, so it's a real breakthrough in a lot of the ways on the part of the government.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you first about this, Lynn Stout. In your reading of the agreement, does J.P. Morgan admit wrongdoing?

    LYNN STOUT: Well, they don't admit to criminal wrongdoing directly, but they have agreed to a statement of facts.

    They have agreed not to dispute what they did. And much of it boils down to plain old fraud. So that's a major concession that's going to have an effect on their ability to defend themselves against future civil charges by other parties.

    GWEN IFILL: Is that your reading of it, too, Bert Ely?

    BERT ELY: Well, I think it's important to realize that a portion of this penalty and settlement is really -- grows from actions by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual before they were acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase. So it's important to realize that J.P. Morgan Chase and its management is not responsible for the total amount of this problem.

    GWEN IFILL: But it's -- they're also not being excused from that in part of this deal, which is what they wanted, right?

    BERT ELY: Well, that's true. And as Lynn pointed out, there could well be other litigation that grows out of this, and that's one of the things. We will have to see how that plays out.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynn Stout, one of the things we sometimes lose sight of in these big agreements is exactly how it affects people.

    So if you are an affected homeowner who got one of these toxic loans sold to them by this bank, do you get any kind of -- any kind of repayment for that?

    LYNN STOUT: Well, there's about $4 billion set aside for homeowner relief. And that sounds like a big number, but the fact is, the mortgage market measures in the tens of trillions.

    So I'm sure there will be some homeowners who will be very glad for a little bit of relief, but it's not going to make that much of a difference for most homeowners. The big effect of this settlement is the possibility that it's going to create an incentive for banks to behave better in the future. It's a real message. It's a real warning that now there's the possibility of real consequences.

    GWEN IFILL: Does this actually make banks think, OK, I'm not going to misbehave, because look what happened to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase?

    BERT ELY: Well, I think the thing to keep in mind is that these mortgages were originated back in the time when we had a real bubble in housing prices.

    There was a tremendous push on to increase homeownership. The regulatory environment was very different then. And at least for the foreseeable future, I don't see this problem emerging.

    Maybe 10, 15 years down the road, it could again. But in the current environment, this kind of problem is not -- simply not going to emerge.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynn Stout, you were going to say something to that.

    LYNN STOUT: Yes, I wish I were as optimistic as Bert is.

    But the fact is, they have got real short memories on Wall Street. I think the banks are going to behave better, be more cautious. They're not going to commit these sorts of deceptions for four or five years. But we still have basic structural problems. We still have not implemented effective financial reform. And I can see us repeating this scenario five, six years down the road.

    GWEN IFILL: I do have to ask you that question, Bert Ely, whether, if you are -- if you are Jamie Dimon, if you are Bank of America, do you feel like this is a sign that business has to be done usually -- done differently or financial reform is going to be imposed on you?

    BERT ELY: Well, first of all, an awful lot of financial reform has been imposed on the industry. It was in the process of being imposed on the industry as a result of regulations that were authorized by the Dodd-Frank act a few years ago.

    And those regulations are being put in place right now. And, quite frankly, the consequence of these regulations may be to overly tighten the availability of mortgage credit, particularly for those who have less-than-pristine credit records. And so you have a situation where the pendulum swings back and forth.

    Right now, it is swinging towards possibly excessive restrictiveness on the availability of mortgage credit. At some point in time, then it may swing back. But, for the short term, I don't see this type of problem emerging.

    GWEN IFILL: When Jamie Dimon first went to the Department of Justice and started to negotiate that, the reports were that he came to the table and said, I have got -- how about $3 billion? And they said, I don't think so.

    Did he lose in the end?

    BERT ELY: Well, first of all, this penalty and the fines and the settlement costs are being ultimately borne by the shareholders of J.P. Morgan Chase. So I think we have to realize that they're the ones that are ultimately paying for this.

    And, you know, they are going to be suffering some because of this. But the important thing is, they get the problem behind them, they can move on. And I think that's very important for J.P. Morgan Chase.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynn Stout, could the government have gotten more? Could it have held out for more than $13 billion -- $14 billion?

    LYNN STOUT: Oh, you know, possibly, in theory.

    But this is a real breakthrough on the part of the government. We haven't seen anything of this size in terms of consequences -- consequences imposed on banks. Earlier cases have been settled for amounts in the hundreds of millions. That sounds like a lot, but for most banks, it's just the cost of doing business.

    This settlement amounts to almost half of J.P. Morgan's profits for 2012. And it's not going to affect the shareholders nearly as deeply as it's going to be felt in the declining bonuses for the employees. And that's where the hope lies in changing bank behavior. This is really going to affect the bonus pool at J.P. Morgan, and that is going to get people's attention.

    GWEN IFILL: There's still an outstanding -- Bert Ely, there's still an outstanding criminal investigation, which this was -- this doesn't take off the table, right?

    BERT ELY: That -- that is correct. This is just a matter of settling civil charges. And we don't know how the criminal aspect of it is going to play out.

    GWEN IFILL: And the London whale case that we all heard so much about, that is not part of this either.

    BERT ELY: No, this is totally separate from the London whale case.

    That was a matter of trading losses, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the mortgage issues that were addressed here in this settlement.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynn Stout, are you satisfied that this is a civil agreement and that -- and the criminal case is yet to come?

    LYNN STOUT: Yes, I think so.

    This chapter is not finished for J.P. Morgan. There's still the possibility of criminal investigations. As part of the settlement, the bank has agreed to cooperate in assisting those investigations. They have made admissions to facts that are going to make it easier for other investors who feel they have been defrauded to bring civil action.

    So this is certainly progress, but this is by no means over for J.P. Morgan.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynn Stout at Cornell, Bert Ely here with me, thank you both so much.

    BERT ELY: Thank you for having me here.

    LYNN STOUT: Thanks.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As the U.S. negotiating team readies for the next round of talks in Geneva over Iran's nuclear program, President Obama urged senators at the White House today to hold off on seeking additional sanctions on the country.

    Afterwards, six senators including Democrats Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, insisting that the administration not accept an agreement that would be overly generous to Iran or not tough enough on its nuclear program.

    National Security Adviser Susan Rice joins me now from the White House to talk about today's meeting and the upcoming negotiations.

    Welcome.

    And we know that going into this meeting, a number of the senators were saying they felt the president was going too easy on Iran in an eagerness to get to a deal. Did he change any minds today?

    SUSAN RICE, National Security Adviser: I think so, Judy.

    There was a two-hour meeting in which the president laid out in great detail the substance of what is, in fact, on the table, and explained to the senators that this is the deal that serves American interests.

    And let me explain why. First of all, the president has long been committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We have pursued the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed on any country against Iran. And, as a consequence, their economy is faltering. The currency has plummeted. Their oil sales are down 60 percent. And they have now come to the negotiating table for the first time in some earnest.

    The purpose of this deal is to create an interim step, a first step of six months. And in that six months, Iran's nuclear program, all of its progress will be halted. All of its progress will be halted. And in some very key respects, the program will be rolled back.

    At the same time, there will be complete transparency into all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, so the international community will be able to detect any effort by Iran to do anything in violation of its international obligations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how...

    (CROSSTALK)

    SUSAN RICE: And that -- if I might just add...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

    SUSAN RICE: ... that, for a very modest, limited amount of economic relief that is totally reversible and that doesn't affect the sanctions architecture in any way, shape, or form.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So -- but how does that square with the senators' concerns in this letter, as we reported, they sent to Secretary Kerry today, that they're saying the Iranians stand to benefit billions of dollars from having a lightening, loosening of the sanctions, and that, meanwhile, the Iranians will be able to continue centrifuges, they will be able to continue enriching uranium, albeit at low levels?

    In other words, they're saying this tradeoff is not a fair one.

    SUSAN RICE: Well, first of all, they're saying that if such a deal were cut, in their judgment, it wouldn't be fair. This is not such a deal.

    First of all, the amount of sanctions -- the amount of economic relief we're talking about is a fraction of what Iran will continue to lose every month because of the ongoing sanctions which will remain in place and continue to be in force. So, they will gain a very little bit, but they will lose a lot more. So they're still on a downward path and they're still going to have real economic pressure on them, because the oil sanctions, the financial sanctions, all that stuff remains in effect.

    What they are doing, which is very significant as a first step -- it's not the whole game because we're doing this only for six months to see if we can reach a comprehensive solution -- but instead of them talking and talking while they continue making progress on their nuclear program, in this six-month period, there will be no prospect for them to make any further progress.

    So whether it comes to installing the centrifuges, accumulating new enriched uranium, all of that will not be possible, and, indeed, key elements of their stockpiles will be reduced.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the senators are still saying they hold out the option, in fact the likelihood, of trying to add on sanctions, if not right away, in the weeks to come.

    My question is, how can you negotiate an agreement with Iran this week -- coming out of these meetings this week when you may have the possibility of new sanctions in the near future?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, I think the sanctions -- the current sanctions will remain in effect in any case, and the administration fully supports that. We will continue enforcing those sanctions.

    The question is whether this is the time for the United States Congress to impose new sanctions. And we think, while these negotiations are still going on at this fragile stage -- and we ought to know in the next few weeks where these negotiations are going to end up -- now is not the time for new sanctions. That would find the United States isolated, when we now have the international community with us, supporting a diplomatic solution. And it would take the pressure off Iran.

    Now, if the negotiations fail, then we can all talk about the prospect of additional sanctions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn to Afghanistan, Dr. Rice.

    And that is, we know the reports out of Kabul today from the Karzai government are that a deal has been reached with the U.S. over what happens to U.S. troops after 2014, a status of forces agreement, so to speak. The State Department is saying there's no such deal.

    But my question to you is, are you close, and could any deal involve the president, in essence, apologizing for mistakes the U.S. has made in Afghanistan?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, let me answer both questions, Judy.

    First of all, there's no such discussion of an apology. I'm not sure where the reports of that come from, quite frankly. So let's take that off the table. That's not in the cards. There is a bilateral security agreement text that is very close to completion.

    And when Secretary Kerry visited Afghanistan last month, he and President Karzai finalized that text. And over the last few weeks, we have been working on some remaining details that need to be worked out. And it's possible that we won't reach agreement on those remaining details. It's hopeful that we will.

    And, if we do, then that text will be presented to what the Afghans call a loya jirga, a sort of 2,000-person group of community leaders who will pass judgment on that text. And if it's approved, then, indeed, we will have a deal. If it's not approved, it will be very difficult for the United States to sustain the troop presence, the assistance relationship, and all of the support that we have provided to date to the Afghan people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, a question about Syria. As you know very well, the conflict rages on. It's spilling over into neighboring countries. Today, there were these terrible attacks on -- Sunni -- the Sunni groups acknowledging that they are responsible for attacks on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in Lebanon.

    I guess my question to you is, is the Obama administration prepared to continue not to get militarily involved, no matter how high the casualties, no matter how much the fighting spills and continues to destabilize the entire region?

    SUSAN RICE: Judy, our aim has been to try to support the resolution of the Syrian conflict at the negotiating table.

    And let me explain why. This is a conflict which is spilling over borders. It has caused millions to be displaced. Upwards of 100,000 to 150,000 civilians have lost their lives. But what is very important is that the institutions of the Syrian state be preserved, that we don't have a collapsed state, a failed state in the heart of the Middle East which could become a permanent safe haven for terrorists, and that Assad and his cronies leave the scene.

    That can be accomplished in principle through negotiations. And, indeed, that was what was agreed by key players in the international community, including Russia, the United States, and other important players in the region, over a year ago in Geneva.

    Our efforts now have been aimed at getting the parties, the Syrian government delegation, the opposition delegation, to the negotiating table to agree on a transitional government that will not include Assad. Now, to support that, in the meantime, we're providing the greatest amount of assistance of any country in the world, almost $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance.

    We are helping the opposition in many different respects to strengthen itself, to counter the regime and counter extremists at the same time and to come to the negotiating table prepared to make a deal. This is what is necessary to end the conflict. Further external military involvement, the involvement of American troops is not something that the president feels is wise or necessary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president's national security adviser, Susan Rice, we thank you.

    SUSAN RICE: Thank you.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Much of the anger and debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act focuses on questions of coverage and individual costs for the consumer. But another big question is whether it can hold down overall costs, as intended.

    The state of Massachusetts is now grappling with that very question, something it didn't do when lawmakers first expanded coverage there.

    NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story, part of his continuing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    MAN: The task of access to affordable health care is not complete.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A meeting of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, which plumped for the 2006 state law on which the Affordable Care Act is modeled. It's led to nearly universal coverage in Massachusetts, but it didn't address costs. That's the next challenge.

    MAN: We're worried for the future.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Myron Miller works at a small architecture firm.

    MAN: Our firm's overall health care expenditure has almost tripled over 10 years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Indeed, insurance premiums have continued to rise since health care reform passed in Massachusetts, climbing almost 10 percent from 2009 to 2011. And health care costs more here than in any state in the country.

    So, why is care so costly in Massachusetts? And what's being done about it? The whys are easy; the state is relatively wealthy, so people can afford more. Doctors here have more resources, and getting paid a fee for every service they provide, provide plentifully.

    Health economist DAVID CUTLER:

    DAVID CUTLER, Harvard University: So, there's a lot of -- kind of at the margins between should you do it or not, there's much more of an ethic to do it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And yet, says Cutler, all this spending isn't making folks any healthier.

    DAVID CUTLER: There's no great relationship between spending more and doing better. And the reason is that most of the variation in spending is associated with conditions where there's a lot of gray area about exactly how much to treat people. About a third of medical spending is not associated with improved outcomes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, question two: How do you get top-flight doctors and high-tech hospitals to economize? Last year, the state passed a law to chain spending growth to economic growth, 3.6 percent this year. And what happens if spending tops the target?

    ARON BOROS, Center for Health Information and Analysis: We have a mandate from the people of Massachusetts to intervene if the market can't control costs on its own.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Aron Boros, who runs the state's Center for Health Information Analysis, says government will muscle high-cost offenders.

    ARON BOROS: We will use that muscle to force hospitals, other providers and plans to control costs and ultimately pass those savings to consumers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A new state panel will put firms that miss the target under formal review. So, the health care system's main players see the writing on the wall and are responding.

    DANA GELB SAFRAN, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts: We undertook to invent a new way to pay for care.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dana Gelb Safran of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest insurer, which devised a plan to discourage fee-for-service medicine. Doctor networks are paid a flat amount per patient.

    DANA GELB SAFRAN: Now, for the first time, that provider organization has the incentive to look, where are the ways that money is being spent on care that it's not adding any value, that it's, in fact, wasteful?

    PAUL SOLMAN: If the doctors come in under budget, they share in any savings. If they overspend, they owe Blue Cross. And why isn't that an incentive to stint on care?

    DANA GELB SAFRAN: There's a broad set of quality and outcome measures on which the provider organization can earn significant additional revenue by performing well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The plan actually slowed spending by 2 percent its first year, better than 3 percent the second, while improving outcomes. How?

    WOMAN: If you had to say where you get the numbness and tingling in your hands, show me where.

    PAUL SOLMAN: One new approach is being road-tested at Partners, the state's biggest health care provider. It's turning its primary care practices into patient-centered medical homes.

    MAN: When I last saw her, I thought she was doing significantly better. Sarah's asking the psychiatrist to be involved and suggest different kinds of medication.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Patients are treated by one doctor-led team that includes a social worker, nutritionist and other specialists. The belief is that coordinated care will keep patients healthier.

    WOMAN: You're run-down from the first infection, so that puts you at risk for a second infection. So, if that happens, the earlier you call, the more aggressive we are, you know, maybe we can avoid another trip back to the hospital.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Which brings us to the main cost-saver, reducing the priciest part of health care, hospital stays, especially for the sickest among us, who, says Dr. Tim Ferris of Partners, account for the biggest portion of all costs.

    DR. TIMOTHY FERRIS, Partners HealthCare: About 50 percent of the total is accounted for by 5 percent of the patients. They're so complicated that, left to their own devices, they will bounce between providers. And that movement between providers, uncoordinated, leads to waste in the system.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, Partners assigns care managers to coordinate the treatment of high-risk cases. The elderly, for example, fall so frequently that, in 2010, over two million were treated in the E.R.

    TIMOTHY FERRIS: And emergency room doctors really don't have a lot of choices, they're going to admit that patient. But when someone who knows the patient shows up in the emergency room and says, actually, I know this person, it's OK, she will be safe going home, I'm going to follow up closely with her, that changes the equation.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In a 2006 trial run, Partners' care managers reduced high-risk patient hospitalizations by 20 percent, keeping patients out of the hospital. That's the name of the game now that more insurers are putting doctors on a budget, rather than paying a fee for every service.

    So, this is fee-for-non-hospitalization.

    TIMOTHY FERRIS: It's fee-for-non-hospitalization, but the non-hospitalization is not a problem for the doctor. It's a problem for the hospital.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, you work at a hospital, though.

    TIMOTHY FERRIS: I do work at a hospital, and so we have to figure that out.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, Dr. Ferris practices at Massachusetts General. Run by Partners, it's one of the most prestigious and priciest hospitals around. In today's cost-cutting climate, it's been on the defensive.

    Why is the very hospital we're in now among the most expensive hospitals in the world?

    TIMOTHY FERRIS: This is an all-things-for-all people. There are certain disease categories, we're the only provider that provides care for that category of patients. There's another reason: We teach here. We teach the next generation of doctors and nurses, and we have to cover the costs of that teaching.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Places like Mass General make money by providing as many services as they can and charging a premium for them.

    DAVID CUTLER: That was always the ethic of the system: Do a lot, keep the hospital beds full, keep the services busy, we will make a lot of money, and then we can use that to support the social missions and save for a rainy day.

    What Massachusetts has said is, we can't afford that system. Make your money by being better cheaper, not by being more and more and more.

    MAN: I invite you to stand up now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Back at the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, advocates pledged to meet here again to keep pressuring the health care industry to rein in costs.

    MEN AND WOMEN: We will be here.

    (APPLAUSE)

    PAUL SOLMAN: And turning to the industry itself...

    MAN: And finally, to our guests from the hospital systems and the insurance providers who are with us up here...

    PAUL SOLMAN: ... they voiced a commitment as well.

    MEN AND WOMEN: We will be here.

    (APPLAUSE)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Still miles to go, of course, but this year, anyway, Blue Cross, the biggest insurer, and Partners, the state's largest provider, both say they will meet the spending growth benchmark in Massachusetts.

     


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    Representative Henry "Trey" Radel of Florida has been charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession in Washington, the AP reports.

    The Republican congressman, who represents Florida's 19th district, was arrested on October 29 and official charges were filed Tuesday by the District of Columbia Superior Court.

    Rep. Radel posted a public apology on his Facebook page, writing that he suffered from alcoholism and that the disease led to "an extremely irresponsible choice." He also stated that he was prepared to "face responsibility" for his actions and that the ordeal would offer an opportunity to "seek treatment and counseling."

    (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by Congressman Trey Radel.

    The congressman is scheduled to be arraigned in the D.C. Superior Court Wednesday.

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    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to the fight over President Obama's judicial nominations.

    Yesterday, for the third time in as many weeks, the Senate blocked the confirmation of a presidential nominee to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the nation's second highest court. In a June 4 Rose Garden ceremony, President Obama nominated federal Judge Robert Wilkins, law professor Cornelia Pillard, and attorney Patricia Millet. All three have failed to garner the 60 votes needed for confirmation. A fourth nominee, Caitlin Halligan, who is counsel for the Manhattan district attorney, withdrew her name after she was blocked earlier this year.

    Republicans say the D.C. Circuit is just too large and that the Senate is fulfilling its advise-and-consent role.

    What does the standoff mean for the judiciary?

    For that, we turn to: Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network.

    Welcome to you both.

    Caroline Fredrickson, why the impasse?

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: Well, you know, I think what has happened is there that there's been a complete breakdown in the process, and that the Republicans are unfortunately engaging in an extreme amount of obstructionism.

    They have decided that, even though these are vacancies that exist on the D.C. Circuit and have been longstanding on the second-highest, second most important court in the land, they have decided that President Obama doesn't get to appoint nominees to fill these vacancies, and want to leave them unfilled until potentially there's another president.

    GWEN IFILL: Carrie Severino, it's just purely partisan?

    CARRIE SEVERINO, Judicial Crisis Network: The vacancies in the D.C. Circuit in part are there because qualified nominees like Peter Keisler were blocked by the Democrats for years before going to now. But the fact of matter is...

    GWEN IFILL: That was a President Bush nominee.

    CARRIE SEVERINO: This is a President Bush nominee.

    And the Senate Democrats at the time were talking about the fact that the D.C. Circuit has a very low caseload. It's dead last among the circuits. There are circuits with judicial emergencies with barely enough time to hear their cases and barely enough judges to fill them, so let's focus on those ones first.

    GWEN IFILL: What about presidential prerogative to make appointments?

    CARRIE SEVERINO: The president absolutely has the prerogative to make appointments. It's the role of the Senate to review those and give their advice and consent.

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: If I can correct Carrie here, I think we have to remember that President Bush actually filled all these three seats, the Ninth, 10th, and the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit. He was able to fill those seats.

    So, Peter Keisler was blocked, but the other seats were filled. In fact, he filled -- he had four nominees to the D.C. Circuit who were all confirmed. And, you know, I think what's clear is that now that the tables are turned and you have a Democrat in the White House, all of a sudden those three seats that were so vital when President Bush was in office are now no longer necessary.

    GWEN IFILL: What is it about the D.C. Circuit that is so critical, that is such a flash point? Most people around the country don't understand that.

    CARRIE SEVERINO: To just follow up once moment, the rate -- the amount of cases per judge is actually the same as it was when those seats were filled. So, we have a consistent -- the caseload has declined so much that now we have eight judges, four Democrats, four Republicans.

    GWEN IFILL: But what is it about D.C.?

    (CROSSTALK)

    CARRIE SEVERINO: D.C. has a lot of regulatory cases that come through.

    The president and the Democrats have pointed to this as they're trying to work their agenda through the regulatory process, and that's where these cases are coming. So you have people like Chuck Schumer saying we're going to fill up the D.C. Circuit one way or the other because they're frustrated with the fact that the court is holding the president's agenda to a constitutional standard.

    GWEN IFILL: There is an ideology factor here, isn't there? Didn't Democrats do this in the past?

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, but at the end of the day, President Bush got his nominees. And I think we have to remember that that is where the court is.

    I also want to correct Carrie. Yes, there are four Democrats and four Republicans of the active members. But there are six senior members who take an incredible number of cases in the D.C. Circuit, five of whom were appointed by Republicans. So the ideological balance is quite skewed.

    But I think we need to remember that the Judicial Conference, which is the official organization of the courts headed by Chief Justice Roberts, has recommended that all 11 seats be filled, and has recommended that the caseload is appropriate for this court.

    It's quite a heavy caseload in the type of matters that they hear, which is these significant regulatory cases that are very comprehensive. And in the caseload -- this is an argument that's been disputed on both sides.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: But the argument I would like to make is the caseload is actually higher now, according to the statistics we have looked at.

    GWEN IFILL: Carrie, the president says that this -- these rejections, these obstructive -- this blocking of nominees is standing in the way of a fully functioning judiciary. Is the judiciary capable of functioning without these people in these jobs?

    CARRIE SEVERINO: Absolutely.

    The D.C. Circuit has three, four, and five times fewer cases than the busiest circuits. So, it's by no means the busiest. There are judicial emergencies. When the president appointed these nominees, there weren't even nominees for 75 percent of the judicial emergencies.

    So I think what Republicans are saying is, let's focus on those first. The D.C. Circuit has so few cases, it regularly cancels sittings because there aren't enough oral arguments that need to be heard by the judges.

    GWEN IFILL: Where are the judicial -- judicial emergencies and are those jobs being filled?

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: They're all over the place.

    I actually have to say that the situation -- the problem is, we have so many emergencies because the obstruction has gone on for so long. And I just want to call out Arizona, where there are -- half the seats are empty now. They are all emergencies, all the vacancies, the six out of 13.

    And the two senators from that state, even though they were -- they sent their names to the White House, and the White House then nominated the people that they approved, are now blocking them to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    So, it's -- the problem is -- and I agree with Carrie -- let's get those other judgeships filled, absolutely. But we can't do it when the Republicans are blocking those people as well.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: It seems there are two -- there are two options here. One, for people on your side of the argument, is to get -- is to shrink the size of the numbers of the -- if those are important cases -- seats that don't need to be filled, then reduce that, instead of not filling them.

    Why not just reduce them?

    CARRIE SEVERINO: That actually has been proposed. There's a bill in the House and one in the Senate to move those seats to some of the circuits that do have the emergencies. The 11th, the Ninth all have many more cases than the D.C. Circuit.

    And I think that would -- that's something that the court -- that happened to the court in 2008. And it was a bipartisan vote to move these seats away. I think that would be something that makes sense to happen again.

    GWEN IFILL: And, for Democrats, it seems that there's a solution here, too, which is change the rules in the Senate that allows these nominees to be blocked with less than 60 votes.

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, I think that's coming to a head. I have heard the majority leader today talking about how close it's become.

    I think it's sort of the final straw that breaks the camel's back with this record number of vacancies. We have 110 current and future vacancies on the federal judiciary. It's been up there over 10 percent throughout almost all of President Obama's term because of the obstruction and the delays. And I think it's about time that they need to think about, is this a system that works?

    GWEN IFILL: Let's take this out. Well, that's my next question, I guess. Let's take this out of D.C. Circuit for a moment. And tell me whether there is a backlog, whether people are not getting true justice because these judges aren't being confirmed for these positions.

    CARRIE SEVERINO: You know, President -- I hope that Harry Reid does pull the trigger on that, because what's happening now is, he holds the filibuster hostage every time he wants something, without having to abide by the rules.

    But then, when the shoe is on the other foot one day and he's going to -- he -- the Senate Democrats were very liberal in their use of the filibuster, unprecedented level of filibustering of judges. I think we should have the same rules on both -- for both teams.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: But we could argue about the filibuster all night.

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Sure.

    GWEN IFILL: I really do want to find out whether we think that people's lives are being affected by the failure to fill these judicial...

    (CROSSTALK)

    CARRIE SEVERINO: I'm sure there are, yes.

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: There are 38 judicial emergencies. That's extraordinarily high.

    And that means that these are courts that have such high filings that they have been recognized under an official determination by the court system that it's unacceptably high. And that means people have to wait. Those are people with Social Security claims or other...

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: And you agree?

    CARRIE SEVERINO: About half of them don't even have nominees, so let's get nominees for those judicial vacancies. And the D.C. Circuit is not on the list.

    (CROSSTALK)

    CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Why don't we deal with the 53 nominees who are already up in the Senate? That would be a great start.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: OK.

    Carrie Severino, Caroline Fredrickson, we could argue it all night long, but we won't.

    Thank you both very much.

    CARRIE SEVERINO: Thanks.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Abraham Lincoln thought the world would little note nor long remember what he said at Gettysburg, but his call for a new birth of freedom out of the carnage of the Civil War has long endured.

    Now, fourscore and 70 years later, Jeffrey Brown looks back at the legacy of the address.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was just five months after the Civil War's bloodiest battle when Abraham Lincoln came to help dedicate a national cemetery to honor the 51,000 men killed, wounded, captured, or missing.

    About 15,000 spectators were in attendance. The keynote speaker, famed orator and politician Edward Everett, spoke for two hours, Lincoln for two minutes, and, with some 270 words, delivered one of the most memorable addresses in American history, helping make sense of the great sacrifice and loss of the war, reshaping and, for many, redefining the nation's identity going forward.

    One of five existing copies of the manuscript is now on display at the Library of Congress in Washington. It's believed to be the first draft and the one from which Lincoln read that day. It's written on two pieces of paper, one formal in pen, the other on a notebook page and in pencil.

    Michelle Krowl is the exhibit's curator.

    MICHELLE KROWL, Library of Congress: What you see is that Lincoln worked on the address in Washington first, and then probably got to Gettysburg and changed his mind about the ending. So you can think about what might have inspired Lincoln to change that ending about a new birth of freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A century-and-a-half later, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is honoring those sacred words by urging Americans to post videos of themselves reading Lincoln's speech on the Web site learntheaddress.org.

    Dozens of notable public figures, including all five living U.S. presidents, have submitted recordings.

    FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: That this nation under God.

    FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Shall have a new birth of freedom.

    FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:  And that government of the people.

    FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: By the people, for the people.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Shall not perish from the earth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Those same words were also echoed today in Gettysburg, as thousands flocked to the site of Lincoln's address for a ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary.

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And joining me now, Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University, historian and author, whose books include "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War," and NewsHour regular presidential historian Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University. He's formerly director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois.

    And, Drew Faust, I want to start with you.

    By the fall of 1863, the toll, the suffering, it was all very clear. Set the context for thinking about this speech. What was Lincoln out to do in that moment?

    DREW GILPIN FAUST, Harvard University: Well, Lincoln was out to commemorate. He was invited to come and say appropriate words to dedicate the loss of life that had been so extraordinary in the three days of battle at Gettysburg the preceding summer.

    And this was a loss of life that motivated the representatives of Northern states who had soldiers die in that battle to come together and acquire land on which to build a cemetery. And so Lincoln was coming to dedicate that cemetery in a ceremony that included other speeches and music and so forth on that November day in 1863.

    When he arrived in the town, it's important to remember there was still unburied bodies piled in coffins in the street. And so the aura of death was still very present even all those months after the July battle.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Richard, how do we -- 150 years later, how should we see the speech in that moment? Can we put ourselves back there at all?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Sure.

    We have been doing that for 150 years in a real sense.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: You know, Dr. Faust is absolutely right.

    Lincoln came to dedicate the field of honor that had been fought over, and at the same time he came to define the war, in some ways to define the nation. One way he did that was to begin with a history lesson. Fourscore and seven years ago refers to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence and the Jeffersonian ideal, the egalitarian ideal that all men are created equal.

    Lincoln is telling his countrymen that the ideal of America, the egalitarian ideal of America existed before it was codified in the Constitution. That's critical. That's absolutely essential, because that's the America in a very real sense that Lincoln was rededicating his countrymen when he talked about a new birth of freedom.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Drew Faust, pick up on that, because there are -- obvious questions 150 years later is, how did this speech with so few words came to have such meeting and what is the meeting?

    DREW GILPIN FAUST: The speech is powerful, in part, I think because it's so direct and poetic, and the words carry so much meaning in such a short space.

    And it's often said, in memories of the speech, that, oh, no one liked it or it wasn't recognized. And that's not true. It was heard by those in attendance at that moment to be a powerful, powerful message. And it was received by the newspapers very soon after it was delivered as something of great importance.

    So why was it so important? It was so important because, as Richard said, it harked back to the past, but it also called on Americans to think about the future. This is a new birth of freedom. And that, I think, is tied both to what had become a goal of the war, the ending of slavery, but also to the sense that the United States had lost so much, that all these deaths had been so costly, that the nation had to rededicate itself to making sure that the American project moved forward to open freedom in a world that seemed to be increasingly hostile to democracy.

    The kind of things that had been going on in Europe in the wake of the revolutions of 1848 showed a real backing away on the part of much of the rest of the world from any kind of democratic ideals. And so Lincoln is asking the United States to recognize what cost it's paid and to make sure that it advances this American project.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Richard, you said in your first answer, we have been having this discussion for 150 years.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Well, for 150 years, including vividly, as we sit here, Americans have been debating, what does freedom mean?

    For some people, freedom is something achieved through government. Think of the social safety net. Think of the civil rights movement. Think of women's rights. Think of women belatedly getting the vote. For others, freedom is freedom from government. Ironically enough, go back to Thomas Jefferson, which was another Jefferson ideal of the least government being the best government.

    So this debate Lincoln initiated. But what is beyond debate -- at least if you Lincoln's words at Gettysburg -- is, what the war is about, what the country is about, it is about government of, by and for the people. It's about the ideal that seemingly ordinary people are capable of governing themselves.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Drew Faust, how would you sort of define the discussion, the debate that has happened over 150 years up to today, the relevance of that speech?

    DREW GILPIN FAUST: I believe that the Gettysburg address, by defining our national purposes, gives us certain obligations, in a sense, as citizens to make sure that the costs that our ancestors and predecessors paid is one that we still devote ourselves to making valuable, to honoring, in the way we honor not just the dead, but we must honor what they fought for and why they died.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Richard, what do you tell students? What do you think they should know about this now?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Well, the great irony is that the address may be more appreciated overseas.

    It has been thrown in the face of every tyrant for 150 years. But you're right. It -- we can never hear it too often. We can never explore its relevance too much. And this is one anniversary, it seems to me, that ought to unite all Americans.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Richard Norton Smith, Drew Gilpin Faust, thank you both very much.

     


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    President Obama answers questions from Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal Tuesday in Washington. Photo by Drew Angerer-Pool/Getty Images

    In the face of falling public support for his job performance and signature health care law, President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to shift some of the blame to a group of lawmakers with ratings even lower than his: Republicans in Congress.

    The Morning Line

    "One of the problems we've had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure, and that makes, I think, the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine-tuning the law more challenging," the president said Tuesday at a forum hosted by The Wall Street Journal.

    Mr. Obama acknowledged the repair efforts would extend beyond correcting the troubles with the HealthCare.gov site. "We're going to have to obviously re-market and re-brand, and that will be challenging in this political environment," he added.

    Making that task even tougher: another poll that shows the president's job approval mark sinking to a new low. According to a CBS News survey released Wednesday, 37 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Obama's handling of the presidency, while 57 percent disapprove. (Worth noting, President George W. Bush was at 35 percent in this survey at this point in his presidency.)

    Feelings toward the president's health care law are even worse off, with 31 percent of respondents saying they approve of the program, compared with 61 percent who disapprove.

    Despite the rocky rollout of the initiative, there does not appear to be a groundswell of support for repeal. Slightly more than four in 10 respondents said they wanted to see the law undone, while 48 percent said the program does some good things, but needs changes to make it work better. Only seven percent of those surveyed said the law is working fine and should be left as is.

    The picture gets even dimmer when it comes to how Americans feel about Republicans in Congress, with only 21 percent saying they approve of the job GOP lawmakers are doing, while 73 percent disapprove.

    House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that given all the issues with the law, Republicans remain committed to seeing that the law is "scrapped."

    "You know, it's not just Americans who are getting their cancellation notices that are upset, it's everything that follows. What we're seeing here is a pattern of broken promises from the administration," Boehner said.

    GOP lawmakers also kept after the administration for answers about early warning signs that the online exchange would not be ready by early October, and on how much work with the site is left to be finished. A top health care official testified Tuesday that up to 40 percent of IT systems supporting the website still need to be built. The NewsHour's coverage of the hearing is here.

    But the New York Times finds a bright spot for Mr. Obama, who meets Wednesday with state insurance commissioners. The newspaper reports that some states are seeing strong enrollment and low numbers of insurance plan cancellations.

    FOUR SCORE AND SEVENTY YEARS LATER

    We revisited the Gettysburg Address on its 150th anniversary, with Jeffrey Brown reporting that at just 270 words long, it remains one of the most memorable speeches in American history. He also examined its enduring legacy and how a speech with so few words came to effect such great meaning with Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard University and historian Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University.

    Watch the pieces here here and here or below:


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  • 11/20/13--04:54: #worldcup
  • BREAKING: 12 die in Algeria during celebrations of World Cup qualifier victory, officials say.

    — The Associated Press (@AP) November 20, 2013

    More on the story from the AP.

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    Good morning. Here are some of the top stories we'll be keeping an eye on throughout the day.

    Iran Nuclear Talks

    Talks are resuming in Geneva today.

    Iran's supreme leader Khamenei says Iran will never bow to sanctions, but wants "friendly" relations, even with the United States.

    China's Xi tells Iran's Rouhani, in a phone call, to "seize the opportunity" to improve ties with world powers.

    Iraq

    Bombings hit Shiite, commercial zones in Baghdad and its suburbs. Iraqi officials put the toll a 29 dead, 104 wounded.

    The Washington Post maintains a map of bomb attacks since 2006.

    Egypt - Sinai Bombing

    The BBC reports that a convoy of buses carrying infantry soldiers was hit by a roadside bomb in the Kharouba area. At least 11 soldiers were killed and dozens wounded in one of deadliest attacks since the overthrow of Morsi.

    Iran - Refugees

    Human Rights Watch reports Iran is deporting thousands of Afghan refugees in "Unwelcome Guests: Iran's Violation of Afghan Refugee and Migrant Rights."

    JFK - 50th Anniversary

    President Obama awards Medal of Freedom to former President Clinton, Oprah, Loretta Lynn and others. (Watch the live stream at 11 a.m.)

    President Obama and the Clintons lay wreath at the Arlington gravesite.

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    PBS NewsHour will live stream events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, beginning with the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

    WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will visit John F. Kennedy's gravesite and honor two of Kennedy's lasting initiatives as the nation observes the 50th anniversary of his assassination this week.

    President Obama and his wife, Michelle, will be accompanied by former President Bill Clinton and his wife, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon. And Wednesday morning, Mr. Obama will be joined by scores of prominent Americans who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Kennedy established the modern version of the medal, the highest award the U.S. bestows on civilians, in the months before his death. He was killed two weeks before he planned to honor the inaugural group of recipients, and it fell to President Lyndon Johnson to preside over the ceremony at the White House on the day Kennedy's family was moving out.

    Since then more than 500 have received the medal.

    Obama will present the award Wednesday to the 2013 recipients, including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, the late astronaut Sally Ride, women's rights activist Gloria Steinem, baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, country music singer Loretta Lynn and 10 others.

    On Wednesday evening, Obama plans a speech on Kennedy's legacy of service with a dinner at the Smithsonian American History Museum attended by current and past recipients of the medal, including baseball's Hank Aaron, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, singer Aretha Franklin, economist Alan Greenspan, activist Jesse Jackson and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

    Kennedy's grandson, Jack Schlossberg, is to introduce President Obama at the dinner. Other Kennedy members plan to attend, including Robert Kennedy's daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and former diplomat Jean Kennedy Smith, a former medal winner and John Kennedy's last surviving sibling.

    Friday marks 50 years to the day since Kennedy was killed by a gunman in Dallas. Obama will meet privately at the White House that day with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps program Kennedy established.

    Details of Obama's plans were provided by the White House to The Associated Press. See a roundup of nationwide events surrounding the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination.

    President Harry Truman established an early version of the Medal of Freedom in 1945 to recognize those whose actions overseas advanced the national security of the United States or its allies, but it also could be bestowed by other top U.S. officials.

    By executive order in February 1963, Kennedy made bestowing the Medal of Freedom a presidential privilege and expanded its scope to honor contributions to world peace, culture and other public interests.

    According to the White House, Kennedy announced the inaugural list of 31 awardees on July 4, 1963, selecting opera singers, diplomats, academics and civic leaders. The medal design was finalized in the fall, and a ceremony was scheduled for Dec. 6. On Nov. 21, the day before the assassination, Kennedy's special assistant forwarded a request to have the Marine String Orchestra play at the awards reception.

    Johnson decided to move forward with the lunchtime ceremony in the State Dining Room and surprised the dignitaries in attendance by adding Kennedy and the recently deceased Pope John XXIII as posthumous recipients.

    "In the shattering sequence of events that began 14 days ago, we encountered in its full horror man's capacity for hatred and destruction," Johnson said at the ceremony. "There is little we do not know of evil, but it is time to turn once more to the pursuits of honor and excellence and of achievement that have always marked the true direction of the American people."

    Jacqueline Kennedy declined Johnson's plans to also award a medal to her. She watched from an anteroom as Attorney General Robert Kennedy accepted the medal on his brother's behalf. That afternoon, Mrs. Kennedy and her children moved out of the White House.

    Associated Press reporter Nedra Pickler wrote this report. Follow her on Twitter at @nedrapickler.

    Read more:

    Remembering President John F. Kennedy, 50 years after assassination

    5 journalists who got their start covering the JFK assassination

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    A mean tweet plus "just kidding" doesn't equal a get out of jail free card. It's just plain mean, according to a new poll.

    In a shift in attitude, most young people now say it's wrong to use racist or sexist slurs online, even if you're just kidding. But when they see them, they don't take much personal offense.

    A majority of teens and young adults who use the Internet say they at least sometimes see derogatory words and images targeting various groups. They often dismiss that stuff as just joking around, not meant to be hurtful, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV.

    Americans ages 14 to 24 say people who are overweight are the most frequent target, followed by gay people. Next in line for online abuse: blacks and women.

    "I see things like that all the time," says Vito Calli, 15, of Reading, Pa. "It doesn't really bother me unless they're meaning it to offend me personally."

    Even then he tries to brush it off.

    Calli, whose family emigrated from Argentina, says people tease him online with jokes about Hispanics, but "you can't let those things get to you."

    He's typical of many young people surveyed. The majority say they aren't very offended by slurs in social media or cellphone text messages -- even such inflammatory terms as "bitch" or "fag" or the N-word.

    Yet like Calli, most think using language that insults a group of people is wrong. The high school sophomore says he has tried, with difficulty, to break his habit of calling anything uncool "gay" or "retarded."

    Compared with an AP-MTV poll two years ago, young people today are more disapproving of using slurs online.

    Nearly 6 in 10 say using discriminatory words or images isn't all right, even as a joke. Only about half were so disapproving in 2011.

    Now, a bare majority say it's wrong to use slurs even among friends who know you don't mean it. In the previous poll, most young people said that was OK.

    But the share who come across slurs online has held steady. More than half of young users of YouTube, Facebook and gaming communities such as Xbox Live and Steam say they sometimes or often encounter biased messages on those platforms.

    Why do people post or text that stuff? To be funny, according to most young people who see it. Another big reason: to be cool. Less than a third said a major reason people use slurs is because they actually harbor hateful feelings toward the groups they are maligning.

    "Most of the time they're just joking around, or talking about a celebrity," Jeff Hitchins, a white 24-year-old in Springfield, Pa., said about the insulting references to blacks, women and gays that he encounters on the Vine and Instagram image-sharing sites. "Hate speech is becoming so commonplace, you forget where the words are coming from, and they actually hurt people without even realizing it."

    Some slurs are taken more seriously than others. Racial insults are not that likely to be seen as hurtful, yet a strong majority of those surveyed -- 6 in 10 -- felt comments and images targeting transgender people or Muslims are. Almost as likely to be viewed as mean-spirited are slurs against gays, lesbians and bisexual people, and those aimed at people who are overweight.

    Maria Caprigno, who has struggled with obesity since childhood, said seeing mean images on Facebook stings. But she thinks the online world reflects the rest of U.S. society.

    "It's still socially acceptable to comment on someone's weight and what someone is eating," said Caprigno, 18, of Norwood, Mass. "We need to change that about our culture before people realize posting stuff like that online is going to be offensive to someone."

    Erick Fernandez of West New York, N.J., says what people share online reflects the influence of song lyrics and music videos and movies.

    Fernandez, 22, said he was "probably very loose" about that himself before he was chosen for a diversity summer camp in high school that explained why phrases like "That's so gay" are hurtful. Now a college student, he routinely sees insulting language for women and people of color bandied about online.

    "I try to call some of my friends out on it but it's really to no avail," Fernandez said. "They brush it off and five minutes later something else will come out. Why even bother?"

    In the poll, young people said they were less likely to ask someone to stop using hurtful language on a social networking site than face to face.

    Alexandria Washington said she's accustomed to seeing men who wouldn't say offensive things to her in person post pictures of "half-naked women in sexual positions," followed by demeaning comments and slurs like "whore" and "ratchet."

    "They'll post anything online, but in person it's a whole different story," said Washington, 22, a graduate student in Tallahassee, Fla.

    There seems to be a desensitizing effect. Those who report more exposure to discriminatory images and words online are less likely to say it's wrong than those who rarely or never encounter it.

    Context is crucial, too. Demeaned groups sometimes reclaim slurs as a way of stripping the words of their power -- like the feminist "Bitch" magazine or gay rights activists chanting "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!"

    Washington, who is African-American, said that on most days she doesn't come across racial slurs on social media. But she stumbles upon bigoted words when race is in the news, such as surrounding President Barack Obama's re-election, and finds them hurtful in that serious context.

    Likewise, Calli, the high school student originally from Argentina, said he could stomach almost any name-calling but gets upset when someone uses a falsehood to denigrate immigrants.

    Jeffrey Bakken, 23, a producer at a video game company in Chicago, said the bad stuff online, especially slurs posted anonymously, shouldn't overshadow what he sees as the younger generation's stronger commitment to equal rights for minorities and gays than its elders.

    "Kids were horrible before the Internet existed," Bakken said. "It's just that now it's more accessible to the public eye."

    The AP-NORC Center/MTV poll was conducted online Sept. 27-Oct. 7 among a random national sample of 1,297 people between the ages of 14 and 24. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Funding for the study was provided by MTV as part of "A Thin Line" campaign to stop digital abuse.

    The survey was conducted by GfK using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel. Respondents are recruited randomly using traditional telephone and mail sampling methods. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.

    Associated Press reporter Connie Cass wrote this report. AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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    Police stand guard outside the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, where diplomats from six nations negotiating Iran's nuclear future are staying this week. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images

    GENEVA - There was little visibility in the fog hanging heavy over this Swiss city and its famed lake this morning, as bleary-eyed diplomats flew in for the latest round of talks over Iran's disputed nuclear program. The haze was a fitting metaphor. The prospects for the US and five other world powers reaching a "preliminary deal" with Iran this week were just as hard to discern.

    Everyone knows what's in the cards -- a "first step" agreement to freeze much of Iran's uranium and plutonium programs, in return for a temporary lifting of a few economic sanctions. The idea is to buy 6 months of time to negotiate a final accord. If that fails, Iran can restart its nuclear program. The President can re-impose the US-led sanctions that are strangling Tehran's economy, and if Congress has its way, impose additional ones too.

    The questions today were obvious: Would the US and its European, Russian and Chinese partners avoid the messy internal dispute, triggered by the French, that torpedoed the last round 10 days ago? Had back-channel talks with Tehran resolved the hang-ups from that last encounter -- specifically an impasse over continued construction on Iran's Arak heavy water plutonium reactor, and its insistence that the world recognize Iran's "right to enrich?"

    Journalists and even delegation members were reduced to reading tea leaves. There were encouraging signs--the talks here have been front-loaded. Instead of starting tomorrow as scheduled, crucial discussions began today: first between the US delegation head, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, and her "P5+1" partners; followed by a meeting between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zharif; and finally a full-blown evening session ahead including all the parties.

    But there were also not-so-encouraging signs: Just today, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei gave a fiery speech to thousands of his "Basij" militiamen, vowing that Iran would not surrender its nuclear prerogatives. "We insist we will not step back one iota from our rights" he declared. And the supreme leader revealed limits had been set on how far his negotiating team can go in the talks. He railed about American aggression, but then said he wanted "friendly" relations with the US. The Basij responded with the familiar chant: "Death to America."

    When it comes to tea leaves, only one is considered certain by Western sources. Unless an agreement is assured, Secretary of State John Kerry and his French, British, German, Chinese and Russian counterparts will not fly to bless the deal. "They don't want a repeat of that egg-in-the-face moment," said one European diplomat, when they all arrived for the scheduled "final day," only to have French foreign minister Laurent Fabius publicly air his disputes with his partners, and send them all home empty-handed.

    But I may be able to offer a personal clue to this guessing game. I arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel at 8 a.m -- home to the US, European and Iranian delegations -- only to be told that my week-old reservation would not be honored. "We aren't able to confirm your reservation after all," the rooms manager said in her most soothing voice. "You mean, you have my reservation but have decided not to honor it," I retorted. She pleaded "overbooking." But she finally fessed up, when I asked, "Have you been asked to save some rooms for someone important who may arrive later?" She gave a grimace and a wry smile. "Well, we do have obligations...and we are waiting to be told for sure." (No worries. I'm not sleeping in a tent, but ensconced at a lakeside hotel much farther from the action.)

    All this doesn't mean that a deal is certain. Far from it. When I saw Undersecretary Sherman waiting to board the Tuesday night non-stop from Washington, she offered only this: "In negotiations like this, an agreement isn't 'done' until it's entirely done." A good reason for Secretary Kerry to hedge his travel bets.

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    Doctors are concerned that new, cheaper marketplace health care plans could result in a two-tiered system

    Getty Images

    Many doctors are disturbed they will be paid less -- often a lot less -- to care for the millions of patients projected to buy coverage through the health law's new insurance marketplaces.

    Some have complained to medical associations, including those in New York, California, Connecticut, Texas and Georgia, saying the discounted rates could lead to a two-tiered system in which fewer doctors participate, potentially making it harder for consumers to get the care they need.

    "As it is, there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the country, and they don't have enough time to see all the patients who are calling them," said Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington D.C.

    If providers are paid less, "are [enrollees] going to have difficulty getting physicians to accept them as patients?"

    Insurance officials acknowledge they have reduced rates in some plans, saying they are under enormous pressure to keep premiums affordable. They say physicians will make up for the lower pay by seeing more patients, since the plans tend to have smaller networks of doctors.

    But many primary care doctors say they barely have time to take care of the patients they have now.

    The conflict sheds light on the often murky world of insurance contracts in which physicians don't always know which plans they're listed in or how much they're being paid to treat patients in a particular plan. As a result, some doctors are just learning about the lower pay rates in some plans sold in the online markets, or exchanges

    "If you're a physician and you've negotiated a rate from insurance, shouldn't it be the same on or off the exchange?" said Matthew Katz, executive vice president of the Connecticut State Medical Society. "You're providing the same service."

    Blues: No Desire 'To Gouge' Docs

    A senior executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said some of its 37 member organizations -- each of which operate independently and offer a variety of plans - are offering lower rates to physicians in smaller exchange plan networks.

    But, she said, plans know that a good network of providers is essential or customers "will go someplace else," and they are enlisting sufficient numbers of doctors.

    "We're not motivated to gouge the doctor," said Kim Holland, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association executive director for state affairs. "We depend on good relationships with quality physicians. ... I can't imagine any product we offer is going to have a physician rate that would discourage them from seeing a patient."

    But some physicians see things differently. Contracts between insurers and doctors vary with some allowing insurers to adjust rates unilaterally or to assign a doctor to multiple plans.

    "I've participated with Oxford since 1985. They don't send me a contract every year to sign. They don't send me the rates. You don't know the rates," said Dr. Paul Orloff, a physician who is president of the New York County Medical Society. "It's the only game in town so you sign. They have a right to unilaterally change the rates at any time during the contract."

    The benchmark for physician fees is the rate the federal government sets for services provided to older Americans through Medicare. In many markets, commercial plans may pay slightly above the Medicare rates, while doctors say that many of the new exchange plans are offering rates below that.

    Physicians are uncomfortable discussing their rates because of antitrust laws, and insurers say the information is proprietary. But information cobbled together from interviews suggests that if the Medicare pays $90 for an office visit of a complex nature, and a commercial plan pays $100 or more, some exchange plans are offering $60 to $70. Doctors say the insurers have not always clearly spelled out the proposed rate reductions.

    Some experts minimized the impact of lower pay rates on enrollees.

    People "may experience wait times to get in, but that is not unique to people in exchange plans," said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University,

    Rosenbaum said she was not overly concerned about physicians' compensation. "I don't mean to suggest that physicians don't deserve to do well," she said. "But physicians are very well-compensated people, no matter what."

    Confusion About Rates, Provider Lists

    Many doctors say they have not decided if they will participate in the new plans -in some cases, even when an insurer is including them in their provider list.

    A survey by The Medical Society of the State of New York found that 40 percent of more than 400 physicians who had responded so far said they chose not to participate in a health insurer's exchange plan, and one-third said they did not know whether they were participating or not.

    Two-thirds indicated they had received no information about reimbursements; of those who did ge that information, "a significant majority indicated that the reimbursement generally was well below what the insurer pays in other contracts," according to a statement from the society's president Dr. Sam Unterricht.

    "I have patients calling my office and saying ... 'Oh good, I see you're in the network,'" said Patricia McLaughlin, an ophthalmologist in New York City. But, she added, "I'm not sure I am or am not at this point."

    Some insurers have contractual arrangements with physicians that allow them to automatically include doctors in a new plan, unless the physician requests to opt out in writing, according to Mike Scribner, CEO of Strategic Healthcare Partners, a health care consulting firm based in Savannah, Ga., that represents about 700 physicians and 30 managed care hospitals in the state.

    Doctors say the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association plans have generally been more straightforward about the discounted rates --and some doctors who had the opportunity to "opt out" of their exchange plans did so.

    Dr. Richard E. Thorp, an internist who is president of the California Medical Association and heads a physician-owned multi-specialty primary care group in Paradise, Calif., said one plan sold on that exchange "was going to pay us significantly less for doing that business. And we are already very busy."

    His practice delayed signing a contract, he said. But about three weeks ago, the group was informed the insurer was short on physicians and was therefore including doctors from other plans at their old rates. So his practice was included at the higher rate.

    Advocates say that consumers should be wary of information in plan directories and confirm participation with their doctors.

    The California Medical Association is so concerned about errors that it has asked Covered California, the state's insurance marketplace, to remove a search function that lets buyers plug in the names of physicians and get a list of all the plans that they participate in, said Lisa Folberg, vice president for medical and regulatory policy for the California Medical Association.

    "There shouldn't be any ambiguity about who's in the network," said Lynn Quincy, a senior analyst with Consumers Union, the policy division of Consumer Reports.

    "These consumers are buying a product, one dimension of which is to provide a network--a very important dimension."

    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. Jay Hancock contributed to this report.

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    By Simone Pathe

    Daughters' working decisions are influenced by their own mothers and the mothers of their friends. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fabio Trifoni.

    When Anne-Marie Slaughter first broached writing an op-ed about how women "still can't have it all,", a senior female White House staffer with whom she was mingling told her, "You can't write that." Slaughter was a role model -- the first female director of policy planning at the State Department and a mom. Indeed, when the Atlantic published her now infamous essay, many young women just embarking on their careers flocked to the pages of the magazine.

    Slaughter may be a role model for many women in their late 20s and 30s facing the same work-life conundrum she described, but the work choices women make stem from a deeper and more familiar place.

    Women's attitudes about gender roles in the workplace and in the home are often shaped in adolescence. Who are the female role models of most middle and high school girls? Whether the girls would admit it or not, it's their moms. But not just their own mothers. Their friends' mothers are often equally important.

    Consider two women. Eleonora Patacchini is an economics professor at Syracuse University. Back in Italy, where she grew up, her mother was a professor. Claudia Olivetti, an economics professor at Boston University, also grew up in Italy; her mother was a housewife.

    MORE FROM THE BUSINESS DESK: Silicon Valley Discriminates Against Women, Even If They're Better

    Both women clearly remember their friends' mothers. Seeing the range of lifestyles of her friends' moms -- some were home cooking, some were out working -- reinforced Patacchini's identification with her mother, the professor. But Olivetti was fascinated by the working moms of her friends and knew she wanted to be like them instead of a housewife like her mom.

    In a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Olivetti and Patacchini examine how early gender identity formation influences work decisions in adulthood. They assess "work decisions" by looking at the number of hours worked (controlled for education, family wealth and location).

    It turns out that Patacchini's own career trajectory reflects one of their key findings: a daughter is more likely to pattern her work decisions after her mother's when the mother's work choice (in terms of number of hours worked) is more distant from the choices of the other moms. In other words, because Patacchini had a mix of friends whose moms worked in and outside the home, Patacchini hewed closer to her mother's decision to work. More variety among role models made her identify with the one who was closest to her.

    Of course the idea that gender norms are cultivated in the home -- watching your parents while you grow up -- is nothing new. Nor is the idea that gender norms influence activity in the labor market new -- it's part of an existing identity economics literature (see the work of Mr. Janet Yellen, for example, aka George Akerlof).

    But what about Ms. Olivetti? She didn't follow in her mother's footsteps and become a housewife. Instead, she was influenced by her friends' mothers; as a young girl, she saw the independence they had and wanted that for herself when she grew up.

    What's significant about the authors' approach is their focus on this broader social context, widening the intergenerational transmittance of gender attitudes to include friends' mothers.

    The key to the data set, Olivetti explained, is the friendship mechanism. The National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (AddHealth) surveyed about 90,000 pupils in grades 7-12 in the early 1990s, asking them to list their friends and to answer questions about their own family backgrounds and characteristics. A select pool provided in-home and parental data. From this list of friends and their backgrounds, the authors were able to draw patterns of social interaction.

    Subsequent waves of the AddHealth survey, administered when the students were 24 to 30 years old, asked about their working hours. The authors observed which of a woman's classmates were her friends and what they and she were doing as young adults, namely how many hours they worked, compared to their moms.

    But so what if your work choices mirror your mother's? That doesn't necessarily mean you share the same attitudes about working outside the home.

    Couldn't it be that what mothers really pass down to their daughters are certain skills that make them better equipped for working either in or outside the home? Of course, mothers endow their daughters with certain capital (job skills or training) that influences their work choices. And yet, daughters' hourly wages are not correlated with mothers' working hours, as you would expect if the transmission of these skills explained why daughters' work choices are like their mothers'.

    The correlation they did find is that the more mothers worked, the more their daughters were likely to have egalitarian attitudes toward gender when they reached working age.

    A typical General Social Survey (GSS) question asks respondents to what extent they agree with a statement such as: "It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family." Among women born between 1978 and 1984 whose mothers worked, only 24 percent agreed with that statement compared to 51 percent of those whose moms did not work.

    A mother's labor market participation when her daughter is 16 years old shapes the daughter's gender role attitudes, and work choices, in adulthood. Why does that matter?

    It's important, Pattacchini emphasized, that their research be understood as a gender identity and not a human capital story because those two narratives carry very different policy prescriptions for increasing female labor participation rates. If the story is about human capital, she explained, the solutions become technological. Attributing the observed correlation between work choices to gender attitudes, however, demands a cultural solution, Patacchini explained, like changing attitudes about gender roles -- early on in school.

    Hours worked, the authors acknowledge, is an "imperfect indicator" of how and why women make work-family trade-offs. A corporate lawyer may work 70 hours a week but so could an immigrant mother juggling three low-wage jobs. Olivetti hopes to include college majors in further research to assess what women are actually doing during their hours worked and how that correlates with their moms' work activities.

    Differences in education did reveal some effects in this data, however. When they zero in on college-educated women who are now having children of their own, the influence of friends' mothers drops off significantly; it's just daughters' own mothers who are influential. As Olivetti explained, gender identity becomes most salient when women, like those reading Slaughter's article, are trying to decide how to strike their own work-life balance.

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


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    Elementary school science students in Leigh Ann Anderson's classes skip the textbooks and get straight to the experiments.

    Four fourth graders huddle over short magnetic wires attached to the top and bottom of a DD battery. Bits of tin foil and sketches for a simple electrical circuit are scattered across their desks. One boy taps the wires against the tiny light bulb his classmate is holding. After several tries, he sees the bulb light up.

    "Oh my God, it's working!"

    Throughout the room children squeal for joy, laughing and high-fiving each other as their light bulbs glow. This fourth grade science classroom at Barnhart Elementary School in St. Charles, Md., usually sounds like chaos, said their teacher Leigh Ann Anderson. This is due in large part to her teaching style. She skips the textbooks and goes straight to the hands-on experiment.

    "In order to learn science, you have to do it," she said. "Basically what we do in my room is all about having fun and learning by doing."

    Textbooks aren't a requirement for elementary school in her district, so Anderson's fourth and fifth grade classes get "the lab before the blab." On a recent fall afternoon, she handed her fourth graders a DD battery, tin foil, wires and light bulbs.

    "Your job is to use these to make your light bulb light," she tells her students. They draw their predictions for a system that will make the bulb glow.

    Some students try covering the batteries with foil, and others twist the foil into rudimentary wires. As the light bulbs start flickering, the batteries start heating up. Anderson stops the class for a few minutes and asks for their observations.

    "We do the lab before the blab," she said. "And a lot of times teachers will stand there and say okay, this is what you're going to do, this is how you're going to do it, and this is what's going to happen. Well then, what's the point of doing it? You've already told us everything."

    The class chatters and realizes that the metal is conducting energy in a loop, up through the battery, into the bulb and back to the bottom of the battery. So they try making a circuit with other metallic objects in the room -- the aluminum ends on pencils, bracelets, even the table leg.

    Later in the school year, the fourth graders will use what they're learning about electricity to make a flashlight.

    Anderson's fifth grade class is after a different study in physics: force and motion. Their assignment is to launch a tiny rubber cat one meter using a plastic catapult. Their goal is to understand motion by manipulating the catapult's force and trajectory, and math as they record their test flights and calculate average distance.

    Flinging the cats across the room is fun, but they are learning important skills about the scientific method as they make connections between the settings on the catapult and the data they collect, Anderson said. And getting to the meter mark is a triumph for them. They shout, laugh and fist bump each other when their cat lands at the end of their meter stick.

    "It's fun getting the kids excited about science and about learning," she said. "They think they're just playing. They'll say 'what are we going to do today? Are we going to have fun?'"

    Those joyful reactions are what Anderson is looking for in her students. By having fun and finding the answers through experiments, the students will be more open to taking science, engineering and math classes in the future, she said -- something that is crucial for the country's future.

    "STEM education is probably one of the most important things in education right now," Anderson said. "Obviously not every kid is going to be a scientist, but if something sparks in their mind and they say 'I want to do this,' I think we'll be better off."

    Do you know a science or math teacher who has a creative lesson plan for his or her students? Send us your nominations here, and your teacher may be featured as a part of this ongoing series.

    Meet more of our Super Stem Teachers:

    Chemistry Teacher Mixes Science and Innovation ... and Sets It on Fire

    Jerriel Hall Creates New Planet for Math and Science Students

    How Math Got Its Groove Back

    Science Classroom Without Walls Replete with Snakes, Snapping Turtles

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    Robert MacNeil rode in one of the press buses, just seven cars behind the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy during his November visit to Dallas. The motorcade entered Dealey Plaza in when MacNeil heard three loud bangs.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The United States and five other world powers resumed talks with Iran today over reining in its nuclear program. Negotiators gathered in Geneva, while, in Tehran, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said his country is willing to negotiate, but will not be cowed by sanctions.

    AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader of Iran (through interpreter): They have decided to the pressure the Iranian nation, hoping they might manage to make them surrender. They are wrong. The Iranian nation will not surrender to anyone as a result of pressure.

    GWEN IFILL: Khamenei said there are red lines that Iran's negotiators will not cross, but he gave no details. We will talk to Margaret Warner in Geneva right after this news summary.

    A series of bombs exploded across Baghdad today, killing at least 35 Iraqis and wounding more than 100. The targets were in mostly Shiite commercial areas around the capital. Five were in parked cars, and at least three were detonated by a remote control; 244 people have died in attacks in Iraq this month alone.

    In Egypt, 11 off-duty soldiers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack in Northern Sinai; 37 others were wounded. The attacker rammed his vehicle into a convoy of buses as they traveled between Rafah and El-Arish. The blast scattered mangled wreckage across the desert. It was one of the deadliest attacks since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July.

    The U.S. and Afghanistan have reached an agreement governing American troops and contractors who stay past 2014. That's when the official NATO combat mission ends. It sets out troop numbers and conditions under which they will operate. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed today that a deal was reached, but he gave no details either. He also denied reports that the U.S. will apologize for civilian deaths.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Let me be clear. President Karzai didn't ask for an apology, there was no discussion of an apology. There will be -- there is no -- I mean, it's just not even on the table.

    We have agreed on the language that would be submitted to a loya jirga, but they have to pass it.

    GWEN IFILL: The loya jirga, or gathering of Afghan elders, opens tomorrow in Kabul.

    Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer who targeted blacks and Jews in the late 1970s, has been put to death in Missouri. He was executed by lethal injection this morning. In addition to the murders, Franklin admitted shooting civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, who survived the attack, and "Hustler" magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who was paralyzed from the waist down.

    Florida Congressman Trey Radel pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor cocaine possession. He was given one year's probation. The freshman Republican left a Washington courthouse without speaking to reporters. He gave no indication of whether he will stay in office. Last night, Radel said he's seeking treatment for alcoholism.

    Wall Street pulled back today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 66 points to close at 15,900. The Nasdaq fell 10 points to close at 3,921.

     


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As pressure builds from critics of a nuclear deal with Iran, negotiators are back in Geneva for another round of talks.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, is also there.

    I spoke to her a short time ago.

    Margaret, hello.

    So, is there any movement reported today?

    MARGARET WARNER: Judy, that's a fascinating question that's hard to answer.

    There was a flurry of activity. Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, the whole U.S. delegation flew overnight and jumped right into talks with their European, Russian, and Chinese counterparts, no doubt to avoid the kind of disagreement that sunk it last time.

    But, then, when Lady Catherine Ashton, who is the E.U. high representative, and the Iranian foreign minister, Zarif, had lunch today, his deputy foreign minister came out of there saying, we're not talking about substance of any draft right now. We're still talking about progress.

    This is the third round of intensive negotiations, and you would think process questions would have been settled quite some time ago. So, it does at least appear as if they have had to reset the starting point to some degree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How would you describe the atmosphere? What are people saying outside the meeting, around -- around what's going on there?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, the feeling was from people here, but also, I think, in respective capitals, that everyone came into this with high expectations, and a kind of a sense that this was the week that they'd clinch this first step on the way to a comprehensive deal.

    But, today, there were definitely some sour notes. I mean, Lady Ashton said the lunch was very positive, but there was great attention given to this fiery speech by Supreme Leader Khamenei, in which he said there had been red lines established that the Iranian delegation could not cross.

    And after this lunch, as I said, that Lady Ashton said was positive, the deputy Iran foreign minister said, well, the reason we're not talking substance yet is there is trust that was broken that has to be rebuilt. So the Iranians even late tonight were telling me that there is a sense of mistrust and that we hope we will get to the -- we will get to the substance tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know the last round of talks didn't end as many had wanted them to in the administration. Has -- how much of a shadow has that cast over what's -- the talks taking place now?

    MARGARET WARNER: A huge shadow, Judy.

    First of all, clearly, the U.S. and the Iranians and really everyone wants to avoid the embarrassment of last time, when the U.S. and Iran appeared close to the outlines of a deal, and then all the other foreign ministers came in and the French raised sudden objections.

    In fact, we had an interesting little tidbit about this today that the U.S. hinted at and the E.U. spokesman confirmed, which was that Lady Ashton had only invited Secretary Kerry last time, and the foreign ministers hearing of this all decided they would come.

    The other reason that they want to avoid another setback is that, in the interim, critics any of potential deal have really gained ground, especially certainly in Washington. And, right now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Russia lobbying President Putin against the deal.

    So, even though U.S. officials say -- said tonight at a briefing, oh, we're not in a rush to get any deal, I do sense from them a feeling of urgency, that if this first-step process goes on too much longer, it could get dragged down by critics at home, especially with new congressional sanctions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Margaret, you mentioned the Iranians speaking about a break in the trust between the two countries, and that that trust has to be built back up again. How is the U.S. responding to that?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, we asked this tonight.

    And one -- one U.S. official pulled me aside and said, really, that's a negotiating tactic, but the senior U.S. official briefing us said, when asked about it, it's been tough, and that there are real moments of tension, and this official went on to say, we have critics and skeptics domestically. We all do. And this is a very -- I don't -- don't remember the exact words -- but this is a very difficult thing for us all to do.

    So, to some degree, I would say they sidestepped the question, but didn't dispute it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, given all this, Margaret, how would you describe expectations?

    MARGARET WARNER: I think that moment is being prepared for Secretary Kerry and maybe others to fly in.

    But, definitely tonight, the tone of briefings from both Iranian and American officials was much more cautious than at this point in the last round. And each one had the tone of someone who doesn't want to get burned again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner in Geneva, and we will check in with you again tomorrow.

    MARGARET WARNER: Look forward to it, Judy.

     

     


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