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

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    UKRAINE-UNREST-EU-RUSSIA-POLITICS

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The potential breakthrough in Ukraine today was lauded by leaders of the opposition, but many protesters are still calling for the president to step down immediately.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And joining us once again to look at today’s peace deal is Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    Welcome back.

    So, do we know, first, what finally forced this agreement?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, The Atlantic Council: I think a panic on the part of Mr. Yanukovych that he was losing control and I think a sort of a sense that his backing is collapsing.

    Yesterday, the Parliament had met, and a clear majority, including defectors from his ruling party, signaled that, you know, the bottom had fallen out of his base of support within the Ukrainian establishment, that part of it that had supported him. So I think he was almost forced into this kind of a step.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, we heard earlier in the program of some of the key elements here, earlier elections, limit on presidential powers. How definitive are these — are these strictures at this point?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, today, the Parliament, with a vast majority, with a veto-proof majority, returned to the 2004 constitution, which basically gives the president the right to appoint the foreign minister and the defense minister.

    But, for example, the militia, the head of the militia, the police, is appointed by the Parliament. The government is shaped in effect by a coalition of political parties that shape the majority, and then deal among themselves for the distribution of many of these posts. So, I think politics will be drifting away from Mr. Yanukovych’s purview.

    He still for the moment, in this transition period until a new government is in place, has the capacity to create a lot of mischief and a lot of trouble, and potentially there’s still possibilities of violence. But fundamentally I think power is driving from Mr. Yanukovych. And even though there’s talk about an election no later than December, I believe Mr. Yanukovych will be gone in a matter of weeks, if not a matter of days.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Of course, as we have heard, many of the demonstrators want him gone immediately. Right? So, there’s still a lot of concern about whether this agreement will hold for them, whether they will abide by it.

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, I think that they will.

    I think there’s a lot of anger obviously after the terrible events of the last few days. But a bill was already tabled for Mr. Yanukovych’s impeachment. And given the fact that firm majorities and veto-proof majorities have emerged in the Parliament and the elite, including many of Mr. Yanukovych’s former backers, is — is working hand in glove with the opposition suggests that the signal’s being sent that his future is not very secure, even through institutional means.

    So I think that there will be — you know, once a new prosecutor general is appointed, again, not someone that the president, the Parliament can remove and the Parliament approves, all these kinds of changes are going to put Mr. Yanukovych in peril. There will be normal functioning of institutions, meaning that once there’s a government, once there’s a normal prime minister, once there’s a normal prosecutor general, they will conduct investigators.

    Local prosecutors can also conduct investigations for others who have died in the regions and try to trace back where the orders were given, which I think puts Mr. Yanukovych as the ultimate person in charge of the power structures and the police ministries and the militia ministries, puts him in peril under these investigations.

    So I think he will feel very uncomfortable. Today, he left for Kharkov. His plane took off for Eastern Ukraine, where a congress that is trying to stir up some degree of federalism is going to be meeting tomorrow. And I believe he’s heading to Russia the next day. So I think he’s either bargaining for his future or looking for some ability to fight back with a few cards in his hands.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But I want to also ask you — excuse me — I just want to ask you about the importance of the potential release of the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Where does this play into all of this?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, that’s another sign, because that was another veto-proof majority.

    The president might not — it can be dragged out for at least 15 days. The president, if he doesn’t sign the bill, it goes back for a revote in the Parliament. And if the same 310 back it, that law is changed and she’s obligated then — the courts will be empowered to release her and obligated to release her, because the charges under which she was sentenced have been decriminalized.

    So, once she enters into the fray, I think we will have a populist voice and I think it will — I think it will be a little bit destabilizing. But I think there’s kind of a maturity that is present there, a firmness. The chants today in the Maidan used — they used — the chants used to be (SPEAKING UKRAINIAN) which means “Con, be gone,” ex-con, since he served two terms in prison as a young man.

    And the new chants are “Death to the prisoner.”  So there is a call for a capital penalty, even though Ukraine no longer has the death penalty. But there’s rage out there in the public. And I think he is aware of that. It’s been said that some of his valuables are being removed from his lavish residence north of Kiev, which has over 10,000 square — 100,000 square feet and these lavish ponds and lakes in which over $100 million has sunk. Valuables have been removed from his offices in the presidential administration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: And I don’t even know if he’s coming back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Adrian Karatnycky of the Atlantic Council, thank you once again.

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Thank you.

    The post Ukraine’s Yanukovych holds on to presidency in peace deal, but power and backing wanes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    governors

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The nation’s governors have gathered in Washington this week for their winter meeting. And with action in the nation’s capital stymied by partisan gridlock, many are looking to the states for solutions to the country’s challenges.

    For a sample of what’s happening, we are joined by two governors, Tennessee Republican Bill Haslam and Illinois Democrat Pat Quinn.

    Governors, welcome to you both.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM, R-Tenn.: Thanks for having us.

    GOV. PAT QUINN, D-Ill.: Great to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I think, as I just suggested in the introduction, people think, well, with all the polarization in Washington, in the states, things must be a lot less polarized. And yet I was reading a story in The Washington Post which suggests that really what’s happened in the states is kind of what has happened here in Washington, the governor in red states go in one direction, governors in blue states going in another.

    How do you see it, Governor Quinn?

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Well, I hope not.

    When I first became governor five years ago, there was really a pragmatic approach of governors, whatever party, to solve problems, whether it’s building roads or doing early childhood education. Those are fundamental things that I think everybody understands. And I sure hope we keep going, don’t you think, Bill?

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Well, I think what governors have in common is, we’re forced to solve problems.

    In Washington, you can put them off. Governors have to balance their budgets every year, so we have to make some hard decisions. We have to provide real everyday services to people with mental health issues or running prisons or building roads. We live in a much more practical world than probably Washington does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about some of the areas where you can either work together or not. For example, President Obama is urging the governors to either work at the federal level or the state level to raise the minimum wage.

    And I know, Governor Quinn, this is something that’s important to you to get it up from $8.25 to $10.10 an hour. How do you see that issue?

    And, Governor Haslam, how do you see it?

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Sure.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: I’m fired up, ready to go.

    We have a minimum wage right now of $8.25, which is higher than the federal by $1. And we want to get it over $10. I was with the president this morning. And I think he looks forward to working with states around the country to get this done, even if Congress doesn’t act, because there’s a principle as old as the Bible.

    If you work 40 hours a week, if you’re a mom or dad raising kids, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty. And I think this is a value issue. And I think some of the Republican governors need to take another look at this issue, because we really should raise the minimum wage. It’s a fundamental issue for everyday people.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Well, if you look, the Congressional Budget Office come out and said, if you do that, you’re going to lose 500,000 jobs. So, you always have to look at the consequences of an action like that.

    Will this make a dramatic difference in the income inequality issue that we’re talking about? I think it will make some, but I think there’s a lot of other issues that will make more difference. And I think the president’s focus on education, I think long term, will make more difference. I think that’s what you’re seeing out of a lot governors is saying, hey, what we really need to do address income equality is address work force preparation.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Well, we’re doing that too. We invest in early childhood education, making sure we — our community colleges are up to getting our work training going.

    But when they talk about the minimum wage, this is fundamental values issues. It’s as old, I think — and Francis Pope Francis talked about it. Are we going to have a society of inclusion, where hardworking people raising children, moms and dads, get a fair shot?  They’re working hard jobs.

    And I really feel that this is an issue that’s going to be in our country all through this year. And our president’s going to make sure everybody understands it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see it having a chance in your state?

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: I don’t think there’s a big movement to change the minimum wage in Tennessee.

    I think, again, if you look at who is actually on the minimum wage, I’m not certain that those are the families that the president’s talking about addressing. I do think there’s a lot — there’s an issue to address. Income inequality is a fair issue. It’s the right one. I’m just not sure that’s the one that is going to make that big a difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in that connection, Governor Haslam, you were one of the folks in Tennessee who was arguing very much against the United Auto Workers, UAW, having the right to organize workers at a Volkswagen plant.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Right. Right. Right. Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That vote didn’t succeed for the union.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does this really say that organized labor just is not going to have a foothold anywhere in the South, despite the lower wages?

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: No, absolutely not. Organized labor has been there.

    I think the workers — remember, the workers actually at the end of the day got to vote on that. And they had to decide was the valuable proposition there for them or not. Volkswagen is providing great jobs with great opportunities. We thought it was important to be a part of that discussion because the state is a big investor.

    When Volkswagen came, we put together an incentive package for them. And they’re looking at expanding and they’re saying they want to keep their costs down, and so it’s an important piece to us as well.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: I think that was just plain wrong.

    I like Bill. He’s a nice fellow. But that was wrong for a governor to interfere with a union election. We have Ford, Chrysler and Mitsubishi which is organized by the United Auto Workers. All three of those companies, they have grown enormously since I have been governor. We have three shifts at Ford, 4,700 workers at Chrysler. Mitsubishi has a new product line.

    But for a governor to interfere with a union election, just plain wrong. I don’t think you were doing the right thing.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Obviously, what is — the state is an interested player.

    The other thing is Volkswagen came to us. They were looking at expanding and building an SUV line. They said two things. We need you to shrink the cost gap on what it costs to build a car. And number two, we want to attract a network of suppliers closer. Neither — and then neither of those will be easier if the UAW comes.

    Suppliers everywhere had said, we’re interested in coming, but if UAW it comes, flat out we are going to be a lot less interested.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Well, our state, I have Ford and I have Chrysler and I have Mitsubishi. And all of them and their suppliers want to have the workers organized.

    They like to work with people who get a fair wage and decent benefits. And I really think this is a value difference again, whether it’s the minimum wage or the right to organize a union. These are fundamental American issues.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: And so, fundamentally, we let the workers vote and they voted for…

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Yes, but you interfered with the election. That wasn’t right.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: So did the president. The president tried to interfere as well. So…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, let’s move on to another area where I don’t know if there’s agreement. And that is on Medicaid expansion.

    And we know that — we know there’s a lot of dispute in the country still right now about the new health care law. But when it comes to expanding Medicaid, which was offered to the states, it’s something that Illinois is interested in, something Tennessee, you’re still trying to figure out what you’re going to do.

    What is your thinking about that, Governor?

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: We’re trying to work a better way.

    We think more people being covered is the right idea, but we think expanding a system that was designed years ago and which I don’t think anybody would argue works the right way is the right approach to do it. Tennessee has a history of managed care. We were one of the very first states with a program called TennCare 20-plus years ago to institute managed care.

    My predecessor, Governor Bredesen, who is a Democrat, saw that it was getting to be too big of a piece of the budget. It was taking up about 35 percent of our overall budget. Had to cut the rolls. And so before we move those — we expand that back, we want to make certain we have a system that is focused on better outcomes for everyone.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: We expanded health care.

    Over a quarter-million people today in Illinois have health coverage that didn’t have it a year ago. And we took the opportunity to get federal resources to expand our Medicaid program, our health coverage for hardworking people. These are folks who work and do important jobs. They ought to have health coverage.

    I actually walked across our state from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan on behalf of decent health care for everyone. And for Tennessee or Indiana or Wisconsin to turn down an opportunity to give people more health care is just plain wrong. And I think that is something we have got to keep an eye on.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: End of the day, states have to be focused on outcomes. And we want a Medicaid program that does focus on outcomes.

    We also want a Medicaid program that doesn’t squeeze everything out of — else out of our budget, whether it be higher education, forcing higher tuition or mental health services or anything else.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me — in the final minute, let me ask you two, what are some issues that you think Republicans and Democrats can agree on out there in the country? We’re hearing about some things where you see differently.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: I think — I mean, for instance, like, we have worked with the White House very closely on some education initiatives.

    They have said, hey — the White House has led the way on saying, we want to tie…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re talking about early childhood or…

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: No, I think just basically K-12. Secretary Duncan and I have worked together very closely on improving outcomes for students. So there are some real ways we’re working together.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Oh, I think early childhood education is a key part of it.

    Our state is involved in that and we want to work with every governor, Republican or Democrat, on making sure that children from birth to 5 get a great, healthy start, an educated start. And that’s something everybody can work on, and I think we should really put our shoulder to the wheel.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Well, we were pleased this year that Tennessee was named the fastest-improving state when it came to education results. And so I think the efforts that we are putting together are making a difference in terms of preparing people for the work force, which I think is maybe our greatest role.

    GOV. PAT QUINN: And then maybe you can raise the minimum wage when you do that? What do you think?

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: We’re hoping these folks all get good jobs, where that’s not even an issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, on balance, are the two of you more together or not?  What do say, in a word?

    GOV. PAT QUINN: I think there are some policy differences.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GOV. PAT QUINN: We can all get along personally. You have got to be civil and all that. But I think philosophy-wise, we have got to make sure we invest in people and go forward.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: I think the great thing is Jefferson’s quote about states being the laboratories of democracy really are true.

    And you can see the states that have done things to serve their citizens well, to attract jobs and to make the kind of place where people want to live. At the end of the day, that’s the neat thing about states. We’re going to — Illinois is going to take one approach. Tennessee is going to take another. We will see how all that plays out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Haslam, Governor Quinn, we thank you.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Thank you.

     

    GOV. PAT QUINN: Thank you.

    The post With Washington mired in partisan gridlock, can state leaders push forward? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    rikers

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to an issue many state and local penal systems are increasingly concerned about: the effect that solitary confinement has on teenage inmates. This week, New York State announced that it will ban the practice in its prison system.

    A new report published by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found teenage inmates held in isolation at Rikers Island prison were more likely to harm themselves than other inmates. This week’s changes do not apply to Rikers Island, which is run by the city, not the state.

    Special correspondent Daffodil Altan of the Center for Investigative Reporting filed this report on the situation there.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN, The Center for Investigative Reporting: Every day, across the country, teenagers are held in jails built for adults.

    In New York State, once you to turn 16, you’re prosecuted as an adult no matter what the charge. That means many teens arrested in New York City end up at Rikers Island. Separated from Manhattan by a long bridge over the East River, Rikers holds around 12,000 inmates, including hundreds of teens. Almost all of them are still awaiting trial. They have not been convicted.

    Last year, officials at Rikers told the New York Board of Corrections that on a typical day, around a quarter of teens there were in solitary confinement.

    DR. ROBERT COHEN, Former Medical Director, Rikers Island: It’s a remarkable fact that 27 percent of the adolescents on Rikers Island are in solitary confinement. It is more than 10 times the normal utilization in solitary confinement in the United States. It is off the curve.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: Dr. Robert Cohen is the former medical director at Rikers Island. He now sits on the New York City Board of Corrections.

    DR. ROBERT COHEN: Teenagers need to exercise. They just need to run around. You can’t lock them up all day long and then expect them to behave like anything approaching a model citizen or to be repentant. It’s hard to imagine that response being facilitated and enhanced by being treated like a dog.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: Last year, the Board of Corrections issued two scathing reports critical of Rikers’ use of solitary confinement as punishment for teens and the mentally ill.

    Inmates in solitary are locked in six-foot-by-eight-foot cells for 23 hours a day. If an inmate wakes up at 6:00 a.m., he can sign up to exercise for an hour alone in this chain-link cage. Nationwide, more than half of all suicides among detained juveniles happen while they’re in isolation.

    Rikers runs educational programs which they have allowed the media to cover. But during the past year, the Center for Investigative Reporting made dozens of requests to see the adolescent solitary confinement units. Rikers officials wouldn’t let us see those units and declined to speak with us on camera.

    DANIEL DROMM, New York Council: They’re hiding. They don’t want people to see what’s really going on in Rikers Island.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: New York Council Member Daniel Dromm is one of the few outsiders who has seen what conditions are like for teens in solitary.

    DANIEL DROMM: And we went into the cell, we saw a rusted bed. We saw a mattress, a foam rubber mattress about this thick with mold on it. There was graffiti and writing all over the wall. It hadn’t been painted. There was dirt around the edges of the floor of the cell. There was a small window to the outside about this big.

    And there was a small window on the door as well. And that is the conditions that people who are in solitary, young people, adolescents, have to live in 23 hours a day on Rikers Island. And that to me is torture.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: Ismael Nazario experienced that firsthand. Now 25 and a youth counselor in Brooklyn, Nazario was a teen when he was in and out of Rikers on assault and robbery charges. Without being convicted, he says he spent a total of 300 days in solitary. The longest stretch was four months.

    ISMAEL NAZARIO: Like, your eyes will start to play tricks on you. Like, you start seeing black dots, and you focus on them. It’s kind of crazy. It looks crazy. I was to sit here and like demonstrate it, like how it used to look, it looks crazy. It’s like you see the black dots and you’re just focusing on the black dots and your eyes are just following them around in the cell all over. And you are just looking.

    And, you know, you are trying to escape seeing the black dots, but you can’t. It’s like the black dots is it. There’s no black dots there. You know, it’s crazy.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: Isolated for months at a time, he was desperate to talk to someone, anyone.

    ISMAEL NAZARIO: Start talking to yourself, speaking out loud, just start pacing back and forth. Like, oh, this is crazy. When I was in the studio, it was real. Look at me, I’m a box right now. This (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is crazy. Tomorrow, my visit, I can’t wait until tomorrow. That’s what I’m going to say, like, yes, what is going on. Like that. It’s crazy. You become loony.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: He also remembers how inmates yelled to each other.

    ISMAEL NAZARIO: It’s a little crack in the side of the door. You get real close to it and just you scream, you know?  You scream, hey, yo, hey, yo, what’s popping?

    There’s so many people that have been in that cell and have screamed on that same gate. It smells like a bunch of breath and drool. I cannot make this up.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: The United Nations considered solitary confinement to be cruel and inhumane. The U.N. special investigator on torture is Juan Mendez.

    JUAN MENDEZ, UN Commission on Human Rights: Well, in legal terms, the Convention on the Rights of a Child specifically says that solitary confinement for young offenders is prohibited.

    It’s prohibited as a matter of international law. And it’s not capricious. It’s because the medical and the psychiatric literature demonstrates that young offenders suffer isolation in very different and much worse forms than adults.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: The U.N. classifies solitary as a form of torture.

    JUAN MENDEZ: For juveniles, it should never be used. For people with mental disabilities, for women who are pregnant or feeding children. And even for people who are completely healthy, it shouldn’t be either prolonged or indefinite.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN:  But those who work in jail say solitary is a necessary tool for dealing with an aggressive adolescent population.

    NORMAN SEABROOK, New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association: Until you have walked in the shoes of a correction officer inside the city’s jail system, please don’t pass judgment on us, because you know what? It’s a tough job.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: Norman Seabrook, president of the union for New York City correction officers, was the closest we got to an official response from inside Rikers Island.

    NORMAN SEABROOK: You go into the belly of the beast and you handle whatever comes your way, but you have been to be smart enough to articulate to those young men that are in there. And they have so much testosterone that they are just — it’s like flying off the walls.

    And these guys are going at it. And they’re going and going and going and going like the Energizer Rabbit. They just don’t stop. And sometimes you have to use force. And when you use force, I instruct my officers, use whatever force is necessary to terminate that threat.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: For Seabrook, that means using solitary confinement for 16-year-olds when correction officers see fit.

    NORMAN SEABROOK: We fought vigorously to ensure that those that committed infractions in the city’s jail system are sentenced to punitive segregation time.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: The jail’s own rules say that teens can get 90 days of what officials call punitive segregation for fighting and more than a week minor infractions like horseplay.

    But little is known about what exactly goes on here, because the Department of Corrections is not required to publicly report much, beyond how many teens are in solitary at any given time.

    DANIEL DROMM: We have had a difficult time trying to find out exactly what’s going on in Rikers Island in regard to punitive segregation.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: Next month, Dromm will introduce legislation calling for the department to be more transparent about its use of solitary.

    DANIEL DROMM: What we’re looking for are numbers. How many people are they putting into the mental health units? How many adolescents are going into solitary confinement? Who are these people? What are the infractions? What are their ages?

    We need to unveil the secrecy around solitary, so that we can understand what exactly is going on.

    DAFFODIL ALTAN: The New York City Department of Corrections says it has already taken steps to minimize its use of solitary confinement, similar to those now proposed by the state. But so far, Rikers has not allowed cameras inside to show what it’s like for teens in solitary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You can hear more on this story on “Reveal.”  It’s a new program from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, the Public Media Exchange. “Reveal” airs on public radio stations beginning March 1.

    The post Questioning solitary confinement for adolescents at Rikers Island appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    markdave3

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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.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    MARK SHIELDS: Good evening.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, our lead today and for the last few days has been Ukraine, really just exploded into mayhem yesterday.

    But, Mark, today, there seems to be a truce. The president has signed an agreement with the opposition. We’re — it’s a little bit surreal. We’re watching the Olympics take place in Russia, but next door in Ukraine that is what’s happening. How do you see what’s been going on there?

    MARK SHIELDS: Like everybody else, I guess, Judy, I have just been following it and hoping for the best.

    And the latest developments certainly are encouraging. It seems to be fitting a pattern where the United States, there’s a government that uses repressive power against its own citizens. We saw it in Egypt. We have seen it in Syria. And it’s — it seems to be the pattern of an oligarch government that is out of touch with its own people.

    And we hope that this is a move in the direction. I mean, it shows the limits what we — there’s American interests, but there’s not an American solution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    Well, we have seen these things, as Mark said, all around the world, various orange, various color revolutions, people out on the streets in various squares. And I think our first instincts a couple years ago was to always root for the people in the streets. And I think we still root for them, but we should probably be a little sobered by the effects, especially Egypt and Syria and places like that, that you do have the potential of getting these rounds of destabilization.

    And in Ukraine, certainly the lows, the political lows, the dangers are greater than the highs are high. The lows are lower than the highs are highs. And so there should be a need for caution. And I think that was demonstrated by the international community who came in today.

    And we had this agreement. And it’s a pretty good agreement for the protesters. But it’s an agreement. It’s a negotiation and a settlement. It’s a bit of a half-a-loaf. And I think given the history of these things over the past couple years, half-a-loaf is pretty good.

    And so I think we should hope that they do not topple the government, that the elections, the constitution is basically preserved. When things are bad and when the lows can be lower than the highs can be high, caution is the watchword. Half-a-loaf is pretty good.

    And so far that’s the outcome, so that’s a good outcome.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it clear, Mark, what’s at stake here for the West, for Europe and for the U.S.?

    MARK SHIELDS: The interest seems to be more primarily that on the part of Russia. They brought their influence there the old-fashioned way with $15 billion to the administration to bail it out.

    And this is a new country. And it’s, what, 45 Russian-speaking. So I’m not sure, Judy. It’s between Europe and Russia. The pressures and the tensions are obvious and real.

    DAVID BROOKS: I covered the Ukrainian independence movement when they were first declaring or voting on a referendum for independence.

    And then if you had asked me, I thought Ukraine would be way ahead of Russia. It just seemed like a more — less corrupt place, a more stable place, a humane place, frankly, in the political culture sense. It hasn’t turned out that way, in part because of the divisions, in part because they can’t decide what part of the East-West divide they’re on, in part because the corruption has just gotten so bad.

    And it’s a gradual process of roping them into the European system, I think, where Ukraine naturally belongs in sort of the orbit of the E.U., but that’s decades long.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you both about something that is partly international, but certainly have very much a domestic component, Mark, and that is trade.

    The president’s been pushing something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership in an effort to get closer to Asia. He’s in favor of it, but a lot of Democrats aren’t. Explain why the split and where do you see this going?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, every president, Judy, irrespective of party, wants fast-track authority to negotiate without the interference of Congress. Every Congress wants to have its oar in and be a part of it. So, there’s a natural tension there.

    But we’re dealing here with the shadow of NAFTA. It’s 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement, which — there was much overpromise, that it was going to be great for everybody involved, that it was going to elevate Mexico to the point where the immigration problem would disappear. A Mexican middle class would flourish.

    And what we have seen has not been really — there’s been economic growth, no question about it. But it’s not been broadly shared prosperity. And it’s reached now to the point where Democrats have grown skeptical, not simply the hollowed-out towns of Ohio and so much of the Industrial Belt of this country, but to the point where the most sophisticated technology developed in this country, its ingenuity, its genius, is sent overseas to be manufactured, not because there’s better education there, but because there’s repression of workers and suppression of wages.

    So it’s cheaper. And that has caught up, I think, with the free trade side of the argument. And I think there’s a great skepticism, not only on the part of Democrats, but on the part of the American people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, does that say any kind of trade agreement is a problem?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, they’re in trouble. There’s no question about that.

    NAFTA, my reading of the evidence is that it didn’t turn out to be that big a deal one way or the other. It was sort of a wash economically and in a lot of things. But we have do much more than NAFTA.

    We have really — since World War II, we have got 60 or 70 years of trade. And the trade agreements we’re talking about here are with Europe. They’re not low-wage countries and across the Pacific with Asia. These are trade agreements that we have 60 or 70 years of pretty guaranteed growth out of these agreements.

    And they have the story of global prosperity for this time. I mentioned in my column today that in the last — since 1970, the number of people in this world making a dollar a day has declined by 80 percent, the greatest decline in global poverty in human history.

    And why is that? Because of global trade. And so to me every president of either party has traditionally been a proponent of trade, as this one is, and I think there’s a strong evidence it’s growth agenda, and so I understand the political fears about it. But I don’t think they’re merited. And I do think when the president’s — when the congressional leaders are bucking their own president, they’re doing some harm for political reasons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where do you think — where do you think…

    MARK SHIELDS: I don’t — I mean, I understand very much where Leader Pelosi and Senator Reid are here.

    I argue with David. I think what it’s produced is what Professor Harley Shaiken of University of California on this broadcast has called high-productivity poverty. Yes, it’s been economic growth. The trade agreements, Judy, and Europe being the exception, have concentrated on protection of all the corporate rights, of copyright, of patent rights, of licensing, but have ignored workers’ rights.

    And you can’t work at the outsourcing of production to Asia and to Southeast Asia and not say that they’re doing it for the lowest unit cost of work. And they’re doing it not to invest there. They invest there to produce there, not to sell there, but to bring stuff back here. And I just think that’s the skepticism and I think it’s a legitimate one.

    DAVID BROOKS: I will say two things.

    First, we’re beginning to see manufacturing jobs coming back here from China because their wages are coming up. We’re doing OK on that. The reason the economy has hollowed out is to me not because of globalization. It’s because of technology.

    We just had this Facebook quote WhatsApp, this app, for X-zillions of dollars.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: The amazing statistic to me was the amount of money, the value per employee of WhatsApp. Each employee got the equivalent — or they didn’t get, but they paid the equivalent of $347 million per employee.

    That means we have got companies with very few employees of very high value. That’s why the economy is hollowing out. I don’t think it’s because of globalization.

    MARK SHIELDS: I would just add one thing.

    I think broadly — and we’re seeing it in Ukraine as well. Broadly shared prosperity is not only a social value and a social justice value. It’s a civic value. And I think that is really something that is of overriding importance to us and should be in every policy we develop.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in a way, this is connected to the conversation I had with the governors, which I think the two of you heard.

    Governor Quinn of Illinois, Democrat, and Governor Haslam of Tennessee, we ended up talking about the minimum wage, the UAW vote in Governor Haslam’s home state. But we — I went into that again with this idea that Washington is divided. Governors are finding a way to work together.

    But, Mark, what we’re hearing is that they were — you heard them — they’re divided on some of the same issues that Washington is divided.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, all politics is local.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: Pat Quinn’s running for reelection in Illinois. And he came on and duked it out with Governor Haslam of Kentucky and stood up for workers’ rights against this anti-union Southern Republican.

    I think there was a little bit of political…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you?

    MARK SHIELDS: Maybe theater even. But, no, the differences are real, don’t get me wrong.

    DAVID BROOKS: I thought Governor Quinn was running in Tennessee, the way he was going.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: But — he was aggressive, but he believed it, so good for him.

    Just on the issues, first on the minimum wage issue, because we just had this big CBO report to come out in Washington this week. And it’s a mixed bag. Like a lot of policies, there are winners and losers. And so the winners out of this would be 900,000 lifted out of poverty, many more millions of people seeing a wage increase. The losers would be some loss of jobs potentially in the ballpark of 500,000.

    And so how do you weigh that? I would say two things. First, when you take people out of the labor force, especially when our labor force has been so decimated, you’re really doing long-term harm to them. So, I sort of weigh that very heavily. And so I’m a little skeptical of the minimum wage for that reason.

    Secondly — and the reason I think this is a waste — is that we have another set of policies, the Earned Income Tax Credit, that provide the same sort of benefit to low-income workers without the negative labor market effects. So, why are we not talking about that, instead of the minimum wage?

    And the answer to that, transparently, is the minimum wage polls really well for Democrats. But I wish we were talking about the Earned Income Tax Credit, where you are beginning to see some Republican buy-in. It’s just not as politically useful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why is this not fair? Twenty-five seconds.

    MARK SHIELDS: It’s not either/or. You can do both.

    The Earned Income Tax Credit, the child of Milton Friedman and Jerry Ford, it was a great idea. It has worked enormously well. But, at the same time, you have to raise the income. And that’s why the minimum wage has to be raised. You have to raise it. Let’s not put it all on American taxpayers, which — Earned Income Tax Credit.

    Let’s let Wal-Mart pay its share as well. Costco already is. Gap is. Let’s join in bringing some — a little bit of economic justice to our workers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the two of you bring justice to this program every Friday.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Ukraine upheaval, trade policy skepticism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The outlook is cloudy for U.S.-Russia relations. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: As the Winter Olympics close this weekend, we conclude with a broader look at the host country, at its people and the contrast between the past couple of weeks and the day-to-day life of ordinary Russians.

    Jeff is back with our conversation which he recorded earlier in the week.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Gregory Feifer first came to his interest in Russia through a personal connection. His mother grew up there under communism. He later lived and worked there as a correspondent for NPR and other news organizations. And he has now written of people he met along the way and events he covered in the new book “Russians: The People Behind the Power.”

    Welcome to you.

    GREGORY FEIFER, “Russians: The People Behind the Power”: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A starting point is this — is that even while the world’s spotlight is on Russia during the Olympics, we Americans really don’t know it or understand it much. Right. That is your feeling?

    GREGORY FEIFER: Absolutely.

    The idea behind the book was to try to get behind why is it that two decades after the Soviets collapse, do Americans find Russian behavior mystifying in some way? We tend to explain what we don’t know about Russia by saying that, well, perhaps Russians have a mystical Russian soul that we have heard about and it’s different and so we can’t understand it.

    I don’t believe that’s true. My approach has been to look at Russians’ daily behavior, their family life, work patterns, drinking. And in my many travels across Russia, it seems to me that Russian behavior is understandable and there are patterns behind it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so let’s — so let’s look at that through the guise of the Olympics, right, because we’re seeing the Olympics from the opening ceremonies to the whole staging. How does this Russia that you see manifest itself?

    GREGORY FEIFER: Well, I think the Olympics are a very traditional Russian event.

    I mean, this is a country that has built Saint Petersburg to be the European city on a swamp, professed it wanted to spread communism around the world. The Olympics in a way are another grandiose project to try to catch up to the West.

    But I think what really characterizes these Games to me is that they show how much Russia actually lags, because if you look at what’s going on in Russia, Moscow may be full of luxury cars and fancy restaurants, thanks to the riches from Russia’s vast energy wealth, but you don’t have to go to Siberia. You can just drive 50 miles outside of Moscow and see a countryside that’s literally dying.

    I visited many villages there where there were two, sometimes even one elderly person living in what used to be villages on muddy tracks. And the poverty, alcoholism, disease, in many ways, Russia’s heading towards crises.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Two of the things that you write a lot about, and then again I think we see in the Olympics from your writing and others, power and corruption.

    Tell us what you see. And, again, how do they manifest themselves in the Olympics?

    GREGORY FEIFER: Well, and we have heard a lot about corruption in the Sochi Olympic Games, the most expensive Games ever at more than $50 billion; $7 billion are reported to have gone to companies connected to one man. This man happens to have been Putin’s childhood friend and former judo partner.

    But I think what happens at the top reflects what’s going on in the rest of the country. A former central banker said that, in 2012, $50 billion were sent illegally outside of Russia. But it’s more than that. I think that we have this idea that Putin has ruled according to a social contract, according to which, as long as living standards keep rising, the Kremlin is more or less free to be as authoritarian as it likes.

    I don’t think that’s quite true. I think the glue binding Putin’s regime to the Russian people is corruption, because bribery involves everybody.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that’s what I was going to ask you. Why is it accepted? Explain that. Why would corruption be the glue if there is — and I recently spoke to Masha Gessen about her book about Pussy Riot.

    And we see Pussy Riot, some of the members showing up in Sochi, and we have had some reports of them being attacked for it. But the general population seems, at least from the outside, to accept the system.

    GREGORY FEIFER: Sure, because they’re part of the system.

    I was saying about how Russia has — Russians have practical motives for acting the way they do. I think this — this glue binding the system together, as I said, is bribery. Everybody has to pay a bribe. If you drive a car, you will certainly have to pay a bribe when you’re stopped by a traffic policeman, which happens almost every day.

    If you’re the owner of a corner store, for example, you have to pay the fire safety inspector, the health inspector, the building code inspector. Everybody pays bribes. And I think bribery not only coerces people, because it enables the authorities to prosecute everybody. It also co-opts people, because if you’re paying a bribe, you get something out of it. If you’re the corner store owner and you’re paying the police to ensure that no harm comes to your business, you feel that you have got something over the competition a couple blocks away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how does this play out on the world stage?

    I mean, now, of course, we’re watching what’s happening in the Ukraine and then of course the relationship with the United States, a so-called reset that never seemed to actually happen.

    GREGORY FEIFER: Right.

    Well, we see Putin as this caricature of an aging dictator. And I actually think one of the reasons for his success — and he has been successful — he’s been in power for 14 years and it doesn’t look like he’s leaving any time soon — is that he’s very good at creating images of himself.

    To us, as I said, he looks like this dictator. But to Russians, he’s popular to the majority of Russians. Most Russians are envious, at least many Russians are envious of the West, and Putin’s nationalism plays into that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the new book is “Russians: The People Behind the Power.”

    Gregory Feifer, thanks so much.

    GREGORY FEIFER: Thank you.

    The post What the Winter Olympics tell us about life in Russia (and vice versa) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Last November, the PBS NewsHour ran a series of reports exploring how the Affordable Care Act was affecting the lives of Americans. On November 13, we aired our report about Martha Monsson, a Colorado woman with cancer who lost her health insurance when her husband lost his job. Monsson voiced support for the new law’s guarantee of care for those with pre-existing conditions. Monsson passed away on February 20, 2014.

    Watch our original report below, or view the complete transcript from November 13.

    The post Editor’s note: Remembering Martha Monsson appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    trista

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    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I open it up and just rip it down the middle. Separate it.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista Selmar-Steed cuts a lot of coupons these days… In fact she’s becomes a bit of a fanatic about it.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: This is my coupon box, container, I carry it with me to the grocery store. Coffee, cake, butter, milk, pasta, sugar — this one here is for household goods and personal items.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: You never know that coupons will save you as much money as you– it actually has.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: The 38-year-old who lives in a suburb just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, has been saving all these coupons because as of December 28th, she has no income. She was one of 1.3 million Americans who lost their unemployment insurance when an emergency federal unemployment insurance program expired.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: That same week that I expected to get that next check was the same week that I had a bill that was due — but I wasn’t able to pay it. I had to ask my husband to start paying my part of the bills and that’s the sad part, not being able to help my husband pay– pay the bills.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista, who used to make $30,000 a year working for a medical billing service, was laid off from her job in November of 2012, and hasn’t been able to find a job since.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: I sensed a year out there in this job market has kind of beat you up a little bit, yeah?

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: It’s very sad that– to have the qualifications and not be able to actually work, you know, get a job in your field. And I’ve been doing this 2007.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Why do you think it’s so hard for you to get a job?

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I’m not sure. A lot of companies are still laying off.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista has now been without her benefits for 8 weeks. To make matters worse, her husband who is a truck driver was hurt on the job and is now on what’s known as light duty, working fewer hours and only taking home about 60% of what he used to which now equals about $2000 a month.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: So that’s another whammy, you know, something else that started– started the down spiral, excuse me.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: They say they now have to dip into their savings just too pay their bills. She says things have gotten so bad, that when she’s not at her computer for several hours each day looking for work, she’s and her husband spend their free time watching TV just to lift their spirits.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Cartoons and comedy, it have us laughing. It takes your mind off of the things that you might be going through.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: There’s some people who would say that people who are on unemployment don’t want to look for a job. They just want to live off the unemployment. It’s– it’s a free easy paycheck.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: It’s not a free easy paycheck. That’s what– for me, it’s not. I know what I like in life. I know what I strive to have in the future. And I can say some people might try to use that, but me personally, I– that’s not me.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: While Trista believes that extending her benefits would give her the cushion she needs to get another job, Economics Professor Jeff Dorfman, who teaches at the University of Georgia, says that the extended unemployment benefits ARE the problem.

    JEFF DORFMAN: The studies show it raises unemployment more by allowing people to stay unemployed longer, still searching for a really great job instead of taking a job that’s available.

    Dorfman points to North Carolina. Last July the state legislature cut unemployment benefits from 73 weeks to 19 weeks. In the months since the state unemployment rate dropped from 8.9 percent to 6.9 percent.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: And you attribute that to cutting 50 weeks of unemployment insurance.

    JEFF DORFMAN: When you suddenly get cut off, you realize, “You know, I need to take a job.” And people in North Carolina apparently found jobs.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Others attribute the decline in unemployment there to unemployed workers giving up their search for work. And they note the drop in unemployment has been coupled with a big increase in the number of people there on food stamps.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: As for Trista, she says she’d be happy to take a job outside her medical billing field. She says she’s applied for all kinds of jobs during the past year, everything from driving a school bus or a truck to clerical jobs at CVS and Wal-Mart. Even as a flight attendant with Delta. All of them met with rejection.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: We regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position at this time. Thank you for applying and best wishes for success in your future endeavors. Delta talent acquisition team. And I’ve gotten that three times from Delta, so…

    TRACY MOSLEY: You hear the– the theory that some people are just a couple paychecks away from homelessness. Well, we actually see that.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Tracy Mosley is the Transition Program Coordinator for the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, an organization that helps African Americans find and train for jobs. He warns of dire consequences unless unemployment benefits are extended.

    TRACY MOSLEY: We actually see people that– had a sustainable income, that had a good job, good employment. But all of a sudden they find themself homeless.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: The problem is particularly acute in the African American community where the unemployment rate is nearly double the national average. Mosley says the interview and job prep classes his organization offers have been filled to capacity with people like Trista Selmar-Steed, who he says are desperate for work. She recently met with a job counselor here.

    COUNSELOR: so you are being recommended for a position with MARTA, which is the transit authority for Atlanta, that our bus railway system that we use here. That’s one of the opportunities you’ll be considered for. So I wanna make sure that you are going to be available on March the 3rd so I can have you lined up for an interview.

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Ok, well thank you so much, I really appreciate this, this is a big help.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista is crossing her fingers that this lead might just pan out… but for the time being just getting to the Urban League’s office in Atlanta, a 45 minute drive from her home in the suburbs is a financial burden now that she doesn’t have an unemployment check every week.

    TRACY MOSLEY: And so if their source of income, of temporary income, is cut off — A lot of them cannot even afford to come down here for their training.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: But Professor Jeff Dorfman says that government benefits can’t go on forever.

    JEFF DORFMAN: Our compassion has never been unlimited in this sense. We always eventually cut people off. We already had some mechanism for deciding at some point we’ve gotta stop paying for you.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: And some would argue that we’re not there yet. We’re not at that point in the recovery where we should start cutting back. We still need to fund for an extended period of time.

    JEFF DORFMAN:  The longest we’ve ever kept benefits before is 35 months after the end of a recession. And we’re at 55 months now. So we’re 20 months, that’s over a year and a half longer than we’ve ever provided these extended benefits for.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Dorfman believes that if the government is going to intervene, that money could be better used retraining the unemployed for new jobs. For now, with Congress at an impasse, it looks like Trista, and nearly two million others, will have to survive without the federal life line they’ve come to count on in these hard times..

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I mean, it dampens your spirit a little bit, but the only way you can prosper, I’ve learned, is to keep a high spirit // And so I just look at it as where one door closes, someone will eventually hire me.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: After a year, you still feel that way?

    TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I still feel that way. Yes.

    The post As benefits expire, long-term unemployed make do with less appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Anti-government protesters stand outside the presidential offices after Yanukovych and his administration left Kiev on Saturday.

    Anti-government protesters stand outside the presidential offices after Yanukovych and his administration left Kiev on Saturday.

    Following a week of deadly clashes with protesters, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his administration abandoned government buildings in Kiev on Saturday.

    After fleeing the city, the embattled president accused the opposition a coup and likened the situation to the rise of the Nazi party.

    “The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d’état,” he said.

    Yanukovych left Kiev for the eastern part of the country on Saturday morning, leaving both his presidential offices and residence empty.

    Reuters reported anti-government protesters had entered the offices saying they would guard them for the next president.

    In the wake of the morning’s events, Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove Yanukovych from his post and declaring him unable to perform his duties.

    The president has said he will not resign, but the country’s legislators have set an election date for May 25.

    “They are trying to scare me. I have no intention to leave the country. I am not going to resign, I’m the legitimately elected president,” Yanukovych said in a statement on television.

    The Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski took to Twitter to say a coup had not taken place and that the election of a new speaker of parliament had been legal.

    Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the opposition in Ukraine for not meeting its obligations in a peace deal signed with the government on Friday.

    As the situation continued to unfold in Kiev, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was reportedly released from prison.

    A deal for Tymoshenko’s release was brokered this week. She had been imprisoned in the eastern city of Kharkiv for two and a half years.

    The post Ukraine leader flees capital as clashes continue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In a unanimous vote on Saturday, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution aimed at delivering humanitarian aid to Syria.

    The 15-member council passed the resolution which demands President Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition forces allow country-wide access to provide aid for the people of Syria.

    Addressing the council after the vote, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned both sides of the Syrian conflict for “besieging civilians as a tactic of war.”

    The Secretary-General said half of Syria’s population was in need of assistance and that people were “under siege” in both government and opposition-controlled areas of the country. The Security Council also condemned both sides for rights abuses.

    “This resolution should not have been necessary. Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated; it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law,” he said.

    This is the first time during the nearly three-year conflict in Syria that the Security Council has come to a unanimous agreement for a resolution. The resolution does not outline an immediate path to punish parties who violate the stipulations.

    The post U.N. Security Council agrees on aid resolution for Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Since losing her job in 2012, and her unemployment benefits in December, Trista Selmar-Steed fears the end of the month, when her family’s bills are due.

    “I had a bill that was due… but I wasn’t able to pay it,” she said. “And that’s the sad part. Not being able to help my husband pay the bills.”

    Graphic: long-term unemployed

    Amid a difficult economic landscape for out-of-work Americans, more than 1.7 million have lost their emergency unemployment benefits since Dec. 28. Credit: Getty

    With Congress at an impasse on extending assistance for the long-term unemployed, these federal benefits — a program that began under President George W. Bush in 2008 — ended on Dec. 28.

    In the weeks since, more than 1.7 million Americans have lost their emergency unemployment compensation. On average, the program provided about $300 a week for someone who was out of work and had exhausted regular state benefits.

    Saturday on NewsHour Weekend we profile Selmar-Steed, a 38-year-old former medical biller living in the suburbs of Atlanta.

    unemployment3

    Trista Selmar-Steed, a 38-year-old former medical biller, lost her emergency unemployment benefits in December. Credit: NewsHour Weekend

    “I try not to let [unemployment] dampen my spirits,” she said. “I feel sorry for those who don’t have a spouse or someone to assist them in paying their bills. I don’t know how I would take it then.”

    As part of our coverage of the long-term jobless, we wanted to hear from others like Selmar-Steed. We gathered personal stories from Americans who lost their emergency unemployment benefits since the turn of the new year.

    NewsHour received hundreds of submissions from people age 23 to 68, from Aurora, Colo., to New York City.

    Here are a few of those stories.

    My name is Rocco, and like Trista, I too have been suffering from the loss of federal benefits. While my wife goes to work, I’ve been staying at home to conserve fuel. I’ve been losing weight from eating less, so my family has more on their plates. It feels like the government and big business expect more and more while trying to give back as little as possible. Soon my internet connection will be shut off and since most companies don’t offer paper applications, how will I find work then? Walking around for miles a day, asking for an application that may or may not be available?

    - Rocco, 34

    I was laid off my job of nearly 23 years on May 31, 2013. I worked a temporary assignment until July 12, 2013. I received my first check from Illinois unemployment at the end of July.

    I was forced to give up my apartment of 8 years at the end of August, and moved in with a family member. In exchange for rent, I helped her with her children, buy groceries, cook and clean. I was able to pay for things necessary to my job search like a cell phone, internet, gas, and train fare. This was working well until my unemployment ran out at the beginning of February, 2014.

    She will be using money she doesn’t have to cover my cell bill, and I won’t be able to contribute for groceries until my food stamps kick in. I will have no money for gas or internet when the meager amount in my bank account runs out.

    To add to this, the only time my phone rings these days is when the bill collectors are calling. I just missed having my car go into repossession because I got a loan from another family member.

    At the height of my tenure with the company I originally worked for, I was earning $41,000 annually.

    I am now in poverty.

    - Jennifer, 45, Chicago

    I have never collected unemployment before, but it was necessary after an injury turned into long-term unpaid medical leave and sudden termination. I was one week into my first extension when the benefits ended. I have depleted my savings and retirement funds to keep this household afloat. We have eliminated every possible expense, but the necessities still must be paid: electricity, heat, car insurance, property taxes, food and medicine are all inflexible items that we can’t control.

    Now, the inability to pay these bills puts my family in jeopardy. If I was able to work I would. At 54, I am at my wits’ end.

    - Beth, 54, Hamilton, N.J.

    I was laid off in May of 2013 because of Headstart budget cuts for 2013 — I was a Headstart teacher for seven years. On Sept. 1, my husband was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer so we also lost his income. He obtained (Supplemental Security Income) for two months and died in November. I have looked for jobs and sent resumes and filled out applications but never hear anything back. I am 58 years old and have no income or insurance.

    I can get no subsidies from Obamacare as I have no income and Tennessee is a state which did not expand Medicaid. Luckily, my house and vehicle are paid for. I leave the house rarely, am visiting food pantries and never pay retail for anything. I may have to take money out of retirement if his life insurance is denied because the policy is less than two years old. I pray daily the life insurance comes through and that money will pay the bills until I can take out of 401K without a penalty.

    I tell others I have retired, as I feel strongly that I will not be able to find a full-time job with benefits. Thanks for listening.

    - Vicki, 58, Maryville, Tenn.

    The cut of my unemployment extensions has been crucially affecting my family. I need to provide for my son who is diagnosed with autism and my baby girl. I’ve sold a bunch of my belongings to try and put food on the table, to buy clothes for my kids, to pay rent and utilities and to put gas in my vehicle to go job hunting. Not having money for necessities takes a toll on my mind. Depression has kicked in. It really takes a toll on one’s self-esteem and confidence to move forward.

    I’ve applied to countless amounts of jobs, only to not even get a call back. I’ve gone from construction site to construction site, only to be told they are not hiring. Finally, I got at least a positive call back from a company telling me they will call me to work in a couple of weeks. I am crossing my fingers and praying.There are millions of people in my situation or even worse. Congress needs to pass the unemployment extensions because people are losing everything.

    - Alejandro, 30, San Jose, Calif.

    The company I worked for lost its Government contract at the end of March 2013. I had a small, 12-week severance package. My unemployment ended in December 2013. I still have not been able to find another job. Unlike many of my friends that I used to work with, I do not have a husband or second source of income. I have nearly run through my savings because I received $1600 per month in unemployment benefits, but my average monthly bills came to nearly $2400 per month. I could manage my bills and even put some aside while I was working, but after I lost my job I had to cut back.

    I stopped going out, I cut my cable to the basic to keep my home phone and internet so I can look for a job. I stopped driving to as many places as possible to save on gas. I went back to school for one semester so that I could refresh some skills that I did not use during my past few jobs, and for a little while I did some volunteer work for the same reason. I don’t do that anymore either. I am just about to cash in my 401K so it will be several more years of working — if I can ever find a job — before I can retire.

    My parents have been helping me with my bills where they can, but they are nearing retirement and have their own bills that they have to pay. It isn’t that I don’t want to work. I miss working. I have three college degrees, but because of that combined with my age (42), I am finding it hard to find even entry-level jobs. I applied and was turned down for food stamps because I do not have any children. I have come to the conclusion that I may have to move to find a job, and I am okay with that, but I’d like to know how I am supposed to pay for a move.

    I honestly do not know what I am going to do when my savings runs out.

    - Dana, 42, Colorado Springs, Colo.

    I am a science teacher. Hiring in the middle of a school year is tough — it’s a job that usually you get hired at a certain time for the next school year. I apply for every temporary position that comes open, but they’re hard to get. I’m also a single mom so I really needed my unemployment desperately until I get hired, hopefully, when the hiring starts back up for the next school year.

    My credit cards are now maxed out and I don’t know what to do. No other jobs actually want to hire me because they know I will leave if I get a new teaching position. I’ve always paid my taxes and now when I truly need the unemployment, it’s not there.

    - Amy, 33, Tennessee

    I have been working and paying taxes since I was 14. I am now 46, and have been laid off of my job. The job market has been tough, and the employers seem to be looking for younger people to employ. I have always worked, and this is embarrassing to me to have to depend on my government for help. Now that I am in need, they have let me down.

    I would be homeless if not for my sister-in-law. I am staying in her basement, but have no funds for anything. I have sold all my belongings just to be able to afford to eat, and help with some of the bills. I’m at a loss for words.

    - Anthony, 46, Aurora, Colo.

    At my last job, I made roughly $50,000 per year and lived in a condo in downtown Atlanta with a beautiful view. My mother lived with me and my dog. I was able to provide for the both of them. I now live in a low-income apartment complex that’s half the size and price of where we lived before. I say this to bring to light the fact that I am a go-getter and hard worker who, from age 13 has worked and has been relatively independent. I’ve absolutely adjusted my lifestyle and standard of living to try to meet the bare minimum of what most consider “just getting by”. I’m truly thankful for the little that I have, understanding that there are people who are in far worse circumstances than I. And I feel for them too.

    On Dec. 28, the $307 I had been receiving once per week stopped. I wasn’t able to pay rent for January and now February. I’m being evicted. I have no food. I applied for food stamps on Feb. 10 and I’m waiting to hear back from them with a decision.

    One of my questions is how is virtually crippling the unemployed helping unemployment? The irony in this is that I was offered a temp job for a week about 20 miles from my home. But I didn’t have $5 to pay in bus fare per day to get there. I could go on and on with stories of how much of a struggle it’s been for me but I’ve pretty much lost hope that anyone would even care. I do believe there is light at the end of my tunnel. I have career ahead of me, I just need to make it through this storm.

    Hopefully human instinct will kick in and the government will come to their senses.

    - Ebony, 34, Atlanta, Ga.

    Since losing my benefits we have exceeded borrowing from friends and family to keep us in our townhouse. I will be getting evicted come the first of March because we don’t have enough to cover it. I have gotten notices from the electric to be shut off. We are raising two grandchildren and can barely buy diapers. We did get food stamps for them but they have went from $301 to $125 due to government cuts.

    My husband only makes 10 dollars an hour and drives 30 miles round trip, so it’s taking all we have just to keep the Jeep filled with gas. We stopped going to church and all to save gas. We are homebodies now, afraid to use what gas we have. We save two kids from getting put in foster care just to be hit like this. It’s just a constant trap they try to keep you from receiving any help! I’m so disgusted when my 12-year-old asks me why we don’t have snacks anymore, or why are we eating so much rice, etc.

    It’s sad to be an American right now.

    - Karen, 50, York, Pa.

    We’re asking: How has the loss of unemployment benefits affected you or someone close to you? Please submit your story using this simple form or share your thoughts the comment section below.

    The post Long-term unemployed describe lack of mobility, depression in personal stories appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    indigenous3

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    JOHN LARSON: You’re aboard a motorized canoe traveling the headwaters of the Amazon – on the Urabamba River, of Peru. Now, you travel the Giraffe River, a tributary of the White Nile in South Sudan.

    Screen shot 2014-02-22 at 4.38.39 PM

    And now? You are navigating the Stewart of Canada, a tributary of the longest, free flowing river on earth: the Yukon, of North America.

    JOHN LARSON: All of the these are among the most remote rivers in the world, and the indigenous people who live along them are being connected, at least in part, by one man.

    JON WATERHOUSE: “We had a couple of canoes and we were going to go down the river, and talk to people in every village along the way.”

    JOHN LARSON: Back in 2007, Jon Waterhouse, a tribal leader and environmentalist who’s spent the past 20 years in Alaska, was asked to write a report about the Yukon River. the plan was to take a canoe trip, and interview villagers who depend on the river for their survival.

    JON WATERHOUSE: “Three weeks before we left I sat down with everybody and said this isn’t going to work. And they said, ‘what do you mean,’ and I said, ‘Nobody else on the whole planet is going to care. It’s just too Kumbayah. People are going to think its a bunch of hippies going down the river.’ So I said, ‘We’ve got to add in modern science’.”

    JOHN LARSON: What happened next would play an important role helping define tribal rights along the Yukon, and connect river people around the world. The group brought sophisticated water quality testing instruments – tagging precise locations in the river.

    JOHN LARSON: “You were dragging a probe out the back of a canoe?”

    JON WATERHOUSE: “Yeah” (laughing)

    JOHN LARSON: “Just like your great ancestors. And that probe was to test for what?”

    JON WATERHOUSE: “Thirteen different parameters.”

    (Sound of Tribal drumming)

    JOHN LARSON: Waterhouse’s river trips became yearly events dubbed, “Healing Journey’s” – supported by the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council – the largest international organization of indigenous people in the world. The Yukon Watershed is immense, stretching 2000 miles from Canada to Alaska, an area almost twice the size of California, and rich in natural resources. And while it is pristine by much of the world’s standards, the river is not nearly clean as you might think. Mining operations have polluted the river for decades. Villages are littered with hazardous waste. The US military discarded 100’s of thousands of fuel drums on the banks of the river. And all while, the Yukon Salmon run, which had nourished tribal people here for for thousands of years, began collapsing.

    ELLI MATKIN: (YRITWC Science Technician) “But what a lot of our measurements have been, is to get an idea of what is normal for the Yukon River.”

    JOHN LARSON: Waterhouse’s team helped train Yukon River villagers to conduct sophisticated water sampling, and each year these remote villagers sent their growing data base off to federal scientists. Ryan Toohey is an environmental hydrologist for US Geological Survey.

    RYAN TOOHEY: “On the whole, it was really impressive how good the data was… and these are folks that literally live two days from any road system that are doing this.”

    JOHN LARSON: Tribal leaders from around the world began coming to the Yukon for Tribal meetings, and inviting Jon Waterhouse to travel to their own, remote rivers. First, he visited the Lena River in Siberia – home of the Yakut and Navink peoples. And then,

    (Sound of river and birds)

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    JOHN LARSON: …to the Urabamba River in Peru. The Machiguenga people here were facing some of the same problems the tribes along the Yukon had faced.

    JON WATERHOUSE: “They know that there’s something wrong with the fish in the main stem of the Urabmaba river. They would like to understand what the cause of that is.”

    JOHN LARSON: Like the Yukon, the Urabamba is also threatened. The area, rich in oil, gas and natural resources, has suffered pipeline breaks, and toxic spills from gold mines . So last year, Waterhouse brought the his testing equipment. His team is now teaching the Machengua in the village of Timpia to gather information on the river

    FELIPE SEMPEN FERNANDEZ: “Many companies have been coming in and polluting. They say they don’t, but they are.”

    JOHN LARSON: Machiguenga leaders hope, that with Waterhouse’s help, they can gather scientific evidence that might help them keep the river clean.

    FELIPE SEMPEN FERNANDEZ: “They can show us… how to face these companies and the timber industry that have invaded our lands and resources.”

    JOHN LARSON: Back on the Yukon, Tribal Leaders last year did just that. They used their years of water quality testing to create a detailed Yukon Watershed plan. The plan included a disarmingly simple vision: “…To be able to drink water directly from the Yukon River,” something no longer possible in many places along the river.

    JOHN WATERHOUSE: “Our responsibility now is to capture those water rights. We have talked to the federal governments and put them on notice, this was at the direction of our leadership, that we expect government to government consultation.”

    JOHN LARSON: The plan put Canadian and US governments, City landfill, sewage and power authoritIes, as well as and oil, gas and mining companies – on notice.

    JON WATERHOUSE: “One of my first phone calls was, ‘Just what the hell do you folks think you’re doing?’ I said, ‘We’re asserting our rights’.”

    JOHN LARSON: “If i’m a gold miner that sounds like a threat. In other words, I can’t operate my mine and dump it into the river the way I used to.”

    JON WATERHOUSE: “You can do whatever you want as long as you’re not infringing on our rights to clean water. And, maybe it is a threat, but dumping it into the river is a threat.”

    JOHN LARSON: The United Nations, the US and Canadian governments have all stated that tribal people have legal rights involving clean water – rights which will likely be tested in courtrooms in coming years.

    JOHN LARSON: “To what extent is this a David and Goliath story?”

    JOHN LARSON: “Tens of thousands of Davids, starting to talk to each other?”

    JON WATERHOUSE: “Well, When you put it that way, tens of thousands of Davids, that’s a pretty strong voice. Those tens of thousand of voices, they have been ignored, over the years, they’ve been disenfranchised. But as they’ve come together there’s been some realizations along the way. There’s a realization that it is their legal right to have clean water.”

    JON WATERHOUSE; (Walking on beach) “We get requests from countries all the time.”

    Screen shot 2014-02-22 at 12.52.10 PM

    JOHN LARSON: When I met Waterhouse and his wife photographer Mary Marshall in Alaska this winter, they had received a second grant from the National Science Foundation for what they call, “The Network of Indigenous Knowledge.” The Network will connect river people in Alaska and Canada with tribes in Siberia, Peru, and soon South Sudan, and Botswana – allowing them to share scientific information and cultural histories.

    MARY MARSHALL: “There are so many voices, so many unheard voices in this world. There are indigenous people who live very far away from any city or place that we are familiar with. For them, to be found and recognized, and to be handed a microphone is just huge.”

    CHRIS RAINIER: “And then, when its time to record you push the red button like this.”

    JOHN LARSON: Chris Rainier, a National Geographic Explorer, has made a living documenting the lives of the world’s most remote people. As part of the Network, he’s now helping teach the Machiguenga how to gather and upload their stories.

    CHRIS RAINIER: “So we’ve brought in computers, cameras video cameras to give them an opportunity to share the stories of the forest, of the river, fishing… to kind of create a connection, to Alaska, to many of the indigenous cultures around the world.”

    JOHN LARSON: Machiguenga stories include this a Valley of Death, where they believe the Devil came to earth.

    JOHN LARSON: And, this: the Pongo de Mainique – a six square mile preserve with more species of life than any other similar sized place on Earth. The Machiguenga believe this is birthplace of all life, and the gateway to the next world.

    (Sound of prayers at the waterfalls)

    JOHN LARSON: And this is where an important, additional element of Network of Indigenous Knowledge comes in. Scientists are becoming increasing receptive to what’s recognized as “Traditional Knowledge” – the extensive collection of environmental observations, and wisdom passed down among indigenous people. People who have lived in one environment, in many cases, for thousands of years.

    RYAN TOOHEY: “There’s just a wealth of information in that indigenous knowledge that can help western scientists focus their research questions even more.”

    (Sound of field researchers) “Alright, its connected.”

    JOHN LARSON: Especially, as the world’s scientists attempt to understand the effects of climate change. For example, Yukon Tribes are now helping US scientists measure melting permafrost – the layer of underground ice that we used to believe was permanently frozen, but not anymore.

    PAUL SCHUSTER (USGS): “In order to asses the effect the climate is having on the environment, we have to have long term data.”

    JOHN LARSON: And its that idea – of the long term – how the modern study of global change could benefit from ancient knowledge. This year – Waterhouse will return to Siberia and Peru for the results of water quality tests, and to collect the gathered stories – helping some of the most remote people on earth talk with each other – about the health of the world’s rivers.

    The post Giving a microphone to the world’s most remote people appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    If you own an Apple device running on iOS 7, you may need to take a minute over the weekend to install an important security update released by the company on Friday.

    Vulnerable devices include the iPhone 4 and later, iPod touch, and iPad 2 and later. Security researchers found the bug also occurs on Mac OS X running on Apple laptops and desktops.

    Reuters reports the bug could allow attackers to intercept your email, bank account data and other information if they can gain access to a shared network, like a public Wi-Fi connection.

    Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer at security firm CrowdStrike Inc., joins me for a Google+ Hangout about the iOS7 bug.

    Apple quietly released the security update accompanied by a short post on its website indicating there was a need to fix a bug in the operating system’s SSL — or the common method of defense against spying or unwanted attacks on the internet.

    In the statement on its website, Apple said the software “failed to validate the authenticity of the connection.”

    “This sort of subtle bug deep in the code is a nightmare,” Adam Langley, a web encryption expert at Google, wrote on his blog.

    “I believe that it’s just a mistake and I feel very bad for whomever might have slipped in an editor and created it.”

    Langley analyzed the problem and said he found that Apple’s security update, known as a patch, solved the bug.

    But if a user does not download the patch they could be vulnerable to attacks, especially as the news gains traction on websites like Hacker News.

    Matthew Green, cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, tweeted about the severity of the iOS 7 issue:

    Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Reuters on Saturday that the company knew about the issue and was working to develop a software fix for these devices.

    Apple has not released information about whether the flaw is already being exploited by hackers. The company also did not provide details about how it learned of the problem.

    The post Apple bug leaves devices vulnerable to hackers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The developments in the last few weeks in Ukraine have further strained the already fraught relations between the United States and Russia. For more about that and other issues dividing the two countries we’re joined now by Stephen Cohen, he’s the Professor of Russian Studies at New York University and Princeton. He’s also the author of the book Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. So of course Ukraine is right next door to Russia. Russia has major interests here. How is Putin likely to react?

    STEPHEN COHEN: Well, let’s look at what might happen. Let’s take the most extreme scenario. The president, democratically elected although he’s not a nice man, has fled Kiev, Ukraine to Kharkov in the East near Russia. Presumably he’s going to claim he’s the legitimate president of Ukraine and form a government in Kharkov. Meanwhile protesters, the mob, whatever you want to call it, have taken over the presidential palace and legislature in Kiev and they’re going to form a government. So we are probably gonna have, if not in law in fact, two governments in Ukraine. That’s very dramatic in the center of Europe. One will be affiliated with Russia, if this happens, the other with the European Union. And if we think about it in the worst scenario, that will be a new Cold War to divide in Europe. This time, not in far away Berlin, but right on Russia’s borders and that isn’t good.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a possibility that Russia annexes back that section of Ukraine that likes it?

    STEPHEN COHEN: Today it’s eight hours later, nine hours later there. The legislator of Kharkov, which calls itself the southeastern Parliament of Ukraine — that’s the area where it’s mainly Russian speaking and adheres to Russia — passed resolutions saying they don’t recognize the authority of the government in Kiev, which means they’re saying they’re sovereign and independent. So in effect, they’re now allied with Russia. Russia’s red line, if you want to ask me about whether Russia would intervene military, it’s red line are the two Russian enclaves in eastern Ukraine: Crimea and Sevastopol. Not only because those are ethnic Russians, but that’s where the Russian naval bases are.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Okay so President of the United States and President Putin have a conference call yesterday. What are the U.S. interests in all this?

    STEPHEN COHEN: Well, you’ve asked me two questions. What does Washington think its interests are? Because Washington has spun a narrative that I think hasn’t been correct and has worsened the problem. And what I think Washington’s interests ought, and Washington’s interests ought to be a stable and united Ukraine, at peace with itself and not trapped in an either or proposition between Russia and Europe. There’s no reason why Ukraine must choose. Ukraine’s an economic basket case. As Putin himself actually said, let both sides, Russia and Europe, help Ukraine. But things may be out of control. This may be something of a revolutionary situation. Nothing written on paper holds to that evening.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And finally turning to something else that’s sort of in the news about Russia. Considering that the Olympics are ending now and there are concerns that Putin will crack down harder on his dissidents because the media spotlight will be away. This week we saw that band, Pussy Riot, actually stage their own protests in Sochi and they were beaten horribly. And they were writing in op eds in the New York Times saying next week it’s gonna get worse.

    STEPHEN COHEN: Look, Putin isn’t gonna crack down inside Russia because the Olympics are over. One of the bad things that’s happened in Ukraine is a democratically elected government has been overthrown and forces sponsored by the west are coming to power. Putin wants to know, is that a paradigm for Russia? Is the west going to try the same thing in Russia? Now you and I might say ‘that’s paranoid,’ but as somebody once said ‘even paranoids have enemies’ and this is widely believed in Russia. And so he might now crack down because he fears the Kiev scenario might be attempted in Russia. I don’t think we would dare do that, but Russians think based on what they see, and they’ve seen something fairly unnerving.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Stephen Cohen, thanks so much.

    STEPHEN COHEN: My pleasure.

    The post Clashes in Ukraine create tension for U.S. and Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Transportation Secretary of the United States warned this week that the federal Highway Trust Fund could run out of money later this year. What would the implications of that be? For more we’re joined from Washington by Bob Cusack, he’s the Managing Editor for The Hill. So for those not paying close attention, what is the trust fund? And how is it that we got this close to it running out of money again?

    BOB CUSACK: Well, it’s running out of money because fewer people are driving and basically it’s funded by the gas tax and that gas tax goes into this fund and this fund from the federal government goes to states to pay for infrastructure spending. but there’s gonna be a short fall and that’s causing a lot of concern on Capitol Hill, especially with the transportation secretary. He’s urging congress to start thinking about remedies of having to deal with this shortfall, but with partisan gridlock in Washington this is going to be a tough one to solve.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So interestingly enough the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce both went to the Hill and said we’re for an increase in the gas tax, which is incredibly unpopular with Congress.

    BOB CUSACK: Absolutely, and that’s why the gas tax hasn’t been increased for two decades and it’s not going to be increased anytime soon. It’s a nonstarter in the Republican led house and even though the Chamber of Commerce wants congress to do this, and the administration hasn’t gone that far, but the transportation secretary commended the chamber for having the guts to do that. So it’s gotten the dialogue going, it’s gotten the debate going, but that’s not going to be the remedy because that simply doesn’t have the votes and Speaker John Boehner is not going to increase the gas tax anytime soon, especially with his Tea Party conference.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, so what are some other possible remedies that could close this gap?

    BOB CUSACK: There aren’t many. You know transportation spending, the politics of it have changed dramatically since the stimulus, which was a very partisan debate. Before that transportation funding was more of a bipartisan feeling, an initiative. But now I don’t know what they’re going to do, other than maybe just moving money from the general fund to the transportation fund, which congress has done before, but still there are going to be a lot of conservatives on Capitol Hill who are going to oppose that. But there are not a lot of easy remedies, otherwise they would have already done it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what sort of road repairs are affected when this fund is short of money?

    BOB CUSACK: Oh many, across the states and basically what is gonna have to be done is that states are going to have to cut funding for infrastructure projects. So states across the country are gonna have a shortfall, they’re not gonna be getting the money they normally get from the federal government, in all likelihood, unless Congress comes up with some big bipartisan agreement and that’s unlikely. So the amount of money that states are spending on infrastructure is going to go down, and that’s a significant concern, especially in the wake of the storms we’ve had which have led to a number of potholes across the country. And that’s only a small percentage of transportation funding to fix those, but there’s no doubt about it, states are going to have to cut the amount of funding they use on transportation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Bob Cusack, Managing Editor of The Hill. Thanks so much.

    BOB CUSACK: Thank you.

    The post Transportation Secretary warns of dwindling highway funding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    sledhockey

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    Watch the full version of this piece from WTTW Chicago.

    JAY SHEFSKY: The gear that a sled hockey player puts on for a game is pretty much the same as it is for an able bodied player. With one key difference. Instead of ice skates, there is this sled with blades on the bottom.

    JAY SHEFSKY: Sled hockey is played by people with lower limb disabilities like spinal cord injuries and amputations.

    JAY SHEFSKY (to Patrick): How is this different from regular hockey?

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    PATRICK BYRNE: Regular hockey uses their legs. We’re using our arms.

    JAY SHEFSKY: One other difference: Each player has two hockey sticks.

    JAY SHEFSKY: Patrick Byrne has been playing for about 15 years. And he’s not only a player — he’s one of the coaches.

    PATRICK BYRNE: I lost my leg in ’92. I was in a construction accident. It just really changed my life.

    JAY SHEFSKY: And at first, Patrick says he was suicidal.

    PATRICK BYRNE: Before I lost my leg, I looked across the street and I seen a person in a wheelchair and I seen how she was struggling going around our equipment stuff and everything else, and I said to myself, “if I was ever in that situation, I think I would rather be dead.”

    JAY SHEFSKY: Patrick says that before his accident, he was never much into sports. But he says that sled hockey – and other sports – have changed his life.

    JAY SHEFSKY: Patrick Byrne played on the 2002 U.S. Sled hockey team at the Paralympics. The team was a long shot – But they came back with gold.

    PATRICK BYRNE: Words can’t even describe it. The only thing you can do is (laughs) the tears start rolling it’s just like “did we just win the gold?”

    PATRICK BYRNE: The great thing about sports that I love — and a lot of the guys here love — is it makes you feel like you’re not disabled.

    The post For Paralympic players, a hockey game with sleds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    While parliament acts quickly to get interim government in place, demonstrators continue to gather and mourn victims in Kiev’s Independence Square. Credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

    While Ukraine’s parliament acts quickly to name an interim government, mourners gather at a memorial for victims of violent clashes during protests at Kiev’s Independence Square. Credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

    In a vote on Sunday, the Ukrainian parliament named its speaker and top opposition member Oleksander Turchinov as interim president. Turchinov will assume presidential powers until elections to be held on May 25.

    Turchinov is a close ally of former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. She was released on Saturday after being imprisoned for two and a half years on abuse of office charges.

    An interim prime minister is expected to be nominated on Tuesday. Many thought Tymoshenko would take the post, but she released a statement on Saturday asking not to be nominated.

    While the parliament’s legitimacy remains unclear, the embattled Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has called the legislators’ recent actions illegal.

    Yanukovych left Kiev on Saturday for eastern Ukraine after a week of deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters. Reports say the leader fled to the city of Kharkiv in the east part of the country where his support base remains intact.

    Concerns have arisen in recent days about the possibility of a split between pro-Russian eastern Ukraine and the European leaning western part of the country.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly spoke on the phone Sunday and agreed the former Soviet country should remain united.

    Ukraine’s economy remains in a fragile state. According to the Associated Press, Russia’s finance minister pushed for Ukraine to request a loan from the International Monetary Fund to avoid a default.

    The European Commission said it was prepared to provide aid and finalize a trade agreement once Ukraine has formed a new government

    The post Parliament appoints interim president in Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The nation’s governors sound every bit as divided as Washington lawmakers on how best to help the nation’s economy.

    Democratic governors such as Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy made pitches Sunday to raise the minimum wage, while Republican governors such as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Indiana’s Mike Pence called for more freedom from federal regulations, particularly those that are part President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul.

    The governors were in Washington during the weekend as part of their annual conference and are scheduled to dine with the president at the White House Sunday evening.

    Malloy said that the minimum wage in Connecticut will be gradually raised until it hits $10.10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017. He said it needs to be adjusted to keep up with the cost of living.

    “We know that the vast majority of people earning minimum wage are in fact trying to raise a family,” Malloy said Sunday.

    Pence countered that state innovation will lead the economy back. “I think the basic message is more freedom and more flexibility, Mr. President.”

    Some of the governors who came to Washington are potential presidential contenders in 2016, but that’s not something they were ready to discuss Sunday.

    “The honest answer is, I don’t know,” Jindal said in response to question about exploring a White House run. “We’ve got 36 governor’s races this year,” adding that Republicans are also trying to gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House.

    “We’re focused on that,” he said.

    Jindal was more interested in talking about differences among lawmakers over how to boost the economy. He said the domestic production of energy can create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.

    “Why not approve the Keystone Pipeline today?” Jindal said.

    The project remains under review by several federal agencies before Obama makes a decision. Opponents of the pipeline fear it will extend U.S. dependence on fossil fuels that warm the planet, and that oil spills could seep into the Ogallala Aquifer that provides water to eight states in the central U.S.

    Jindal also said that delaying all mandates that are part of the health insurance overhaul would boost employers’ ability to hire more workers.

    Governors have been confronted with critical decisions about the health overhaul that will largely define their tenures. Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., defended his state’s health insurance exchange, where small businesses have been forced to sign up directly with insurance companies instead of through the exchange.

    “There isn’t an exchange in the country that hasn’t had a challenge in the rollout. We acknowledge that. But Vermont happens to be the state that has signed up more people per capita for affordable health care than any other state in the nation, including the federal exchange,” Shumlin said.

    Shumlin was critical of governors who have declined to accept federal funding to expand health insurance to low-income residents through Medicaid, saying they’re hurting constituents because “they don’t like the president, because they want to make a political point.”

    Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., said the state has been able to expand health insurance coverage to those living in poverty without accepting federal money that in the future could put the state’s taxpayers at risk.

    “Even before the Medicaid expansion I had to add $600 million more to Medicaid. Almost 40 percent of that was to fill in the federal government reneging on commitments they’ve already made,” Walker said. “That commitment’s not going to be there, and taxpayers all across America are going to be on the hook. They’re not going to be on the hook in Wisconsin.”

    Malloy appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union”; Jindal spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Shumlin and Walker made their comments on “Fox News Sunday.”

    This report was written by Associated Press reporter Kevin Freking.

    The post Nation’s governors mirror partisan divides in Washington appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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     Drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican security forces on Feb. 22. On Sunday, new details emerged about the Mexican-U.S. effort that led to Guzman's apprehension. Credit: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican security forces on Feb. 22. On Sunday, new details emerged about the Mexican-U.S. effort that led to Guzman’s apprehension. Credit: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    In a joint effort of Mexican and U.S. law enforcement on Saturday, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the notorious drug kingpin, was taken into custody in the resort city of Mazatlan.

    The 56-year-old had evaded capture for 13 years, despite his status as one of the world’s most-wanted drug lords.


    Mexico Bureau Chief for Dallas Morning News Alfredo Corchado shared details of Guzman’s capture in a Google+ Hangout.

    According to the Associated Press, Mexican marines — acting on information from Guzman’s bodyguards — swarmed the house of Guzman’s ex-wife in Culiacan, only to get tripped up by a steel-reinforced door that proved difficult to take down.

    The delay allowed Guzman to flee through a secret door that led to a network of tunnels and sewer canals.

    When the authorities caught up with him early Saturday, he was captured in front of the Miramar condominiums.

    A U.S. law enforcement official told Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas Morning News that the Americans were given less than a month to work on the ground with Mexican forces to prepare to take down Guzman.

    “The Mexican government gave us a set time, and we were right down to the wire — in fact, down to the last day,” said the U.S. official. “This couldn’t have been more dramatic, but the arrest was a credit to our long working relationship with Mexican marines, who led the operation.”

    Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto acknowledged Guzman’s capture via Twitter on Saturday:

    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder lauded the efforts of security forces in a statement, calling Guzman’s apprehension a “landmark achievement” and “a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States.”

    “Guzman was one of the world’s most wanted men and the alleged head of a drug-running empire that spans continents. The criminal activity Guzman allegedly directed contributed to the death and destruction of millions of lives across the globe through drug addiction, violence, and corruption,” he said.

    Related: Drug smugglers have a new cargo: cheap prescription meds from Mexico

    The post New details of most-wanted drug kingpin captured in Mexico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s estimated that nearly a thousand additional Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder every week. A report out Thursday by the Institute of Medicine said that despite dozens of programs by the military to help treat the mental illnesses that veterans suffer, few of them are proving effective. For more we’re joined by Gregg Zoroya of USA Today who has been covering this story. So the Department of Defense asked for this review, what did it find?

    GREGG ZOROYA: Well it really was a review that was, the request was really built on something that happened last year. The Institute of Medicine had completed a four-year review of just how prevalent the problem was and they found that the numbers of folks that were ill were really kind of getting so large that both the Pentagon and the V.A. were having trouble staying ahead of it. So the Pentagon asked for this report. They wanted to know — we’ve got prevention programs out there, why aren’t they working? And essentially what this panel, from the Institute of Medicine, found was that while some of these ideas in theory made sense when they were introduced earlier in the war, that there really hadn’t been a strong enough effort by the Pentagon and by some of the branches to try to understand whether through some real strong scientific research whether the programs worked. And they found that in fact, they hadn’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Which ideas were they focusing on in the report?

    GREGG ZOROYA: Well they had they looked, at kind of they built on a RAND study that had come out previously that identified about 94 of these programs that are out there. And from that they kind of focused on some of the key ones and I think at the top of their list was really kind of the grand daddy of all the programs and that’s an Army one called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, it’s now called Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, and it costs quite a lot of money, it reaches hundreds of thousands of soldiers and they found that they didn’t think that it really worked.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so what’s the Army’s response to this, when they say this isn’t working? If it’s been used on a million different soldiers now.

    GREGG ZOROYA: Well, they’re very defensive about it. They, in fact, think that it does work. They say they’re internal scoring shows it improves positive thinking, it kind of helps soldiers learn to thrive, helps them deal with adversity. They do admit — the Army does — that when they created the program in 2009, as the numbers of PTSD and suicide were beginning to rise, that they were trying to deal with prevention at that point and they’ve modified the program since then. It really isn’t so much a prevention program, they say now. They say it’s more to kind of improve the quality of soldiers lives, help them deal with adversity.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what is working? Have suicides gone down?

    GREGG ZOROYA: No. Well, actually in this last year there was a reduction for the first time among active duty troops, those who are not guard and reserve, or on inactive status. They found that the numbers had dropped for the first time in almost 10 years, by about 20 percent within the army. And that was something they were very happy about, but it was a modest decline. It isn’t clear whether they’ve actually turned the corner , the army will say that themselves. and they still have large numbers, as you’ve already quoted, of folks who are developing PTSD. Some of the programs they say show promise. There was one small program the army has, called Battle Mine, which is designed to help soldiers deal with reintegration, helping them understand that what they go through in combat are feelings that others do, try to normalize those feelings. and that has been shown to have some modest benefits through peer reviewed research.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Gregg Zoroya of USA today, thanks so much.

    GREGG ZOROYA: My pleasure.

    The post Military using unproven programs to take on mental illness appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the past few days we’ve gotten new insights into how the nation’s central bankers reacted to the global economic meltdown of 2008. This with the release of the Federal Reserve Board’s transcripts at that time. For more about all this is Jon Hilsenrath of the Wall Street Journal. He joins us from Washington. So take us back, if we had amnesia 2008 what’s the setting where all these conversations are taking place?

    JON HILSENRATH: The setting is it’s a moment of crisis and a period where Fed officials are constantly playing catch up, constantly trying to keep up with events that are spiraling out of control. There are moments when they feel like they’re ahead of the curve, but there are many moments when they are clearly behind the curve.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So I mean hindsight’s 20/20, but let’s start looking at different characters here. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers, what’s Ben Bernanke thinking?

    JON HILSENRATH: Right after the collapse of Lehman Brothers it’s kind of his last moment of hopefulness that maybe they can escape this thing without a disaster. There’s a meeting actually two days after that Sunday, that fateful Sunday night when the government decided to let Lehman go, and Bernanke actually says in this meeting that ‘you know maybe monetary policy, the level of interest rates, is in the right place,’ they had kept them at 2 percent. Within a matter of days everything changes; they’re in the process of bailing out AIG. 36 hours later Ben Bernanke and Frank Paulson go to Congress and they say the government has to step up and bail out the whole banking system and within a matter of weeks he’s moving to slash interest rates. And you know Bernanke, that September meeting was a really great example of him playing catch up and not immediately recognizing the gravity of events that were in front of him.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Okay, how about Tim Geithner, he later goes on to be Treasury Secretary, what were his positions at the time?

    JON HILSENRATH: You know Tim Geithner is a very interesting character here. He spends a lot of time in these meetings sparring and jousting with the Fed’s policy hawks. Officials from regional Federal Reserve Banks who are more worried about inflation than with the financial system stability. and Geithner spends a lot of time jousting with them. Frankly, there’s some moments here where it looks like he’s behind the curve. There’s a January 2008 meeting where Geithner gives his assessment of the financial system and he says it looks like the process of healing has already started. He couldn’t have been more wrong in that case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright let’s talk also about Janet Yellen, who’s Fed chairman now. What was her behavior then and what can we glean from that going forward and how she might behave?

    JON HILSENRATH: You know, one of the things that got Yellen this job was a sense that she had very good judgement, that in 2007 when we looked at earlier transcripts she was one of the first people to say ‘hey we have some real problems in this housing market.’ We know from their decision since 2008 she’s pushed very hard to keep interest rates low and hasn’t been too worried about inflation. These 2008 transcripts I think confirm the sense that the lady has pretty good judgement. She was usually one of the people in the room saying that she was concerned that the financial system was in grave danger.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Jon Hilsenrath from the Wall Street Journal. Thanks so much.

    JON HILSENRATH: Thanks a lot.

     

    The post Transcripts reveal Fed reactions during 2008 economic crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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