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- 02/07/14--13:14: _Jobs report: ‘Whate...
- 02/07/14--13:22: _Fifty years after t...
- 02/07/14--13:31: _Background Briefing...
- 02/07/14--14:28: _High-tech entrepren...
- 02/07/14--15:01: _News Wrap: Signing ...
- 02/07/14--15:09: _Economist warns aga...
- 02/07/14--15:13: _Leaked diplomatic p...
- 02/07/14--15:16: _Statue of naked, sl...
- 02/07/14--15:17: _Examining the push ...
- 02/07/14--15:24: _Three-day ceasefire...
- 02/07/14--15:25: _Homs evacuation is ...
- 02/07/14--15:30: _Russian state telev...
- 02/07/14--15:31: _In search of a cure...
- 02/07/14--15:40: _Shields and Brooks ...
- 02/07/14--19:45: _Friday, February 7,...
- 02/08/14--08:03: _What we’re watching...
- 02/08/14--10:55: _Vulnerable Democrat...
- 02/08/14--12:25: _Cities in financial...
- 02/08/14--12:33: _World Cup stadium w...
- 02/08/14--12:43: _Which American muni...
- 02/07/14--13:31: Background Briefing: Why is Russia’s North Caucasus region unstable?
- Ethnic: Groups seek autonomy, compete for resources, or have revanchist territorial aims, which can manifest in violent conflict when political and legal channels cannot accommodate them. Police and local officials considered biased or corrupt exacerbate these problems.
- Political: Following foiled separatist ambitions and the state’s massive, indiscriminate force, the insurgency promises an alternative to what is seen as Russian impunity for abuse.
- Economic: Unequal development among republics, poor development within them, and endemic corruption, unemployment, and clientelism drive residents to seek a more just order.
- Religious: Salafis are marginalized by Sufis, who see “Wahhabism” as foreign; regional governments codify this discrimination.
- 02/07/14--14:28: High-tech entrepreneurs flock to India
- 02/07/14--15:17: Examining the push and pull over Ukraine between Russia and the West
- 02/07/14--15:30: Russian state television airs a false flawless opening ceremony
- 02/07/14--15:31: In search of a cure, scientists look for where HIV hides
- 02/07/14--19:45: Friday, February 7, 2014
- 02/08/14--08:03: What we’re watching Saturday
- 02/08/14--10:55: Vulnerable Democrats focus on health care law successes
- 02/08/14--12:25: Cities in financial straits weigh bankruptcy
- 02/08/14--12:33: World Cup stadium workers threaten strike over safety concerns
- 02/08/14--12:43: Which American municipalities have filed for bankruptcy?
“Weakness Continues…”; “…Latest Worrying Sign”; “…Employment Growth Disappoints.” Those were the headlines Friday morning shortly after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the unemployment and jobs data for January 2013: a mere 113,000 jobs added last month, though the unemployment rate did fall to 6.6 percent.
On the surface, it seemed a far from rosy report. Economists were expecting 180,000 new jobs, not barely 100,000. And December’s dismal job creation record (74,000) was only revised upward by a scant 1,000 jobs. (November, it should be noted, gained an additional 30,000 jobs, on top of the roughly 240,000 originally reported.) But it’s January’s lower-than-expected total that’s fueling concerns, to quote Nelson Schwartz in the Times, that “the labor market is poised for yet another slowdown.”
The unemployment rate continued to tick down by a tenth of a percentage point from where it was in December. A year ago, it was 7.9 percent. But, for much of the past year, top economists had lamented the fact that the unemployment rate hasn’t been falling for the right reasons. Instead, the percentage of unemployed people had declined because people had dropped out of the labor force; in other words, they were no longer actively searching for a job, and therefore, couldn’t be counted as unemployed.
This month, however, the labor force participation rate rose to 63 percent, while the employment-to-population ratio increased slightly — to 58.8 percent.
There was other good news. The number of people working part-time for economic reasons declined by about half a million. Partly as a result, our own more inclusive measure of under- and unemployment, the “Solman Scale U7,” declined to 14.7 percent. And here’s a curious fact: according to the monthly survey of households, total employment increased by 616,000 over the month.
But wait a minute: Isn’t 113,000 the headline number? As we’ve explained on Making Sense before, the jobs data that drive the market and media circus the first Friday of each month come from two separate surveys, which sometimes tell two different stories. The 113,000 figure comes from what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the “establishment survey” of employers. The unemployment rate is derived from the “household survey.”
The Brookings Institution’s Justin Wolfers, our interviewee in Friday night’s Making Sense report, puts more stock in the establishment survey’s accuracy. But when the household survey is reporting such a different story (616,000 more employed people!), he explained, we have a responsibility to pay that one some attention too.
My usual rule of thumb is 80% weight on payrolls, 20% on household. 0.8*113 + 0.2*616 = 214k Suggests the labor market report wasn't so bad
— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) February 7, 2014
Wolfers sees the economy creating about 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month every month for the past three years. “The headlines of today’s report make it look like that didn’t happen,” he said, “but you get into the details and it looks like actually that’s what the economy’s kept on doing.”
So, as with any month’s report, there’s no absolute takeaway. “Whatever you thought yesterday is pretty much what you should feel today,” Wolfers said. Job creation looks sluggish, but as Wolfers reminds us, data is always noisy. The margin of error for the monthly payrolls alone, he said, is 90,000. And while the unemployment rate fell for the right reasons last month, Wolfers said, don’t “confuse changes with levels.”
Unemployment may have fallen, but it’s still a tough economy for many, of course, especially the long-term unemployed. That’s why, Wolfers argued, there’s such a strong economic argument for extending unemployment insurance benefits for people out of work.
The latest effort to renew unemployment insurance failed in the Senate Thursday. Conservatives who oppose extending the benefits often argue that unemployment insurance allows people to search for work for too long, disincentivizing ever returning to work.
“Sometimes it changes the incentive whether to accept the first bad job you get – I agree with that,” Wolfers said, “but in fact the evidence shows it keeps people in the labor force because they’re being paid to keep looking.”
And there’s a fiscal incentive, he argued, to keeping them engaged. “The real problem for us as taxpayers,” Wolfers continued, “is if these folks never find their way back into the workforce; they may find their way onto the disability roles or they simply may never work again. They’re not contributing taxpayers.”
For more of Paul Solman’s interview with Wolfers, tune into the NewsHour Friday evening.
The post Jobs report: ‘Whatever you thought yesterday is pretty much what you should feel today’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The Beatles made their live U.S. television debut 50 years ago Sunday when they paraded onto Ed Sullivan’s stage and caused a national eruption of Beatlemania.
The mop-topped Fab Four were already popular in England and had gained a No. 1 hit in the U.S. in late January 1964, weeks before their Ed Sullivan Show performance on Feb. 9, 1964. So, how important was the timing of the appearance for turning Paul, John, George and Ringo into household names?
Watch the Beatles perform “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Let’s go back a few months before that iconic performance.
John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester, said that although the group already had a No. 1 record in England, they didn’t want to go to the U.S. until they had a No. 1 single there. But, unbeknownst to them, manager Brian Epstein in November 1963 — two months before their “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single reached No. 1 on U.S. Billboard charts — had booked the band on Ed Sullivan for the coming February.
“It was fortuitous timing,” Covach said.
According to Covach, while the Ed Sullivan performance did play a huge role in the speed of the Beatles’ success, it was what the band did afterwards that solidified their popularity in America.
“If they hadn’t been able to follow up on that initial success, would we be talking about them the same way?”
Prior to the Beatles, other British bands had tried to make their mark in the U.S. And although bands like The Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits had found popularity, theirs didn’t stick in the same way.
“Pop music had gotten kind of tame,” said Covach. “By 1959 the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll was over and things were a lot more soft-edge. Then here comes these Beatles, who never got the memo.”
The band had already released two albums in England, which they spent the next six months after Ed Sullivan re-releasing in the U.S. They didn’t release any new material until the summer of 1964, and by that time, they had five more No. 1 singles.
What if the Beatles hadn’t come to America and hadn’t been on Ed Sullivan?
“Had the Beatles not opened that door,” Covach said, “It’s very possible that what we’ve come to think of as the standard exchange between American and British groups might never had happened in exactly the same way.”
Think: the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, the Clash … even One Direction. All musicians from England that have had a profound impact on American music. If the Beatles never made that first trip to the U.S., would those musicians have had a chance for popularity?
“(The Beatles) really created opportunity for British musicians in America that wouldn’t have been there had it not been for their success.”
We’ll never know for sure. But it’s worth wondering how the arrival of one band from Liverpool affected the trajectory of musicians who came after them and the course of music history.
“Every now and again, things just come together exactly the right way.”
Quiz created by Frank Bi and Colleen Shalby.
The post Fifty years after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, how well do you know Fab Four history? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Author: Zachary Laub, Associate Writer at the Council on Foreign Relations
A series of suicide bombings ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi has brought new attention to Russia’s unstable North Caucasus region. The violence highlights governance and counterterrorism challenges in a geographically and ethnically distinct region of the federation that has long harbored separatist movements. Russia fought two wars against Chechen separatists in the first decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, losing the first and winning the second. In the latter conflict, the resistance’s Chechen nationalist identity was superseded by an Islamist one that spanned the North Caucasus region. This has fed a low-level insurgency that has enveloped the North Caucasus and targeted civilians elsewhere in Russia. Human rights monitors say that heavy-handed, security-driven counterinsurgency campaigns have diverted attention from the root causes of conflict, and analysts caution that rights abuses may radicalize a new generation of insurgents.
Who inhabits the North Caucasus?
The North Caucasus region lies in the southwestern-most corner of the Russian Federation, and was colonized by the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century. It is bounded by the Black and Caspian Seas. Its south borders the South Caucasian nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
With ten million inhabitants, the North Caucasus Federal District is the smallest of Russia’s eight federal districts, and the only one in which ethnic Russians do not constitute a majority. Some forty ethnic groups reside in the region, making it one of Russia’s most diverse. This area comprises six nominally autonomous, ethnically non-Russian republics—from east to west, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia—and Stavropol Krai, which, as a historic frontier territory rather than a republic, legally has less authority devolved from Moscow. Just west of Karachay-Cherkessia lies Krasnodar Krai, where Sochi sits on the Black Sea near the border with the disputed Georgian territory of Abkhazia.
Sunni Islam is the region’s dominant religion. Most Muslims there are practitioners of a local variant of Sufism, or mystical Islam, which draws on the cultural heritages of the region’s ethnic groups and was first brought to the North Caucasus in the eleventh century. While the Soviets suppressed Sufis, they now collaborate with regional governments through eight spiritual boards, and are recipients of state support.
Salafism, which rejects the local customs Sufis incorporate into their religious practice, was brought to the region in the early post-Soviet years by students who studied abroad in Arab universities. In principle, Salafis reject a division between state and religious authority, calling for the implementation of sharia. Salafism’s criticisms of regional governments as corrupt and Sufism as politically compromised, as well as its promise of a more just order based on Islamic law, has attracted adherents.
For how long has the region been unstable?
Instability in the North Caucasus has its roots in centuries of imperial conquest and local resistance. Cossacks began settling the region as agents of Russian expansion in the late eighteenth century, and the Russian Empire waged the nearly half-century Caucasian War from 1817 to 1864. In Dagestan and Chechnya, the Caucasian Imamate, an Islam-based resistance movement, unsuccessfully fought the invading Russian military with guerrilla tactics. Russian forces ended the war after defeating Circassians, who hail from the western Caucasus, in a battle fought just outside present-day Sochi.
The contemporary Islamist insurgency’s umbrella group is known as the Caucasus Emirate (Imirat Kavkaz). Its leader, Doku Umarov, referred to the Winter Games as “Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors” as he called on his followers to disrupt the Olympics with “maximum force” in a July 2013 video message.
Circassian organizations, which also opposed holding the Olympics at Sochi, have sought to use the international spotlight of the Games to call for recognition of their mistreatment by imperial Russia. But they condemned the 2013 Volgograd suicide attacks, which they feared could discredit their nationalist aims.
Soviet policies of the twentieth century further contributed to present-day instability. The Soviet Union established autonomous republics for ethnic groups, codifying divisions in the North Caucasus and sowing the seeds of interethnic rivalry. Some groups, forced into exile, found their land redistributed upon their return, exacerbating interethnic tensions.
In the volatile years following the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Russian president Boris Yeltsin moved to rectify these Stalin-era injustices, but various ethnic groups mobilized to compete for resources and territorial control. In Chechnya, former Soviet military officer Dzokhar Dudayev declared an independent nation-state, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, in 1991. In a bid to reassert Moscow’s authority, Russian forces under Yeltsin invaded in December 1994 and bombarded the capital of Grozny. Chechens achieved de facto independence after a year and a half of fighting, but at a heavy toll in lives and physical destruction.
Russia launched a new war in 1999 after Chechen Islamist Shamil Basayev, a rival of Chechnya’s secular leadership, led an invasion of neighboring Dagestan. Putin, seizing on alarm at the spread of the insurgency to neighboring republics, led a scorched-earth campaign to defeat the rebels. He installed “his own puppet governor, Akhmad Kadyrov, to pacify Chechnya, and gave him free rein to stamp out what remained of the insurgency,” says Liz Fuller, an analyst at U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
How is it governed?
The North Caucasus republics have little political or fiscal autonomy. Putin, during his first stint as president of Russia, reversed Yeltsin’s early federalist concessions to the republics. Regional officials are largely appointed by the Kremlin, which diminishes their legitimacy and accountability, critics say. Putin, in his third presidential term, reversed a reform initiated by his predecessor, Dmitri Medvedev, that provided for the direct election of republics’ heads. They are once again chosen by assemblies that elect a leader from a Kremlin-approved slate of candidates.
Chechnya remains the exception. The Kremlin formally ended counterterror operations of the second Chechen war in 2009 and handed the republic’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose father Akhmad previously held the position, broad latitude to stanch the insurgency. Kadyrov has since imposed as the state religion an idiosyncratic form of Islam that is anathema to both secular Chechens and the growing Salafi population.
Unemployment and poverty are endemic to Chechnya despite the billions of dollarsMoscow has provided Kadyrov for reconstruction. Uneven development is also problematic: other republics have been deprived of similar investment. “The North Caucasus has no advocate, and the nature of Moscow is that you need a powerful advocate to open the purse strings,” says Mark Galeotti, a scholar of Russian security affairs at New York University.
State institutions are widely perceived as corrupt and illegitimate, and Sufis and Salafis have developed parallel institutions to adjudicate disputes. Some courts implement adat, customary law that predates Islam’s arrival to the region; others implement sharia. These operate legally in some republics, but underground in Chechnya and Dagestan, the International Crisis Group reports.
Drivers of Conflict
What insurgent groups operate there?
Security experts remain focused on the Caucasus Emirate, an umbrella group comprising units (jamaats) spread across the North Caucasus that has taken up the extremist Islamist mantle under its outspoken leader, Umarov. A veteran of both Chechen wars, he declared CE’s establishment in 2007, calling for the “expulsion of the infidels” from the “historical lands of Muslims.” This marked the culmination of the insurgency’s evolution from Chechen nationalism to Islamism spanning the North Caucasus. Over the following years, the insurgency’s locus shifted to neighboring Dagestan.
Chechens trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, and Osama bin Laden’s network supplied fighters and funds to them during the second Chechen war. But similarities in the groups’ rhetoric or ideologies shouldn’t be mistaken for common objectives or organizational linkage, analysts say.
Though Umarov may have been killed in late 2013, analysts doubt this will have much bearing on the insurgency’s activities: he is thought to be more of a figurehead than an operational commander, and the jamaats function with relative autonomy.
What attacks are North Caucasus–based groups responsible for?
Basayev, who led Islamist separatists after major combat in the second Chechen war ended, is the tactician thought responsible for massive hostage crises in the early 2000s. Demanding Russian withdrawal from Chechnya, militants took nearly one thousand hostages for three days in a Moscow theater in October 2002. At least 115 hostages were killed when Russian forces stormed the theater. Two years later, militants seized 1,100 people in a Beslan middle school. More than three hundred were killed, including many children, when Russian forces assailed the school.
The conflict’s first female suicide bombers emerged during this period. Russian and Western media dubbed them “black widows,” assuming they were seeking revenge on Russian security forces for killing their militant husbands. But experts caution that the phenomenon is overstated by the press.
Basayev remained a separatist leader until his death in 2006, but by then he had alienatedmuch of his Chechen base, the Economist reported at the time.
Beginning in 2008, the Caucasus Emirate began targeting security forces and other agents of the state within the confines of the North Caucasus. But some of its highest-profile attacks have targeted Moscow’s transportation infrastructure: in 2009, a high-speed train was derailed, killing twenty-eight; in 2010, two women blew themselves up on the metro, killing forty and injuring eighty-eight; and in 2011, an Ingush man killed at least thirty-seven at the Domodedovo Airport.
A suicide bombing on a Volgograd bus in October 2013 and twin bombings of a train station and trolley in December rattled Russia as the Sochi games approached; they were the first terrorist attacks to take place in Russia outside the North Caucasus since Domodedovo. Two ethnic Russians were implicated in the December attacks.
What is Russia’s approach to counterinsurgency?
Security officials maintain broad authority to declare counterterrorist operations , which allow them to operate with few restrictions. Rights groups still allege killings, disappearances, and torture by Russian security forces, as well as collective punishment of families of suspects and excessive force that often causes civilian casualties.
In Chechnya, where Kadyrov has largely unfettered power, security forces have taken a heavy-handed, security-oriented approach, aiming to eradicate not just Salafi militants but the theology itself, according to ICG. In “mop-up” operations that followed the combat period in the second Chechen war, security forces detained or killed large numbers of civilians under the pretense of searching for rebel fighters, rights groups allege. Enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions were endemic in the counterinsurgency campaign that followed combat in the second Chechen war. They have since become the subject of cases before the European Court of Human Rights, which has mandated compensation to victims’ families. (Russia has not effectively implemented these judgments, Human Rights Watch says.)
Dagestani president Magomedsalam Magomedov pioneered a softer, law-enforcement-based approach to root out extremism after his appointment in 2010. He induced young fighters to turn themselves in for reintegration with the promise of lenient sentencing and economic incentives, liberalized policy toward Salafis, and instituted inter-confessional dialogues.
In January 2013, Putin replaced Magomedov with Ramazan Abdulatipov, who reversed this relatively tolerant approach. Salafis in Dagestan have been persecuted, and there are reports of mass arrests. The rehabilitation commission has since been shut down.
Has it been effective?
Violence in the North Caucasus has declined in recent years, according to the independent news site Caucasian Knot, which documented 1,710 victims of the insurgency and counterinsurgency in 2010, and 986 in 2013.
While Dagestan bore the brunt of the violence in 2013, Kabardino-Balkaria, Chechnya, and Ingushetia all saw dozens of casualties. Altogether, 127 members of the security forces and 104 civilians were killed in 2013. The hardline crackdown can likely be credited with much of the decline in violence, experts say, but abuse by the security forces likely aids the insurgency’s ability to mobilize the population.
Do groups in the region pose a threat outside of Russia?
The United States designated Umarov a “global terrorist” in 2010, and CE a foreign terrorist organization the following year. Likewise, the United Nations Security Council’s al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee includes both CE and Umarov on its sanctions list, a move that facilitates asset freezes and travel bans. Moscow has portrayed the North Caucasus as a front in the so-called “global war on terror.”
Chechens are reportedly among the foreign fighters in Syria’s civil war, joining Islamist militias against the Russia-backed Assad government. But the North Caucasus insurgency is rooted in local grievances and nationalist ambitions rather than the universal ideology of global jihad, Galeotti says, adding that those Chechens fighting abroad often hail from the diaspora.
The insurgency in the North Caucasus does not target foreign interests, analysts say. In the wake of the April 2013 Boston marathon bombing, in which two ethnic Chechens were responsible for a bombing that killed three people and wounded hundreds, the Caucasus Emirate’s Dagestani wing repudiated the attack, saying it was at war with Russia alone.
This backgrounder originally appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website.
The post Background Briefing: Why is Russia’s North Caucasus region unstable? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: This city of nearly 10 million people long has been known as India’s Silicon Valley. A place where some of the world’s leading technology companies outsource jobs to educated Indian workers who earn much less than their American counterparts.
That lesson has not been lost on Indian high-tech entrepreneurs, many of whom have faced visa hurdles in the U.S.
Despite dealing with rolling power outages, rampant congestion and the corruption of a developing country, many of these Indians are now returning home after being educated in the United States.
They are benefitting from a culture change around start-ups, but also convinced that India presents a unique set of opportunities.
SHARAD SHARMA: They are really going after moon shots in ways people in my generation have not
HARI SREENIVASAN: Sharad Sharma is an entrepreneur and investor in early-stage startups, who heads a think tank devoted to helping software product companies in India.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The culture here is inherently risk averse, in terms of when people say; go get a job at a fantastic big company. That’s what we’ve prepared you for, that’s what we’ve poured all this love, and affection, and money, and schooling into, right?
SHARAD SHARMA: Right.
HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s changed in India so that people are now turning towards start-ups versus the big established companies?
SHARAD SHARMA: There will be at least one company that will hit a billion dollars in valuation. So, that’s changing the perception, right? I mean, so you can go from– a zero to a hero in a start-up– and there are examples of that. And since there are examples of that– you know, there’s really smart people who are beginning to do that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: We met some entrepreneurs who are taking that chance.
Anshuman Bapna, a Stanford MBA, is the cofounder and CEO of mygola, a travel startup that allows users to browse itineraries already taken by people, customize them, and then book their own trips.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: We are going after becoming the world’s–obvious destination for starting your travel planning. And that’s as big as it gets. I mean, that’s literally a billion dollar plus kind of a business.
HARI SREENIVASAN: 36 year-old Bapna left a job at Google in New York to launch mygola in Bangalore.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: We just loved our life in New York. We just loved how multicultural it was, how fast it moved, but honestly– the biggest– the toughest decision that my wife and I have ever taken, aside from maybe marrying each other, was leaving New York.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Why come back to India?
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: I thought the problem that we’re trying to solve, travel planning, is a very hard complex problem that I didn’t think would be solved in three months’ time. So I thought– given the approach that we were taking, which was going be very human-intensive, but also engineering-intensive, it made sense to be in the one geography that I could think of where both of those talents come together, which is India.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The $2.6 million that Bapna has been able to raise from investors has gone a lot further in India, instead of affording a small team in the U.S., mygola has a staff of 17, including 10 engineers. And Bapna says thanks in part to silicon valley-like perks he hasn’t lost a single engineer in three years.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: You walk in, there are no cubicles. There’s foosball. There’s bean bags, there’s music, there’s graffiti on the walls– there’s free food, and by the way, free food costs exceptionally less in India, as you can imagine, than anywhere else.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And Bapna says when it comes to developing a software product it’s truly a flat world – location is almost irrelevant. He can build a global business as easily from Bangalore as anywhere else.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: So we’re actually not focused on the Indian market alone. In fact, Indian market is only a quarter of all our traffic, all our users. We think that there are certain advantages– of being in India that allow you to take on global markets much more — effectively
HARI SREENIVASAN: But marketing his business from Bangalore, especially when competing with internet giants like Orbitz, Priceline, and Expedia just isn’t as easy.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: In reality, travel is an exceptionally hard space.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: And I wish someone had told me that– when I started– this company. But– here we are.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So after four years in India, he and his wife and 5-year-old daughter are moving back to the United States. He thinks more people will discover his business once he’s able build partnerships with other travel sites.
ANSHUMAN BAPNA: I love being in India, but I love being in the U.S. as well. So as and when the business demands, and as personal needs– arise, I see myself going back and forth between the two countries. I think India’s a great destination. And I think you will see very high tech companies come out of India much more often than you’ve seen in the past.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Other entrepreneurs like Adhil Shetty, who did his graduate work at Columbia University in New York, say India’s rapidly growing middle class is too tempting a target to resist. By some estimates, the middle class here will more than quadruple over the next decade or so – to perhaps as many as one billion people.
ADHIL SHETTY: I think it’s a very exciting time to be in a young, young business in India.
HARI SREENIVASAN: 34-year-old Shetty is the CEO of Bankbazaar dot com, an online marketplace conceived by his brother who had worked for amazon in Seattle. The 6-year-old company allows Indians to compare and then obtain mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and even insurance online.
ADHIL SHETTY: When this opportunity came up, you know, I hadn’t planned it– or timed it that way. But it was a great idea. And I decided to make– the jump. And– that’s how I ended back in India.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The company has grown to 200 employees with offices in three cities. Shetty says that being in a developing economy means being able to innovate rapidly.
ADHIL SHETTY: For example, in six months we’ve actually launched a product with a large bank which is out in the market clocking revenue. Now could we do this in America? I think it’s arguable, right. Could I go into a Citibank office in New York say, “Hey, I have this, you know, platform which will help you move business faster?” Might have been a little more difficult. I think the opportunity existed here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The decision means he can be close to family members he might otherwise see once a year. And he says he wants to be part of his generation’s growing awareness and embrace of entrepreneurship.
ADHIL SHETTY: So they feel that, “Hey, you know, I can, you know, get a job with a bank or an insurance company or with a Microsoft or with a Google if I wanted to. But isn’t, you know, I’m doing this is because I’ve done that and I want something more challenging.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: A small community of young American entrepreneurs have pulled up stakes and moved to India as well. David Back and Greg Moran met as undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, back attended Harvard Law School, and then both dropped out of business school to start Zoom, a Zipcar-style car-sharing business, in India.
GREG MORAN: So for us, it was sort of like a no-brainer. The size of the opportunity is staggering.
DAVID BACK: Urban density is the single biggest predictor of car-sharing success. So if you’re looking at– large, dense cities where people don’t own cars, the fact that car-sharing has not been done in India already is shocking.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s estimated that there will be 68 cities in India with 1 million people or more by 2030. That’s compared to just 9 today in the United States.
Since launching almost a year ago, Zoom has been sold out every weekend in Bangalore and the company is now hoping to expand to Mumbai and Delhi within the next year.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Aside from the business, you’ve made personal sacrifices to be here. You could be making money possibly on Wall Street, possibly in the U.S. Is it a risk worth taking?
DAVID BACK: Well, there’s no– there’s no question that it’s worth taking. Sure, we’d be making much higher salary in the U.S. But it’s personal. You know, it’s being separated from our parents. For me, it’s being– separated from my girlfriend for a year and a half. I think that’s the real opportunity cost. It’s still worth it, though. The scale of the opportunity here, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
GREG MORAN: I mean, we are still young. We’re both under 30. We’re not married. But we were very fortunate in the fact that for us at least, it was the perfect time in our lives.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Moran and Back are committed to being in India for at least the next couple of years.
DAVID BACK: I know I sound crazy how ambitious it is. But if you come back to us in five years, there’s– there’s a chance, at least, we could be a billion-dollar company and we could be hugely disrupting the way that people in Indian cities get around.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Besides those challenges we mentioned before – sometimes unreliable electricity, congestion and corruption, angel investor Sharad Sharma says the biggest worries are the same a startup faces no matter where it is based.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Most start-ups fail.
SHARAD SHARMA: Yes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: I mean, it’s just the numbers are stacked against you when—
SHARAD SHARMA: Yes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: –you decide to take on a venture like this.
SHARAD SHARMA: Yes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there anything different about the entrepreneurship climate here?
SHARAD SHARMA: No. In fact, the failure rates are much higher.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In fact, in 2012 only one Indian company was among the nearly 500 firms acquired by some of the biggest tech companies in the world.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, as this wave of entrepreneurship in India increases, what does the U.S. stand to lose?
SHARAD SHARMA: There are irritants like these visa issues. But I think in some sense– U.S. has positioned itself as a fountainhead of entrepreneurship, tech entrepreneurship in particular.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And many, from Silicon Valley venture capital firms to international tech giants like Microsoft are betting on Indian entrepreneurs and on India itself emerging as a huge center for innovation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: January’s jobs report is raising new questions about the strength of the American economy. The Labor Department reported today that employers added 113,000 workers, fewer than expected. At the same time, the unemployment rate actually fell again, by a 10th of a point, so it’s now 6.6 percent. Paul Solman sorts out the numbers for us right after the news summary.
Wall Street apparently saw some bright spots in the employment data. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 165 points to close at 15,794. The Nasdaq rose more than 68 points to close above 4,125. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq gained a fraction of a percent.
President Obama signed a new five-year farm bill into law today. It costs $956 billion, keeps most crop subsidies intact, but it cuts $800 million a year from food stamps, a reduction of about 1 percent. The signing ceremony took place at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
The president acknowledged not everyone’s happy with the outcome.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It doesn’t include everything that I would like to see, and I know leaders on both sides of the aisle feel the same way. But it’s a good sign the Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come through with this bill, break the cycle of shortsighted, crisis-driven, partisan decision-making and actually get this stuff done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Many Republicans had pushed for steeper cuts to both crop subsidies and food stamps.
The governor of Montana appointed his lieutenant governor, John Walsh, to the U.S. Senate today. Walsh will take the seat currently held by fellow Democrat Max Baucus, who’s resigning to become the ambassador to China. The new senator takes office on Tuesday. He’s already announced he will run for a full term this fall.
The National Security Agency’s sweep of Americans’ phone records is less extensive than first supposed. The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported today the NSA now collects less than 30 percent of all calling data. That’s down sharply since 2006, due to surging cell phone use. The reports say that the NSA will seek court approval to sweep up more cell phone records.
In Syria, the Assad regime began evacuating civilians from rebel-held portions of a besieged city. State TV said some 200 people were leaving Homs, as a three-day cease-fire begins. The opposition says 2,500 civilians are trapped there.
In Washington, the State Department said it’s hoping for the best, but taking the news with a grain of salt.
JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokesperson: We have seen the reports overnight, and it’s a very real possibility that, once the evacuations and humanitarian assistance deliveries are complete, the regime could bombard the old city of Homs, as there has been a trend in the past. We don’t know that’s going to happen. We hope that’s not going to happen, but we have those concerns.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Syrian government also announced it will attend a second round of peace talks in Geneva next week. We will look more closely at both developments later in the program.
Israel has sharply accelerated its destruction of Palestinian properties. Twenty-five relief organizations said today demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem shot up nearly 50 percent in the last half of 2013. That’s compared to the same period the year before. It also coincides with the renewal of peace talks.
A mass exodus of Muslims began today in the Central African Republic. Thousands fled the capital city of Bangui in a convoy of some 500 cars and trucks. They left under the protection of troops from neighboring Chad, as majority Christians lined the roads to cheer their exit. The Christians blame Muslim rebels for atrocities after they overthrew the country’s president last year.
In Bosnia, violent anti-government protests are escalating. The trouble today was some of the worst since the Bosnian war in the 1990s.
We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The local government building in Tuzla was the first to be set ablaze. The crowd has been protesting here for three days now, angry about unemployment, the closure of a local factory, and what they see as the failure of Bosnia’s politicians.
Some protesters tried to take over the building, but were forced out by the flames. They marched past the government building in Banja Luka, shouting, “Thieves, thieves,” blaming the government for listening to the International Monetary Fund and not the people.
ALEKSANDER ZOYA, protest leader (through translator): We’re borrowing money from international lenders, but our economy doesn’t function. It’s obvious to everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina that large companies are being destroyed, that privatization was done disastrously, and that corruption and crime are widespread.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In Zenica, youths threw stones at government buildings, smashing the windows, and destroying the credibility of the protests in the eyes of many. Some protesters concealed their identity.
A mob of youths attacked the local government offices in Mostar. They brought out office furniture to destroy and later went onto the municipal library. It’s not clear if these attacks are orchestrated, but they’re certainly not peaceful protests.
In Sarajevo, they set the presidency ablaze. Some local administrations resigned today. General elections are due in November, but these Bosnians clearly have little faith in democracy to bring about change in a country that never achieved peace, just the absence of war.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The 2014 Winter Olympics officially opened this evening in Sochi, Russia. The event was filled with pageantry and the traditional parade of athletes.
There was one notable hitch, when an illuminated snowflake failed to unfurl into the last of the five Olympic rings. Meanwhile, Turkish officials announced that a man tried to force a Turkish airliner to fly to Sochi, claiming there was a bomb on board. The plane landed in Istanbul anyway, and the suspect was subdued.
Baseball star Alex Rodriguez is ending his legal fight to overturn a record-setting suspension for doping. His federal lawsuits against Major League Baseball, the commissioner and the players union were all withdrawn today. The New York Yankees third baseman went to court after an arbitrator ruled that he will have to sit out the entire 2014 season.
Archaeologists in Britain have found the earliest tracks of human ancestors outside Africa, literally. They announced today the discovery of footprints left in ancient mud between 800,000 and one million years ago. They were preserved in layers of silt and sand before the tide exposed them last year, at Happisburgh in Eastern England.
CHRISTOPHER STRINGER, Professor, Natural History Museum: These people were walking along the side of the river — it was actually the River Thames — probably foraging for food. And it’s a mixed group of people, adults and children.
And as well as the stone tools that we already had, this gives us a physical, direct connection with a group of people who were there really at the beginning of the occupation of Britain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The creatures who left the footprints may be related to a species who died out about 800,000 years ago.
A NATO dog that disappeared in Afghanistan last December has reappeared in a video with Taliban fighters. The militants posted the video online today. They said they captured the dog during a battle. It shows the animal wearing a vest and being held on a leash by armed men. A Taliban spokesman said the dog is unhurt and being well-treated.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: sorting through the data of the January jobs report and what it tells us about the state of the American labor market.
NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman spent this day trying to unpack both the positives and the negatives. It’s part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.
PAUL SOLMAN: For a second straight month, job growth failed to live up to economists’ expectations. Just 113,000 jobs were added last month, a dismal 75,000 in December.
For some analysis, we spoke to an eminent economist at the Brookings Institution. No, not this guy. He just happened to be walking through our shot. This guy, senior fellow Justin Wolfers. His take on today’s numbers: The employment situation hasn’t gotten worse.JUSTIN WOLFERS, Brookings Institution: Whatever you thought yesterday is pretty much what you should feel today. My view has been, the U.S. economy has been creating about 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month every month for the past three years. The headlines of today’s report make it look like that didn’t happen, but you get into the details, and it looks like, actually, that’s what the economy has kept on doing.
PAUL SOLMAN: What do you mean? One hundred and thirteen thousand jobs is the number from the establishment survey.
JUSTIN WOLFERS: The jobs report is actually two surveys. Survey a bunch of firms. They told us that they created 113,000 jobs last month. We also survey households and ask people, do you have a job? And if you look at that number instead, it says we created 616,000 jobs, a bonanza.
So, we got two measures. And the question is, how would you think about both them? I would put most of my weight on the firm survey, but even a billion weight on a terrific number, a lot of weight on a moderately disappointing number, on average says things are probably OK.
PAUL SOLMAN: But doesn’t this call into question the legitimacy of the monthly jobs data? One survey, 600,000 more people are working, the other survey, supposedly the more reliable, barely 100,000 more.
JUSTIN WOLFERS: This is just the nature of statistics. Data are noisy. Our job as economists is to look through the data and try and figure out the signal.
So we shouldn’t go crazy on any single number. A lot of people will, will say, oh, the house — the firm phone survey says only 113,000 jobs are created; the economy is falling apart. That’s the wrong thing. This is a noisy number.
PAUL SOLMAN: Noisy meaning?
JUSTIN WOLFERS: There’s a big margin of error around the.
As much as they said employment grew by 113,000, in fact, they’re only 90 percent sure that it grew between 23,000 and 203,000. So, let’s look over the past three months, and the payroll survey tells us that we have been creating 154,000 jobs a month. That’s reasonably healthy, not great, but the recovery continues.
PAUL SOLMAN: Or continues, to look at the glass half-empty, barely.
Last year, firms added an average of 194,000 jobs a month. Slower hiring this year could be a sign of a floundering economy. And, yes, while today’s drop in the unemployment rate would seem to be a positive, the story for months now has been that the rate has dropped because so many people have given up the job hunt. But that’s not the story of the falling unemployment rate this time around.
JUSTIN WOLFERS: It fell this month because a lot of people got jobs, not because they’re fallen out of labor force. So, we have seen unemployment now at 6.6 percent.
The good news part of that is, it’s falling, and it’s falling quite rapidly, well, over a percentage point down over the past year. The bad news, let’s not confuse changes with levels. The bad news is, 6.6 percent of the labor force is still unemployed. That’s historically high, a lot of households suffering. There’s a lot we can do to do better.
PAUL SOLMAN: And there are still nearly four million long-term unemployed whose job search has lasted 27 weeks or more. For them, this week’s failure in the Senate to extend emergency unemployment insurance offers little solace.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For an even more inclusive picture of un- and under-employment, Paul has devised his Solman Scale. You can find that on our Making Sense page on our Web site.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the diplomatic dust-up in Ukraine that’s generated charges and counter-charges between the U.S. and Russia. It centers on a phone conversation involving two high-level U.S. diplomats.
NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner begins our coverage.
VICTORIA NULAND, Assistant Secretary of State: I am obviously not going to comment on private diplomatic conversations, other than to say it was pretty impressive tradecraft. The audio was extremely clear.
MARGARET WARNER: Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland made that arch comment in Kiev today about those who intercepted a phone call of hers. The call, made two weeks ago, was posted to YouTube this week with Russian subtitles.
It’s generated a furor over the U.S. role in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russian government face a popular uprising. In the call, Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, discuss the situation and the relative merits of opposition leaders who’ve been invited to join the Yanukovych government, including boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko.
VICTORIA NULAND: I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea.
GEOFFREY PYATT, ambassador to Ukraine: Yes. I mean, I guess, in terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff.
MARGARET WARNER: The Russians, who helped spread the audio recording, say it proves the U.S. is crudely interfering in Ukraine. Kremlin adviser Sergei Glazyev accused Washington of funding and arming the opposition. Nuland today rejected that claim out of hand.
VICTORIA NULAND: With regard to Mr. Glazyev’s statements: complete fantasy. He could be a science fiction writer. It’s — you know, it’s — but it’s quite inventive. It’s quite inventive. The United States is absolutely transparent about what our policy is here in Ukraine.
MARGARET WARNER: American officials also charged the leaked call was a new low in tradecraft, diplomatic-speak for espionage. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left little doubt today who the U.S. believes was behind it.
JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: The Russians were the first to tweet about this particular call. Only a few countries have the level of capability needed. I will let you use your own judgment.
MARGARET WARNER: The Nuland phone call also revealed tensions with the European Union over to how to manage the Ukraine situation. At one point, Nuland and Pyatt agree it’s best for the United Nations, not the E.U., to help seal a deal for a new government in Ukraine. And Nuland uses an obscenity to make the point.
VICTORIA NULAND: That would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the U.N. help glue, and, you know (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the E.U.
MARGARET WARNER: That earned a rebuke today from a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
CHRISTIANE WIRTZ, Deputy Spokeswoman, German Government (through interpreter): I would like to say that the chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable. The European Union will continue their efforts with great intensity to calm down the situation in Ukraine.
MARGARET WARNER: Unrest in Ukraine dates back to November, with protests after president Yanukovych walked away from a trade pact with the E.U. Instead, he embraced a $15 billion loan package from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The streets calmed over Christmas, but reignited in January, after passage of an anti-protest law. The law has been repealed, but protesters still occupying Maidan Square and government buildings in central Kiev.
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— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) February 6, 2014
A nearly naked older man has been lurking around Wellesley College for a week.
Perhaps ‘lurking’ is the wrong word because the man is completely stationary. In fact, the man is a sculpture by the artist Tony Matelli on display until July 20.
The realistic sculpture depicts an older white male sleepwalking in white underwear with eyes closed and arms outstretched. While some students found it funny, if not totally strange, others called for it to be moved in a Change.org petition.
Petitioners called it “tacky,” “threatening,” “inappropriate” and potentially “traumatizing” to female students and Wellesley residents who have suffered sexual assaults.
It’s art, argued Lisa Fischman, the director of the Wellesley museum hosting a Matelli exhibit.
“Art provokes dialogue, and discourse is the core of education,” said Fischman in her response to the petition.
While the college administration seems to have sided with Fischman for now, the debate continues online.
“Artists and museums and curators are only ever half the equation. The other half is the viewer and the milieu in which they perceive the art,” wrote Alix West, a former employee of the college who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder related to sexual assault. “This is not a censorship issue. This is a safety issue.”
“Yes, the initial sight of a nearly naked man is disturbing, but why should it continue to unsettle and cause offense after everyone on campus has learnt that this is a statue of a sleepwalker?” asked New Republic’s Mira Sethi.
In defense of the statue’s provocation of gender norms, The Washington Post’s art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the statue “works.”
“(The statue) shows us how easily we can undo ourselves and our reputations, if we start sleepwalking through life, unaware or unconcerned with how we look, how people read us, and how our bodies are interpreted by total strangers,” he wrote Wednesday. “Men are onstage too, all the time, in our image-obsessed society.”
The sculpture’s accompanying show, “Tony Matelli: New Gravity” will be on display at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum until July 20.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And Margaret joins me now.
So, Margaret, what is the real story here?
MARGARET WARNER: Judy, I think, for context, there are two big things going on.
You have this real post-Cold War struggle for influence between the U.S. and the West and Russia over this last major Soviet satellite, in this case a republic, Ukraine, which is still seesawing between aligning with the West or sort of reknitting its ties with Russia and joining this sphere of influence that Putin is trying to rebuild.
The second important context point is that the U.S. and the E.U. have actually been working pretty closely together to try and calm the situation in Kiev. As you could see from those videos, they’re getting more violent.
And I talked to Nuland this morning from Kiev, and she said it’s very different than last December, and, in fact she said, we have got extremists in both camps. There are people in government who want to impose martial law and there are people in the opposition who want to throw Molotov cocktails.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You did talk to her. What is she saying about all this?MARGARET WARNER: Well, I was surprised that she agreed to talk to me. But the State Department — she and the State Department are trying to put a good face on this. There have been jokes about her penchant for salty language.
She said to me what she said in the briefing, that, look, we’re very transparent. There’s nothing in this call that we haven’t been open, that we’re trying to negotiate a political way out of this horrible situation. But they also, the embassy — and I think we have a photo of this — tweeted a photo showing — to show there’s no difference among the opposition.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There they are.
MARGARET WARNER: It’s Nuland and Pyatt with the three members of the opposition all looking at an iPad, ostensibly laughing about it together.
And, in fact, these three opposition figures are very — are very different here. But the danger is, of course, that, as the iPad — as the YouTube video posted, that this opposition will be known as the puppets of Maidan, that is, puppets of the West in Maidan Square.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how was the call interpreted? One assumes that these diplomats are using secure telephones.
MARGARET WARNER: You would think so.
Well, I don’t have all the details, but this occurred late on a Saturday, two weeks ago Saturday night, on the 25th. And it was very late in Kiev. The implication I get is that perhaps the ambassador wasn’t on a secure phone, he wasn’t at the embassy. And the larger question here is, how secure are these diplomats’ phones?
And so the State Department was pressed on this today. Jen Psaki said they all use these BlackBerrys which are encrypted for data.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The spokeswoman.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, who we just showed.
They’re encrypted for data, but not for voice. That, of course, raised the question. But she said, no one’s supposed to talk about classified information on one of these cell phones. Well, where do you draw the line? And then the question was raised, well, what about Secretary of State Kerry? Does he not have encrypted voice? And she wouldn’t go there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does the U.S. believe that Russia was behind this?
MARGARET WARNER: They don’t — they say they don’t have absolute proof, but really either Russia or the Russian-trained Ukrainian security services.
Really, they both had the opportunity, the capability, and who else has the motive?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you know, you mentioned Nuland and salty language. Is that just the way they talk all the time to each other?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, there’s some joke about how she spent — apparently, it’s true — eight months on a Russian fishing trawler when she was 22 years old, and that’s how she learned all these curse words.
Literally, Jen Psaki, the spokeswoman, said that yesterday. But underneath it all, though, the U.S. and the E.U. agree on the objective here, which is to pull Yanukovych back to the West.
They have had real differences on tactics. And behind the scenes, U.S. officials have been complaining since December that the E.U. didn’t recognize the danger. They’re the ones who made the original offer, and they didn’t put enough aid in it for Yanukovych — Ukraine is really hurting financially — that they haven’t stepped in to help the opposition negotiate this deal, and that they won’t — haven’t gotten a package of sanctions ready in case Yanukovych cracks down.
So when you hear that — there is frustration and that came out. There was another leaked call that has Ashton, Catherine Ashton, the E.U. envoy deputy, talking to her ambassador in Ukraine, and they’re complaining about the U.S. pressure. So there’s frustration on both sides.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you started out talking about this all takes place in the context of a larger push and pull between the United States and Russia. So, step back. Put this in that context. What is going on from a larger standpoint?
MARGARET WARNER: The larger standpoint is that Putin is trying to recreate a center of Russian influence, and he’s got some of these former republics rejoining a kind of customs union and a trade union.
But Ukraine is just key to that. Many Russians — the whole Russian nation sort of started in Kiev. I mean, they have a deep emotional tie to the Ukrainians. There was a recent poll that showed 55 or 60 percent of Russians considered Ukrainians, that they’re one people. So, there is an emotional reason.
But it really has to do with geopolitics. And so this is important to Putin. He handled it quite well in December. He didn’t threaten Yanukovych. Instead, he just gave him $15 billion. But Russia experts I talked to today said they think he senses momentum shifting away from Moscow.
I mean, suddenly, Yanukovych has invited some opposition members into the government. And they wanted to sort of drive a wedge between the U.S. and the E.U. and sow dissension. And we will see. Yanukovych is supposed to see Putin in Sochi.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Russia — so, so far, Russia is accepting this?
MARGARET WARNER: No. Oh, no.
Russia, in fact, has now held up this aid package until they see what the new government looks like. Nuland had another sort of colorful phrase on the phone to me today. She said, what the Russians do, what Putin does is keeping giving more cocaine in tinier bags for a higher price. She said, we’re offering him the Weight Watchers plan, a little pain at the beginning, and then he can be sleek and beautiful, meaning an IMF package, which will be painful, a lot of reforms required.
So, I would say the struggle very much continues. And a lot is up to Yanukovych. It could end in bloodshed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, colorful, but serious, too.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, serious stuff.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret, thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now back to the civil war in Syria, where there was relief for some today, as fighting continued.
We begin with a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Though the Syrian government says it will rejoin peace talks in Switzerland on Monday, its helicopters have carried on dropping so-called barrel bombs on Aleppo, with hundreds reported killed.
But, from Homs, further south, a glimmer of good news. Three coachloads of civilians were evacuated from the besieged old city. The Russians claim the three-day cease-fire they brokered here was a landmark agreement, and it’s certainly a propaganda coup for Syria’s biggest ally as the Sochi Olympics begin.
The question now though is whether these Syrian troops will keep their promise to let humanitarian aid reach those still trapped inside. This Dutch priest, Frans Van der Lugt, has so far refused to leave. “We have no food at all,” he says, “only a little bit of wheat.” We’re reaching the situation when hunger will lead not to sickness, but to death.
Homs, the city he lives in, was one of the first to rise up against the Assad regime. Today’s evacuees, around 80 people, have been promised medical treatment and shelter, but Western diplomats say it shouldn’t have taken several weeks to negotiate a step as small as this.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And Hari Sreenivasan has more on this from New York.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now to discuss the humanitarian cease-fire is former British Foreign Secretary and current president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband.
So, do you think this sort of an agreement will hold?DAVID MILIBAND, Former British Foreign Secretary: I think that it will hold for three days, because it’s in everyone’s interest that it does.
People talk already about the propaganda value, and it is a crumb of comfort for the poor 2,500 people trapped in the middle of Homs. The rest of Syria, four million in Aleppo, are asking, what about us? When is the world going to show that it cares about our situation?
HARI SREENIVASAN: But how do possibly ensure that this many people can get out safely?
DAVID MILIBAND: Well, the report I saw talked about two dozen. And they’re coming out in buses.
I mean, we have got a long history of this, of course. You remember the scenes even from Srebrenica in the ’90s of a trickle of people coming out while the war goes on. And the terrible thing about the Syria conflict — or the terrible things — is that we’re going back to the Dark Ages in the conduct of war, barrel bombs being dropped in the suburbs of great cities, 60 percent of hospitals destroyed.
It’s the dissolution of a country before our very eyes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, an agreement like this would be one of the only positive implications of the talks that happened in Geneva. They’re supposed to start up on Monday again. What are your expectations?
DAVID MILIBAND: I think that you don’t have to take my word for it.
You can take the word of the diplomats. The French foreign minister says he expects very little. None of the people going there are expecting them to end the war any time soon. But there is a parallel track. And that is, while they’re fighting the war, what about the civilians?
Because the very notion of a noncombatant, a civilian, is being lost in this war. We have got nine million displaced from their homes, three million refugees in neighboring countries. And it’s terrifying to say it, snipers targeting pregnant women in bread queues at conflict lines.
That is an indictment, not just of those who are doing it, but I would say also of an international community that has talked about international humanitarian law, but never backed it up.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you’re running an international humanitarian organization. How much of your agenda gets into this conversation that happens in Geneva and elsewhere about delivering polio vaccines or getting food to people or getting shelter?
DAVID MILIBAND: Well, a little.
I mean, in the end, humanitarian organizations, we can stanch the dying, but we can’t stop the killing. And the primary aim of the conference, obviously, is to stop the killing, which is absolutely essential, evidently.
However, even over the last three years, an organization like the IRC, we have managed to get into Syria to help about between half a million — around half a million people access medical care. So even while the battle is raging, we try and get in, we try and get access.
But the truth is, this language of humanitarian access mistakes the point, really. It’s not — that’s a bit like saying that someone who is being strangled is suffering from lack of air, when the real problem is that they’re being strangled.
And what we have in Syria, across Syria, is a series of blockades that are being used as weapons of war. And that is a deadly serious situation, obviously, for the Syrians involved, but I would say for the U.N. Security Council, too. They passed a presidential statement in October which called for unimpeded medical aid and food aid.
No one has paid any attention to. So, there’s a mockery of the U.N. Security Council as well, as well a terrible immiseration of the people involved.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you’re asking for a more binding resolution from the U.N. Security Council. So if the other previous statements have been made a mockery of, what’s the value in the U.N. making another proclamation? Or what’s the role of the U.N. here?
DAVID MILIBAND: Well, there’s more than a proclamation. A U.N. Security Council resolution carries the value of international law, and that is an essential stepping up of the pressure, because the Syrians who we are helping inside Syria, the refugees who we’re — who I have met in the neighboring countries, they’re saying, does the world care enough about our country?
And, at the moment, the answer they’re giving to me is, you don’t care enough, because you’re allowing unspeakable horror to be practiced upon us. Yes, there’s a trickle of humanitarian aid, but we need a massive increase and that’s the big agenda that I think the U.N. Security Council has to address, because to get on the U.N. Security Council agenda, you have to be a threat to regional peace and security.
What is — what else could there be as a more drastic threat to regional peace and security than a country like Syria imploding in front of our very eyes?
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how difficult has it been to get aid in, considering that there are these sort of regional forces at work and global powers that are involved?
DAVID MILIBAND: It’s been very difficult indeed.
The biggest worry I have when I wake up in the morning is about the position of our aid workers, who are risking their lives in the work that they are doing cross-border. Very brave Syrian doctors will tell you that every time they come to a checkpoint, they fear for their own safety, never mind the situation of the civilians involved.
That’s an ongoing concern. But the humanitarian imperative is that whatever side of the lines civilians are on, we’re there trying to help them. That’s what organizations like the IRC and other aid organizations are trying to do.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, have all the parties been equally cooperative or uncooperative in letting you pass or letting that aid get through?
DAVID MILIBAND: No, I think it’s pretty evident that the greatest burden in terms of the humanitarian danger has been — has to be placed on the side of the government. It’s not just that governments are held to higher standards than nongovernmental organizations.
It’s that the overwhelming military power is in the hands of the Syrian authorities. There have clearly been abuses on the rebel side as well, or the multiple rebel sides. And it’s important to recognize that. But we have been able to work in rebel areas. We have been tolerated, if you like, by the different rebel groups.
And I think it’s very, very important that we recognize both sides have to be part of this bargain. However, in answer to the simple question, the greatest burden now lies on the Syrian government for their conduct of the war, because, as the U.S. representative at the U.N. said and as John Kerry has said, starvation is being used as a weapon of war. And that really does take us back to the Dark Ages.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Miliband, thanks so much.
DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you.
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— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) February 7, 2014
The fifth snowflake failed to open into an Olympic ring properly during the opening ceremony in the Fisht Stadium at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. On Russian television, producers replaced the missed cue with dress rehearsal footage of all five snowflakes forming into the Olympic rings and the display ending in pyrotechnics. Photo by Associated Press
State television aired a version of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia with no glitches Friday, despite earlier reports of a malfunction that marred a display of all five Olympic rings, the Associated Press reports.
During the live event in the Fisht Stadium, the fifth snowflake in a light display failed to fully expand and join the other four snowflakes to form the Olympic symbols. The scene was also supposed to end in pyrotechnics, which never occurred.
The AP reports that the Russian host broadcaster, Rossiya 1, inserted pre-recorded footage that showed the ceremony happening without a hitch. For its viewers, all five snowflakes properly expanded without missing a cue, and fireworks went off.
The ceremony’s executive creative director, Konstantin Ernst, referred to the swap as an “open secret.” The cause of the flub was attributed to a stage manager’s bad command.
This is also not the first time a minor controversy followed an Olympic opening ceremony.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle against AIDS, which began in the early 1980s and has succeeded in finding treatments to control the disease, is increasingly turning to a different phase: the hunt for a real and complete cure.
Special correspondent Spencer Michels has our story.
SPENCER MICHELS: Fifty-seven-year-old Matt Sharp, who has had AIDS for 25 years, takes a mix of antiretroviral drugs each day to reduce his HIV levels and keep him alive.
Sharp, a former ballet dancer, says the medication has shortened his life, and makes him more susceptible to other ailments, like heart disease earlier than normal.MATT SHARP: I’m faced with issues around growing older earlier because of having HIV for so long. I have been taking pills for over 25 years. I’m ready for a point where I can do something that my body can control the virus on its own.
SPENCER MICHELS: Sharp has volunteered for studies now under way that, if successful, could eliminate the need for a lifetime of powerful pills.
Scientists and medical doctors are working both in the lab and in clinical settings to find out more about HIV, especially where it lurks, and to find out how patients will respond to experimental treatments. The idea, of course, is to completely eradicate the HIV.
DR. MIKE MCCUNE, University of California, San Francisco: What we really want to do is make it so that the people around the world, all 34 million of them infected with HIV, can lead a disease-free life without having to take antiretrovirals for the rest of their lives.
SPENCER MICHELS: Mike McCune, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has been in the forefront of AIDS research since the beginning, and he’s watched the progress of research, including some spectacular successes.
A few patients around the world have apparently been cured of AIDS and attracted international attention. An infected American who got a bone marrow transplant in Berlin is disease-free, as is a baby in Mississippi who was treated at birth. These cases have raised hopes that the virus can be eliminated entirely, curing the disease.
But two Boston patients whom doctors thought were cured had the virus return. None of those cases has led to a universal treatment. And so, in December, the White House and the National Institutes of Health endorsed a full-fledged research program towards finding a cure.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re going to redirect $100 million into this project to develop a new generation of therapies.
SPENCER MICHELS: For McCune and his team, the key task today is finding the virus. He knows that antiretroviral drugs keep the patient alive and kill much of the HIV. But, invariably, some virus remains hidden and causes the patients’ health to decline.
DR. MIKE MCCUNE: What we don’t know is where in the human body it lives.
SPENCER MICHELS: Researchers in McCune’s labs and elsewhere study tissue taken from clinical subjects to look at places they think the virus may be hiding.
DR. MIKE MCCUNE: It’s often organs, organs like the intestinal track, the spleen, the liver, the brain and elsewhere. We want to know which cells it lives in, whether it be dormant or latent or actively replicating or spreading.
Some drugs, for instance, go to the spleen very easily, but don’t go to the brain. Maybe we need two or three drugs to go to two or three different patterns.
SPENCER MICHELS: McCune’s basic research is aimed at finding how the hidden AIDS virus behaves, and how to make it show itself so it can be killed or induced to commit suicide.
At the nearby University of California-affiliated Gladstone Institute, Dr. Warner Greene, who is also doing basic research, says finding the few cells infected with virus is not easy. Their hiding places are called reservoirs.
DR. WARNER GREENE, Gladstone Institute: The reservoir is only established on one cell in a million. So it’s a needle in a haystack. Or it’s like, where in the world is Waldo? Finding and identifying that latently infected cell is virtually impossible, because the virus is not expressing any of its proteins. It’s slumbering.
SPENCER MICHELS: This time-lapse video shows T-cells, key to the immune system, being attacked and killed by HIV. In Greene’s lab, researchers first have to find the cell harboring the virus using small molecules to make it show itself
DR. WARNER GREENE: And either the cell automatically dies, or now the immune system can attack, can be directed to those cells to destroy the reservoir.
SPENCER MICHELS: So you call this?
DR. WARNER GREENE: Shock and kill. But there are problems. We know that when we deliver the shock, not all the cells that we want to get shocked get shocked. And we also know that once — even those that are successfully shocked, they don’t necessarily get killed.
SPENCER MICHELS: The key to success is to kill them all, but they’re not there yet.
DR. WARNER GREENE: We take the drugs away and, sure enough, within a matter of a few weeks, the virus bounces back to levels established before the antiretroviral drugs were administered.
SPENCER MICHELS: A private company, Calimmune, is using a different strategy. The idea is to harvest the patient’s own cells, modify them with stem cells, and return them to the patient, so they can defeat the virus.
Louis Breton, the CEO, says the firm, which gets support from California’s publicly-funded Stem Cell Agency, is already in clinical trials, taking blood from patients, and modifying the genes.
LOUIS BRETON, CEO, Calimmune: If you can defend the body first, you have the opportunity to potentially then eradicate the virus. We are looking at working on a one-time outpatient procedure that would treat a patient’s own cells, modify them to protect them, and give them back to the patient.
DR. WARNER GREENE: This is really at the technological edge and is very exciting work. Gene therapy could potentially be scalable for the developing world, if it involved a single injection.
SPENCER MICHELS: For patients like 49-year-old John Caldera and his physician, Steve Deeks, the promise of a simple cure is alluring, but remote.
JOHN CALDERA: I have been on at least 10 research studies where it was experimental drugs, and I rolled the dice. I would love to see a future where there is no HIV, and I think we’re very close.
DR. STEVE DEEKS, University of California, San Francisco: OK. You’re good.
SPENCER MICHELS: But Deeks, a clinical professor at U.C. San Francisco, isn’t so sure a cure is imminent.
DR. STEVE DEEKS: With some of these more aggressive approaches, gene therapy and stem cell transplants and so forth, the risk is much greater, but the reward is also potentially much greater, because it’s theoretically possible to cure people with a single intervention. It’s possible. I don’t think anyone thinks its likely. But it’s certainly worth trying.
SPENCER MICHELS: Deeks says the few patients who have been cured of AIDS so far lead to one conclusion.
DR. STEVE DEEKS: There’s going to be many roads, many paths to take. And it’s going to be a combination of shock and kill, an increase in the capacity of the immune system to kill the virus, and increase in the capacity of the immune system to control the virus, and probably ultimately getting people on therapy super, super early to prevent the virus from spreading early on.
SPENCER MICHELS: Whatever approaches are used, most researchers, and the NIH, agree that the work is in its very early stages, and barring a surprise development, it could be years before a real cure for AIDS, and an affordable one, is found.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
MARK SHIELDS: Hey, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So let’s talk jobs, a report, mixed report for the month of January, Mark. The number of jobs created was less than what was expected, but the unemployment rate has gone down. You heard Paul Solman’s report. Should we be concerned?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, we should be concerned.
This is 52 months after its ended, after this — and we are not returned to the number of jobs we had before the recession began. And at this rate, at the rate, the current rate of job creation, it will be six years before we get back to that level. It is — it’s hardly reassuring. It’s upsetting.
And it ought to get our attention. I would just say one thing, Judy, and that is, somewhere in recent American history, probably in the last 30 years, we changed our economic values. The economic value used to measure the economy in employment and how many people are employed, what their wages were. And then somewhere along the line, it became a stockholder, a shareholder economy.Last year, corporate profits were at their all-time high. The percentage of — the percentage of the income that went to corporate profits and corporations was at their all-time high. The top 1 hazardous had their highest income share since 1928, and percent of the income that went to wages was the lowest it’s ever been. And something — something changed.
I mean, the health of our economy should be on the number of people working and that they are progressing and making more and being productive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, we do talk about the job numbers every week.
I do think we pay attention to labor force participation. I sort of do agree somewhat with Mark that there does seem to be an imbalance in the power relationship between capital and labor.
MARK SHIELDS: That’s — yes.
DAVID BROOKS: And I don’t think we’re going to go back to unions, the way they were understood before. I don’t know what the next form is, employee-owned companies.
But I do think you — there probably should be something done to rebalance that relationship. Nonetheless, when I look at the jobs numbers — and I think they’re disappointing. Somebody pointed out, if we were in a normal recovery, we would have six million more jobs than we have now.
And so I look at what’s causing all the sludge in the economy, whether we’re not innovating enough. And there’s some evidence of that, some stagnation in that. A lot of people have just dropped out of the labor force. And that long decline — Doug Elmendorf, the head of the CBO, was asked.
One of the things that is moderating growth, it’s the aging of the population, shrinking of the labor force. And if you don’t have a lot of people working, paying taxes, making stuff, you’re just going to have a sludgier economy. And so there’s a whole bunch of reasons. Some have to do with the complexity of the government, which imposes costs, the complexity of the tax code.
It just feels like we have been a middle-age or late-age economy, and we need some rejuvenation of some sort.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is anybody predicting that this is going to turn around in a positive way, in a big, positive way?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, there’s sort of this prediction of economic growth, and that 2014 was supposed to be good, and the market at the end of the year.
The decade — the first decade of the 1st century is the only 10-year period in the country’s history, as long as we have kept records, that we didn’t create any jobs, that there was no net increase of jobs. I mean, that’s just amazing.
And one of the things that has happened in this recession, Judy, is that the brutal austerity imposed is the number of public jobs, state, local, federal, firefighters, teachers, nurses, public employees that have been laid off. And they have not come back. I mean, even this past month, we’re still laying off people in the public sector. And, to me, it’s sheer folly, both in public services and economically.
DAVID BROOKS: It should be said that the CBO also had a report on the projected debt of the country going up, and they basically raised the debt level by $1.7 trillion. We’re going to be ramping up our public debt levels massively over the next 20 years.
MARK SHIELDS: Twenty years.
DAVID BROOKS: And that’s — that’s — that’s part of the equation of why the public employment has not gone up.
I just feel like — you know, there’s — Mancur Olson, a great economist, late economists, said countries — why did Germany and Japan do so well after World War II? It’s because, perversely, they lost the war, but all their institutions were cleaned out and they started afresh.
And middle-age economies just get a little more brittle. And it feels like we’re in that. And I don’t know how you then rejuvenate the economy, how you have a second burst, or a third burst in our case, but that sort comprehensive thing has to be talked about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of the debt, which you just brought up, we had the forecast, I guess today, from the government that in a few weeks they’re not going to be able to pay their bills unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.
The president is saying, I want this. I want it with no conditions.
Mark, Speaker Boehner is saying, there won’t be a default, but, on the other hand, he’s saying, my members are not yet on board. Where is this headed? What do you think?
MARK SHIELDS: It’s headed for a Kabuki dance.
I just — one point on David. David is absolutely right about the long-term debt. But as a percentage of the gross domestic product in this country, the deficit this year is lower than it was in Ronald Reagan’s years. OK? So that’s taken some of the urgency, because we do deal with the immediate in this country.
As far as the current crisis, Judy, it was revolved last October. The nuclear option was exercised by the Republicans last October. They closed…
JUDY WOODRUFF: When they shut down the government.
MARK SHIELDS: They shut down the government. The nuclear device blew up on the launching pad, and left the Republicans at the lowest point that any party has ever been in the history of the Gallup poll. They don’t want to go revisit that going into the 2014 election.
They’re going to try and ride the Obamacare horse to victory, I guess, to use just terrible metaphors all the way through.
MARK SHIELDS: And I know David will bail me out at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And not — and not talk about…
MARK SHIELDS: No, I just don’t think — plus, I think the Patty Murray-Paul Ryan deal took an awful lot of pressure off as far as the fiscal picture is concerned in the short range.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think this is just a stalling thing and…
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, they’re going to reach a deal. I’m trying to figure out Mark’s Kabuki horse and metaphors.
MARK SHIELDS: The Kabuki horse is a — is a big concept.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m not stepping into that one.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Mark’s right. The polling is, if there was sort of a debt blowup, who would you blame, American people? It’s roughly 59 percent would blame Republicans, 20-something would blame President Obama, so it’s a clear political loser.
So, they have got to ask for something, and they have talked about asking for, if he can approve the Keystone pipeline, then will approve it. They just want something in return. They will probably end up with like half a Pretzel M&M. They will get that and they will sign. And so they’re not going to walk into that again.
MARK SHIELDS: No.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the speaker, this is not the only headache on the speaker’s — headache on the platter — that may not work.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But it’s not the only thing he’s got to deal with right now.
Immigration reform, just — it seems like just a few days ago, we were hearing from the speaker that it looked like they were ready to deal on immigration, Mark, but then they went off and had their retreat, and ever since then, they have been saying no. So, maybe not, the speaker said this week.
MARK SHIELDS: This is one where I have to admit David was right.
MARK SHIELDS: I was a lot more bullish about immigration reform, and David has been bearish, and I think events have borne him out.
Judy, it’s the difference we talked about, between a congressional party and a presidential party. The Republican Party presidentially is doomed on immigration. I mean, just take the Asian — Asian-American population, India, China, Korea, Japan. These are people of highest — higher income, highest education, entrepreneurial.
They should be Republicans; 55 percent of them voted for George H.W. Bush. More — they had a higher percentage vote for Barack Obama than Latinos did in 2012. I mean, they have lost everybody. They’re down — they’re down to the Caucasian caucus, the male…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the Republicans.
MARK SHIELDS: The Republicans, the male Caucasian caucus.
But, I mean, at the presidential level, they have got — Mitt Romney got 59 percent of the white vote and he lost by five million votes. And I just don’t know, as they look at this, why they won’t act on it. But it’s the congressional…
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what happened, David? Because it was — the speaker was saying some positive things, and then something changed.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, let me say, I liked the first part of Mark’s answer back there. I’m going to make it the ring tone on my phone, I think.
DAVID BROOKS: What happened was, he didn’t have his members. And that says a lot about where parties are in general these days, not only the Republican Party.
Parties have trouble being led from the top. And the authority in parties is no longer with the speaker, with the leaders. It’s all dispersed. And there are a lot of reasons for that. Some of it has to do with no earmarks. The leaders can’t give out favors, so nobody listens to them. That’s not the only reason, but that’s a little piece of it.
And so they can’t control their party. And so the national leadership of the Republican Party understands what Mark just said, that they need this to get an entree into the immigration reform.
MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.
DAVID BROOKS: But the members, from their own House district A. in Arizona or in Utah, they don’t feel that pressure at all.
And so the leaders of the parties cannot control the parties. And, therefore, they can’t do the long-range thing that’s in the benefit of the entire party. And so parochial interests take over, and a parochial veto group has emerged. A lot of the smart, young Republicans, the rising stars in the House, are against this, and they exercise effective veto power.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Though some people are out there saying it’s — it could turn around later this year after the primaries. Do you see hope…
DAVID BROOKS: It doesn’t — it clearly wasn’t going to happen before the primaries. The party is really split. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen this year.
MARK SHIELDS: No.
And Mitch McConnell, in addition to David Brooks, predicted this week that it wouldn’t happen. And he even is closer to the situation than David is.
MARK SHIELDS: So, I just — I don’t see it happening.
The one voice who endorsed John Boehner, who backed off on immigration, was Steve King, the congressman from Iowa, whose contribution to the debate has consisted most recently of saying, these DREAM Act people who are here that the president has refused to deport, who — undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents, they aren’t class valedictorians. They have thighs the size of cantaloupes and calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re drug dealers.
And when he said that — I mean, he said it on the floor — John Boehner denounced him and described him in a two-syllable expletive to a couple of Democratic members. That’s the one voice I have heard endorse John Boehner’s position this week on immigration. So, it’s got to be cold comfort for the speaker.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, complete change of subject. The two of you were right last week on the Super Bowl. You both — I mean, just kudos to both of you. You both predicted Seattle would win.
So, let’s talk about the Olympics. Now, you both follow bobsledding and, what, downhill, luge and all those things very closely.
DAVID BROOKS: We’re actually dance — we’re judges in the ice dancing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So what are — what’s your prediction? We have heard a lot about security, David. We have heard a lot about Sochi not being ready. What are you getting — what are you excited about?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, the Jamaican bobsledders, of course. The skeleton, I’m thrilled about.
I actually don’t think about the Olympics — the Winter Olympic sports at any moment, except for the moment they happen to be on. So I’m unaware of luge until that moment.
DAVID BROOKS: And then it is completely erased from my memory banks. It only exists in the present, the Winter Olympics, for me. So I don’t have any prejudgments, I’m afraid.
MARK SHIELDS: I think — I think the Olympics are in trouble, for a very simple reason. They have violated one of the first rules of politics, which — make — make sure the press has clean beds and hotels that — where there’s a bar open and they’re serving palatable food.
And they have guaranteed, Sochi has guarantee themselves bad press by not — not pandering to the press. I mean…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re not suggesting reporters…
MARK SHIELDS: I would not suggest that, and certainly not sportswriters least of all.
MARK SHIELDS: But I do — I’m holding my breath that we don’t have…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure.
MARK SHIELDS: … another 1972 Munich or…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Absolutely. We’re all…
MARK SHIELDS: … 1996 Atlanta, or whatever. I mean, that’s — I think that’s the biggest concern I have at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re all hoping for that.
Mark, David, thank you. See you next week.
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U.S. snowboarder clinches first gold medal of Sochi Olympics
The first day of competition for the Sochi Winter Olympics is underway. American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal of the 2014 games during the debut of the snowboarding slopestyle competition.
Kotsenburg is the only medal on the board for the U.S., while Norway leads the competition so far with four medals.
Ceasefire is broken in Homs
Fighting resumed in the Syrian city of Homs on Saturday. The renewed fighting broke a ceasefire put in place to evacuate civilians.
A mortar landed near United Nations personnel, an official told the Associated Press. The Syrian military reportedly dropped barrel bombs on the city of Aleppo, killing 15 people.
Civilian casualties increasing in Afghanistan
Civilian casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan rose 14 percent in 2013, according to a report released by the United Nations on Saturday.
Last year was also the worst year for women and children since the war began, with 561 children and 235 women killed in 2013.
The number of children injured or killed in the war rose 34 percent in 2013.
WASHINGTON — Hit with a multimillion-dollar barrage of televised attacks, Democrats in tough re-election races want credit for trying to fix the problematic parts of the health care law at the same time they claim bragging rights for its popular provisions and allege Republicans will reverse the crackdown on insurance company abuses.
It’s a tricky, high-stakes political straddle by lawmakers who voted to create the law, which Republicans intend to place at the center of their campaign to win control of the Senate and hold their House majority.
In one of the year’s most closely watched races, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., recently aired a commercial that shows her in numerous public settings last fall sternly telling President Barack Obama to keep his promise to let people keep their current health plans if they want to — and then taking credit after he took steps to make that happen.
“I’m fixing it and that’s what my bill does, and I’ve urged the president to fix it,” Landrieu says in the ad.
It ends with a screen that reads: “The result: People now allowed to keep health care plans.”
The three-term lawmaker aired the ad after a televised attack by Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch that has spent more than $25 million on similarly themed commercials in several races.
Hundreds of miles away, in Arizona, an outside group that backs Democrats stepped in after Americans for Prosperity targeted Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.
Referring to HealthCare.gov, which had a wretched debut last fall, a House Majority PAC ad said Kirkpatrick “blew the whistle on the disastrous health care website, calling it stunning ineptitude, and worked to fix it.”
At the same time, Kirkpatrick “fought to hold insurance companies accountable, so they can’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or drop it when they get sick,” said the commercial, referring to popular elements of the law already in place.
The response comes as Democratic Party leaders look eagerly to outside groups to keep pace with the Koch brothers’ early campaign barrage, while acknowledging they have been neither fast nor aggressive enough inside the Capitol in countering Republican attacks and demands for the law’s repeal.
“We have to stop being so defensive,” said Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, recently tapped to lead an effort inside the Senate to respond publicly to GOP attacks.
Democrats also say public opinion points the way to a strong campaign rebuttal to Republicans.
Geoff Garin, a pollster with ties to many lawmakers in the party, said that even in GOP-leaning districts, “there is a preference for a Democrat who wants to keep the good parts and fix the bad parts over a Republican who wants to repeal the whole thing.”
It’s a point Democrats emphasize.
In North Carolina, fast becoming ground zero of the “Obamacare” fight, a Senate Majority PAC ad says Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan “forced insurance companies to cover cancer and other pre-existing conditions.” It adds that one of her Republican rivals, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, “sides with insurance companies and would let insurance companies deny coverage.”
Hagan has yet to air her own ads on the subject, although her campaign website makes the claims similar to the commercial by the Senate Majority PAC.
Americans for Prosperity has put more money into North Carolina than any other race, more than $5 million so far compared with about $1.5 million for the Democratic organization helping her. Both totals are certain to swell.
One recent anti-Hagan ad shows a woman saying she was shocked when she got a notice that her coverage was being canceled. “Kay Hagan told us if you like your insurance plan and your doctors, you could keep them. That just wasn’t true.”
Americans for Prosperity also has attacked in Arkansas, where Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor faces a tough race. The incumbent ran an ad late last year that did not mention the Affordable Care Act by name. It said he was working for “more doctor visits, free preventive care and lower prescription costs,” references to elements of the legislation he voted for.
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire has been attacked by a different group, Ending Spending, which mocked Obama’s now-discredited statement that people could keep their health care if they liked it.
“Next November, if you like your senator, you can keep her. If you don’t, you know what to do,” says the announcer.
Shaheen’s official Senate website says she “voted in favor of the 2010 Affordable Care Act because she believes it is an important first step to making essential changes to our health care system.”
“No longer can health insurance companies put lifetime dollar limits on health benefits or drop coverage if someone gets sick. Children under 19 can no longer be denied coverage if they have a pre-existing condition, and parents can keep their children on their insurance plans up to age 26,” it says.
Republicans are trying to mitigate any damage from assertions along those lines.
More than three years after promising to “repeal and replace” the law, and not once proposing an alternative, the House GOP leadership recently circulated a series of health care principles.
Citing political reasons, party aides and strategists say they do not expect a bill to advance to the House floor this year. They note that would give Democrats a chance to turn the health care issue into a choice between two plans, rather than a referendum on an unpopular law with the president’s name on it.
So far, at least, the deep-pocketed Americans for Prosperity is betting heavily that a straightforward message of repeal is a winning one, particularly when it is aimed at female voters.
Tim Phillips, president of organization, says that rather than targeting conservatives, who already oppose the law, “we’re trying to reach out to folks in the middle.”
Republicans and Democrats say that means independent voters and loosely aligned Democrats. Many of the ads appear designed to appeal to women, whom Phillips said tend to be “the predominant health care decision-makers” for their families and their aging parents as well as for themselves.
Democrats “know that this law is a huge problem for them,” he said.
Associated Press Special Correspondent David Espo wrote this report.
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RICK KARR: Bob Lee’s been through some major changes over the past few years. He moved out to the country after a couple of decades in the city. And he went into a new line of work.
He became the pastor of a church with a small congregation in a rural part of Napa County, California, about fifty miles north of San Francisco. He’d only been a believer for a few years when he decided to go into the ministry, but he was certain that it was his calling, and a chance to serve his community.
BOB LEE: I’ve had a good life, and if I can help someone else have a better life, that’s what life’s about. When we leave here, we don’t take anything with us. I don’t take my retirement benefits, my medical, none of those things.
RICK KARR: Lee could have a new career because he retired from his old one with benefits for nearly thirty years; he was a police officer in the city of Vallejo, in the Bay Area, about midway between his church and San Francisco. He was able to retire at fifty with a pension and family health insurance benefits worth a total of a little over one hundred eight thousand dollars a year.
BOB LEE: I knew that I wasn’t going to have to count on a church salary to carry me through my retirement. I was going to depend on my law enforcement retirement to do that.
RICK KARR (to LEE): It sounds like you had a pretty good sense that when you retired– Vallejo was going to continue to take care of you, in a way?
BOB LEE: Well, I knew they were going to take care of me. That’s what they said they would do.
RICK KARR: But taking care of Bob Lee and other retirees is taking a toll on the city of Vallejo’s finances. Retirement benefits will cost the city twenty one million dollars in the current fiscal year — nearly four million dollars more than the year before. Two years ago, they accounted for nineteen percent of the budget. This year, their share is nearly twenty six percent. Five years from now, the city projects it’ll be almost thirty percent. That’s bad news for a city with a five million dollar budget deficit. Stephanie Gomes feels like she’s watching history repeat.
STEPHANIE GOMES: We could go bankrupt again. And the first one is hard enough. I can’t even begin to imagine the second one.
RICK KARR: Gomes had a front row seat on the city council as Vallejo went broke in 2008. The city had never recovered from the blow its economy took in 1996, when the Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed there and thousands of residents lost jobs. The additional burden of the recession was too much for the municipal budget. For Gomes, the worst part of the crisis was just before the city filed for bankruptcy.
STEPHANIE GOMES: Because before is when you’re scrambling trying to figure out how not to go into bankruptcy. So we had to cut– roads, you know? Fixing our roads, trimming our trees, hours at the library, you know anything and everything.
RICK KARR: There was one thing the city couldn’t cut: pensions. Under California law, Vallejo was prohibited from cutting them. Pensions cost the city so much because it pays its workers so much — the fifth-highest wages for municipal employees in the state. And the highest wages in the city are paid to police.
STEPHANIE GOMES: You know, in Vallejo, we pay, you know, $150,000, $175,000, $200,000, $250,000, $300,000. So you have people retiring at 50 with 90 percent of that.
RICK KARR: Bob Lee argues that Vallejo cops earn it, given the fights, bruises, and broken bones. He lost two friends in the line of duty. When he was growing up just outside of town, a few areas of the city had problems with crime. But when crack cocaine came to town, the city’s crime problem got a lot worse.
BOB LEE: People who lived in the city were crying out for something to be done about the crime. So, the City started paying more for police officers. They started providing better benefits to attract good officers and we built a good, a very good police department. One that was looked up to by many agencies in the State.
RICK KARR: Last year when the city had to cut spending again to deal with its five million dollar deficit, the council turned to the police budget. Last December, the council chambers filled up with residents, police in uniform, and retired cops as the council took up a proposal to cut health care benefits for retired police by two million dollars a year. Stephanie Gomes and the rest of the council listened as Bob Lee told them that the proposal was unfair.
BOB LEE: For those of you sitting out here you picture yourself retiring fifteen, twenty years from now with what you thought you were going to get and having it taken away.
RICK KARR: Gomes can empathize with Vallejo police — their department was the last one her husband worked in before he retired. But she wanted the cut to be her last major accomplishment on the council before a term limit forced her to step down a few weeks later. The council voted six to nothing to make the cuts. Bob Lee lost the free insurance that had covered him, his wife, and their daughter. Now, Lee and his wife have to pay a total of seven hundred sixty nine dollars a month for themselves.
BOB LEE: I am disappointed and frustrated that the City’s done this. To me and for other retirees, they’ve let us down. And in some ways, it seems like they’ve taken an easy route to fill a monetary gap by cutting retiree benefits. I was promised something when I retired. I worked almost 30 years to receive that, and I based my life upon it.
RICK KARR: Was there anything else the City of Vallejo could’ve done at that point? Where could they have cut?
BOB LEE: Where I think that they should’ve started to make changes is with the current employees. Those people still have an opportunity to plan for these things in the future.
STEPHANIE GOMES: I get they put their lives on the line. My husband was a police captain. Retired after 36 years. I get it. But you choose that job because you believe in it. And you choose because it of the service and you believe in serving the public. And the public’s hurting.
RICK KARR: How far is it fair to go in cutting that though?
STEPHANIE GOMES: I would cut the least amount that we could because I agree, you know? People retire and they kind of make plans on that. But what about the promises to the taxpayers? The people paying these pensions? It’s promises to a many and promises to a few, and if we all took a little bit of cut and if we all shared in that pain, then it wouldn’t have to be so great.
RICK KARR: The confrontation is part of a broader conflict over the cost of taking care of retirees that’s divided other California cities. And it may be coming to a lot more.
JOE NATION: It is a systemic problem. It’s like a virus that is making its way through California municipal governments. And everyone will get hit with it eventually.
RICK KARR: Joe Nation is a professor of public policy at Stanford. He sees California’s municipal budget crisis as a preview of worse things to come in other states.
JOE NATION: If you look at the financial status of California, of the pension systems here, versus the rest of the country, we’re not in the worst shape. We’re probably about the middle of the pack.
RICK KARR: He believes that as long as the cost of pensions keeps rising, cities all over the country will have to either raise taxes, or cut other parts of the budget.
JOE NATION: And that’s sort of the path that people are on right now. I mean, the numbers are just staggering.
RICK KARR: In California, the cost of pensions is rising faster than that of police and fire departments, sanitation, education, or anything else in municipal budgets. Stephanie Gomes sees no way for cities to rein in that cost because they’d have to cut pensions to do it, and since that’s prohibited under California law, they’re likely to go bankrupt. She’s been campaigning to change that law to give cities the right to negotiate for pension cuts. She and other supporters hope to get the initiative onto the ballot in a statewide election so that California voters can decide.
She’s also running the volunteer anti-graffiti campaign she and her husband started to make up for the program the city cut. She sees a lot of other residents getting together to do things the city used to do, which could be a good sign for the city’s future. And on that point, Bob Lee agrees with her. There’s a story like that in the Bible.
BOB LEE: In the Book of Acts, after Christ went back to heaven, he left the people with a mandate. He said, “Love God and love your neighbors.” And that’s what the people did. They set their differences aside. They came together to make a better future for everyone. And I think that you can do that, but it takes a lot of hard work for people to be willing to set aside things that they oftentimes hold very dearly.
Workers at a World Cup stadium being built in the Brazilian city of Manaus are threatening to strike after a 55-year-old Portuguese man was killed while dismantling a crane at the arena on Friday.
The worker, Jose Pita Martins, was the third person to die in a construction-related incident at the Arena de Amazonia stadium, and the seventh worker killed at one of the 12 new arenas being built for the 2014 World Cup.
“We have to guarantee the workers’ rights and their safety,” union leader Cicero Custodio told Brazilian news media, according to the Associated Press. “Nobody will get in on Monday.”
Already behind schedule, a strike could delay completion of the stadium with just months left before the tournament begins.
Organizers say the Arena de Amazonia is 97 percent complete.
Amazonas state Gov. Omar Aziz had initially planned to announce an inauguration date for the venue on Friday, but he canceled his appearance due to the deadly accident.
Martins reportedly died from multiple head and chest injuries.
The secretary General of FIFA took to Twitter to send his condolences to the worker’s family.
The first construction-related death in Manaus occurred in March, followed by a second death in December after a worker fell from the roof.
All 12 stadiums were slated to be completed at the end of 2013, but there are still six venues that need to be finished before the tournament begins on June 12.
The post World Cup stadium workers threaten strike over safety concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Across the country, from Vallejo, Calif. to Detroit, Mich., some cities that cannot repay their debts have taken the extreme step of declaring municipal bankruptcy.
Cities file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code. Yet before a city can declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the city must establish it is eligible to do so according to state law.
Chapter 9 bankruptcy is relatively rare. We’ve listed the cities and towns that have filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy since 2008 on the map below.
According to bankruptcy attorney Karol Denniston, when a city owes money to its employees, pensioners, and creditors, these debts constitute a contract — similar to a business taking out a loan. If the debts cannot be repaid, a municipality may consider bankruptcy as a last resort to negotiate reduced financial liabilities.
But unlike individuals and corporations, cities are not always allowed to declare bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is a federal process. In turn, a state must give its cities, towns, counties, and other municipalities — governmental administrative districts like irrigation authorities or hospital districts — the right to petition the federal government to restructure their debts.
Without permission from the state, the federal government granting a bankruptcy petition for a municipality would violate a state’s authority and therefore, the 10th amendment.
Some states, like Arizona and Washington, expressly grant municipalities the right to file for bankruptcy.
Many other states establish conditions that must be met before a town can declare it is bankrupt. These conditions may involve an evaluation of the city’s finances or may require permission from a state governor.
Illinois, Colorado, and Oregon have particularly restrictive laws that only allow specific types of municipalities or even specific districts to file for Chapter 9. Georgia and Iowa prohibit cities from declaring bankruptcy, though Iowa has an exception to the law for municipalities that become bankrupt for reasons beyond their control.
A number of states haven’t written any specific law that determines whether or not a municipality can declare bankruptcy. Since cities in those states aren’t granted the right to file for Chapter 9, they cannot legally do so.[Watch Video]
As cities try to manage crushing debt from pension obligations, some municipalities are turning to bankruptcy as a last resort. NewsHour Weekend reports from Vallejo, Calif., with a cautionary tale for cities looking to bankruptcy as the solution.
The post Which American municipalities have filed for bankruptcy? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.