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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier this week, 10 big drug companies that rarely share their secrets agreed to work together with the National Institutes of Health. Their goal: finding cures for a number of major diseases including diabetes and Alzheimer’s. The project will last five years, cost $230 million and at the end, all the findings will be free for anyone to use.

    Here to help us understand it all is Monica Langley from The Wall Street Journal. So has anything ever been tried on this scale before? I mean these are arch rivals?

    MONICA LANGLEY:  Nothing has been tried on this scale, with this many diseases and with this amount of collaboration. And the biggest revelation of all is that they are going to put all their discoveries out to the public so that the biggest pharmaceutical companies or the littlest startup will have access to any discovery. It can go compete to try to find a cure for any of these diseases.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s almost following a playbook from the technology industry – the open source model.

    MONICA LANGLEY: That’s exactly what this is and that’s what’s unusual. There have started to be a few more collaborations in the last few years, but nothing of this scale. And actually it took two years to get it done. There were a lot of sharp elbows and a lot of hurt feelings along the way and not all the drug companies that participated signed up. But ten big ones did and they hope to come up with some blockbuster drugs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So what are the specific diseases and how did they narrow down the list of what to tackle?

    MONICA LANGLEY: That’s a good question. At first the head of the N.I.H. is Francis Collins and he’s the one who sequenced – led the human genome experiment – and he wanted to map all diseases. That was his grand idea.  And the drug companies were like ‘Are you crazy? We can’t think of some big experiment like that. We want something that will go into our pipeline and help us make money. So they looked at what diseases they thought were within the realm of possibility or else were what patients really wanted.  And they came up with Alzheimer’s with the aging population; diabetes with the population getting fatter. And they also came up with two autoimmune diseases – rheumatoid arthritis and lupus  — for this initial five-year project.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So let’s talk about this $26 million . Put that in perspective of how much these companies would spend if they weren’t part of this trial?

    MONICA LANGLEY: This is peanuts to be honest with you for the pharmaceutical companies because they spend over $200-something billion a year worldwide. But what they are doing here is something money can’t buy.  They have agreed to give their best scientists, a lot of their tissue and blood samples and all their data from the past and current clinical trials for these for diseases  within the research plan outlined. By putting this together they think they can map diseases that they have been unable to do alone. Even the N.I.H. can’t do this alone.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how much of this is just a commercial reality out there on funding drying up for research and development?

    MONICA LANGLEY:  That’s true, there’s a scientific and a business component to this, Hari.  The science component is that there’s so much scientific information now that they don’t know which molecular pathways to follow to find the targets. The second is the business reason.  The pharmaceutical executives told me that it takes them 10 years and a billion dollars to get one drug from discovery to market.  And their pipelines are drying up. Generics are coming out and so they need help finding the right drugs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Monica Langley from the Wall Street Journal thanks so much.

    MONICA LANGLEY: My pleasure.

    The post Ten big drug companies unite to study major diseases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We wanted to follow up tonight on yesterday’s monthly unemployment report. Our focus this evening, a persistent problem; how unemployment affects young people and people of color disproportionately. Here to help unpack it is Nela Richardson, a Senior Economist from Bloomberg. So everyone pays attention to that top line 6.6 percent, when you kind of look under the hood though, it’s worse depending on where you look. So let’s look at race, for example. White Americans have an unemployment rate of about 5.7 percent and African Americans are more than twice that figure at 12.1 percent. Any primary causes?

    NELA RICHARDSON: Well, you see that doubling of the unemployment rate between blacks and whites at every educational level and it’s particularly dramatic when you look at the youth population. There’s several reasons, Hari. One, it’s the fact that you know, blacks graduate at lower levels than white students do. So we know that college education is a huge factor in determining the level of unemployment, so that employment disparity is a big driver. Secondly, youth and African American youth tend to be employed in sectors that are very business cycle sensitive. So when the general economy is doing bad, that sector gets worse and it’s worse for this particular population.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So when we look at unemployment numbers by age it’s even worse, as you’re pointing out. Overall for workers from 16 to 19 that number is about 20.7 percent. Unpacking that number by race, young whites have an unemployment of 17.5 percent and as you’re hinting here, young African Americans are more than double that number at 38 percent. That’s an astounding number.

    NELA RICHARDSON: It’s astounding. That’s nearly 40 percent for young black teenagers. Look, one in every four black youth ages 16 to 25 is unemployed right now. So it’s a huge problem, but it’s not only a problem for the present, it’s a problem for the future. How you start out as a young worker, how you enter the labor market, determines your future earnings potential. If you’re blocked out of opportunities now, you may be blocked out for a life time. It’s a dramatic situation. It definitely needs attention.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And it costs the government sort of in both ways — in that taxes that we don’t get from workers that are contributing to the economy and also social services that we’re providing to the unemployed.

    NELA RICHARDSON: That’s true, but the good news is here is that this is a problem that’s fixable. We know that if you get a college degree your chances of finding a job increase dramatically. And so, one of the fixes is to increase financial aid, make it more available. But even for college graduates, when it comes to young black youth, you still see double the unemployment rate for other college graduates. So that’s when we have to match job training programs, perhaps paid internships, with college graduates to make sure that they have the same employment opportunities going forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about manufacturing jobs? How does this address the equation?

    NELA RICHARDSON: You know there is this huge segment of the economy that’s actually taking off. And the one thing that young people have in their favor is that they’re much more mobile than older workers. They can move to where the jobs are and they can acquire skills that are needed for the economy of the future. So any program that we can get to get people attached to the labor market by growing skills and skill development within young people, can only help their future employment picture going forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nela Richardson a Senior Economist from Bloomberg. Thanks so much for joining us.

    NELA RICHARDSON: Thank you.

    The post Unemployment rates are higher for young people, minorities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The U.S. Justice Department plans to extend privileges and protections for same-sex married couples in federal court, according to excerpts released from a speech Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to give Saturday evening.

    Based on the excerpts, long-standing spousal privilege will be extended to same-sex couples. This protection allows spouses to avoid incriminating one another in federal court cases.

    Same-sex spouses will also see changes in federal prison visitation policies, and will be allowed to file for joint bankruptcy.

    “In every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said in prepared remarks to the Human Rights Campaign in New York.

    According to the New York Times, the government estimates more than 1,100 federal regulations, rights and laws either touch on or are affected by marital status.

    The Justice Department’s plan to extend these marital privileges to same-sex couples comes on the heels of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages honored in 17 states.

    The post Same-sex married couples to receive more privileges in federal court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 02/08/14--17:09: Saturday, February 8, 2014
  • On this edition, a rare alliance brings major drug companies together to fight serious diseases like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Later, in our signature segment, a financially strapped city struggles to fulfill its obligations to retired public employees. And, a look behind the latest numbers to see who has been hardest hit by unemployment in today’s labor market.

    The post Saturday, February 8, 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 02/09/14--07:31: What we’re watching Sunday
  • Snowden used cheap software to gather NSA files

    Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden used a low-cost software tool to gather the sensitive intelligence files he leaked to media outlets, according to a report in the New York Times.

    A senior intelligence official told the Times that Snowden used a “web crawler” program to “scrape” the NSA system while he did his daily work.

    Seats going unfilled in Sochi venues

    As the first weekend of the 2014 Winter Olympics is coming to a close, reports from Sochi show organizers may be having a problem filling the seats.

    Photos from various media outlets show sparsely filled stands and the Wall Street Journal reported small crowds at events in the Olympic Park and “mountain cluster” venues. In January, organizers said more than 80 percent of tickets had been sold.

    Bangladesh factory owners surrender, charged with homicide

    The two factory owners linked to a deadly garment factory fire in Bangladesh have turned themselves in to authorities on Sunday. The husband and wife pair, Delwar Hossain and Mahmuda Akter, owned the building, which caught on fire and killed 112 people in 2012.

    Hossain and Akter face a seven-year minimum sentence for homicide charges. There are 11 others charged in the case, with four still at large.

    The building did not have emergency exits and workers discovered the gates were locked from the outside when they tried to evacuate.

    The post What we’re watching Sunday appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a roundtable discussion held by Univision between parents of elementary school children and politicians regarding language learning and preschool on February 4, 2014 in New York City. Many states, New York included, are on the path to creating preschool education for children under the age of five. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a roundtable discussion on education in New York City. As Clinton considers a second presidential bid, progressives wonder whether she will move to the left or straddle the political center. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON — As Hillary Rodham Clinton mulls a second presidential bid, liberals are closely watching whether the onetime supporter of the Iraq war moves to the left or straddles the center.

    Democrats say economic issues such as raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security have become paramount for anyone aiming to lead the party after years of tough economic times.

    During the 2008 primary campaign against Barack Obama, Clinton was hurt by her stand on the Iraq war while she was a senator. But she burnished her image among party loyalists during four years at the State Department in the Obama administration. Now liberals want to see how she might carry the torch from Obama.

    “We’re going to see income inequality play the same role that the war in Iraq played in 2008,” said Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group. “This is less about what she did before. The issue landscape right now is very different than in 2008.”

    Whether a viable Clinton alternative emerges for the 2016 campaign remains a looming question.

    Vice President Joe Biden is leaving his options open. Some liberals hope Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will reconsider statements that she has no plans to run. Others point to ex-Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who addressed a progressive group in Iowa in December, or Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering a presidential run but endorsed Clinton in 2007.

    Liberals have backed efforts by Warren to expand Social Security benefits instead of trimming them to keep the program solvent. In a speech at Colgate University last year, Clinton suggested she shared Obama’s approach for a “grand bargain” style deficit reduction that would include increases to tax revenue and adjustments to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

    Progressives want Clinton to take a tougher stand on Wall Street. They grumble about her speeches at private financial conferences, where she can command fees of $200,000.

    “It’s a big unknown on where Hillary Clinton stands on issues like core economic populist issues,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He said there are “a lot of people who want to support her and are rooting for her to adapt to the times” but if she doesn’t, there will be room for a challenger.

    On Super Bowl Sunday, liberals reacted favorably when Clinton urged fellow Democrats to avoid tougher penalties against Iran as the administration negotiates a comprehensive nuclear deal.

    “I have no doubt that this is the time to give our diplomacy the space to work,” Clinton wrote Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

    During the game, Clinton took a humorous swipe at Fox News, a frequent target of liberals. She posted on Twitter that it was “so much more fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed and sacked!”

    Last Tuesday, she sat in an East Harlem Head Start classroom with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to promote reading for Hispanic children. Clinton raised money for de Blasio’s campaign and joined her husband at the mayor’s inauguration, where former President Bill Clinton embraced de Blasio’s agenda of fighting economic inequalities.

    During Hillary Clinton’s White House run in 2008, her 2002 Senate vote to authorize military force in Iraq gave an opening to Obama. He had opposed the use of force as an Illinois state senator and used the vote to energize his supporters.

    Liberals deemed Clinton too hawkish on defense and wondered if the New York senator was too closely aligned with Wall Street and would continue the centrist policies of her husband.

    Last year, liberals pressured Obama not to choose Lawrence Summers, a former Clinton treasury secretary, as Federal Reserve chairman, and have said Wall Street executives wrongly escaped prosecution for the near financial collapse of 2008.

    Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who sought the party’s presidential nomination in 2004, said he expected Hillary Clinton to face a primary challenge. But Dean predicted she would “satisfy a large number of Democratic voters, including a large number of progressives.”

    “There are going to be issues where there is disagreement on. You can never please everyone,” Dean said. “The people who are not going to be pleased are well-organized voices and not a lot of votes.”

    Asked if he were considering running again, Dean was blunt: “Nope. Not as long as Hillary’s in.”

    Clinton’s supporters say she always has embodied the central tenets of liberalism, the idea that government can address social problems and inequities. They point to a career that began with the Children’s Defense Fund, where she walked door to door in New Bedford, Mass., to understand why students were delinquent. She discovered many skipped school because of financial hardships or disabilities.

    “She’s clearly been a progressive,” said de Blasio, who cited her 1996 book, “It Takes a Village,” as a precursor to his prekindergarten initiative.

    Others note that becoming the first female president would represent progress from the outset.

    Clinton endorsed gay marriage shortly after stepping down as secretary of state last year, and she defended the Voting Rights Act, putting her in step with the party’s base. At her family’s foundation, she has promoted economic and educational opportunities for women and children, a lifelong passion.

    On Twitter, Clinton has expressed support for women living in poverty and for extending unemployment benefits.

    “In my mind we have a different Hillary than we had in 2008,” said Nancy Bobo, a Democratic activist from Des Moines, Iowa, who backed Obama.

    Yet questions remain.

    When the Clinton Foundation released its annual list of financial supporters, which it does voluntarily, it underscored the corporate support the family’s charitable organization has received, with cumulative donations of between $500,000 and $1 million from the Bank of America Foundation, Barclays PLC and ExxonMobil.

    Others are watching how she will address the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices — at Colgate, she called for a “comprehensive discussion” on the security measures — along with her views of a major trans-Pacific trade deal opposed by labor unions, and a proposed Canada-to-U.S. oil pipeline that environmentalists revile.

    In the coming months, Clinton will speak at the University of Miami, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Connecticut, putting her before youthful audiences. Some progressives say they hope Clinton will consider addressing the annual Netroots Nation convention, set for Detroit in July.

    “It’s a new world out there,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. “And we want to see that Hillary Clinton is adapting to the new world.”

    Associated Press reporter Ken Thomas wrote this report. Follow him on Twitter.

    The post As Clinton considers presidential bid, progressives keep a close watch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Bangalore street scene

    Listen to the Audio

    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 benefiting 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?


    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.

    High-tech worker in Bangalore startup

    High-tech worker in Bangalore start-up

    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.


    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.

    Iphone photo Bangalore


    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.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: I mean, it’s just the numbers are stacked against you when—


    HARI SREENIVASAN: –you decide to take on a venture like this.


    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.

    The post High-tech entrepreneurs flock to India appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    For decades, India’s technology sector has been dominated by service companies, which have made the country the outsourcing capital of the world.

    But today, we’re seeing an uptick of entrepreneurship in India, driven by start-ups focused on software and applications for both the domestic market in India, as well as for global markets.

    But creating a profitable business is not the only goal of many entrepreneurs. Some have founded start-ups with an underlying social mission: from a video hub service that helps rural farmers to a company that matches unconnected Indians with better jobs.

    The latter is the work of Sean Blagsvedt, who originally moved to Bangalore, India in 2004 to set up Microsoft’s research center. But in 2007, Blagsvedt started Babajob, a platform to help workers in India’s informal workforce find better jobs.

    Indians who have no access to computers, but looking for work as drivers, nannies, or cooks, for instance, can use their cell phones to text or call Babajob and connect with potential employers.

    “We’re at about two million people thus far that are using us to try to find a better job and hire others,” he said.

    “Now we just have the other 998 million [to go].”

    NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan reports from Bangalore and Mumbai on the high-tech entrepreneurs who are building companies to serve the enormous potential market in India and the world.

    The post Expatriate entrepreneur uses tech to help Indians find jobs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pakistan’s economy is showing signs of improvement with growth rates expected to hit 3.1 percent in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to a statement by the International Monetary Fund on Sunday.

    Pakistani labourers prepare a steel pillar at a construction site in Lahore on January 21, 2014. Pakistan's central bank estimated economic growth for the current fiscal year of up to four percent, surpassing forecasts by international agencies. AFP PHOTO/Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

    Pakistani workers prepare a steel pillar at a construction site in Lahore in January. Growth in the manufacturing and service sectors have spurred economic improvement in Pakistan. Credit: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

    The IMF’s mission chief to Pakistan Jeffrey Franks issued the statement after a week of meetings between the IMF Staff Mission and Pakistani authorities in Dubai.

    The meetings served as a review for the status of the $6.7 billion loan agreement Pakistan signed with the IMF in September — just six years after the country received an IMF bailout.

    “The IMF mission held constructive discussions with government and central bank officials on the economic performance under the EFF program and is encouraged by the overall progress made in pushing ahead with policies to strengthen macroeconomic stability and reviving economic growth,” Franks said in the statement.

    According to Franks, large scale manufacturing and growth in the service sector are driving the GDP boost. Other factors include reforms on the country’s electricity sector and measures to finance government debt.

    In order to secure the loan, Pakistan committed to increasing growth and improving financial stability, while implementing measures to reduce deficit, reduce pervasive electricity shortages and increase the country’s poor rate of tax collection.

    “I think we have taken very painful measures, which were partially politically unpopular, but I think they were needed by the country and it has not only changed the direction of the economy… it has put us on the road of recovery and stability,” Pakistan’s Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar said.

    While the IMF statement highlighted Pakistan’s economic improvement, the organization expects inflation rates in the country to increase from 7.9 percent to 10 percent this year.

    As part of the agreement the IMF will conduct periodic reviews to approve loan installments. The loan will be awarded in installments of $550 million over three years.

    The IMF will conduct its next review in March.

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    The Winter Olympics in Sochi have just begun, but attention is already turning to the 2018 games to be held in South Korea.

    Four years from now, the games will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea — not far from the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea. Despite hopes that the countries might unite for the games, organizers say the neighboring nations have not talked about the possibility of a joint team.

    Some lawmakers have reportedly advocated for uniting the teams from both countries, but the organizing committee chief Kim Jin-sun said the nations have not had “official discussions” about this idea.

    “I believe it would contribute to peace, so we will explore some joint programs,” he said. “However, it will be contingent on an improvement in overall inter-Korean relations first. It’s a task we need to try.”

    Kim said the committee is currently focusing its energy on securing local sponsorships. Organizers expect these sponsorship deals to bring in $600 million in revenue.

    The operational budget for the Pyeongchang games is set at $2 billion, with much of that going towards infrastructure projects such as a high-speed rail line.

    The city already has many existing facilities and venues for the competition itself.

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    Civilians wait to be evacuated from the besieged district of the central Syrian city of Homs by United Nations (UN) staff to a safer location, on February 9, 2014. Aid teams evacuated hundreds of exhausted civilians from besieged districts of the city of Homs, as Syria's regime and rebels again accused each other of violating a truce. AFP PHOTO / BASSEL TAWIL (Photo credit should read BASSEL TAWIL/AFP/Getty Images)

    Civilians wait to be evacuated from the central Syrian city of Homs on Feb. 9, 2014. Credit: Bassel Tawil/AFP/Getty Images)

    Hundreds of civilians seeking to flee the besieged Syrian city of Homs were evacuated on Sunday.

    Aid groups were also able to deliver much-needed food and medical supplies to the residents left behind in the stricken city.

    In total, more than 600 were evacuated from Homs, but Al-Jazeera, citing the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said five were killed by mortar shells and two from gunfire.

    The evacuation was part of a three-day ceasefire that began Friday between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and armed rebels.

    Forces loyal to Assad have blockaded rebel-held parts of the city for over a year.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, more about our lead story: those talks going on this weekend between International Atomic Energy Agency officials and Iran — talks ultimately designed to make it impossible for that country to produce a nuclear weapon.

    For more, we are joined now from Washington by David Albright. He is one of the leading experts on Iran’s nuclear program and is president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

    So, without being too technical for a wider audience, what’s noteworthy about these steps Iran agreed to take?

     DAVID ALBRIGHT: There are several steps that are quite interesting. There’s a couple steps that have to do with this Arak heavy water reactor that’s been in the spotlight and it appears the IAEA is not getting the information it needs from Iran yet and so two of the steps are that the IAEA can get that information so then can inspect that reactor effectively. One of the steps centers what was an old secret laser enrichment facility that Iran shut down prior to 2004 and had operated outside of the IAEA inspection system and was viewed as a violation of their safeguards obligations. The facility is not thought to be involved in laser enrichment. But the IAEA likes to go there and see what’s going on – it still evidently does a lot of laser research and development and so it’s going to get information about and then visit the site for the first time since 2000.

    Probably the most significant step is to try to open the door and get Iran’s cooperation on the military dimensions or the alleged military dimensions of its nuclear program. And so Iran has agreed to provide information that the IAEA needs to talk about what are called exploding or electrical bridge-wire experiments and developments. And that’s a part, that if used in a certain way, is very important in the development of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA has information that suggests that the most likely purpose of these experiments that were done by Iran were related to a nuclear weapon. Iran has denied that and said ‘no, no it’s non-nuclear purposes.’ And the IAEA has additional information that has cast doubt, in their minds, on Iran’s statement and so it remains an outstanding issue that needs to be addressed.  And if Iran wants it could actually use that opportunity in the next couple of months to change its story. One possibility is that it could say ‘yeah, yeah, that was related to nuclear weapons development’ and open the door to a more fruitful set of discussions about the military dimensions of its program. At the same time it could decide to continue with its previous story that it had nothing to do with nuclear weapons and it may again lead to nothing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So it seems that there’s two tracks here.  One is to try to figure out what Iran used to do in terms of trying to develop a nuclear weapon or weaponize it. And then there’s another track about what they could do in the future.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT: That’s right and they are linked though. It’s very hard if you are an IAEA inspector or analyst to say we can give you confidence that there’s not a weapons program today if you don’t know about the past. Because you don’t know what was done. You don’t know what they accomplished. You don’t know where they did it. You don’t know who did it. And therefore that whole infrastructure that was created could pop back into existence at any point in secret and move forward on nuclear weapons.  So the history is very important and I think the IAEA has made it clear in this case and others that it can’t give Iran a clean bill of health until it understands the history.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the weeks leading up to these talks it seems that these positions have gotten more hardened in terms that the US wants the entire nuclear program dismantled and the Iranians want all the sanctions gone.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT: Well, the US is willing to give on the size of the program. It’s willing to accept a nuclear program that involves gas centrifuges and reactors. That’s a major concession on the part of the United States.  And, certainly the Iranians want all sanctions removed. But the trouble is that that is not going to happen unless they make very significant concessions toward the US side and they haven’t shown a great deal of willingness to do that.  And so the chance of these negotiations working right now is not very high but it’s seen as worth the attempt.  And sides do change.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  David Albright joining us from Washington thanks so much.

     DAVID ALBRIGHT:  Thank you.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: While the conversation about income inequality in Washington takes on a political dimension, to businesses, it’s all about numbers. How much consumers do or don’t spend.

    The latest information suggests that the middle class just isn’t spending as much as it used to — and certainly not nearly as much as the rich do.

    Here to explain what the income divide means for businesses, we are joined by New York Times reporter Nelson Schwartz.

    So in your story you looked at everything from refrigerators to hotel rooms — what are the businesses telling you?

    NELSON SCHWARTZ: Basically that things are pretty stagnant in the middle of the economic sphere.  Basically at the upper end – upper-end restaurants doing well. In the middle tier it’s a very different story.  I looked, in the restaurant space, at Olive Garden and Red Lobster are having a hard whereas Capitol Grill is doing very well. They are all owned by the same company, Darden. It’s just very, very different trends. It’s not as if people don’t like the food at Olive Garden or Red Lobster because we’re seeing the same thing going on in hotels, casinos and stores. Like Loehmann’s is going out of business; Sears and JC Penny having a hard time but the dollar stores doing well. You’re really seeing it in sector after sector.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what’s contributing to these divergent trends? Why are perhaps the rich spending more or the middle class spending less?

    NELSON SCHWARTZ: I think it’s a couple of things. Primarily it’s that people who own assets like real estate, like stocks are doing very well. The stock market is up – the housing market — big rebounds since 2008. If you’re just depending on salaries though there is no growth in income. I think that’s a big factor.  Even as costs of things like healthcare and education are going up so what are middle class people going to cut back on? They’re going to cut back on going to restaurants. They’re going to cut back on shopping for clothes and that kind of thing. I think that’s really driving it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what are the longer-term consequences if there’s a middle class that’s eroding its purchasing power?

    NELSON SCHWARTZ: The problem is that the economy can grow just based on consumption growth at the very, very top end. Just putting aside questions of fairness or social mobility – the economy can grow, but it can’t grow that fast. So let’s say right now the economy is growing at two percent which isn’t enough to bring down unemployment very substantially. It can grow at that pace but we’d like to see growth at say three, three and a half percent like we saw in the 90s and that’s not going to happen if the bottom 80 percent of the population is left behind in terms of benefitting from growth.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So when you look at those numbers the bottom 80 percent is spending about as much as the top five percent are.

    NELSON SCHWARTZ: The growth, basically we found working with economists at the Washington University of St. Louis and the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, we found that basically if you looked at how much of the consumption growth came from the different categories. Basically, the top 20 percent consumption increased about 17 percent; whereas consumption has only grown about one percent from the bottom 80. So that increase is really driven by wealthier households.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nelson Schwarz from the New York Times thanks so much.

    NELSON SCHWARTZ: Great to be here.

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  • 02/09/14--16:51: Sunday, February 9, 2014
  • On tonight’s program, Iran produces new information about its nuclear program. Later, in our signature segment, a look a how high-tech entrepreneurs are creating a startup culture in India. And, what growing income inequality means for middle class-serving businesses in the United States.

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    Photo by Flickr user Kecko

    Even though Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU, its citizens reap the benefits of passport-free movement across European borders. But with new immigration controls passed by referendum.Photo by Flickr user Kecko

    In a vote Sunday, Swiss citizens passed a referendum to enforce immigration quotas for people from European Union countries. The vote, which narrowly passed with 50.4 percent support, conflicts with “free movement of people” agreements between the European Union and Switzerland.

    Currently, Swiss citizens can cross several European borders without a passport. But European Parliament President Martin Schulz said that Sunday’s vote for tighter immigration controls, “could affect the Swiss population and their free movement in the EU as well.”

    Switzerland’s population has grown annually on average by 74,000 from 2007 to 2012. University of Zurich lecturer Michael Hermann told Bloomberg News that this growth has made many nervous.

    “The quick population growth led to anxiety about social change, and people felt Switzerland was losing its identity.”

    Swiss business leaders told the AP that immigrants are vital to the nation’s economy and any curb on immigration would cost Swiss citizens’ jobs as well. In the nation’s lucrative chemical, pharaceutical and biotech industry, for example, 45 percent of employees aren’t Swiss.

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    Dumb Starbucks

    Photo of Dumb Starbucks coffee by flickr user Mondale

    In the name of art, a coffee shop using the Starbucks logo and name has managed to stay open in Los Angeles for three days.

    Dumb Starbucks — the name of the shop, not the opinion of this writer — says it’s legally open under “parody law.”

    The coffee shop’s FAQ stated:

    By adding the word ‘dumb,’ we are technically “making fun” of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as ‘fair use.’

    Since its grand opening, people have swarmed to the store to pick up free Dumb Brewed Coffee, Dumb Venti, Dumb Grande and Dumb Tall Dumb Frappuccinos.

    In the meantime, Starbucks spokesperson Megan Adam told KPCC that the original Starbucks corporation is currently looking into the legality of the parody shop’s name.

    The jury is out on whether this is a genius idea or a dumb mistake.

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    ACA site

    The NewsHour will have Bloomberg’s Alex Wayne on Monday’s program to discuss the Obama administration’s announcement that medium-sized employers will receive a one-year delay in implementing health care coverage for their workers.

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is giving another delay to business groups concerned about the health care law’s requirement that larger firms cover their workers.

    The Treasury Department announced Monday that companies with 50 to 99 employees have an additional year to comply with the coverage mandate, until January 1, 2016.

    For businesses with 100 or more employees the requirement will still take effect in 2015. But other newly announced provisions may help some of those firms.

    The employer requirement was originally supposed to take effect this year for companies with 50 or more workers. The administration delayed it last year, the first sign of potential problems with the rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    Under the law, companies with fewer than 50 employees don’t have to offer coverage.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Businesses have won a second major delay in complying with the president’s health care law. The Treasury Department today announced that medium-sized companies with 50 to 99 employees will get an extra year, until January 2016, before facing tax penalties. Larger firms still have to comply next year, but only for 70 percent of full-time workers. Companies with fewer than 50 workers remain exempt. We will explore what’s behind the announcement right after the news summary.

    Peace talks between the government of Syria and the opposition resumed today in Geneva. There were no immediate signs of progress. Back in Syria, the Red Crescent said that another 300 civilians were evacuated from the besieged city of Homs. We will have a close-up look at the situation there later in the program.

    In Iraq, a group of insurgents-in-training accidentally set off their own car bomb, killing 21 people. Police say the would-be terrorists had gathered near the city of Samarra in an orchard, when the bomb exploded. In addition to those who died, two dozen suspects were arrested.

    The month-long flooding that’s drowned huge swathes of Southern England is still getting worse. The Thames River burst its banks today 20 miles upstream of London, inundating small towns and villages.

    We have a report from Tom Clarke of Independent Television News.

    TOM CLARKE: It started as a flooding crisis. It’s now an all-out war on water.

    The flooding far below is now into its eighth week. And these fields around the submerged village of Moorland are the new front line. But the earth works aren’t to save the village, but keep the floodwater where it is.

    To protect the town of Bridgwater from almost inevitable flooding, they’re throwing up an emergency dike across there as fast as the diggers can dig it. Then these pipes and pumps fresh off the boat from Holland are going in a new river channel that’s being dug there to try and get the water from behind the dike into the River Parrett, which drains to the sea. The problem they have got is if there’s more floodwater than those pumps can handle, anyone living on this side of the dike is going to experience worse flooding than they have done already.

    There’s growing anxiety here about whether homes and livelihoods are being sacrificed to keep others dry. Beyond, the row continues over whether the environment agency has failed on floods. Visiting seed offenses in Dorset, the prime minister refused to back the agency’s chair attacked by ministers over the weekend.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: This is the time to get on and do everything we can.

    QUESTION: You back him.

    DAVID CAMERON: I back the environment agency. I back the work they are doing. Everyone has got to get on with the job that they’re doing. That’s all I’m interested in at the moment.

    QUESTION: So he certainly shouldn’t resign?

    DAVID CAMERON: There will be time for later on to talk about these things. Right now, everybody has got to focus on the job in hand.

    TOM CLARKE: To defend his staff on the ground, today, Lord Smith hit back.

    CHRIS SMITH, Chairman, Environment Agency: The chairman is here to be a punch bag, to stand up and take the flak. But my staff are doing a hugely dedicated, very professional job. These are exceptional circumstances.

    And every time, it’s the worst ever, it’s the highest ever, it’s the longest ever. And that means that all our old assumptions about what flood defenses the country means are almost certainly not good enough.

    TOM CLARKE: Few on the ground in the Somerset Levels would disagree with that. Ever since people have lived here, they have had to cope with floods. But there’s a realization that this is something new.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: England has been battered by a string of storms, producing its wettest January since 1766, when King George III was on the throne.

    As of today, same-sex married couples in the U.S. have gained more legal rights under federal law. Attorney General Eric Holder announced it over the weekend. The change includes those living in states that do not recognize gay marriage. Among other things, the policy means gay couples do not have to testify against one another in court, and they will be able to file for bankruptcy jointly.

    A college football standout has announced that he’s gay three months before he takes part in the NFL draft. Michael Sam is an all-American defensive end at the University of Missouri. He made his announcement in interviews overnight. We will have a full report on Sam’s coming out and the reaction later in the program.

    The Deep South braced today for its second major winter storm in two weeks. Two inches of snow paralyzed the Atlanta metro area two weeks ago.

    Now the region is expecting rain and snow tomorrow, followed by sleet and freezing rain on Wednesday.

    In advance, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has declared an emergency for nearly a third of the state.

    GOV. NATHAN DEAL, R-Ga.: We’re not looking back. We’re looking forward. The next three days are going to be challenging days for the state and for local government and for private entities. We want to make sure that we are as prepared as possible and that we can respond as quickly as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The previous storm triggered an epic traffic jam that left thousands of cars abandoned on highways and students trapped on buses or at schools. This time, Atlanta-area schools have canceled classes for tomorrow, and many workers have been told to stay home.

    The weather is also an issue at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but because it’s so warm. It was 61 degrees Fahrenheit there today, and ski jumpers had to stop practice when the snow got too soft. As for the day’s results, a spoiler alert. Tune out for a moment, if you don’t want to know who won just yet.

    But, in skiing, American Julia Mancuso took bronze in the women’s super-combined ski event. The gold went to Germany. Canadian athletes won the men’s moguls and the 1,500-meter speed-skating event.

    French President Francois Hollande has arrived in the U.S. to begin his state visit. He traveled with President Obama to Charlottesville, Virginia, today, where they toured Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate. The third American president once served as an ambassador to France. Hollande is traveling alone, after a recent separation from his longtime partner over revelations he’d had an affair with an actress.

    U.S. immigration rules are easing for those seeking asylum here who might have a form of past connection to a terrorist. Since 9/11, anyone believed to have given even limited material support to terrorist groups was automatically banned from the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security says this change gives it flexibility to consider more of an applicant’s background.

    On Wall Street, it was a relatively quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained seven points to close near 15,802. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 4,148.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The health care law’s mandate for midsize and larger employers was originally supposed to take effect this year. Now, in a surprise move, the Obama administration has decided to delay part of that mandate for a second time. Midsized businesses get another year before facing a penalty. And the government is easing the requirements for large companies as well.

    It’s also prompting renewed criticism from Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner who argue the individual insurance mandate should also be repealed.

    Reporter Alex Wayne follows all this for Bloomberg News, and he joins us again.

    Welcome back to the program.

    ALEX WAYNE, Bloomberg News: Thanks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So spell out exactly what these changes are that were just announced a couple of hours ago.

    ALEX WAYNE: Sure.

    So companies that employ between 50 and 99 workers now don’t have to worry about this mandate that they provide health insurance coverage at all until 2016. Companies that employ 100 people or more will have to comply with the mandate starting next year in 2015, but they only have to cover 70 percent of their workers in 2015.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So here it is early February. We thought all this was coming. Why did the administration make the change?

    ALEX WAYNE: So they were under a lot of pressure from business groups, trade associations and lobbying groups, to give these companies a lot of notice before any rules were set in stone, so that they have as much time as possible to prepare. And that is why they released them now, so that these companies have the rest of the year to prepare for these changes and make whatever changes they need to make to their own health benefits programs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Was there a hint that this was coming?

    ALEX WAYNE: Not much. We knew that they were working on this regulation. We knew it was going to come out early in the year.

    We didn’t know really that they were going to make these broad changes to really the letter of the law. I think it caught a lot of the town by surprise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do we know how many businesses are affected by this, whether they’re the big ones or the medium-sizes ones?

    ALEX WAYNE: Different numbers going on.

    The administration says that 96 percent of all U.S. businesses aren’t affected by the mandate at all. They are too small. They’re under 50 workers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifty or fewer.

    ALEX WAYNE: Right, you don’t have to cover any of your workers if you employ that number of people.

    But about only 30 million Americans work for companies that small. So, given the rest of the population, most Americans are working for companies that are going to have to provide health insurance at some point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do you — I mean, clearly, Republicans are being critical, saying the president should extend this to the individual mandate to repeal that. Do we know, is it too soon to know who likes this, who doesn’t like it?  What are you picking up?

    ALEX WAYNE: Business groups are very happy about it. They were actually surprised, pleasantly surprised. They weren’t expecting this much flexibility really, so no complaints there. Republicans, as you said, think that all of these allowances for companies should be extended to regular Americans.

    I think it’s hard to disconnect this from the election calendar too. The congressional elections are coming up in November. And this change is going to mean that a lot of small businesses that would otherwise have to be figuring out how to change their benefits programs in the fall to comply with Obamacare don’t have to worry about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what is your — I mean, you have been reporting on this nonstop for months.

    ALEX WAYNE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it your sense that there could be still more changes to come?  Do you think this is the last in a series of changes we’re going to see?  How do you read how the administration is dealing with it all?

    ALEX WAYNE: Honestly, it’s hard to guess at this point. They seem to make changes as problems arise in order — I suppose the administration would say they’re trying to be pragmatic and they’re trying to deal with issues that are brought to their attention.

    In this case, they got a lot of comments from the business community about this set of rules in particular. If we’re talking about the individual mandate, I wouldn’t expect many changes before the end of the year. I think people are still going to have to comply with that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Give us a flavor, Alex, of what businesses were saying. What were they saying and how were they saying it to the administration?

    ALEX WAYNE: Right.

    Well, the how is they were lobbying them. And the way that is done with the administration in Washington is you write letters to the administration, essentially, laying out your viewpoint. But the things that they wanted were more flexibility, more time, in a nutshell. They wanted to cover fewer workers. For instance, there’s been a lot of concern about covering part-time workers and people right at this threshold of 30 hours.

    Another break they got today, they won’t have to cover seasonal workers, people who work six months or less per year. That’s another ask from business. They pretty much got a lot of what they wanted here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but the administration had been talking to them about what changes to make?  I mean…

    ALEX WAYNE: Oh, sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There were conversations?

    ALEX WAYNE: Oh, absolutely.

    There’s — there’s — I don’t want to call it an open-door policy for the administration and business groups, but if you are a large business group in town, somebody like the National Retail Federation, the Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, you can get in the door at the Treasury Building or in the White House itself, and you can have your voice heard.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So just in a nutshell, to wrap this up, Alex Wayne, what — who are the folks out there then who won’t get coverage as soon as they thought they were going to?

    ALEX WAYNE: So, if you are a worker of a company that employs between 50 and 99 people, and your company doesn’t cover — doesn’t offer insurance right now, they’re probably to the going to offer it next year either. So you should probably prepare to go seek coverage on your own.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Those are the main folks?

    ALEX WAYNE: Those are the main folks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then — and perhaps some of the larger companies as well?

    ALEX WAYNE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Alex Wayne with Bloomberg News, thank you very much.

    ALEX WAYNE: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the humanitarian situation in Syria.

    Aid officials rushed today to evacuate more women, children and elderly from the blockaded city of Homs after a fragile cease-fire there was extended for three more days.

    Patrick McDonnell has been reporting on the evacuation in Homs for the Los Angeles Times. He spoke to us via Skype from Damascus just a short time ago.

    Patrick McDonnell, thank you very much for talking with us.

    Now that we know the cease-fire is being extended, what is the situation in Homs?

    PATRICK MCDONNELL, Los Angeles Times: Well, the situation in the Old City is extremely delicate.

    As you know, there was a three-day operation in which something like more than 700 people were evacuated from old Homs. Some aid was delivered. However, there were extensive mortar attacks and gunfire attacks on the convoy. And a number of civilians were killed, at least 10, to our knowledge.

    So it is a very delicate operation, but it has gotten a lot of international attention. It has been mentioned in Geneva. And I think the government of Syria, which is looking for some international support from the United Nations, really wants it to work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you know about what people there on the ground are saying, what they believe about how it’s going?

    PATRICK MCDONNELL: Frankly, among government supporters, there is quite a lot of resentment about the fact that the food is being brought in to rebels who, in the view of many people in government-controlled areas, have, you know, wrought havoc on the country.

    So there’s quite a lot of resentment on this. So I think the government is hearing that. I was there last night when they brought up some of the people from the Old City, and we were surprised to see quite a few young men fighting, even more than 100. And I was standing with some Syrian army people. They were upset to see young men coming out.

    And so there is a mixed opinion. At the same time, I think there’s a recognition that the Syrian government is looking, you know, for — is looking for some international support. And they’re under pressure to provide humanitarian aid. And this is one way to do it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know there has been shooting, there has been violence since the cease-fire was supposed to have gotten under way. Who is responsible for that?

    PATRICK MCDONNELL: Well, I think, you know, like a lot of things in Syria, really, it is a bit of an imponderable. Each side blames the other. Each side theoretically would have reasons to want to fire on the convoys.

    So we really don’t know. I hate to give that answer, but I don’t think we know definitively. Listen, it’s been more than six months since the chemical attacks outside of Damascus here, or something like six months. We still don’t know definitively who did those.

    So it’s been a lot of — massacres, it’s been hard to know who did them. So, again, these mortar strikes and these attacks on the convoys, just don’t — we have another situation where each side blames the other and who exactly was responsible is not something we can ascertain.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us who is in Homs right now. What are the conditions like for people living there?

    PATRICK MCDONNELL: The conditions are obviously very, very primitive.

    We did talk to some people who came out particularly the first day. There was some (AUDIO GAP) food, but not a lot of food. People talked about — it is getting a little bit warmer here. There are some greens growing wild in lots and, you know, in yards.

    People are afraid to leave their homes. One gentleman told me, “I was afraid if I stuck my head out the window, it could be blasted into a dozen pieces.”

    So it’s obviously very grim. There is very little medical care. Until the aid went in on Saturday, there hadn’t been a real — an official delivery of aid for more than 18 months. So the situation in there is very grim. The estimates are, there were something like 2,500 people in there, although it was a rough estimate.

    And they have gotten about 700 out. So I think the aid workers suspect there’s about 200 in there. Some of them are elderly and infirm. There is a Christian population of perhaps 100 people in there, according to some clerics I spoke to.

    And many of them are elderly and having trouble getting to the spot where they are being picked up. So there are — no Christians came out in those three days, so they’re hoping to get some of them out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that was one of my questions about — is everyone who would like to get out able to get out, especially the elderly, the disabled?  I had read that there were people with disabilities who were killed.

    PATRICK MCDONNELL: Quite possibly, there were. We don’t know about who those 10 or so people who were killed. Very possibly, there were.

    No, I think it is extremely difficult. We were told again by — I mean, it’s very difficult. It was an extraordinarily difficult operation to arrange. And they managed to find a neutral point to pick people up, and it kind of worked. But there was shelling.

    But, still, there are — there are — we have been told it’s more than a half-hour walk for some people, including walks through tunnels. And, remember, there are many rebel factions inside the Old City, and not all of them are necessarily on board with this truce.

    So I think that there is going to be an effort to kind of reach out a lot more to people who are elderly or disabled, so that they can get closer to them during the evacuation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Patrick McDonnell, following what is supposed to have been a cease-fire attempt to evacuate people, get relief into the city of Homs, thank you.

    PATRICK MCDONNELL: My pleasure, Judy.

    The post Homs evacuations continue amid delicate ceasefire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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