Articles on this Page
- 01/29/14--15:54: _Carolyn Forche expl...
- 01/30/14--06:49: _Unrest in South Sud...
- 01/30/14--07:00: _House GOP leaders t...
- 01/30/14--07:45: _Teaching kids to ea...
- 01/30/14--07:58: _‘These Birds Walk’ ...
- 01/30/14--08:27: _Justice Department ...
- 01/30/14--09:00: _Russia identifies s...
- 01/30/14--09:32: _NYC mayor aims to h...
- 01/30/14--09:45: _Is your money safe ...
- 01/30/14--14:00: _Navy admiral tapped...
- 01/30/14--12:00: _U.S. to seek death ...
- 01/30/14--15:02: _News Wrap: Federal ...
- 01/30/14--15:08: _House GOP recasts a...
- 01/30/14--15:27: _NSA surveillance re...
- 01/30/14--15:35: _Mysterious epidemic...
- 01/30/14--15:42: _Al-Jazeera journali...
- 01/30/14--15:46: _Public officials do...
- 01/30/14--15:48: _Some W.Va. resident...
- 01/30/14--18:50: _Thursday, January 3...
- 01/31/14--06:37: _House GOP leaders f...
- 01/30/14--07:00: House GOP leaders to test support for immigration principles
President Obama hit the road Wednesday for the start of a two-day, four-state swing to build support for the agenda he laid out in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. His first stop was a Costco warehouse in Maryland, where he urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Later he promoted his new “MyRA” retirement savings program during a visit to a steel plant outside Pittsburgh. On Thursday the president will travel to a General Electric plant in Waukesha, Wis., and a high school in Nashville.
About 33 million people watched the State of the Union, according to Nielsen data released Wednesday. The number is the lowest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
House lawmakers voted 251 – 166 Wednesday to approve a five-year farm bill that preserves most crop subsidies and makes about a 1 percent cut to the food stamp program. The measure, which costs nearly $100 billion a year, is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate next week.
Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton was one of 63 Republicans to vote against the farm bill, breaking ranks with his state’s all-GOP House delegation. But as National Journal’s Alex Roarty reports, that’s not the first politically risky vote Cotton’s taken, as he looks to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor later this year. Pryor has already seized on Cotton’s vote.
The effort to renew unemployment insurance that expired in November has made some progress, Politico’s Burgess Everett and Manu Raju report. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will hold a vote to reinstate the benefits next week.
Hillary Clinton holds a 6-to-1 lead over other possible Democratic contenders for 2016 — the largest early lead ever, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Republicans lack a clear frontrunner, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in third place behind Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
And as Roll Call reports about Pennsylvania, potential Democratic congressional candidates are eyeing Clinton’s coattails, waiting to see if she runs before jumping into their own races.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist leads current Republican Gov. Rick Scott by eight points — 46 percent to 38 percent — in a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
Some Democrats who are facing tough mid-term elections began to distance themselves from the president following the State of the Union.
And Democrats are hoping that Congress’ unpopularity will make it a lot harder for GOP House members to win seats in the Senate.
Wondering why Mr. Obama chose to highlight red-state Kentucky in the State of the Union? NPR’s Alan Greenblatt has the answer.
Newly obtained emails between the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer underscore the pressure put on the mayor to support the development of a billion-dollar office complex in her city from politically connected lawyers working for the Rockefeller Group and the Christie administration.
WNYC’s Matt Katz rounds up Christie’s 18 state secrets.
Granite State Republicans are tired of playing the waiting game. If Scott Brown, who moved to the state over a month ago, is going to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, he needs to get going, they say.
Meanwhile, Republicans in California are having trouble fielding candidates for state and down-ballot races, including to challenge Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris.
National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar thinks Ohio Governor John Kasich is the 2016 GOP presidential contender that Republicans are overlooking.
Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., says he called the NY1 reporter he threatened after the State of the Union to apologize and that they’ll be going out to lunch. He blamed his behavior, in part, on a long day fighting for flood insurance. And in case Grimm needed help, Anthony Weiner is offering his advice for dealing with the press.
A petition calling on the president to deport Justin Bieber has reached 100,000 signatures, which means the White House is required to issue an official response.
- We asked NewsHour viewers to submit responses to the State of the Union address and aired some of them on Wednesday’s program. You can find those videos and submit one of your own on our website.
- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal joined the NewsHour to give an update on the winter weather wreaking havoc on the South.
- Margaret Warner reported on the outrage in Germany over U.S. surveillance programs.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
- 01/30/14--07:45: Teaching kids to eat healthy in school and beyond
- 01/30/14--08:27: Justice Department looking to give low-level drug offenders clemency
- 01/30/14--09:00: Russia identifies suicide bombers, arrests suspected accomplices
- 01/30/14--09:32: NYC mayor aims to halt stop-and-frisk appeal
Many other depositors like you get in line before me. Banks today promise everyone that they can have their money back instantaneously, but the bank does not actually have enough money to pay everyone at once because they have lent most of it out to other people — 90 percent or more. Thus, banks are always at risk for runs where the depositors at the front of the line get their money back, but the depositors at the back of the line do not. Consider this image from a fully insured U.S. bank, IndyMac in California, just five years ago.
Some of the investments of Bank of America go bust. Because Bank of America has loaned out the vast majority of depositors’ money, if even a small percentage of its loans go bust, the firm is at risk for bankruptcy. Leverage, combined with some bad investments, caused the failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and would have caused the failure of Bank of America, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and many more institutions in 2008 had the government not bailed them out.
Keep some cash at home, though admittedly this runs the risk of loss or setting yourself up as a target for criminals.
Put some cash in a safety box. There is an urban myth that this is illegal; my understanding is that cash in a safety box is legal. However, I can imagine scenarios where capital controls are placed on safety deposit box withdrawals. And suppose the bank is shut down and you can’t get to the box?
Pay your debts. You don’t need to be Suze Orman to know that you need liquidity, so do not use all your cash to pay debts. However, you can use some surplus, should you have any.
Prepay your taxes and some other obligations. Subject to the same caveat about liquidity, pay ahead. Make sure you only pay safe entities. Your local government is not going away, even in a depression, so, for example, you can prepay property taxes. (I would check with a tax accountant on the implications, however.)
Find a safer bank. Some local, smaller banks are much safer than the “too-big-to-fail banks.” After its mistake of letting Lehman fail, the government has learned that it must try to save giant institutions. However, the government may not be able to save all failing institutions immediately and simultaneously in a crisis. Thus, depositors in big banks face delays and defaults in the event of a true crisis. (It is important to find the right small bank; I believe all big banks are fragile, while some small banks are robust.)
- 01/30/14--14:00: Navy admiral tapped to be the next chief of the NSA
- 01/30/14--12:00: U.S. to seek death penalty for Boston Marathon bomb suspect
- 01/30/14--15:08: House GOP recasts agenda as White House alternative, not opposition
- 01/30/14--15:27: NSA surveillance revelations sour German perception of Obama
- 01/30/14--15:42: Al-Jazeera journalists charged with trying to distort Egyptian media
- 01/30/14--15:48: Some W.Va. residents reluctant to trust water supply after spill
- 01/30/14--18:50: Thursday, January 30, 2014
- Treasury Secretary Jack Lew met with Senate Democrats Thursday to discuss the looming deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Lew told the lawmakers that the White House is “not paying ransom” in order to raise the borrowing limit.
- Senate Democrats are pushing to vote on raising the federal minimum wage in early March.
- Veteran Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee who helped pass the Affordable Care Act and a leading proponent of legislation to address climate change, announced Thursday that he would retire at the end of his current term. “At the end of this year, I would have been in Congress for 40 years,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “If there is a time for me to move on to another chapter in my life, I think this is the time to do it.”
- Joshua Green profiled Waxman’s legacy for Business Week.
- National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher notes that between the 2012 and 2014 elections, California will have lost a combined total of more than 400 years of congressional experience.
- Women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke is “strongly considering” a run for Waxman’s seat. Fluke was in the national spotlight in 2012 during the controversial debate over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
- Mr. Obama has tapped Vice Adm. Mike Rogers to head the National Security Agency. The Navy veteran of 30 years currently leads the U.S. Cyber Command.
- According to the latest WMUR Granite Poll, New Hampshire Democrats would overwhelmingly favor Hillary Clinton in a 2016 primary. There’s no apparent GOP frontrunner, but if the election were held today, likely GOP primary voters would support Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., followed closely by Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The poll notes that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s support has waned.
- Yahoo’s Olivier Knox reports former President George W. Bush doesn’t plan to campaign much in 2014, but he might write a few checks, like the one for $5,000 he gave Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
- Mr. Obama and Bill Clinton are expected to address Senate Democrats during their retreat at the Washington Nationals stadium next week.
- New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu plays up his endorsement from Mr. Obama for his reelection campaign while his sister, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, who is also running for reelection in Louisiana, keeps her distance.
- The Republican Governors Association outraised the Democratic Governors Association last year by $22.3 million.
- Christie’s office has hired a defense attorney at a 40 percent discount — $650 an hour — to help produce documents for the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, a sign that the governor’s office may have received subpoenas from federal prosecutors looking into whether a crime was committed.
- New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan finally has a GOP challenger. Former chair of the state Republican Liberty Caucus and state director of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign Andrew Hemingway announced his candidacy Thursday night.
- To the west, the Massachusetts GOP is charging potential gubernatorial candidates $25,000 to speak at their upcoming convention.
- Women overall at the White House make 91 cents for every dollar men earn, when calculated with the same formula used to generate the 77-cent figure Mr. Obama cited in his State of the Union address. The White House contends that women and men in the same job earn the same salary.
- Wyoming was the most conservative state in 2013 (as measured by the percentage of conservatives) and the District of Columbia was the most liberal area, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. “Overall,” Gallup notes, “Americans were much more likely to self-identify as conservative than as liberals last year, although that gap shrank from previous years.”
- In an interview with CSPAN for its “First Ladies” series, former first lady Laura Bush said first ladies should not receive a salary because the job already has “plenty of perks.” She also offered advice to the nation’s first gentlemen “whenever that happens”: “Stand back and be quiet.”
- As Mr. Obama hit the road to tout his economic agenda and the House GOP embarked on their annual retreat, Gwen Ifill got three perspectives on this year’s political realities from the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and Andrew Rudalevige of Bowdoin College.
- Margaret Warner continued her report on German outrage over U.S. surveillance, speaking with German Coordinator for Transatlantic Cooperation Philipp Missfelder. The German official told the NewsHour that NSA surveillance is “exactly what people would have expected in the Bush era,” but Germans were not expecting such surveillance from Mr. Obama.
- Jeffrey Brown reports on the lingering health concerns of the West Viriginia chemical spill and spoke with Ashton Marra of West Virginia Public Broadcasting about the state senate’s legislative response.
- Special correspondent Katie Campbell reported from Seattle on how researchers and citizen scientists are investigating the mysterious death of Pacific starfish.
- Is less choice really better than more? Psychologist Barry Schwartz defends the “paradox of choice” theory on Making Sense, while former Harvard economist Terry Burnham explains why he’s withdrawing his money from the bank.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
Carolyn Forche, co-editor of the anthology “Poetry of Witness,” read Major John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field.”
Carolyn Forche was deeply affected by her experience in countries at war.
Forche is the co-editor of the new anthology “Poetry of Witness.” When she started collecting poems by writers who had endured warfare, censorship, and other extreme situations, people told her she was collecting political poems. But Forche wanted to look more deeply and “understand the poetry as an outcry of the soul.”
She worked through 500 years of English language poetry featuring the aftermath of “war and upheaval’ and included wartime poets as well as poets less associated with that kind of destruction, like poet Emily Dickinson who lived during the Civil War.
According to Forche, Dickinson “was engaged and effected by a country at war.”
Listen to Forche read Emily Dickinson’s poem “They Dropped Like Flakes.”
Forche says you can feel their experiences when you read the poetry.
“It becomes legible in the poems.”
The post Carolyn Forche explores writing ‘as an outcry of the soul’ in ‘Poetry of Witness’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In the latest development in the ongoing political struggle between the South Sudanese government and fighting rebel forces, South Sudan’s Justice Minister Paulino Wanawila announced Tuesday the release of seven officials the government had originally detained on suspicion of planning a military coup.
However, the justice minister refused to pardon former Vice President Riek Machar, saying that Machar must face treason charges within the country. Wanawila insisted again that Vice President Machar had helped to plan the military coup, charges that Machar, who is currently in hiding, denied any culpability for concerning the fighting that has erupted across the country.
Machar is one of seven officials the government is still planning on trying for treason. Four of the officials are currently in custody while the other three, like Machar, remain in hiding. Rebel forces have warned that the fighting will escalate if any of the seven officials are tried for treason.
The conflict in Sudan dates back to December when factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army began an alleged mutiny — one that President Salva Kiir accused Machar of planning in an attempt to grab power. Machar has denied the charges, insisting that they are simply ploys by Kiir to gain political power by taking out rivals.
While both men have support across Sudan’s ethnic groups, The BBC reports fighting has often been communal, with rebels targeting members of Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and government soldiers attacking members of Machar’s ethnic group, the Nuers.
Despite the slight reprieve in tension brought upon by Wanawila’s announcement of the seven officials’ release, his confirmation of the government’s intent to continue to prosecute Machar threatens to dissolve any progress between the rebels and government officials, who agreed to a ceasefire Thursday in Ethiopia after peace talks that came about under heavy pressure from the U.N. and the United States. Yet, the peace talks have continued to dissolve amid talk from both sides that the other has already broken the ceasefire, and continued discussions will not resume until Feb. 7.
Aid groups say the fighting has already claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in South Sudan, and that more than 850,000 people have either been displaced from their homes or forced to flee to neighboring countries.
The post Unrest in South Sudan continues to grow despite concessions by government appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Immigration reform proponents demonstrate during the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony December 3. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Thursday is the day that House Republican leaders plan to gauge the appetite of their rank-and-file members for addressing immigration reform this year by presenting broad principles for potential legislation during the GOP caucus’ annual retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that the proposal will likely include a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday that he and other GOP leaders would wait for the meeting before making any judgments about the path forward. “We’ll have a discussion about immigration reform; we’re going to outline our standards, principles of immigration reform and have a conversation with our members,” he said. “And once that conversation’s over, we’ll get a better feel for what members have in mind.”
Boehner will certainly face opposition from some conservatives who believe that providing legal status to those who came to the country illegally amounts to “amnesty.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a leading opponent of the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate last year, released a memo ahead of the House GOP retreat warning that the effort was bad policy and bad politics.
He charged that House Republican leaders were “drafting an immigration plan that is uncomfortably similar to a ‘piecemeal’ repackaging of the disastrous Senate plan — and even privately negotiating a final package with Democrat activists before consulting with their own members.”
Sessions added: “A sensible immigration policy would also listen to the opinion of the American people. Not the opinions of the paid-for consultants trotted out with their agenda-driven polls to GOP member meetings — but the actual, honest opinion of the people who sent us here.”
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats appear to be willing to give Republicans room to work through their differences — for now.
The president made only a brief reference to immigration reform during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Speaking with reporters Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the move by GOP leaders “a good faith effort to find common ground.” Still, she added that for Democrats to be on board “there has to be a path to citizenship.”
Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., appeared on the NewsHour Wednesday to react to the president’s speech. Judy Woodruff asked them both about the prospects for immigration reform passing this year given the movement in the House.
Flake, a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” that drafted the comprehensive reform proposal last year, said he still believed it was the right course.
“The Senate included a pathway to citizenship. That’s what I prefer, and I think the Senate prefers in general,” Flake said. “The House may say that those who are here illegally can access current avenues to citizenship, but no special path would be created. That would be a kind of hybrid that might win the day. I think that that’s a step forward. I think that’s something that the president could and would accept.”
For his part, Kaine said he hoped a path to citizenship would ultimately make it into a final House-Senate compromise.
“I really want to keep battling for that path to citizenship, because I don’t think having kind of a permanent, locked-in, second-class status is a good idea,” Kaine said. “Getting the House to pass something would be big, and then we have our conferees, and folks like Jeff who worked on the bill hard getting in that room and trying to figure out the best possible deal.”[Watch Video]
I love that old political adage: the only poll that counts is the one 3 years before the election.
— Guy Cecil (@guycecil) January 30, 2014
Colorado, swing state RT @mikiebarb: Gov. Christie predicts a Denver win over Seattle in Super Bowl, 24-21.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) January 30, 2014
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) January 29, 2014
I have a feeling the number of climate-change deniers in Atlanta has taken a sudden drop.
— Roger Simon (@politicoroger) January 29, 2014
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.
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The post House GOP leaders to test support for immigration principles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
When Kirsten Tobey and Kristin Richmond met at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley, they found they had a shared interest in helping fill a need in schools.
But which need? To find their mission, Tobey, a former teacher, and Richmond, who worked in school administration, turned to former colleagues, teachers and principals.
“We heard over and over again that one of the biggest unaddressed needs in school is few if any options for healthy school meals, especially schools in low-income neighborhoods where meals are provided,” said 35-year-old Tobey.
One person in particular made an impression: a physical education teacher tasked with instructing children about nutrition and health. “He said, ‘I had to stop going into the lunchroom, because kids would stand up and call me a hypocrite. They were being served the opposite of what I’ve been telling them to eat.’ I was feeling the pain of that teacher wanting to do the best for those children,” Tobey recalled.So Revolution Foods was born. The Oakland, Calif.-based company seeks to provide nutritious hand-prepared meals in schools. Some of their meals, which must comply with National School Lunch Program guidelines, include pasta Alfredo with white beans, butternut squash and fruit; or a cheeseburger with baby carrots and fruit on the side.
In 2006, the duo started a pilot meal program at an Oakland school with their six employees. Revolution Foods has since opened seven commercial kitchens in parts of California, Colorado, Louisiana, Texas, the Mid-Atlantic region and New York metropolitan area with their now 1,000 employees.
Tobey and Richmond structured Revolution Foods as a for-profit company, which frees them to pursue funding from private investors, not just foundations and nonprofits.
In order to stay competitive, Revolution Foods tries to keep costs down by working with food suppliers with similar missions of getting well-balanced meals to children, said Tobey. The company also uses less costly ingredients when possible, such as foregoing tasty but pricey berries for less expensive seasonal fruits.
One of the challenges the company still faces is getting children, who might be used to more processed foods, on board when serving fresh foods. “We’ve done a lot of work with schools to encourage kids to try new things and adopt new eating habits. You can’t just show up with a healthy meal program and expect kids to adopt it on day one,” said Tobey.
Chefs from Revolution Foods visit schools new to the program and provide samples of the menus. Also, students can make a field trip to the company’s commercial kitchens and see the food being produced by hand, rather than manufactured by a machine, which can be “eye-opening,” she said.
Tobey added that having two children gives her firsthand knowledge of the challenges parents face when trying to provide a balanced meal to sometimes picky eaters. “When kids are surrounded by so many unhealthy options, you need to instill in them the ability to make healthy decisions themselves.”
For the record, her daughters are fond of the cheese pizza and the peanut butter and jelly meal kits.
In February 2012, PBS NewsHour correspondent Paul Solman included Revolution Foods in a report about “benefit corporations” that seek to have a positive impact on society in addition to making a profit:[Watch Video]
Since being featured in Solman’s report, Revolution Foods has started selling its meals at some retail stores, including Whole Foods and Target. The stores had healthy snack options available but not many healthy meal kits, said Tobey.
Feedback from the schoolchildren has helped inform those retail meals, she added. “We’ve tried some things that didn’t work.”
For example, you won’t find Cheddar cheese quesadillas on the shelves. Some of the schoolchildren grew up in Latino homes, and they said quesadillas should be made with “white cheese” not orange, Tobey explained. So Revolution Foods switched to Monterey Jack.
The PBS NewsHour’s Social Entrepreneurship page currently is focusing on individuals and organizations that help children. Give us your suggestions for more people to profile in the comments section below or tweet us.
“These Birds Walk,” a documentary by Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq, tells the story and the struggles of runaway children and those who look after them at the Edhi Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan.
In a busy neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, there is an elderly man who lives in the back room of a modest building in a cramped alley. Abdul Sattar Edhi sleeps on a simple cot and knows that his days are numbered. “I feel as if I could die tomorrow,” he says. “But the days keep coming.”
His long, wavy, white beard, dark kufi cap and the deep wrinkles in his face give him the appearance of any old man living a simple life in the heart of a bustling city. But this is a man who is revered across Pakistan — he’s known to the people as a “living saint.” And he runs the most well-known humanitarian organization in the country — The Edhi Foundation, established in 1951.
“These Birds Walk” is a feature-length documentary directed by filmmakers Bassam Tariq and Omar Mullick, who spent three years traveling to Pakistan to spend time with Edhi, the people working for his organization and those it benefits.
But Edhi’s work is not highlighted in the film through a direct portrait of the man himself. Instead, the directors, both of Pakistani descent, tell the stories of those impacted by this aging altruist — a young Edhi ambulance driver also working with the foundation’s runaway home, and Omar, a Pathan boy from Taliban country, who fled from his family and found himself at Edhi’s doorstep.
Art Beat recently spoke with filmmakers Bassam Tariq and Omar Mullick during a stop on their screening tour.
ART BEAT: Tell me a little about the background of the film.
BASSAM TARIQ: In 2009, I picked up the autobiography of Abdul Sattar Edhi and he actually came to New York for a short trip. We met him there and he said, “Come to the foundation, and we’ll talk.” And when we came out to Pakistan, he had no interest in being a part of the film. But he did tell us that if we wanted to find him, we could find him in the stories there — around the country, or just at his foundation. And from that, we found this small runaway home and at the runaway home, we found Omar [the runaway boy].
ART BEAT: What was it like when Edhi turned you away that first time you showed up?
BASSAM TARIQ: I remember a moment when Omar and I were sleeping in a bed together in Karachi and he goes, “We just flew halfway across the world. I’m away from my son, and we don’t have access to this guy. What are we going to do?”
ART BEAT: Panic mode.
OMAR MULLICK: Yeah, panic and frustration, for sure.
BASSAM TARIQ: Edhi was less empathetic than I thought he would be. I guess I expected more of a fairy-tale like saint.
ART BEAT: What was he actually like?
OMAR MULLICK: He’s a normal person, he’s very focused. He has a lot of energy, hes also a little cranky at times and he can be a little stubborn. But what he has done with his tenacity and his principle has no parallel that I’ve seen in the country. And I think that’s what people respond to. Sure, [Edhi and his wife] are sitting upon millions and millions of dollars in donations, but you see where the money goes. Whenever there’s a bomb blast [in Karachi], you’ll see the cops running away from the scene, but the first people there at the scene are wearing Edhi hats and Edhi vests.
Edhi washes a young child who lives at his foundation.
ART BEAT: What about this concept of a runaway home for these children?
OMAR MULLICK: There’s no parallel. It was a new idea, even for us. This is the extent of his charity. You know, you give to people who come from bomb blasts or external tragedies, but these kids have run away from home. And whatever their deal is, here’s a home where they can eat safely. And it shows a really profound, insightful understanding of his country and his people.
ART BEAT: What was Edhi’s relationship with the children?
BASSAM TARIQ: A lot of the kids don’t even know who he is. They just call him Baba, “that guy.” Which is really amazing, because if you think about these other foundations around Karachi, around Pakistan — they put their photos up everywhere they have a second to do so. They advertise a hell of a lot. I remember when we first came in, we were going to barter with Edhi and say “okay, we’ll make this awesome promotional video and then you give us all this access” and he said, “I don’t need a promotional video. I’m fine. What are you guys going to do for me?” And its true — he doesn’t need it.
ART BEAT: Tell me about Omar, the main boy in the film. How did he compare to the other boys?
OMAR MULLICK: I’ve looked at photos of Omar and he doesn’t come across in the photos the way he does in the film. When you just look at him, he’s not Hollywood pretty. He’s got a short, shaved head. He’s scarred. And usually, when you go to these areas, they go for the green-eyed kid. Its a cosmetic wild factor. And Omar, at first glance, is a very ordinary looking kid. And so that should speak volumes about the personality, that kind of swagger, that heartbreak that is written all over him.
BASSAM TARIQ: I think right away when we entered the runaway home and we spent our first day there, he and (his friend) Shehr — they stuck out like a sore thumb. A lot of the kids were really interested in being in front of the camera, but Shehr had no interest. He was in his own world. He had an innocence that I think a lot of the other kids — I wouldn’t say lost, but I think they kind of grew out of. [laughs] It’s important to note that a lot of these kids — their situation is their situation. We’re not there to show or highlight a problem in Pakistan. We saw some powerful universals that everyone can latch onto, especially when you want to talk about these kids having a choice. They ran away from a home. They ran away from a family. And that’s something that happens everywhere.
Omar faces the prospect of living at the foundation without his friend Shehr.
ART BEAT: In the film, the boys often speak about issues that seem so much bigger than what you’d imagine a young child to ever talk about. What was it like to hear them talk this way?
BASSAM TARIQ: You know, the media literacy for these kids is so low — they may have seen maybe one or two films in their entire life. So they didn’t know how to act in front of a camera. The kids in Pakistan are very mature. These are kids that grow up and are very streetwise. I think that if we had brought any other two kids in a room, they would have talked about God, they would have talked about the importance of family and running away.
ART BEAT: The film has a very natural quality to it — there’s not a moment of narration or track. Is that how you originally wanted it?
OMAR MULLICK: Actually, I’m very proud of that point. We wanted something that wasn’t reducing that region to just statistics, in the interest of making it very immersive and very intimate. We were also painfully aware of how that region has been spoken about and not spoken about by the people in front of the camera. So we wanted the characters to, as much as possible, deliver themselves to a witnessing camera.
BASSAM TARIQ: I think the hope was to meet the characters on their terms.
ART BEAT: You worked on this for three years, on and off. How long did it take for your subjects to feel comfortable with you around?
BASSAM TARIQ: Towards the end of our shooting, we had finally started mic-ing up the kids because we had built up a little bit of trust. But I think right away, the kids forgot about us. And we both knew the language, so we had no fixer on the ground with us. We literally had no one helping us. We didn’t have a driver. We’d take rickshaws to get around and that was it. I don’t know if that was the smartest way to do it, it wasn’t the most efficient way. But for us, it [shortened] our learning curve.
OMAR MULLICK: And you know, I don’t think there’s a shortcut for trust. We were determined. We believed in the spirit of having good intentions. And we stuck around and slowly people began trusting us. I don’t think there’s a shortcut for that.
The runaway kids and their caretakers deal with a blackout in Karachi.
ART BEAT: When you started working on the film, did you ever have a particular audience in mind?
BASSAM TARIQ: It was just us. I really think that the audience was just us. I know it sounds ridiculous and even pretentious, but I believe it. [Some of the film foundations] really helped us toward the end of the film in terms of direction, but I’m thankful they didn’t come on in the beginning of our journey. At one point, we had statistics in the beginning of the film, and it made no sense — it reduced all our characters to that thesis point in the beginning. So everything that we did in our edit had to then rack up to that statistic of “runaway kids in Pakistan.” And it took us some time to fight that,
ART BEAT: If you look at a lot of what you’re portraying from just a statistical point of view, it can seem very ugly or sad. But there’s so much beauty in the film. How did your shooting factor into that?
OMAR MULLICK: There’s this well-intentioned misnomer, that if you go somewhere that’s poor or if you go somewhere where there’s some kind of struggle, well then you better show it as ugly. You’re taking that poverty or whatever it is and you’re saying to people: look over here, there’s poverty. Lets help and lets do something about that. Now, another way of looking at this, and the way we see it is that actually these people have quite a bit of dignity, and there are quite a few virtues lacking in my own life. And there are occasions of such great, staggering beauty in their daily lives and all I did was really point the camera at those occasions of beauty. So I didn’t actually beautify or graft some beauty onto something that is in and of itself poverty-stricken. Actually, we both looked at those occasions of great beauty and dignity in their daily lives and have simply come back with a different report than what you’re used to seeing.
BASSAM TARIQ: If you listen long enough, if you’re patient, you’ll find it. We wanted to make sure we weren’t misguiding or misdirecting anyone from what we did see. It sort of offends me when people say “you aestheticized the film”. What does that mean? What did we do? We didn’t use any different color palettes. The music was not manipulative in any way. If anything, we worked very hard to make sure the music in the film never led you to an emotion. Because I think that’s the biggest problem in documentary — the music can be so manipulative that it wants you to feel a certain way. Especially when it comes to people in the developing world. Because its easier to otherize them when you do that.
Omar races through a market and past guards to pray in a temple in Karachi.
OMAR MULLICK: Yeah, I mean, the light is beautiful in Pakistan. The children are beautiful. Their resilience is beautiful. Their gestures are beautiful. The nighttime in Karachi is stunning. I’m actually not a good enough shooter to beautify all of that.
ART BEAT: Let’s talk about the birds. The title of the film is “These Birds Walk” …
BASSAM TARIQ: I thought it was “These Birds Run.”
OMAR MULLICK: I thought it was “Brown is the Warmest Colour.”
ART BEAT: What about the title that you guys finally settled on?BASSAM TARIQ: I think its really interesting to see how the critics have interpreted the films title in different ways, so we’ve been kind of quiet about it. I think Omar has a different way of taking it and so do I. After shooting, our editor compiled this really great scene for us — there’s this interlude of music and birds. And we thought, oh, there’s something really interesting here. Because we didn’t even really see a motif of birds in the film until she started bringing it to light.
ART BEAT: This is a story of Pakistan that hasn’t been told, and it’s very different from the story of the country we often get here in the States.
OMAR MULLICK: Yeah, I hope that people do recognize a side of Pakistan that, at least before we started making it, we had not seen presented. We knew what we were seeing about the region was not reflective of our mothers, or fathers or relatives. And that kind of intimacy, with that side of Pakistan deserves to be out there. And in some small measure, I hope the film does that.
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The U.S. Department of Justice is starting a search for inmates convicted of low-level drug charges that President Barack Obama could release from prison early, Reuters reports.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the search is part of a new effort by the Obama administration to undo drug sentencing disparities. The New York Times reports that the government will encourage defense lawyers to recommend names to the Justice Department of non-violent inmates with “clean records” that had been convicted of low-level drug charges. In addition, Cole wanted the word to spread to inmates of their ability to apply for clemency.
“This is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system,” said Cole, in remarks prepared for a speech to the New York State Bar Association. “To help correct this, we need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice.”
Thirty percent of the Justice Department’s budget is used up by the Bureau of Prisons, the New York Times reports.
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The Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee identified the two suicide bombers who killed 34 in the Russian city of Volgograd in December. Two suspected accomplices were also arrested.
Asker Samedov and Suleiman Magomedov were identified as the two bombers. They were said to be part of a terrorist group based in the Russian republic of Dagestan, though the specific group has yet to be determined. Russian authorities also arrested two brothers in Dagestan who allegedly helped the bombers travel to Volgograd.
Dagestan is at the center of an Islamic insurgency in Russia. “Dagestan is Russia’s wild southwest, breeding ground for Islamist terrorists,” reported John Ray of Independent Television News on Monday, “Suicide attacks in Volgograd demonstrated their range and deadly intent.”
The attacks in Volgograd also raised security concerns for the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, which are set to begin in February. Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the NewsHour Tuesday that the Volgograd bombings highlighted the vulnerabilities in Moscow’s subway system which at rush hour holds a “mass of humanity.”
“I think there is going to be a jump to conclusions, saying this is a blow against Putin, this shows that Russia is not safe, this shows that Sochi is not safe,” said Weiss. “So, that’s what — that’s the message that the Putin government is trying to control.”
After the two bombings in Volgograd, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to eliminate terrorists in his country. “We will confidently, fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation,” said Putin.
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration filed court papers Thursday to drop a city appeal of a judge’s order for major reforms of the New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
The papers were filed in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
Last year, a federal district court judge ruled that police officers in New York City have for years been unfairly stopping young minority men without reasonable suspicion that those men were doing anything wrong.
Judge Shira Scheindlin said New York’s stop and frisk policy violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure and was a form of racial profiling.
“No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” the judge wrote.
Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed the court’s decision.
“Every day, Commissioner Kelly and I wake up determined to keep New Yorkers safe and save lives. And our crime strategies and tools, including stop, question, frisk, have made New York City the safest big city in America,” Bloomberg said last year.
Although the de Blasio administration has moved to drop the appeal Bloomberg initiated, police unions are “seeking to intervene and carry on the appeal,” the AP reports.
How do the people of NYC feel about this police policy? NewsHour Weekend correspondent William Brangham spoke with New Yorkers who support the tactic, as well as citizens who have been targeted by the program who say it’s a form of harassment.
Terry Burnham, former Harvard economics professor, author of “Mean Genes” and “Mean Markets and Lizard Brains,” provocative poster on this page and long-time critic of the Federal Reserve, argues that the Fed’s efforts to strengthen America’s banks have perversely weakened them. (See our 2005 segment with Burnham below about how “lizard brains” influence our economic decisions.)
Last week I had over $1,000,000 in a checking account at Bank of America. Next week, I will have $10,000.
Why am I getting in line to take my money out of Bank of America? Because of Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, who officially begins her term as chairwoman on Feb. 1.
Before I explain, let me disclose that I have been a stopped clock of criticism of the Federal Reserve for half a decade. That’s because I believe that when the Fed intervenes in markets, it has two effects — both negative. First, it decreases overall wealth by distorting markets and causing bad investment decisions. Second, the members of the Fed become reverse Robin Hoods as they take from the poor (and unsophisticated) investors and give to the rich (and politically connected). These effects have been noticed; a Gallup poll taken in the last few days reports that only the richest Americans support the Fed. (See the table.)
Why do I risk starting a run on Bank of America by withdrawing my money and presuming that many fellow depositors will read this and rush to withdraw too? Because they pay me zero interest. Thus, even an infinitesimal chance Bank of America will not repay me in full, whenever I ask, switches the cost-benefit conclusion from stay to flee.
Let me explain: Currently, I receive zero dollars in interest on my $1,000,000. The reason I had the money in Bank of America was to keep it safe. However, the potential cost to keeping my money in Bank of America is that the bank may be unwilling or unable to return my money.
They will not be able to return my money if:
In recent days, the chances for trouble at Bank of America have become more salient because of woes in the emerging markets, particularly Argentina, Turkey, Russia and China. The emerging market fears caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to lose more than 500 points over the last week.
Returning to my money now entrusted to Bank of America, market turmoil reminded me that this particular trustee is simply not safe. Or not safe enough, given the fact that safety is the reason I put the money there at all. The market turmoil could threaten “BofA” with bankruptcy today as it did in 2008, and as banks have experienced again and again over time.
If the chance that Bank of America will not return my money is, say, a mere 1 percent, then the expected cost to me is 1 percent of my million, or $10,000. That far exceeds the interest I receive, which, I hardly need remind depositors out there, is a cool $0. Even a 0.1 percent chance of loss has an expected cost to me of $1,000. Bank of America pays me the zero interest rate because the Federal Reserve has set interest rates to zero. Thus my incentive to leave at the first whiff of instability.
Surely, you say, the federal government is going to keep its promises, at least on insured deposits. Yes, the Federal Government (via the FDIC) insures deposits in most institutions up to $250,000. But there is a problem with this insurance. The FDIC currently has far less money in its fund than it has insured deposits: as of Sept. 1, about $41 billion in reserve against $6 trillion in insured deposits. (There are over $9 trillion on deposit at U.S. banks, by the way, so more than $3 trillion in deposits is completely uninsured.)
It’s true, of course, that when the FDIC fund risks running dry, as it did in 2009, it can go back to other parts of the federal government for help. I expect those other parts will make the utmost efforts to oblige. But consider the possibility that they may be in crisis at the very same time, for the very same reasons, or that it might take some time to get approval. Remember that Congress voted against the TARP bailout in 2008 before it relented and finally voted for the bailout.
Thus, even insured depositors risk loss and/or delay in recovering their funds. In most time periods, these risks are balanced against the reward of getting interest. Not so long ago, Bank of America would have paid me $1,000 a week in interest on my million dollars. If I were getting $1,000 a week, I might bear the risks of delay and default. However, today I am receiving $0.
So my cash is leaving Bank of America.
But if Bank of America is not safe, you must be wondering, where can you and I put our money? No path is without risk, but here are a few options.
Someone should start a bank (or maybe someone has) that charges (rather than pays) interest and does not make loans. Such a bank would be a good example of how Fed actions create unintended outcomes that defeat their goals. The Fed wants to stimulate lending, but an anti-lending bank could be quite successful. I would be a customer.
(Interestingly, there was a famous anti-lending bank and it was also a “BofA” — the Bank of Amsterdam, founded in 1609. The Dutch BofA charged customers for safe-keeping, did not make loans and did not allow depositors to get their money out immediately. Adam Smith discusses this BofA favorably in his “Wealth of Nations,” published in 1776. Unfortunately — and unbeknownst to Smith — the Bank of Amsterdam had starting secretly making risky loans to ventures in the East Indies and other areas, just like any other bank. When these risky ventures failed, so did the BofA.)
My point is that the Federal Reserve’s actions have myriad, unanticipated, negative consequences. Over the last week, we saw the impact on the emerging markets. The Fed had created $3 trillion of new money in the last five-plus years — three times more than in its entire prior history. A big chunk of that $3 trillion found its way, via private investors and institutions, into risky, emerging markets.
Now that the Fed is reducing (“tapering”) its new money creation (now down to $65 billion a month, or $780 billion a year, as of Wednesday’s announcement), investments are flowing out of risky areas. Some of these countries are facing absolute crises, with Argentina’s currency plummeting by more than 20 percent in under one month. That means investments in Argentina are worth 20 percent less in dollar terms than they were a month ago, even if they held their price in Pesos.
The Fed did not plan to impoverish investors by inducing them to buy overpriced Argentinian investments, of course, but that is one of the costly consequences of its actions. If you lost money in emerging markets over the last week, at one level, it is your responsibility. However, it is not crazy for you to blame the Fed for creating volatile prices that made investing more difficult.
Similarly, if you bought gold at the peak of almost $2,000 per ounce, you have lost one-third of your money; you share the blame for your golden losses with Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen. They removed the opportunities for safe investments and for those with liquid assets to scramble for what safety they thought they could find. Furthermore, the uncertainty caused by the Fed has caused many assets to swing wildly in value, creating winners and losers.
The Fed played a role in the recent emerging markets turmoil. Next week, they will cause another crisis somewhere else. Eventually, the absurd effort to create wealth through monetary policy will unravel in the U.S. as it has every other time it has been tried from Weimar Germany to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
Even after the Fed created the housing problems, we would have been better of with a small 2009 depression rather than the larger depression that lies ahead. See my Making Sen$e posts “The Stockholm Syndrome and Printing Money” and “Ben Bernanke as Easter Bunny: Why the Fed Can’t Prevent the Coming Crash” for the details of my argument.
Ever since Alan Greenspan intervened to save the stock market on Oct. 20, 1987, the Fed has sought to cushion every financial blow by adding liquidity. The trouble with trying to make the world safe for stupidity is that it creates fragility.
Bank of America and other big banks are fragile — and vulnerable to bank runs — because the Fed has set interest rates to zero. If a run gathers momentum, the government will take steps to stem it. But I am convinced they have limited ammunition and unlimited problems.
What is the solution? For you, save yourself and your family. For the system, revamp the Federal Reserve. The simplest first step would be to end the dual mandate of price stability and full employment. Price stability is enough. I favor rules over intervention. We don’t need a maestro conducting monetary policy; we need a system that promotes stability and allows people (not printing presses) to make us richer.
To hear Terry explain how our lizard brains influence our economic decisions, watch the 2005 segment we did with him below.
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WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is announcing that the head of the Navy’s Cyber Command has been chosen to be the next chief of the troubled National Security Agency.
Vice Adm. Mike Rogers, also a former intelligence director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is being nominated to replace Army Gen. Keith Alexander.
The NSA has been rocked by former analyst Edward Snowden’s disclosures of its secret surveillance programs that collect phone and Internet data around the world and now faces enormous pressure to change its ways.
Rogers has long been considered the heir apparent for the job, which includes taking command of U.S. Cyber Command, which like the NSA is based at Fort Meade, Md. Alexander is planning to retire in mid-March.
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Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that they will seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should a jury convict him on charges related to the April attack.
Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in the subsequent manhunt following the bombing, are accused of using homemade explosives that killed three people and injured more than 200 near the finish line of the marathon. A security officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was killed three days later.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all 30 charges , ranging from carjacking to use of a weapon of mass destruction.
A trial date has not been set, but a court hearing will take place on Feb. 12.
Federal executions are rare. Timothy McVeigh was put to death in a federal execution in 2001 for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The last federal execution was in 2003.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: House Republicans and President Obama challenged each other today to engage on major issues. Republican leaders insisted that they have passed vital legislation that stalled in the Senate. The president said Americans can’t wait any longer for action on jobs and wages. We will get a full report and explore the political realities in Washington right after the news summary.
Consumers spent more at the end of 2013 than they have in three years. That, in turn, fueled solid growth in the fourth quarter at an annual rate of 3.2 percent. The numbers in a new Commerce Department report suggested the economy has momentum going into 2014.
That report helped Wall Street bounce back. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 110 points to close at 15,848. The Nasdaq rose more than 71 points to close at 4,123.
The city of Atlanta was finding its way back to normal today. Highway traffic came to life with the cleanup from a surprisingly fierce winter storm. Scores of vehicles still littered roadsides two days after an icy gridlock paralyzed the area. Police and the National Guard helped thousands of commuters find the cars they had abandoned.
Meanwhile, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said it’s clear that storm preparations failed and he promised a full review.
GOV. NATHAN DEAL, R-Ga.: I’m not going to look for a scapegoat. I’m the governor. The buck stops with me. I accept the responsibility for it, but I also accept the responsibility of being able to make corrective actions as they come into the future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Schools and government offices remained closed today in Atlanta and other parts of the South. Roughly 1,600 students in Alabama finally got home after spending two nights stranded in their schools.
Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The explosions last April killed three and wounded more than 260 others. In a court filing today, prosecutors said Tsarnaev attacked innocent men, women and children and showed a — quote — “lack of remorse.”
The new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, moved today to end a 14-year court battle over stop-and-frisk tactics by police. The city will no longer appeal a court ruling that found the stops violate the civil rights of black and Hispanic men. They make up the majority of those who are targeted. De Blasio said he wants reforms to end any discrimination.
The number of Air Force officers linked to a cheating scandal in the Nuclear Missile Corps has more than doubled. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced today that 92 officers are implicated out of 500. They allegedly cheated on proficiency tests.
James spoke at the Pentagon after touring nuclear bases nationwide.
DEBORAH LEE JAMES, U.S. Air Force secretary: I believe now that we do have a systemic problem within the force. I heard repeatedly from teammates that the need for perfection has created a climate of undue stress and fear, fear about the future, fear about promotions, fear about what will happen to them in their careers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The cheating scandal involved officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
In Iraq, an assault on the Ministry of Transportation building in Baghdad has left as many as two dozen people dead. Six gunmen stormed the building and took hostages, before some of them detonated suicide vests. Iraqi security forces eventually regained control. At least 50 people were wounded in the attack.
Negotiators at the Syrian peace talks agreed on one thing today: They joined in a minute of silence for the 130,000 people killed in the civil war. Otherwise, the Assad regime and the Western-backed opposition made no progress on creating a transitional government. Only one day of meetings remains before the talks take a weeklong break.
Authorities in Russia now say the two suicide bombers who killed 34 people in December were part of a militant group in Dagestan. The attacks in Volgograd raised new fears about security at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, 400 miles away. Meanwhile, athletes began arriving in Sochi today, passing through heavy security to get credentials.
American speed skater Kelly Gunther was among them.
KELLY GUNTHER, U.S. Olympic athlete: I am pretty excited. It’s pretty cool to be here. This is my first Olympics. I’m very excited with everything that’s going on. I’m kind of overwhelmed. And, you know, I haven’t really thought about anything else that’s going on. I know we will be in good hands. And the security, I know, is pretty tight.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics takes place on Feb. 7.
The political crisis in Ukraine took a sudden turn today when President Viktor Yanukovych went on sick leave. This came in the face of weeks of anti-government protests demanding his resignation. His Web site said that Yanukovych has an acute respiratory ailment and a high fever. It didn’t say when he will return.
President Obama has made his choice to run the National Security Agency amid a global debate over U.S. surveillance. He’s nominating Vice Admiral Mike Rogers, who’s now in charge of the Navy’s Cyber Command. The current head of the NSA, Army General Keith Alexander, plans to retire in March.
One of the leading liberals in Congress, California Democrat Henry Waxman, is retiring after 40 years. Waxman is 74 years old. He said in a statement today that he wants to sample life outside Congress. Waxman helped craft President Obama’s landmark health care law and has championed environmental and safety legislation.
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GWEN IFILL: President Obama hit the road for day two of his annual post-State of the Union push, as House Republicans traveled to their annual retreat in Maryland.
NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports on the day’s events.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: It’s important that we show the American people that we’re not just the opposition party. We’re actually the alternative party.
KWAME HOLMAN: From their annual retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans aimed to dispel the notion that they’re to blame for lack of action on major issues.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged President Obama to seek them out, instead of just issuing executive orders.
REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va.: The president did say the other night, he said, look, in America, it’s always been if you work hard and you’re responsible, you get ahead. Well, we agree. We Republicans have been talking about that for years and years. And so we want the president to work with us to try and solve that.
KWAME HOLMAN: In his State of the Union address, the president painted the House GOP as the roadblock, on immigration, for instance.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement, and fix our broken immigration system.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA: Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. And I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.
KWAME HOLMAN: The House Republicans charged today it’s Senate Democrats who’ve been stalling key bills.
As for immigration, Speaker Boehner signaled a readiness to act, but he gave no details.
JOHN BOEHNER: This problem’s been around for at least the last 15 years. It’s been turned into a political football. I think it’s unfair. And so I think it’s time to deal with it. But how we deal with it is going to be critically important. You know, it’s one thing to pass a law. It’s another thing to have the confidence of the American people behind that law as you’re passing it.
KWAME HOLMAN: Boehner did send a set of principles to the party rank-and-file. Among other things, it calls for providing a chance for citizenship for children brought to U.S. illegally.
But Mr. Obama kept the pressure on in a speech at job training at a General Electric plant in Waukesha, Wis.
BARACK OBAMA: And the question for folks in Washington is whether they’re going to help or they’re going to hinder that progress, whether they’re going to waste time creating new crises that slow things down or they’re going to spend time creating new jobs and opportunity.
KWAME HOLMAN: From there, the president traveled to a high school in Nashville, Tenn. A student there was killed Tuesday night in an off-campus shooting.
GWEN IFILL: So, how are the agendas of the president and congressional Republicans shaped by the political realities they now face?
We explore that with Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist and former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. She served in both the Obama and Clinton administrations. And Andrew Rudalevige, professor of government at Bowdoin College and author of the book “The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power After Watergate.”
What did the speech, Neera Tanden, tell you about where the president and the presidency stands right now?
NEERA TANDEN, Center for American Progress: Well, I think the president was really trying to focus on the country’s biggest problems, lead where he can.
I think that there was a realism that not that much is going to get through Congress. I’m actually optimistic about immigration reform, but past that immigration reform, it seems like he recognizes there is a limit to what he can do in Washington, and he is not just limited by Washington. He can do things in the country as well.
GWEN IFILL: Michael, you have had a hand in crafting these hydra-headed State of the Union speeches with so many people contributing to it. What did that speech tell you and the Republican action to it tell you about where things stand now?
MICHAEL GERSON, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush: Well, I think it’s first worth saying that wherever there’s a tribute to a wounded warrior, it’s a great moment. That was a deeply memorable moment in that speech, and I think it was great that the president did that.
All that said, I will differ a little bit. I think a lot of the policy in the speech was modest, a lot of it recycled, pretty generic, from a Democratic perspective, not a lot of innovation in the speech. And that that’s probably appropriate for a second term, when the expectations are lowered.
But it’s a real contrast with this president even last year coming out of his re-election, where he pushed the Congress hard on gun control and environment and some other issues. So I think we’re seeing a big change in the expectation, but the president did give his own party a theme, give the American people a raise, for the midterms.
That’s a real important goal for him going in. If he loses the Senate, it’s important to his presidency.
GWEN IFILL: But I want to ask you both briefly what — does partisanship demand modesty at this point, exactly where Washington is now?
NEERA TANDEN: Yes, I mean, I think the challenge is, you can’t judge this president by the fact that Congress isn’t passing many pieces.
I mean, to say he’s repeating things he did before, well, one of the challenges was that there’s a lot of dysfunction in Congress itself. The House of Representatives isn’t passing his legislation. So I give president credit for trying wherever he can to make positive change.
And I think he is absolutely limited in that, because he doesn’t have a partner in the legislative process in Congress. And so I think the challenge — to judge him harshly and not judge them harshly I think is a little unfair.
GWEN IFILL: Michael?
MICHAEL GERSON: I think there’s some blame that deserves to go all around here.
But I did participate in this process. And sometimes you can come up with creative policy that puts the other side on the defensive and maybe get some things done. Now, the president did that in a couple of small areas, in my view: on the expansion of EITC, which the Republicans could do.
GWEN IFILL: The Earned Income Tax Credit, yes.
MICHAEL GERSON: The expansion of a new savings mechanism for low-income people.
But that was pretty rare in this speech. I don’t think there was much in that category. And I do hold the president accountable for that.
GWEN IFILL: Andrew Rudalevige, as the nation shows a lot of skepticism and not a whole lot of optimism about Washington and the ability to get past these things, do these moments count?
ANDREW RUDALEVIGE, Bowdoin College: Well, they count in that they try to set the agenda for the coming year.
The president here obviously has the biggest audience that he will have all year. It’s an audience that’s diminished over time, as broadcasting and viewing habits have fragmented. But, nonetheless, it’s his best opportunity to set the tone for the year with the American public and to try to get members of Congress to be pressured in a way towards supporting his agenda.
As was mentioned, this in a way wound up treading water a little bit politically, perhaps, a lot of proposals on the table, not as many executive actions proposed actually as we’d been led to believe. But they could be important in allowing again the president to set the agenda towards the midterms.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you this. Today, we heard John Boehner, the speaker of the House, tell fellow Republicans, we want to be the alternative, not the opposition. And we heard the president in the speech, as you point out, not really throw the gauntlet down that much, but talk about ladders of opportunity, language like that.
Is that what the American public now demands, this kind of optimistic talk?
ANDREW RUDALEVIGE: Well, certainly, it was a more cooperative, conciliatory speech, again, than we have been led to believe.
The president has a few times during his administration signaled a turn to a more administrative strategy. The we can’t wait strategy that was unveiled I think it was October 2011 tried to lay down a record of activity towards the presidential election in 2012. And here we’re seeing a return to that. Given stalemate on Capitol Hill, the president wants to sort of highlight the fault — the fact, rather, that any inactivity is not his fault. If only members of Congress would come to him, he would be able to act.
And, of course, members of the Republican majority in the House are saying the same thing. If only the president would come halfway towards them, we could get something done, the end result being that very little is likely to get done.
GWEN IFILL: Michael, let me ask you this about the alternative vs. the opposition language that John Boehner used. I heard Michael — Marco Rubio use it yesterday.
Is that sustainable, when the Tea Party is really the party of opposition?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think there’s a real distinction here between the party of Congress, where if you’re in a safe House district, you have a different political dynamic, as many of these House members do, than if you’re trying to lead a national party and to have a message on immigration or other things.
So there’s a huge cleavage here. The national party, RNC did a report last year where they know they have to appeal to minorities, women, younger voters. And they want to craft a message to do that. Members of Congress have a different political dynamic. So some of this is — only gets resolved in the presidential primaries, where you have the emergence of a candidate that can give shape now toward repositioning of the Republican Party.
GWEN IFILL: And does the president’s language count in this, too, when he talks about ladders of opportunity and he talks — he steps out of the way to allow the Republicans to lead the way, for instance, on immigration? Why does that make you optimistic?
NEERA TANDEN: I thought he was — I thought he really talked about immigration in ways that would attract Republican support. He talked about it in terms of economic growth and competitiveness.
And so he didn’t throw down the gauntlet on any particular issue. And I think the real issue this year…
GWEN IFILL: Except giving America a raise.
NEERA TANDEN: Yes.
NEERA TANDEN: No, but on immigration reform itself, he didn’t say, there has to be a path for citizenship or I won’t sign it. He’s trying to move that process along without getting in the way.
And I think the real issue is, I think the rest will really be for Speaker Boehner in the next few months whether he wants to pass legislation, to be looking like there’s a Republican Caucus that is solving the country’s problems, ready to act, or simply obstruct.
And I think this language that we’re seeing in the last couple of days is something we should all welcome. An alternative means actually providing ideas to solve the country’s problems, not just say no to everything.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Rudalevige, let’s talk about some things which require maybe a little bit of legislative action, say, universal pre-K in education or climate change. Is there any room for those kinds of things to actually get action in a midterm election year?
ANDREW RUDALEVIGE: Well, I think there are — can be action on things that both parties see as mutually beneficial, in their own political interests.
As we move towards the midterm, the parties obviously need to burnish their brand. The Democrats want to boost turnout in the midterm among their own constituencies, constituencies that tend to be underrepresented in midterm elections. That electorate tends to be older, whiter, wealthier.
These are demographics that have moved more towards the Republican Party. And, of course, from the Republican point of view, they don’t want to do anything to dissuade that base from coming out. So where you could see action, I think, are on things like immigration reform, where there is a clear political interest from both parties moving forward.
I think something like pre-K, education generally, remember the No Child Left Behind Act is something like seven years overdue for reauthorization. There are issues hanging out there where both parties could see it in their interest to move forward. And that I think would be beneficial if they could do that.
GWEN IFILL: Low-hanging fruit that’s out there.
But are there political incentives or disincentives for either political party at this particular point in history to act or not to act, Michael?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, some of it is a long-term/short-term situation.
GWEN IFILL: Right.
MICHAEL GERSON: The Republican Party can’t win national elections with 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, for example. That’s what Mitt Romney got in the last election. It was disastrous.
It’s not consistent. But a lot of members of Congress that I talk to believe that the president’s being badly hurt by Obamacare. They don’t want to give him victories or cover in the context of a midterm election. I think that’s a general belief.
If John Boehner were to move forward on a comprehensive reform of immigration, it would deeply divide his own caucus right now headed into a midterm election. So I think he’s raising a trial balloon. He’s seeing how people are going to react right now, and judging in this circumstance.
But I think conservatives are likely to react very badly. And he has a situation where a significant portion of his caucus aren’t — doesn’t follow him.
GWEN IFILL: What are the realistic political expectations?
NEERA TANDEN: So, I think the big issue is really the Republican primary season and whether we will have action after the primaries on something like immigration reform, when Republican House members feel less of a threat, when they’re in a safe district, they don’t have to worry about that Republican challenger from the right hitting them on an immigration bill.
And I think there will be a window past this primary season, but not in the heat of the elections, where we could see some action.
GWEN IFILL: Already, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, Michael Gerson of The Washington Post, Andrew Rudalevige at Bowdoin College, thank you all very much.
MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.
NEERA TANDEN: Thank you.
ANDREW RUDALEVIGE: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares for his visit to Germany tomorrow, chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner takes another look at the country’s outrage over U.S. surveillance programs.
Tonight, she talks to a rising star in German politics, who tells her that many in his country are disappointed with the American president, who at one time spurred so much hope.
MARGARET WARNER: German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday again criticized Washington for its electronic surveillance of German citizens, including herself.
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through translator): A program where everything that is technically possible has been done, it harms trust. In the end, there will be less, not more security.
MARGARET WARNER: Her transatlantic coordinator is 34-year-old parliamentarian Philipp Missfelder. Though their center-right party has long stood by the U.S./German alliance, he’s been a blunt critic of NSA surveillance and is now the point man dealing with Washington on tough issues facing the two allies.
We spoke this morning in the parliamentary office building in Berlin.
Philipp Missfelder, thank you for having us. Congratulations on your new job.
PHILIPP MISSFELDER, German Coordinator for Transatlantic Cooperation: Thank you very much.
MARGARET WARNER: In her speech yesterday, Chancellor Merkel said, not only was NSA spying in Germany undermining trust between our countries, but that would actually undermine security. Does that undermine the kind of cooperation against global threats, say, terrorism? Is Germany cooperating less with the United States now as a result of this?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: No, of course not.
We depend on the security and help we get from the United States. The United States will remain as our best friend in the world and our best ally. And this is the reason that we didn’t have so many — no terror — in fact, no terrorist attack in the Germany, was also the help by the Americans.
But this is the kind of double standard we have in this debate, that on the one hand side, we wish to have the support of the United States of America. On the other side, we have a complete other culture about data.
MARGARET WARNER: Explain to Americans why this issue has struck such a nerve here in Germany, of all the European countries.
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: Yes.
It’s a big cultural question in Germany, because most people in our country have the history in mind of Stasi or the DDR surveillance system.
MARGARET WARNER: In East Germany.
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: From Eastern Germany.
And also much older people remember how the Nazi Party controlled everything. And this is something which, yes, has a big impact in every debate when it comes to data.
MARGARET WARNER: So, how do you resolve that?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: There is no solution for this debate, because one point is, of course, that the expectations towards President Obama himself were so big.
The people believed that the messiah is coming to Germany, and it’s restoring the trust which was damaged by the legacy of President Bush. And now a lot of people are disappointed that he’s not stopping the NSA, that he’s continuing the program.
MARGARET WARNER: So real disappointment in President Obama himself as a person here?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: Absolutely.
If Dick Cheney would be in charge of all these programs, a lot of people wouldn’t be surprised, because that would be exactly what the people have expected during the Bush era. This is the opposite of Obama. Obama was seen as the one who takes care of the Europeans or responds to the — people presented him in 2008 here in Berlin. And they’re really disappointed by him.
MARGARET WARNER: U.S. intelligence officials say that, in fact, Germany is a perfectly appropriate target for fairly widespread surveillance, that you’re a crossroads here in Europe. Some of the 9/11 hijackers plotted this attack in the so-called Hamburg cell here.
Are they right about that?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: Germany is the most important country in Europe.
And we became important for many people and for many immigrants who came to us. Many Russians are here and many people from the Middle East. And this is something which makes Germany very interesting also for spying or business activities, for everything.
And I would agree that for anybody who is interested in information, that this is one of the hot spots.
MARGARET WARNER: And so what would be the appropriate level or the appropriate approach, in your view, for the U.S. intelligence community to take toward Germany?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: From our point of view, there is no difference between the cell phone of our chancellor and the cell phone of the person working in retail shop, for example.
It is completely different when it comes to people who are known by our security intelligence, who are known by the American authorities coming here, hiding here in Germany, for example. This is something we should specify and where we should cooperate when it comes to the fight against international terrorism.
MARGARET WARNER: The German magazine Der Spiegel revealed, based on the Snowden papers, that, in fact, right on top of the new U.S. Embassy, which is right next to the Brandenburg Gate, is one of these super-secret intelligence collection hubs, and, in fact, is used to spy on all these government buildings.
What did you think when you learned that?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: I was really shocked, because, if you find out these kind of details, most of — everybody is shocked, because then you know who it was, when it was, where it was. And this is something completely …
MARGARET WARNER: Has Angela Merkel’s government received any satisfaction from the Americans on any of these issues, other than not spying on her cell phone?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: Honestly, so far not.
We haven’t had the progress yet we need. And I hope we are able to manage it until the chancellor has her visits in June in America. We should continue our cooperation, because there are much more important things than big data. One point is a free trade agreement. I hope that we can focus on the more important issues among all these partners than about only one Mr. Snowden event.
MARGARET WARNER: Speaking of Mr. Snowden, there’s something of a boomlet here to grant him asylum. Can you imagine that happening here in Germany?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: No, I don’t think so.
If he would be invited to Germany, we would deliver him to the United States of America, because we have an agreement with America. And we still believe in this agreement. And that means that we trust each other. And the legal system — I trust also the legal system in America, that they would take care of him.
MARGARET WARNER: So, what will the chancellor say to Secretary Kerry on this NSA surveillance question when he visits tomorrow?
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: We don’t have any kind of leverage to threaten America.
The only argument we have is our word, that we say our people are unhappy. And I think the American leadership needs a German population which is on their side, on the right moral side. And this is something where America was always — yes, was always on the moral high ground. And this is not perceived right now.
MARGARET WARNER: Philipp Missfelder, thank you so much. And good luck on this job.
PHILIPP MISSFELDER: Thank you very much.
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GWEN IFILL: Scientists are searching for clues to what’s been killing starfish up and down the West Coast. The mysterious die-offs were first noticed in Washington State.
That’s where KCTS Seattle has been partnering with the environmental public media project EarthFix to get to the bottom of the epidemic.
Special correspondent Katie Campbell reports.
KATIE CAMPBELL: Something strange is happening in Seattle’s waters. Laura James was one of the first to notice. She alerted scientists when starfish began washing up on the shores near her home.
LAURA JAMES, diver/videographer: And I thought, you know what? This is getting a little too close for comfort. I need go see what’s going on and I need document it.
KATIE CAMPBELL: As a diver and underwater videographer, James was equipped to do something. She decided to take her camera to a spot popular among both divers and starfish. These pilings are usually covered with a rainbow of starfish. On a recent dive, James discovered a scene from a horror film.
LAURA JAMES: There were just bodies everywhere. And they were just like splats. To me, it always looked like somebody had taken a laser gun and just zapped them and they just vaporized.
KATIE CAMPBELL: Starfish, also known as sea stars, are wasting away by the tens of thousands, not just in Puget Sound, but up and down North America’s Pacific Coast. And nobody knows why.
LAURA JAMES: I have been diving out here for almost 24 years, and people always ask me, do you see any big difference between now and when you started?
And I have seen some subtle differences, but this is the change of my lifetime. We have had now occasional die-offs here and there, but it’s not like this. It’s not a mass mortality event.
I’m just a diver. I need to find out what the scientists know.
KATIE CAMPBELL: But scientists have also been wondering what’s going on. They first started noticing sick and dying starfish on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula last summer.
Reports have since surfaced from Southern California to as far north as Alaska. At first, only a certain species known as the sunflower star seemed to be affected. Then it hit another species, then another. In all, about a dozen species of sea stars are dying along the West Coast. It’s been coined sea star wasting syndrome, and it’s also been reported at sites along the East Coast.
But researchers say it’s too early to connect these outbreaks.
BEN MINER, Biology Professor, Western Washington University: You know, I was surprised, too, that the crabs weren’t just…
KATIE CAMPBELL: Ben Miner is a biology professor at Western Washington University. He studies how environmental changes affect marine life.
Today, his team is collecting sea stars at Mukilteo, Washington, just north of Seattle.
BEN MINER: The population of sea stars is — they were quite abundant at that site. And so on the pilings, there were healthy sea stars, but we were also coming across arms and piles of deteriorated sea stars and individuals that were twisted.
KATIE CAMPBELL: The divers are searching for stars showing symptoms, as well as the ones that appear healthy.
BEN MINER: The experiments are infectiousness experiments, where we take individuals that have signs of the syndrome and we put them in tanks with individuals that don’t have signs.
KATIE CAMPBELL: Then they closely watch the progress of the disease. First, the stars twist their arms into knots, and sometimes lesions form on their skin.
BEN MINER: One of them was very sick, and the other two individuals started ripping themselves apart. The arms just crawl away from the particular body.
KATIE CAMPBELL: You heard that right. The arms crawl in opposite directions, until they tear away from the body and their insides spill out. And unlike most starfish, the arms don’t regenerate. Stars that came in with symptoms died within 24 hours.
BEN MINER: Interestingly, though, I didn’t see the individuals that were exposed to those dying individuals show symptoms any more rapidly than individuals in the other tanks.
KATIE CAMPBELL: So being in the same tank with a dying starfish doesn’t seem to accelerate the disease.
Divers recently returned to Mukilteo to find that most of the starfish there have died. But we still don’t know how they’re catching the illness or where it comes from. Could an infectious pathogen from the other side of the world have hitched a ride on oceangoing ships? Or could it be something larger, like climate change or ocean acidification?
DREW HARVELL, Cornell University: So, this is a healthy Pycnopodia, no signs of lesions.
KATIE CAMPBELL: Drew Harvell is coordinating the research into answering these questions. She’s a marine epidemiologist from Cornell University who is studying at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs in the San Juan Island.
Harvell is sending these samples to Cornell. There, they will be analyzed for viruses, as well as bacteria and other protozoa. The first step, she says, is to figure out the distinct characteristic that identify the disease.
DREW HARVELL: We know organisms get sick, they get bacteria, they get viruses, just like humans do. They get the cold and the sniffles, but it’s a lot harder to see it happening when they’re under the ocean.
KATIE CAMPBELL: Scientists worry the loss of sea stars could have far-reaching ecological consequences. That’s because they’re voracious predators. They gobble up mussels, clams, sea cucumbers, and even other starfish.
DREW HARVELL: Because these are ecologically important species. When you lose this many sea stars, it will certainly change the seascape.
BEN MINER: It certainly suggests that those ecosystems are not healthy. To have diseases that can affect that many species, that widespread is, I think, just scary.d
KATIE CAMPBELL: If there’s a silver lining, it may be studying this outbreak could shed light on how marine diseases spread.
That’s a question Laura James is hoping citizen scientists can help answer.
LAURA JAMES: The big problem we had here is that we didn’t have a baseline. The starfish got sick when we noticed. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could show this in real time and show the spread and the changes in real time?
KATIE CAMPBELL: James and her dive buddy built a Web site for tracking posts to social media sites with the hashtag sickstarfish.
LAURA JAMES: Take a picture of any starfish you find when you’re out tide pooling or just walking on the beach, and hashtag it sickstarfish. And then we can look at it when it pops up on the map, or if we’re not sure, we can send it to the scientists, and they can take a look at it.
We may not be able to stop it, and we may not be able to fix it, but we need to be aware, so that we can recognize it when it happens again.
KATIE CAMPBELL: All this research may be paying off. Scientists think they’re honing in on the cause and hope to make an announcement in a few months.
GWEN IFILL: New experiments started in Washington State this week to test possible infectious agents.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to Egypt and a crackdown on the news media.
On Wednesday, authorities charged 20 journalists working for the Al-Jazeera satellite news channel with being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood. They were also accused of plotting to defame the country and running a terrorist cell out of an upscale Cairo hotel.
Of the group, five hold foreign citizenship, including acting bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and English-language correspondent Peter Greste.
To tell us more, I’m joined by Nancy Youssef. She’s Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, back here in the United States for a few weeks?
NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Yes, thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nancy, thank you.
What is the Egyptian government saying that these journalists did?
NANCY YOUSSEF: They’re alleging that they were working out of the Marriott Hotel, and that rather than there to report objectively about what was happening in Egypt, they were purposefully trying to distort Egypt’s media — or Egypt’s new by only presenting the Muslim Brotherhood’s view of things, the Muslim Brotherhood being the party through which ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi rose to power.
And so the Egyptians are saying we’re — members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the non-Egyptians had come into Cairo with the purpose of training them on how to distort the news in such a way that was favorable to their opponents.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what’s the evidence? Because I know government is saying that they edited and manipulated video footage.
NANCY YOUSSEF: That’s right.
In the statement that they released yesterday, they didn’t offer too much detail, other than to say they that they had brought in experts who said that their equipment showed that they were distorting video that they were obtaining, that they were manipulating the video in such a way that was designed to be unfavorable to the Egyptian government.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is Al-Jazeera saying in its defense?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, Al-Jazeera said a couple things, of course, number one, that these guys were not members of the Muslim Brotherhood and that they were not set in there to do anything but to be journalists, which is what they are. They’re professional journalists.
And they’re also saying, in the case of some of these charged, remember, there are 20, they haven’t been formally handed papers charging them, that they have actually heard the charges through this statement, but not through the prosecutor’s office directly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a sense in — from any quarter other than the government that Al-Jazeera has taken sides?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, there is a feeling amongst Egyptians that Al-Jazeera is favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is a Qatari-funded news channel and that that country supported the Morsi presidency, certainly more so than other nations did. And, so, on the streets, there’s certainly that feeling. It’s perpetuated because, on state news media, there’s constant suggestions that Al-Jazeera’s plotting against the state, that they’re working against the interests of Egypt and that they are agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So the government has been going around saying that?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Yes, on state media, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you visited one of the Al-Jazeera journalists in his jail cell, what, earlier this month. Tell us about that.
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, Mohamed Fahmy, who is the acting bureau chief, I wanted to see the conditions that he was being held in.
And so we had to sneak in, because he’s being held at Tora prison, which is a maximum security prison in Cairo. It’s where Mubarak was held, the former president, during his detention. And so to see him, we had to the go to the prosecutor’s office and see him in a holding cell, where he was waiting to be questioned by the prosecutor’s office.
And the only way we were able to do it is to go as Egyptians there to bring him things like food and clothing, which families must provide detainees. And so had we not been women, had we not been Egyptian, we wouldn’t have been able to get in.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what was he saying then?
NANCY YOUSSEF: When we saw him…
JUDY WOODRUFF: When you we saw him.
NANCY YOUSSEF: … he was initially very confused and almost suspicious about why we were being allowed, let in.
And once he realized that he had a platform, he just tried to think of everything that he wanted to tell everybody, that he was being held in a dark room, that he was being forced to sleep on the floor, that he was being held among the worst detainees, including jihadists that have been arrested in this government crackdown, and that the government was building a big case against him and telling him things that he was a big catch and that he would never see the light again.
And so he was trying to get out as much as he could, and at the same time reassure everyone that he was OK at that time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, of course, since then, now we know the charges have been officially filed.
Is it that only Al-Jazeera is being singled out by the government?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, Al-Jazeera is really disliked by many, many Egyptians. Remember that Al-Jazeera was key in 2011 to people’s understanding of what was happening, where state media was saying that the protests were not so big.
Al-Jazeera was the main source for a lot of Egyptians about what was happening in places like Tahrir Square. And since then, they have had a growing influence on the country. And so all of that has made them really disliked by the Egyptian public.
That said, we’re increasingly seeing crackdowns on journalists writ large. Just today, the state information service had to put out a directive about whether interviewing a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or giving their point of view constituted a threat on the state.
And we saw today a number of Muslim Brotherhood members arrested for putting out tweets and Facebook messages that were seen as inciting violence. And, so, while Al-Jazeera has been targeted, it seems that the net is being cast wider and wider.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The crackdown seems to be wider.
One other thing I want to ask you about, Nancy Youssef, because you have spent so much time reporting on Egypt, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the military leader, he’s now calling him field marshal, al-Sisi, is going to run for president. What’s the reaction there to that?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Largely positive, because he’s really seen as the savior of Egypt.
He was the one on July 3 who announced Morsi’s ouster. The fact that he was promoted to field marshal just a few days ago suggests, I think, that the military in a way endorses his potential presidency. And that he is the only person with the background and the capability to save Egypt and put it back on the right track, and so it’s widely celebrated.
You should know that, in Egypt now, his picture is everywhere. It’s on apartment buildings and businesses. It’s on candies and T-shirts. And on the third anniversary of the uprising, in Tahrir, you couldn’t walk a few feet without seeing pictures, posters, cutouts of his face.
He has been heralded as the single greatest possible person to come in and salvage, not only Egypt, but for some, the hopes of the revolution. And so many people celebrated. But, quietly, I think, people are saying that this threatens the revolution and that this really marks a regression from what people had hoped would come three years ago.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, if there were elections, when would they be?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, under the constitution that was ratified on July 15, elections have to happen within 90 days of that, and so assuming they stick to that, we hope to know something by April.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nancy Youssef with McClatchy Newspapers in the United States on a rare visit, we thank you. And thank you for your reporting.
NANCY YOUSSEF: Thank you so much.
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JEFFREY BROWN: The accident is drawing more attention from Congress as well. Next Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing to learn more from state officials and to examine the safety and security of drinking water supplies.
Ashton Marra is covering the story for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and joins us once again.
So let’s pick up first on this new chemical found in the spillage PPH. There’s a debate over whether it might be harmful or whether there’s enough of it to be harmful. What’s the latest?
ASHTON MARRA, West Virginia Public Broadcasting: What we are hearing so far from state officials about this second chemical is the same thing we heard during the initial leak, that they don’t know enough about this chemical to know what it will do to the human body.
What we have been told is that it was in such a small amount within that tank that, even if the chemical leaked and did make it to the river itself, that that chemical shouldn’t be harmful — it shouldn’t be harmful to the public.
So far, the National Guard, who has been conducting the water testing throughout the distribution system, has said that they have non-detect levels of PPH, not meaning there’s no PPH in the system, but at the level they’re testing for it at, it hasn’t been showing up.
JEFFREY BROWN: And …
ASHTON MARRA: But as to what the health effects are of this chemical, what it could do, we don’t know any of that yet.
JEFFREY BROWN: This dramatic testimony yesterday about formaldehyde, that clearly upset officials there. Right? Tell us a little bit about the background there.
ASHTON MARRA: So, after the commission meeting yesterday, where this information came out, I spoke with our Senate majority leader, who is the chair of that commission.
And he called it disturbing and shocking. Those were the two words he used to describe the information that came out. He’s basically saying, you know, if there is something that the public officials know that they aren’t telling the public, we are putting our health and safety in their hands, and they should be releasing that information, as soon as they know about it.
The entire commission was a little put back. We do have one senator whose wife is pregnant and has a 3-year-old child and has been saying over and over again, I want answers, and I want answers for my constituents.
JEFFREY BROWN: So how is the public reacting to all this? For one thing, are they — are they drinking the water? Are people bathing? What are they doing now?
ASHTON MARRA: I think we saw from your piece that, during the town hall meeting last night, obviously, people were still angry and still distrustful of the system itself and of the officials that are telling them that it’s safe.
But I can tell you, personally, from my experience reporting at the Statehouse with lawmakers, from my personal interaction with colleagues and friends, I can’t think of a single person that is saying, oh, I’m drinking the water, it’s fine, I have been drinking tap water all along.
It’s been three weeks now, and I don’t know of anyone. People are feeling safe enough to bathe and to do dishes and to wash their clothes. But nobody that I have heard of yet feels safe enough to drink it.
JEFFREY BROWN: And both in the urban area and beyond into rural areas, is there a clean water supply available to people, or do they have to buy it themselves? How does that work?
ASHTON MARRA: I think, right now, what’s kind of disturbing is that those emergency distribution sites have all been closed.
We heard at the town hall meeting last night a woman from a rural part of the distribution area saying, I work from paycheck to paycheck. I live off of minimum wage, and I can’t afford to continually go out and buy water to provide for my family. Yet, these distribution sites have all been closed.
No one at that meeting was able to step up and say, well, this is the time frame; we will get this started again. FEMA supply seems to have stopped coming into the area, but Charleston’s mayor, Danny Jones, said if there’s enough calls from the public, if you want it, we will find a way to start giving you these water — start giving water out again.
But there’s been no word today as of when those distribution sites or even if those distribution sites will reopen.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, Ashton, finally, going back to the original spill, what kind of legislative response has there been? And I wonder, given the politics of your state, does this change anything vis-a-vis the coal or chemical industries?
ASHTON MARRA: So far, we are in a legislative session right now, which only happens once a year for us. And our Senate has passed a bill that basically has three parts.
It requires the site owners to identify and locate where all of these chemicals are being stored. The DEP must inspect those sites annually and make sure they’re up to the standards of the bill. And site owners — I’m sorry — water distribution system owners must create what are called source water protection plans, saying that they can deal with a contaminant and provide a secondary source of water for their customers.
As far as changes to the coal industry, this chemical was held at a chemical storage site. It’s used for cleaning coal, but it’s not part of the coal industry. So, I don’t think it changes that relationship, as much as it makes lawmakers take a second look at the chemical industry, especially since it’s so highly populated here in the Kanawha Valley.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ashton Marra of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, thanks so much.
ASHTON MARRA: Thank you.
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GWEN IFILL: It’s been nearly three weeks since news first broke of a chemical spill near Charleston, West Virginia. Since then, there have been new details almost daily about the size of the spill, what was leaked, and the risk the accident still poses to the surrounding community.
Jeffrey Brown has our update.
SHAMAYA LEWIS, resident of Charleston, W. Va.: I just want to know, who do you trust?
JEFFREY BROWN: That was a dominant question at Wednesday’s town hall meeting in Charleston, West Virginia. Officials say a chemical spill that fouled the Elk River has dissipated, and they have rescinded the do-not-use orders for some 300,000 people.
But, three weeks later, Shamaya Lewis and others are still anxious.
SHAMAYA LEWIS: Do I trust the water quality specialist that’s been told to call me and I have been continually following up on? I spoke to him again yesterday. Or do I trust you all to go ahead and let my children, you know, bathe and stuff in the water? I’m extremely frustrated.
JEFFREY BROWN: Testimony at a state legislative committee hearing also yesterday did nothing to ease the frustration.
SCOTT SIMONTON, West Virginia Environmental Quality Board: The biggest problem is and my biggest concern is we still don’t have a good handle on what it is we’re being exposed to or at what concentrations.
JEFFREY BROWN: Scott Simonton co-chairs the state environmental quality board. He said traces of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, showed up in water samples from a restaurant.
SCOTT SIMONTON: I can guarantee you that — that the citizens of this valley are at least in some instances breathing formaldehyde. They’re taking a hot shower, this stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Simonton said it could be coming from the spilled chemical MCHM used in coal processing. His testing was funded by a law firm representing businesses suing over the accident.
The state public health commissioner quickly denounced the claim as — quote — “totally unfounded.” She issued a statement saying: “The only way possible for formaldehyde to come from MCHM is if it were combusted at 500 degrees.”
Back at the town hall, the local health officer said, whatever the cause, he is seeing effects.
DR. RAHUL GUPTA, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department: People at the same time, I’m seeing are having a lot of issues with smell. I’m seeing rashes. I’m seeing diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, asthma triggers, migraines, you name it.
JEFFREY BROWN: If that weren’t enough, chemical plant owner Freedom Industries disclosed last week that another coal processing agent, PPH, was also in the tank that leaked. But officials say the limited amount and toxicity do not pose additional health concerns.
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House Republican leaders Thursday unveiled their long-awaited list of immigration reform principles, outlining a step-by-step approach that includes several border security provisions, but also provides the opportunity for undocumented immigrants currently living in the country to obtain legal status.
The document touched off a fresh round of debate within the GOP about the political consequences of taking the issue up at this time, while congressional Democrats and supporters of overhauling the system expressed guarded optimism.
House Speaker John Boehner said he believed now was the time to act. “It’s been turned into a political football. I think it’s unfair. So I think it’s time to deal with it, but how we deal with it is going to be critically important,” the Ohio Republican told reporters at a press conference on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where his members had gathered for their annual retreat.
Boehner added that a comprehensive plan like the one passed by the Senate last June would not sell with the American people, who’ve soured on Washington’s ability to enact sweeping legislation.
“It’s one thing to pass a law. It’s another thing to have the confidence of the American people behind that law as you’re passing it,” Boehner said. “That’s why doing immigration reform in a common-sense, step-by-step manner helps our members understand the bite-sized pieces. It helps our constituents build more confidence that what we’re doing makes sense.”
Politico’s Seung Min Kim and Jake Sherman report Boehner faced a skeptical audience when he formally presented the standards on Thursday:
At the private meeting where the proposal was unveiled, lawmakers talked about their distrust that President Barack Obama will enforce the law, according to sources inside of the room. Ryan and Boehner spoke in favor of the effort, but high-profile conservatives like Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) were more suspect of the reform push.
“Nobody, even those who want to get this done, trusts the president,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “And I understand it, because I don’t either.”
Beyond the general distrust of the president by many House Republicans, GOP leaders also were likely to confront concerns about granting legal status to people who broke the law when they entered the country. Iowa Rep. Steve King, a staunch opponent of immigration reform, tweeted that members were having an “intense debate” over the standards along with the hashtag “NoAmnesty.”
The document from House GOP leaders rejects a “special path to citizenship” for most undocumented immigrants, but does make an exception for children brought to the country “through no fault of their own” and who have served in the military or received a college degree.
President Barack Obama told CNN’s Jake Tapper Thursday that he thought immigration reform stood a “good chance” of passing.
Asked about whether he could support a plan that does not include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people currently living in the country, Mr. Obama said he would not “prejudge what gets to my desk.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that a path to citizenship would be key for winning Democratic support.
Other proponents of comprehensive reform said they were willing to give House Republicans room to work, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight.”
“While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept. It is a long, hard road but the door is open,” Schumer said in a statement.
The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain also welcomed the guidelines:
Asked about the House GOP’s immigration “principles,” McCain described them as “fine” and added that “I will continue to think they’re fine until they work their way through it, and I will support everything they’re doing and certainly will not take shots from the sidelines.”
The question now becomes: How soon do the principles outlined Thursday turn into actual legislation? With Republican incumbents wary of potential primary challenges from the right heading into this year’s midterm elections, those hoping for movement sooner rather than later could have their patience put to the test.
A note to our readers: Starting next week the Morning Line will be published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The reduced schedule is only temporary, and we expect to be back up to five days a week soon.
Today we are all art history majors
— Alex Burns (@aburnspolitico) January 30, 2014
Currently leading Drudge… pic.twitter.com/ZaxDNogZvK
— Charlie Mahtesian (@charlieNPR) January 30, 2014
Rep. Waxman still has the record for longest single chart. http://t.co/RzV2A0JzGn
— Floor Charts (@FloorCharts) January 30, 2014
Another plank for my presidential platform: Mandatory labeling for hair products to tell you what they smell like before you buy them.
— Molly Ball (@mollyesque) January 30, 2014
Bridget Bowman and Ruth Tam contributed to this report.
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