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

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister  Sergey Lavrov met in London on Friday. Photo by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in London on Friday. Photo by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that there is “no common” vision between the United States and his country over the situation in Ukraine, according to The Associated Press.

    Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry are among a group of world leaders attending talks in London. The meeting comes before a Sunday vote in Crimea on whether the region will secede and become a part of Russia.

    And despite some international fears, Lavrov said Russia has no plans to invade southeastern Ukraine.

    Throughout the London meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account tweeted photos and video of interaction between Kerry and Lavrov:

    The two apparently took a long walk on the grass and kicked around a soccer ball.

    The post Lavrov says U.S. and Russia still at great odds over Ukraine crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    There's an economic explanation -- and implication -- to why people with similar backgrounds stick together. Photo by Cultura/Robin James/Riser via Getty Images.

    There’s an economic explanation — and implication — to why people with similar backgrounds stick together. Photo by Cultura/Robin James/Riser via Getty Images.

    Editor’s Note: Could our own dating habits be to blame for the economic mobility that, according to a recent study, has been stagnant for three decades?

    In this adaptation of his recent book, “Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned from Online Dating,” Stanford economist Paul Oyer explains how our preferences to be around other people perpetuate our own socioeconomic positions.

    Oyer’s first post for Making Sen$e – a compelling read for anyone reentering the dating market or trying to understand economics – is about how the separated economist gets discriminated against online.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    I am a terrible dancer. I have no natural rhythm, I move in an ungraceful manner, and my lack of talent is compounded by pronounced self-consciousness when I’m on the dance floor.

    If dancing were a primary issue in making couples happy together, it would be bad for me to date a woman who was a good dancer. She would be frustrated by my reluctance to dance, my inability to keep up with her while dancing, and with having to watch me try. So it would make much more sense for good dancers to date one another and for women who cannot dance to go out with the likes of me.

    The top law firms recruit the cream of the crop from the top law schools. Many other firms employ the merely excellent. There are plenty of prestigious law firms that recruit new lawyers from good law schools and that are quite picky about whom they select. But there are a few firms that will, with rare exceptions, make offers only to the top students (those who make the law review) at the most elite law schools. These firms, such as Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, and Katz and Cravath, Swaine and Moore, do some of the most important and complicated legal work in the business and financial world. They believe that they need the very best and brightest lawyers in order to do such work effectively. The fact that clients demand these firms’ services indicates that their business model is sensible. In the market for lawyers, then, the best and the brightest lawyers are matched to the best and most valued firms just as I would date women who cannot dance in a world where dancing was key to matchmaking.

    Why do dancers and lawyers pair off this way? This is a pretty intuitive idea, but some economist somewhere — borrowing from the biologists who use it to explain the same phenomenon in the animal kingdom — gave it an unintuitive name: positive assortative mating. The basic idea is that people sort into partnerships or groups in a manner that is non-random and, in particular, can be “ordered.” So in the strictest version of positive assortative mating, the “best” woman would be mated to the “best” man, the second-best to the second-best, and so on.

    When we see positive assortative mating, it will generally be the case that it leads to a “better” outcome than if people (or lawyers and firms) matched randomly. Consider the following simple example. Suppose that Addison is a very beautiful woman and Chris is homely. Now suppose that Bailey is an extremely handsome and well-built man while Devon is unattractive. Other things being equal, both men would probably like to date Addison and both women would choose Bailey. However, the best way to form pairs is probably to pair Addison with Bailey and Chris with Devon. Addison and Bailey would be able to enjoy one another’s company with less insecurity, for example.

    Positive assortative mating is clearly an important force in the dating market. More attractive and wealthier people are always more in demand, but demand for attractive people on dating sites is especially high among other attractive people. More broadly, researchers have shown that there is strong positive assortative mating in terms of physical attractiveness, income, race, education and other traits on dating sites.

    We will come back to Addison, Bailey, Chris and Devon regularly, when they will represent people looking for a spouse, employees looking for a job and others needing grouping. In each case, they can be ordered from highest to lowest and, to keep it intuitive, the ranking will always be alphabetical. Addison will be the “best” (or Addison and Bailey will be the top) and Devon the “worst” (or Chris and Devon will be the bottom). Their names were specifically chosen to be androgynous to allow for same-sex or opposite-sex pairings, depending on the context. We will look at several examples and ask: When do we see Addison pairing with Bailey? When do we see Addison pairing with Devon? And, why might these pairings make sense?

    In the case of dancing (where the people are ordered by dance ability) or law co-workers (where they are ordered by lawyering skills), we have already seen that the Addisons of the world typically pair off with the Baileys. That pattern holds in many other contexts, but not all.

    Many couples meet in college, so it should be no great surprise that you are much more likely to marry a college graduate if you went to college than if you did not. For example, consider all American married couples in the year 2000 where the wife is between the ages of 18 and 40. A little more than one-quarter of the people in these marriages were college graduates. But two-thirds of the spouses of college graduates were college graduates. Similarly, about 11 percent of the people in these marriages had not completed high school, but more than half of those who had not completed high school were married to another high school dropout. So, if we were to rank our four friends by their education (that is, Addison stayed in school the longest, Devon the shortest), we would be very likely to find Addison married to Bailey and Chris to Devon.

    This pattern of “like mates with like” is much broader than traditional marriages and education, however. Gay couples, lesbian couples and opposite-sex unmarried cohabitating couples are equally similar in terms of education as are married couples. Partners in all types of committed relationships are also more similar than a random match in terms of income. People who work relatively long hours and make relatively more money live with other people who work hard and earn high incomes. “Power couples” are fairly common because people with high earning power pair off, leaving the less-well-off to each other.

    Positive assortative mating is very strong in couples of all kinds. The authors of one study conclude that, “We find evidence of positive assortative mating for all traits and across all types of couples.” So, no matter what characteristic is used to rank the four, we expect to see Addison married to or in a relationship with Bailey and Chris attached to Devon.

    In the movie “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere plays a wealthy businessman and Julia Roberts portrays a call girl who has had a rough life. They fall in love and live happily ever after, allowing Roberts’s character to climb the social hierarchy. Though a bit unconventional, it is the type of rags-to-riches story people love to hear and Hollywood loves to provide. But how realistic is it? Not very — and one reason is positive assortative mating: very few hookers marry rich men. We tend to pair off within the social class we grew up in, which reinforces our positions in the economic system.

    Just as couples tend to have similar education, couples typically come from similar backgrounds. So not only is it the case that a person with a college education is more likely to have a partner with a college education, but the children of people with college educations are more likely to have partners whose parents have a college education. The similarity of parents’ education and other characteristics among married couples has grown over time, which is probably making the “Pretty Woman” scenario even less likely.

    In most countries, it is very hard to move up the economic ladder. An important contributing factor to this quagmire is that we pair off with people who are more and more like we are, both in terms of family backgrounds and personal characteristics.

    On dating sites, the people who are most like you are the ones most interested in your profile. You meet people similar to you in school and through your parents. So where are you going to meet people who are different from you? How about work? Lots of couples meet at work (for one piece of hard data, there were three workplace weddings in the nine-year run of “The Office”). Maybe work is a good place to broaden your horizons?

    No such luck. Workplaces are another bastion of positive assortative mating. We work with people who are like us because different kinds of employers appeal to different types of workers.

    There is positive assortative mating in the labor market, in that the most productive workers match with the firms that can use their skills most productively. Most notably, large firms pay their workers more than small firms do. This is not a new development — Henry Moore did a study of Italian women in the textile industry one hundred years ago and found that women at plants with more than 500 workers made about 40 percent more than women in plants with under 20 workers.

    Moore went further than to just note the extra pay, stating, “…as the size of the establishment increases, the condition of the laborer improves in all directions — his wages rise, he is employed a greater number of days in a year, his employment varies less from month to month, and his hours of labor, per day, decrease.” (A hundred years ago, even if a person studied women, he felt compelled to masculinize anyone with a job.)

    In the century since Moore went to Italy, many studies have found the same basic idea in many different work settings around the world. In the United States in 1993, the average man at a company with over 1,000 employees made 11 percent more than a man at a company with 100 to 500 workers. Some of this discrepancy can be explained by other factors — people at bigger firms tend to stay at the same company longer, have a bit more education, and are much more likely to belong to a union and work full-time. But these figures are also an understatement of the extra pay from working at a large firm, where fringe benefits are generally more generous.

    It is incontrovertible that there is a strong and nearly universal relationship between firm size and wages, but why? There are surely a number of contributing factors, several of which have nothing to do with positive assortative mating. That is, there are several good reasons that a person would receive a higher wage from a large employer than that same person would from a smaller company. One possible explanation is that working at big companies might simply be less fun — think “Dilbert” — so people have to be paid a premium to be willing to work there instead of in a more enjoyable work environment.

    Furthermore, it’s possible that big firms simply have deeper pockets and either cannot or do not find it worth the trouble to bargain as hard on salaries. We might expect this to be true simply because of who does the bargaining. If I work at a big company and go in to ask for a raise, it does not come out of my boss’s own pocket. At smaller firms, however, the wage rates are likely to be set by the owner, or at least someone with a bigger stake in the company, who has strong incentives to guard expenses closely.

    But while those explanations are important and surely a part of the firm size/wage relationship, positive assortative mating is also a major driver of the firm-size premium. The types of people who work at big firms are the types of people who would make more money wherever they work. In addition to the data above showing that people at large companies are more educated and have more work experience, many studies have also shown that people who work at larger firms are simply “better” (more productive) workers. That is, big employers are able to attract employees who would be more productive than the typical worker, no matter where they worked.

    For example, one detailed and careful analysis of half a million French firms found that most of the difference in wages between big and small firms can be explained by the fact that “better” workers work at larger firms, even holding constant such characteristics as education and labor market experience. Other researchers looking at other countries have reached similar conclusions.

    We can safely conclude that there is positive assortative mating between workers and firms in the sense that more skilled workers go to bigger firms. Put another way, suppose Addison is the most educated, the hardest working, or simply the smartest one of our four friends and we rank the others the usual way. Our best guess would be that we would find Addison working for a Fortune 500 company, Bailey at a medium-sized regional business with maybe a thousand employees, Chris at a small company with 20 people, and Devon as a sole proprietor operating out of his house. Remember, however, that these are only averages, and that firm size is not the only factor determining productivity. There are, of course, plenty of very productive people at small companies and many unproductive people working at big companies.

    People work with people like themselves. Before that, they go to undergraduate schools with other people of similar intelligence and accomplishments. In fact, we “track” people in academics from an even younger age.

    My children’s school puts the best math students together in a group and separates them out from the other students. So, if Addison and her friends are high school students and we rank them by innate math ability, my kids’ high school (and most of its peer institutions) believes in positive assortative mating. They set up classes where Addison and Bailey are in one class while Chris and Devon are in another. It’s not just math, of course. By senior year, many of the students are taking only Advanced Placement classes, while others are not taking any. At this point, Addison and Bailey see each other regularly in a variety of classes (and compare notes on how their applications to Princeton are going), while Chris and Devon also have plenty of classes together but rarely see the other two.

    The main reason for this sorting is fairly obvious and completely different from why we see positive assortative mating on dating sites and in marriages. In those settings, we pair off on the basis of who we want to spend time with. But in choosing classrooms, we group kids so that they will learn the most as a collective. If we put Devon and Addison in the same math class, the teacher would either have to go so slowly for Devon’s sake that Addison’s learning would be impeded, or move the material along quickly enough to keep Addison engaged and lose Devon in the process. The total amount of learning is greatest when Devon and Chris are in the same class and Addison and Bailey are in a different class.

    But this sorting comes at a cost to Chris and Devon. The magnitude varies substantially depending on where or when you look, but economists and other social scientists have generally shown there are important “peer effects” in schools. If Addison is added to the group of students in a class, everyone learns a little more; if Devon is added, everyone learns a little less. The overall level of achievement across the whole class is highest when Addison is in a class with other high achievers, but Devon pays at least a small price for being excluded. Positive assortative mating in the form of classroom tracking may be optimal, but it is yet another factor that makes moving up the socioeconomic ladder increasingly difficult because people in Devon’s position are denied an opportunity to move up.

    For better or worse, fair or unfair, the world is full of positive assortative mating. People like to live with, go to school with, and work with people like themselves, and they are generally more productive when they do (at least across certain dimensions).

    We may wish our inclinations were otherwise so that economic mobility could be greater, but we are fighting nature. Our colleagues in the physical sciences have shown that Red Crossbills (birds), Icelandic Threespine Sticklebacks (fish), and Water Striders (bugs) show positive assortative mating by bill and body size. Why should we humans be any different?

    The post Economics explains why you resemble your mate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man writes a message on a banner for missing Malaysian Airline Flight 370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport  on Friday. Photo by Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg

    A man writes a message on a banner for missing Malaysian Airline Flight 370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Friday. Photo by Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg


    The Wall Street Journal reports Flight 370 “pinged” satellites after the time of the last confirmed location. The pings allowed investigators to track the plane even after primary tracking systems stopped working or were turned off. Officials said they are not sure why the pings stopped.

    No signals were detected after the last confirmed location from other equipment onboard that provide location data — including the black box, life rafts, which transmit emergency locator radio signals, and the transponders located in the cockpit.

    Officials told ABC News that there were indications that the other data reporting systems were deliberately and “systematically shut down.” CBS News confirmed the report.

    Malaysian officials said Thursday that they are expanding their search to the Andaman Sea. At the request of the Malaysian government, the destroyer USS Kidd was moving to the Strait of Malacca to assist in the search for the plane, Pentagon officials said. The ships’ helicopters could be used to search the area for any clues or evidence of the jetliner’s location.

    Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Boeing 777 aircraft at 2:40 a.m. on Saturday. The jetliner, carrying 239 passengers from 14 countries, departed from Kuala Lumpur and was supposed to land in Beijing.

    The post Search for missing Malaysian jetliner expands after new data is uncovered appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scientists remain hopeful that a woolly mammoth may someday be cloned. Photo by Flickr user Mark Ryan

    Scientists remain hopeful that a woolly mammoth may someday be cloned. Photo by Flickr user Mark Ryan

    Woolly mammoth blood and tissue discovered in Siberia in 2013 will give scientists “a high chance” to clone the prehistoric animal, a medical anthropologist told the English-language Siberian Times this week.

    Paleontologists discovered the carcass of a female woolly mammoth on the Lyakhovsky Islands in northeastern Russia last May, and the well-preserved nature of the remains immediately sparked speculation that the creature could potentially be cloned. An autopsy performed at Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University is expected to conclude on Saturday, according to The Siberian Times, and some scientists with knowledge of the work are rekindling the notion that the beast could be reborn.

    “The data we are about to receive will give us a high chance to clone the mammoth,” said Radik Khayrullin, vice president of the Russian Association of Medical Anthropologists.

    He clarified that the new animal would be “different … to the one living 43,000 years ago.” If such an experiment is to be done, scientists would have to breed the DNA from the mammoth with that of its closest living relative, the elephant.

    Last September, Semyon Grigoryev of Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum, part of the team working with the mammoth’s remains, downplayed the notion of the woolly mammoth returning sometime in the near future.

    “Everybody is talking about cloning, but we should understand that it is a very complicated task,” he said. “The evolutionary path of the mammoth and the elephant diverged a long time ago. So even if we could get a ‘living cell,’ we need to have a special method of cloning.

    “[W]e have a unique opportunity to understand how the mammoth’s blood system worked, its muscles and the trunk. Of course, we are engaged primarily in fundamental science. … Maybe our findings will be used by applied science, but now it is early to think of it. And I repeat once again that cloning – despite our discovery, it is a very distant prospect, involving years and decades of work.”

    In the meantime, many have been skeptical about these “woolly claims” since the discovery was first announced last year.

    The results of the work on the carcass are expected to be announced at a conference in Greece this May, according to The Siberian Times.

    The post Welcome to Pleistocene Park: Russian scientists say they have a ‘high chance’ of cloning a woolly mammoth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    There’s no excuse for easy-breathing tourists in France not to take in all of Paris’ sites this weekend: all major forms of public transportation, including the metro, city bikes and shared electric cars, are free. Recent air quality in the City of Lights, however, may make some visitors think twice about venturing into the streets.

    Heavily polluted air, exacerbated by a high pressure system, is hovering over northern France and obstructing the usually clear view of the low-lying buildings of Paris.

    The French Health Ministry has issued air quality warnings for at-risk populations. It’s the fourth day the French capital has been parked under the grey cloud, with Air Quality Index (AQI) readings on Friday coming in at 185 — comparable to Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities. The European Environmental Agency is calling this the worst pollution episode since 2007.

    France faces potential sanctions and fines from the European Union for exceeding limits on particulate matter in the atmosphere.

    The post Polluted skies in Paris reach levels comparable to Beijing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bitcoins

    Warren Buffett recommends staying away from bitcoin. Photo by Flickr user antanacoins

    Billionaire businessman Warren Buffett harshly criticized the virtual currency bitcoin Friday during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

    “Stay away from it. It’s a mirage, basically,” the Berkshire Hathaway CEO said. “It’s a method of transmitting money…The idea that it has some huge intrinsic value is just a joke in my view.”

    Buffett’s comments come just weeks after Mt. Gox, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges, went offline and subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles said he wasn’t able to account for 850,000 bitcoins — a value of about $425 million.

    You can watch Buffett’s appearance on CNBC below:

    The post Buffett: ‘Stay away’ from bitcoin appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It's National Pi Day. Celebrate with a pie and a quiz: How many digits of the mathematical constant can you name? Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Pi is for everyone. Chances are your birthday digits are hidden in the mathematical constant. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    The mathematical constant pi fascinates even the most advanced mathematicians.

    Because it is an irrational number, pi is infinite and never falls into a repeating pattern. Despite its use in mathematics for centuries, research is still being done on pi to determine whether the numbers repeat in a certain frequency.

    While calculating a few digits of pi can be done by hand, its calculation into the millions is used as a performance test for computers. So far, supercomputers have been able to compute pi to 12 trillion digits. Chances are, your birthday combination is in there somewhere.

    Find out below.


    How It Works

    The month, day and year of your birthday is combined into one number, so a birthday of March 14, 1915 becomes 31415. Then, through a search of our database of 4.2 million digits of pi, we’re able to determine the position of the first appearance of 31415.

    Have another helping of pi: Play our quiz to see how well you know the irrational number.

    The post Find your slice of birthday in pi appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Young women have increased their use of ADHD medication more than any other group in the U.S., according to the most current and comprehensive analysis of these medications.

    Express Scripts — a pharmacy benefit management company — released a study Wednesday of prescriptions filled from 2008 to 2012 that found ADHD medication use climbed 84 percent among women ages 26 to 34. The research drew from a sample of some 15 million privately insured individuals under the age of 65.

    Overall, the number of Americans who use medication to treat ADHD rose by 36 percent, topping 4.8 million privately insured individuals in 2012. Children are still the primary users of the medication, but use among adults has been increasing at a much greater speed.

    Women outnumber men in their use of stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, a reversal of childhood trends where half as many girls as boys take ADHD medication.

    In an interview with NPR, Dr. David Muzina — Express Scripts’ Vice President of Specialist Practice — said the spike in young women’s use of ADHD medication results from the women’s tendency to display the “inattentive form” of the disorder, rather than the “hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive form.”

    Muzina said that women may turn to these medications amid the stress of multiplying demands.

    “We all know that women in the United States are increasingly juggling more and more and more,” said Muzina. “Women still tend to have the majority of the responsibilities at home, particularly when families start up.”

    That rise in pressure, he explained, may produce ADHD-like symptoms, or cause symptoms of previously undiagnosed ADHD to surface.

    The post Women increase use of ADHD medication more than any other group, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The search expanded for that missing Malaysian jetliner today, as new leads emerged about the mystery behind its disappearance. The New York Times reported radar readings show the plane climbed sharply, then dropped, while turning several times. Separately, there were theories ranging from piracy to a cargo fire.

    But there appeared to be growing agreement that the plane turned west and flew for some time toward the Indian Ocean. We will talk to two following it all right after the news summary.

    Ukraine is facing a fateful weekend, with a Sunday referendum in Crimea to secede and join Russia. As that vote neared today, Russia deployed more troops and armor in Crimea. Moscow also repeated a threat to intervene elsewhere. The warning followed overnight street battles in Donetsk, a mainly Russia-speaking city in Eastern Ukraine, where at least one protester was killed.

    Meanwhile, a delegation of U.S. senators, led by Republican John McCain, visited the capital, Kiev. They laid flowers at a memorial honoring slain protesters.

    In London, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held six hours of talks, but failed to make headway toward resolving the crisis. They spoke to reporters afterward.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): We do not have common vision of the situation. The differences are there, but the dialogue was definitely constructive. And it could help us to understand how much and how good we understand each other.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: The foreign minister made it clear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday.

    The United States’ position on that referendum, I must say, is clear, and it’s clear today. We believe the referendum is contrary to the constitution of Ukraine. It’s contrary to international law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If Crimea secedes, the U.S. and the European Union plan to impose sanctions on select Russian officials and businesses as early as Monday. That threat hit Russia’s main stock index again today. It’s down 16 percent in the last two weeks. We will return to the scene inside Crimea, where Margaret Warner is on the ground, later in the program.

    The U.S. government will give up direct control over administration of the Internet. The Commerce Department announced the decision today. The practical effects were not immediately clear, but news accounts said a new oversight body must be created. That group would work with ICANN, a California nonprofit that oversees assigning Internet domain names and Web addresses.

    A watchdog group now claims the problem behind a major General Motors recall may be linked to 300 deaths. The Center for Auto Safety says that it studied accidents where a faulty ignition switch may have disabled air bags. GM says the defect resulted in 12 deaths. It has recalled 1.6 million vehicles, but is being criticized for not acting sooner.

    President Obama will look for ways to ease the effects of deporting those in the U.S. illegally. The move was announced last night. Two million people have been deported under Mr. Obama, and Hispanic leaders are pressing for relief.

    But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney cautioned today, there are limits to what’s possible.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The president understands and is concerned about the pain caused by the separations that have come about through deportation, and — but he also understands and has made clear that there’s no comprehensive fix that he can himself enact. Congress has to act.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So far, though, there’s little prospect of comprehensive immigration reform this year.

    The president says enough people have signed up, under his health care law, for the program to work. He told the medical Web site WebMD today that enrollment to date, 4.2 million, is sufficient to make the program stable. But he also urged young and healthy people to sign up to offset costs. The deadline is March 31.

    The U.S. Education Department will try again to crack down on career-training colleges whose graduates can’t pay their student debt. These programs account for almost half of all student loan defaults. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called today for stripping schools of access to financial aid if their pupils can’t find decent-paying jobs. A federal judge rejected earlier rules as arbitrary.

    Wall Street lost more ground today. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 43 points to close at 16,065. The Nasdaq fell 15 points to close at 4,245. And the Standard & Poor’s 500 was down five at 1,841. For the week, all three indexes lost 2 percent or more.

    The post News Wrap: Moscow amasses more troops in Crimea as U.S.-Russia diplomacy yields little progress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man writes a message on a banner for missing Malaysian Airline Flight 370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport  on Friday. Photo by Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 remained officially missing today, with all 239 passengers and crew. A series of reports had investigators pursuing a variety of explanations.

    Hari Sreenivasan begins with this report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After nearly a week, the search and speculation continue to grow. Ships and planes from a growing number of nations have expanded the hunt to the west and the east. Various news accounts today quoted unnamed officials, both Malaysian and U.S., that it’s increasingly likely the Boeing 777 changed course, possibly in an act of piracy.

    What’s now known is the plane left Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, reached an altitude of 35,000 feet, and then stopped communicating with air traffic controllers around 1:30 in the morning last Saturday, somewhere over the South China Sea. One possibility, it made a hard left turn. The search areas now encompass thousands of miles, stretching further into the South China Sea and also pushing Westward into the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean.

    That’s in keeping with reports the plane traveled several hours after disappearing, although Malaysia won’t confirm or deny it.

    DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, Transport Minister, Malaysia: There has been a lot of media speculation today after comments from unnamed U.S. officials suggested the plane may have traveled for some time after losing contact. As is standard procedure, the investigation team will not publicly release information until it has properly been verified and corroborated with the relevant authorities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the last 24 hours, The Wall Street Journal and other major news organizations reported the missing jet did convey some basic information via series of intermittent satellite pings for hours after its transponder stopped working.

    And the satellite communications company Inmarsat confirmed today it recorded those pings. Malaysian authorities are distilling that data with American help.

    GEN. AZHARUDDIN ABDUL RAHMAN, Civil Aviation Director, Malaysia: We are now working very closely with our team from U.S. to get whatever information of satellite to the U.S., and we are working that to determine the whereabouts of the aircraft. We cannot reveal the information right now because it’s still under investigation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Separately, CNN reported investigators are examining whether lithium batteries in the plane’s cargo played any role.

    In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney counseled caution and urged patience.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: This is a difficult and unusual situation, and we’re working hard in close collaboration with the Malaysian government to investigate a number of possible scenarios for what happened to the flight. Our hearts, of course, go out to the families of the passengers who are in this agonizing situation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, many Chinese families waited anxiously for a sixth day for any nugget of news about their loved ones.

    MAN (through interpreter): We are racing against time. Our relatives are losing their chance.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur’s airport, worshipers prayed for the missing and for resolution to the weeklong mystery.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To help us understand what’s known and what’s still a mystery, I am joined by Jim Hall, who served as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994 to 2001 and oversaw a number of airline disaster investigations, and Andy Pasztor. He’s a longtime aviation reporter who has been covering this story for The Wall Street Journal.

    Welcome to you both.

    Andy Pasztor, bring us up to date on what is known at this hour of the evening, this Friday.

    ANDY PASZTOR, The Wall Street Journal: So, this case seems increasingly headed toward a criminal or terrorist track.

    Even the most extreme conspiracy theorists are having trouble coming up with any other kind of explanation, an explanation that doesn’t involve deliberate acts on this aircraft. Over a span of six hours, three different signaling systems were turned off, some requiring specific acts by whoever or whatever group did it that had to be intentional, and the plane changed course and altitude a number of times.

    And I think it’s only, I would say, the most extreme theorists who would still say that this is not some kind of a criminal act. The big problem, of course, is we don’t know where the plane is, we don’t know what the intentions of the person or the group who did this are, and the biggest conundrum is, there’s no debris.

    And if there’s any fact that’s clear in an aviation case like this, if a plane of this size goes into the water, there has got to be debris. Something will float from inside, and we’re just not looking in the right place, if it landed — if it landed — if it crashed into the water.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Hall, when you put together what is coming out, the signal being — systems turned off, the apparent, we’re learning tonight, changes — abrupt changes in altitude, the changes in direction, you put all this together, what does it tell you?

    JIM HALL, Former Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board: Well, our investigators are going to have to still pursue the dual course that we did in TWA 800 to look to see whether this is a criminal act or an aviation accident.

    However, I would agree with Andy. The window seems to be closing on the possibility of the actions on this aircraft happening as a result of an accident. There are certain — I think, in this situation, almost everyone’s an expert and no one’s an expert, because the way the information has been handled by the investigative authorities in Malaysia borders on irresponsible.

    And, hopefully, we will see in coming days better cooperation and more information coming in a timely fashion, so that the vast resources that are being used around the world to look for this aircraft can be better directed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andy Pasztor, much of this new information, some of it is coming from Malaysian — the Malaysian military, but it’s also coming, as we mentioned in that report, from satellite — companies that own satellites and are telling us — are telling reporters what they see. How much of what is coming out is now, in your mind, confirmed?

    ANDY PASZTOR: So it’s very important to be precise in any kind of investigation like this.

    What we know for certain is that this aircraft continued to send signals out to satellites for up to five hours after its — it turned off the transponder — after the transponder stopped communicating with air traffic control. And that is — that is absolute fact.

    And, secondly, we know that the plane stayed intact because the signals continued. So, during that period, it had not crashed and the engines were working and it was flying. I mean, that is fact. The difficulty, I think, is going to become clear.

    If this turns into some kind of criminal investigation, and the Malaysians are in charge, unfortunately, as Jim just indicated, they have been less than stellar, which is a nice way to put it, in terms of how they have conducted this — their investigation so far.

    And I think that could be a problem for the U.S. once the FBI gets involved. We’re looking ahead, but I think it’s coming. We’re going to have to keep really close track of what the Malaysians are doing. Even today, after all the information about the aircraft flying for many hours, as you heard, the officials in that country are still suggesting that that may not be true.

    That’s not a very helpful sign for a thorough and really careful investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Hall, if you were involved in this investigation, what kinds of questions would you be seeking answers to right now?

    JIM HALL: Well, I would be looking to the professional people at the NTSB that are experts in this aircraft and in radar, in cooperation with Boeing, in cooperation with the military, and all of the agencies that can support an investigation.

    But, again, we don’t have an independent investigation in Malaysia similar to what we have seen in — with the NTSB or other independent accident investigation authorities around the world.

    So — and, Judy, the thing that really tears at you is the families. They’re the last ones, it appears, to be getting any accurate information, and they should be the first ones. And so this whole thing from the beginning to end has been an exercise of — you know, a lesson in what not to do in a major aviation accident investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Hall, let me — just staying with you, in terms of how many days have now passed, it’s been almost a — it will be a week tomorrow night since that happened.

    What does that mean in terms of, if there was a crash into the water, wherever it was, is there likely to be evidence still out there, or what?

    JIM HALL: Well, as Andy said, there should be evidence, if it’s in the water, of items from the aircraft floating.

    My concern is, if the transponder was turned off or, in fact, this was some form of new cyber-warfare we haven’t seen, it’s also possible to pull the circuit breakers on the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. So even finding wreckage to the aircraft may still leave unanswered what happened in those vital moments in the cockpit.

    As you know, we didn’t have that information in 9/11. And that’s why I have been such an advocate for deployable recorders, and I think we need to question exactly whether the flight crew — you know, whether a transponder should be able to be turned off on a commercial aircraft in this day and age.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, finally, Andy Pasztor, the scope of the search at this point is what?

    ANDY PASZTOR: At this point, you would say it includes tens of thousands of square miles, but, more importantly, various parts of the region, so they’re not even concentrating in one part.

    And just today, the U.S. Navy’s starting to really press in the Indian Ocean, which is the area where the investigators believe the last contact with the satellite occurred. But the aircraft still had perhaps an hour’s worth of fuel, maybe more. So just because that was the last contact, it’s — certainly, the suspicions are that whoever did this managed to turn off that last signaling system at that point, and the plane could have flown many, many hundreds of miles after that in a direction that, of course, we have no idea.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andy Pasztor, Jim Hall, we thank you.

    The post Window may be closing on possibility that Malaysian jetliner disappearance was aviation accident appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Washington Post reported Friday that the United States intends to give up federal government authority over the administration of the Internet.

    The contract between the U.S. Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, expires in 2015. The partnership between the U.S. and ICANN, a non-profit group based in California that oversees distribution of Internet domains, has long been controversial due to concerns over ease of worldwide surveillance by the National Security Agency.

    U.S. officials did not set a definitive timeline for the transition, though initial conditions were created as part of the switch-over. The creation of an oversight body that would “win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world” would be one of the first steps, according to a Commerce Department official.

    The post U.S. plans to relinquish federal control over Internet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tensions Grow In Crimea As Diplomatic Talks Continue

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now that an 11th-hour diplomatic effort between the U.S. and Russia failed to produce a breakthrough, the fate of the Ukrainian region of Crimea hangs in the balance of Sunday’s referendum vote.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, is in Crimea and she looks at a community split over its future.

    MARGARET WARNER: Oleg Kobernik is going door to door in the small Crimean town of Jankoi urging his fellow Ukrainians to go out and vote Sunday to once again become part of Russia.

    He shows them a sample ballot on how they should vote. Their choice appears to be essentially between voting to join Russia immediately or to declare independence from Ukraine as a prelude to that. Kobernik volunteered for the new so-called self-defense forces after protests in Kiev ousted Russian-backed President Yanukovych and installed a Western-backed government. He likens the current political struggle to the bloody battle over Ukraine 70 years ago between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

    OLEG KOBERNIK (through interpreter): We also remember World War II and how our grandfathers fought the Nazis. And now we find this merging forthright. As soon as I heard about the coup Kiev, we went to guard the Lenin statue downtown.

    MARGARET WARNER: The weight of history and its loaded language hangs over Sunday’s vote about Crimea’s future.

    For centuries, Crimea was part of Russia, until the Soviets transferred it to their Ukrainian republic in the ’50s, and Crimea remained part of Ukraine after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The peninsula still hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet and voters like Svetlana Kalinina insist, a majority of Ukrainian citizens here want to be Russian citizens again.

    SVETLANA KALININA (through interpreter): We have been waiting for this a long time. We felt oppressed for years. While we lived in poverty, the money Crimeans were making went straight to Kiev.

    MARGARET WARNER: Many parts of Crimea are impoverished, with high unemployment and low levels of government services and benefits.

    ALEXANDR KUZEMKA (through interpreter): There are no jobs, nothing here.

    MARGARET WARNER: Twenty-nine-year-old Alexandr Kuzemka has only now found steady work as a courier. He too yearns to join Russia for economic reasons.

    ALEXANDR KUZEMKA (through interpreter): Salary pensions are bigger in Russia, while prices are lower. That’s why I think the majority will vote to join Russia to get any kind of safety net, any kind of stability.

    MARGARET WARNER: But others loathe the idea. Ukrainian Dmitriy Sichkarenko rallied in the capital, Simferopol, today against the referendum to join Russia. A 44-year-old independent computer technician, he feels deeply Ukrainian and he looks to the West, not Moscow, for his future. The Russian model, he says, represents the past.

    DMITRIY SICHKARENKO (through interpreter): You will do what the party has ordered and you receive compensation. This passive style of life derived from dozens of years in a socialist state. Modern youth wants a choice, the freedom to open up and develop themselves.

    MARGARET WARNER: And you consider yourself part of that generation?

    DMITRIY SICHKARENKO (through interpreter): Of course, yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: He will stay home Sunday in protest of a vote he calls a farce. He says the ballot doesn’t even allow no as an option and he doubts the votes will even be counted. What’s more, he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has designs on more than Crimea.

    DMITRIY SICHKARENKO (through interpreter): I don’t believe he will stop. I think this is just the beginning of his plan to unite all Slavic people, bringing back empire and unity to the Soviet countries. He won’t stop with Ukraine.

    MARGARET WARNER: Also opposed to the referendum are residents of the small dusty village of Molojosni on the outskirts of the capital. It’s home to Muslim Tatars, a 15 percent minority in Crimea, whose ancestors were deported to Central Asia by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944.

    Like virtually every Tatar here, 86-year-old Abibulla Akhtemov lives in fear of falling under Russian rule again. He remembers 20 days of forced travel in a boxcar with his family, taken to a collective farm in Uzbekistan called Stalin, where three of his siblings died.

    ABIBULLA AKHTEMOV (through interpreter): I am afraid. I’m so upset in watching all of this and crying. I have this fear from my childhood, and, right now, I’m afraid, too.

    MARGARET WARNER: A more immediate fear drove his younger Tatar neighbors, as in many such communities, to muster in the cold late last night to guard against any attempt to attack or intimidate their village at this charged political moment.

    Meanwhile, in the capital today, as some Ukrainians and Tatars have a last-ditch anti-referendum rally, a convoy of pro-Russia stalwarts drove by as if the protesters weren’t even there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hari Sreenivasan spoke to Margaret a short time ago.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Margaret, thanks for joining us.

    So, how is the vote expected to go?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Hari, I have learned the hard way never to predict elections, but it’s hard to imagine this vote won’t be interpreted as moving Crimea closer to Russia.

    First of all, you have major blocs of people opposed to it, like the whole leadership of the Tatar community, saying they’re not even — they’re going to boycott it, so as not to give it legitimacy.

    Secondly, you have the wording of the ballot, which I tried to explain in the setup piece, which essentially says either they want to join Russia right away or they want to go back to this ’92 constitution, which declares Crimea essentially independent.

    And, third, I have heard from a lot of young people who are pro-Ukrainian a great sense of futility. A couple we met on the train said, you know, they’re just going to move to Western Ukraine. And one woman — the woman said, you know, we don’t feel the decision is going to be made by us. And the man said, whatever Russia wants, Russia just takes. The decision has already been made.

    So, in terms of voter motivation, I would say the energy is on the side of the pro-Russia supporters.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so are there signs of a campaign? What does it look like on the streets?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Hari, not as Americans would consider a campaign.

    First of all, this is a peninsula under Russian occupation. Now, you don’t see Russian soldiers in uniform out in the streets here. Instead, they have got this Cossack paramilitary unit and they have got these local self-defense forces.

    And the Russian troops are out encircling Ukrainian bases. But, still, it is not a free atmosphere. Secondly, there’s no real debate. For instance, on television, you haven’t had televised debates at all. Most of the TV is blatantly pro-Russian, though there are a couple of Ukrainian channels.

    And, third, there is this intimidation going on. Some Tatars in a nearby city report having X’s put on their doors by thugs. That’s exactly how the Stalin forces marked the doors of Tatars who were going to get deported. And you have had prominent activist leaders on the pro-Ukrainian side, non-Tatar, who have gone missing. And no one knows where they are.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What does this mean for ordinary Crimeans caught in the middle of this?

    MARGARET WARNER: The ordinary Crimeans I have talked to say it’s very disheartening.

    One woman told me tonight, all my friends used to be so optimistic about the future, and now we’re not. She said their life has been put on hold. She said, a lot of my friends are going to go ahead and move to Ukrainian. She’s only 23, so she feels Ukrainian. It’s been an independent country for 23 years.

    And she said, but my boyfriend and I were going to get married. Now we don’t know what to do. We don’t know what country we’re going to belong to.

    So it’s also sown, I would say, disunity or discord or mistrust among groups that never used to be. Dmitriy, the 44-year-old I.T. guy in our piece, said, our friends, we never used to argue about politics, and now we do.

    And the Tatars are very nervous about, as one woman said to me today, we don’t know what Putin is putting in their heads.

    So, I would say there’s a lot of unease, even among pro-Russian people here, about what the future holds.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. secretary of state has been pushing back on Russia to back off of Crimea. Certain E.U. nations have been threatening sanctions. How do the Crimeans there perceive these efforts?

    MARGARET WARNER: Hari, I have to say they think they fall woefully short.

    And, in fact, Crimeans who are, I mean, pro-Ukraine feel betrayed. And what they are talking about is, in 1994, when Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons, which it had as part of the Soviet Union, there was this so-called Budapest memorandum signed in which the U.S. and Britain and Russia agreed with Ukraine that they would act to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and security.

    So, when I went to the American Embassy the other day, there was a demonstration out front, a man with a bullhorn shouting, you promised to protect us. And now it’s time for you to deliver.

    Now, American and other European diplomats say, well, a Budapest memorandum is not an agreement. It’s not a treaty. It’s not binding under international law. And, essentially, they’re saying, we’re not — we’re going to do a lot diplomatically, but not militarily.

    And that answer doesn’t sit well with the pro-Ukrainian voters we have talked to. And one Tatar said to me today, well, America may say it’s not binding, but I hope they know that if Putin isn’t stopped with Crimea, he’s going to keep going and he’s going to be moving their way and toward other countries.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Margaret Warner, thanks so much for joining us.

    MARGARET WARNER: Look forward to talking to you this weekend, Hari.

    The post In Crimea, rifts widen as referendum looms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shieldsbrooks

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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.

    Well, Margaret sounded fairly ominous.

    David, what are we headed for in Ukraine?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    I think that ominousness is fully merited. The Russians are massing troops on the border. They have whipped up nationalist fervor. They’re talking about all the Russians who are being harassed and killed within Ukraine.

    If Putin decides to escalate, what else is there? And so I do think — I wouldn’t want to bet on it, but I do think there’s some possibility of something really cataclysmic happening in the next couple of weeks or whatever.

    It’s important to remember that, for Putin, if you’re an autocrat in the world today, what’s your central conflict? Your central conflict is between you and Maidan, you and the square. And it’s important for you, for your own very survival, to show that you can beat the square, and that the square is not the future. By that, I mean a popular uprising.

    And so there are two ways Putin can do that. The first is just to take over part of Ukraine. The second is just to trash the country and to sow chaos throughout Ukraine, so the country begins to sort of fall apart, and that is something I know administration officials are also thinking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You see something cataclysmic coming?

    MARK SHIELDS: I hope not, Judy, although David’s portrait is pretty persuasive.

    I think one of the mistakes that we have made in the analysis of this is that we assume it’s sort of a Cold War hangover, that the Russians had I.Q.s of 300 and stood 12 feet tall.

    I don’t — I think this is very ad hoc. I don’t think that Putin…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Putin’s part.

    MARK SHIELDS: On Putin’s part.

    I don’t think Putin expected his puppet to fall as quickly and completely as he did in a popular uprising in Ukraine. And I think he’s been playing it very much by ear. I do think that sanctions are absolutely imperative, and sanctions that stick, and sanctions that stick most of all upon Putin and his outliers.

    Those are the klepto-capitalists, or, what — crony capitalists or whatever you want to call them. I would — the private schools, boarding schools of England and some in the United States are being sustained by the full tuitions paid by these Russian oligarchs. And I think perhaps the time has come for that to end.

    I mean, their flirtation with “Downton Abbey,” or their fixation with it, and their own gilded living in the West has to come to an end. And I think Mrs. Merkel is the central player in that, as well as obviously the United States, but — and she has shown, I think, some both measure and resolve.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but is that likely to change Putin’s course?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, one area I do disagree with Mark on, I do think, my understanding is he has thought through at least some things, and he’s thought through the economic pain.

    I think the last time I checked, the Russian market was down 17 percent, the equities market. And I’m sure he’s thought through the sanctions and thought through the visa possibilities. And I think he has said, we lived through Stalingrad. We can live through this.

    And so I do think that he’s sort of steeled his country for the economic pain. And it should be said, domestically, he is doing very well. He is making hay out of all of this. But, nonetheless, I do agree with Mark about what’s coming.

    I think the Obama administration has done a good to outstanding job of responding to this with Angela Merkel, with some of the others, leading from the front, a steady ratcheting up of the costs, ratcheting up of the costs, both to economically, but also to some of the oligarchs. I think they’re being a little too timid on who they’re applying sanctions to. There are some legal restrictions they have to deal with, but they are applying sanctions.

    They’re — the visa, the seizing of the assets, they’re ramping that up steadily and slowly, but at the same time they’re beginning to gather an international coalition to really support Ukraine through the IMF and elsewhere. I think they’re being very aggressive and very clear. I think they’re just responding in a way which is earning bipartisan support.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But if they — but if the — but if what — if they go ahead, if Russia goes ahead and takes Crimea, where’s the administration then? Where’s the West?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think that’s when the sanctions really have to bite.

    And I do think the E.U. has been just a molasses on this. They have been very slow in engaging and helping Ukraine and supporting them. I think — I think, beyond that, Judy, what we have in this country is a political reality that, while there’s been loud Republican criticism from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, at the most important conservative gathering of the year, the CPAC convention, National Political Action — Conservative Political Action Committee, the winner going away for president in 2016 was the man who is against chest-thumping, Rand Paul of Kentucky.

    And finishing way back in the back of the pack was the man who was the most hawkish of all, Marco Rubio. Now, you could blame that on his immigration stance, but it does appear that there is a political division here at home in the criticism of the president from his political opposition.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I would say just generally the country doesn’t want to be active abroad. And that’s not just a Republican thing. That’s a national thing.

    MARK SHIELDS: No, I…

    DAVID BROOKS: For the first time in measured history from the Pew Research Center, more Americans think we’re doing too much to solve the world’s problems. And they want to turn around.

    It’s not that they’re against global economics. They just don’t believe in the efficacy of American diplomatic power. They don’t believe in the efficacy of American diplomatic power. They just don’t want us involved. And even in the polling of Ukraine specifically, a majority says, no, don’t get involved.

    So, we’re in a very limit-conscious political culture, strategic culture here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, meantime, here in the U.S., there is this surprising split between one of the senators who was most supportive of the intelligence community. Senator Dianne Feinstein came out this week with a blistering criticism of the CIA, said it was spying on the computers used by the Intelligence Committee.

    What does this say about the support, the — frankly, the entire intelligence community has had from the political leadership?

    MARK SHIELDS: From 9/11 forward, the intelligence community had a blank check in this country.

    And it was cashed over and over again. It appears, the NSA, now the CIA disclosures or allegations, that there was the — the presumption was that anything that was necessary to be done to preserve national security, to avoid another 9/11, OK, we would kind of look the other way and maybe suspend civil liberties.

    And I think that has run its course. I think there’s a growing concern about privacy in this country. And when Dianne Feinstein, who has been a staunch supporter, defender of the NSA, the CIA, takes to the floor in a rather dramatic speech, it comes down to not whose ox is being gored, but whose wire is being tapped — it was her committee, it turns out, and she’s outraged.

    Plus, the NSA is barred by its charter from domestic intelligence gathering of that sort. So this is a real rupture between supporters of the secrecy in intelligence agencies and one of its strongest Democrats.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say the CIA is denying what Senator Feinstein has alleged.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    I was very struck. First of all, when Feinstein got on the floor, I was up in the Senate this week, and people were amazed. You knew you do not see this.

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    DAVID BROOKS: They were sort of gobsmacked over — that you had this sort of public confrontation and this anger, especially from her, so it’s a dramatic moment, a dramatic escalation.

    That said, the substance — once you begin reading the substance, it does get very murky. And I was very struck by something the aforementioned Marco Rubio said, which said, it’s very complicated here. What Dianne is saying, Dianne Feinstein is saying, is a little oversimplification of what — how he sees the evidence. And he said, it could be that none of us have clean hands here on either side.

    And that does seem — feel true to me. Nonetheless, we have sort of a shooting war, not literally, but a rhetorical shooting war between the agency and the committee. And that’s just weird. And that is just — it reminds me of the rhetorical war the State Department had with the agency after Benghazi. There’s just a lot of things fracturing here, a lot of things — people who should be working together are now in cold war footing.

    It doesn’t bode well for the future of cooperation, but it especially raises the possibility that we’re one big scandal away from sort of Church Committee hearings, a big realignment of the whole national security structure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One other — two other things I want to ask you about, but one is, Mark, the president, just in the last 24 hours, announced that he wants a review of deportation policy in this country.

    We know the administration is having a hard time getting their comprehensive immigration reform through. The president has been adamant about saying there’s nothing he can do, he has to deport Americans who are here illegally, have to be deported. A lot have been deported. But now he’s saying, we’re going to take another look. What’s happened?

    MARK SHIELDS: First of all, any chances of legislation on immigration are officially over. I think that can be signaled by this move on the president’s part.

    Secondly, the president was taking criticism from his own supporters in the Latino community. They deported more undocumented immigrants than any administration in the nation’s history. And add to that, Judy, the reality of the 2014 political campaign, I mean, that the Democrats are going to need every vote they have.

    And the president got no payoff, no credit on the Republican side from critics of immigration by the fact that he had been the deporter in chief. So I think the decision has been made.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, I don’t have an informed view on the merits of reviewing or reforming our deportation policies, but it’s just so nakedly political.

    It seems he needs the turnout. The Democrats, they just lost this big election in Florida. They’re in a bad political spot. They need Hispanic turnout. He’s getting — just the week he’s getting ramped-up criticism from the Hispanic Caucus, he turns around and orders a review, which doesn’t necessarily to lead to anything, by the way.

    It’s so nakedly political. You hate to see policy done in this way. Whether it’s good or bad, I just don’t know. But it just seems such a spasmatic response to an election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaking of that congressional loss, a special election in Florida, Mark, message for the Democrats? They, by all accounts, expected to win. They lost. Health care was a big issue. In a minute, what does this mean for 2014 for the Democrats?

    MARK SHIELDS: Judy, House elections are fascinating, because the only way you can get to the House is get elected. You can’t get appointed.

    And this was an example where the Democrats had the candidate they wanted in Alex Sink. She had run statewide. She was an experienced candidate. They had money. She was pro-choice. She was pro-same-sex marriage. She was running against a candidate who was anti-abortion rights, anti-same-sex marriage, a Washington lobbyist, a Washington lobbyist, and in a district that President Obama carried twice, and the Democrats lost.

    I mean, it is…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Health care reform.

    MARK SHIELDS: Health care reform was what — the club that the Republicans hit her over the head with.

    I don’t think there’s any question that this is a blow to the Democrats. And their hopes and prospects of winning back the House in 2014 are a lot more bleak than they were before last Tuesday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifteen seconds.

    DAVID BROOKS: I would even say even keeping the Senate looks a little grimmer now. Health care reform, it’s a symbol for big government. The Republican ground game seems to be vastly improved more than it was two years ago.

    And just it’s — Obama’s unpopular. It has the feel of something that’s real, a real time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re both so popular with us. We have to say goodbye.

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Crimea consequences, CIA accusations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Being able to predict flu trends in a given area can help medical professionals prepare for potential onslaughts of patients. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

    Being able to predict flu trends in a given area can help medical professionals prepare for potential onslaughts of patients. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

    Google is great at answering queries about when the Super Bowl starts and why blueberries are so good for you, but it has yet to figure out how to accurately predict cases of the flu. It seems that Google Flu Trends, which launched to much hype in 2008, has been off the mark, says Northeastern University’s David Lazer — the lead author of a new study in Science that analyzed Google’s predictions.

    “It missed by a huge amount last year and actually, it turns out, it’s been missing by a fair amount for several years,” Lazer told NPR.

    Google flu trends works by identifying certain search terms that would be good indicators of flu activity. It then estimates how much flu is circulating in a given area. But Lazer’s team found that for the 2012-2013 flu season, Google predicted twice as many doctors’ visits for flu as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eventually recorded. In 2011-2012 it overestimated its predictions by more than 50 percent.

    Why does this matter? Transparency for one reason, says Evan Selinger, a technology ethicist at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. When a large company like Google uses data it gathers about us, and shares that information in a way that will impact our lives, we should have access to how that system works. But Google does not disclose information about its algorithm.

    “Algorithmic accountability is one of the biggest problems of our time,” Selinger told New Scientist. “More and more decisions made about us are computed in processes we don’t have access to.”

    In 2013, Google released a report that addressed certain elements of its algorithm for tracking flu and dengue fever, stating that predictions had been susceptible to heightened media coverage. Google updated its formula last fall to reduce some of those instances.

    The post Turns out Google’s not so hot at predicting flu cases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    snowden

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: He’s a wanted man in the U.S., but this week, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden spoke, via video from Russia, to the annual gathering called South By Southwest. He argued to the crowd gathered in Austin, Texas, that the tech industry needs to do more to protect the privacy of Americans in the digital age.

    A new book examines what Snowden revealed and pulls together the threads of one of the biggest security breaches in American history.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It began with an e-mail, “I am a senior member of the intelligence community,” the beginning of revelations leaked by Edward Snowden of the vast surveillance and collection of data by the National Security Agency and the beginning of a new book titled “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man.”

    Author Luke Harding is a correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardia, which broke the initial Snowden story.

    And welcome to you.

    LUKE HARDING, Author, “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man”: Hello.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “I am a senior member of the intelligence community,” that’s what Snowden wrote to Glenn Greenwald, then a columnist for The Guardian.

    But, in fact, he wasn’t a senior anything really. What’s the impression you drew of the young Snowden?

    LUKE HARDING: Well, he was a junior member of the intelligence community, but someone who had incredible access to top-secret information, and who was deeply unhappy about what he saw and thought he would lift the lid on unconstitutional mass surveillance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You find insight into the mind of especially the younger Snowden through anonymous postings he made on a tech Web site. And he used this name, “The True HOOHA.”

    LUKE HARDING: Yes, age 18, he made his first posting. It’s a slightly weird name.

    But these postings give us some insight into how he was as a young man, someone not of the left, but of the right, very patriotic, pretty obnoxious in places, but also deeply talented with computers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You say of the right. I mean, really, his strongest leaning seems to be libertarian. He supported Ron Paul.

    LUKE HARDING: Yes, he’s very conservative. He’s from a patriotic family. He even donated to Ron Paul.

    And he — his sort of guiding principle was the Constitution, the American Constitution, which he kind of cherished. And he even volunteered to fight in Iraq and tried to join the U.S. military, which was a kind of disastrous episode that went wrong.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And he even at one point blasts leakers of information.

    LUKE HARDING: It’s deeply ironic.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    LUKE HARDING: In 2009, when he’s working as a junior analyst for the CIA in Switzerland, he absolutely blasts The New York Times publishing an article on operations in Iran, denounces them, denounces WikiLeaks.

    But, of course, he changes, like most young people. He kind of goes on a journey. And the more he saw, the more disillusioned he became.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so — and that’s this part of the story that you tell in the book. What’s that — is there a key moment where he changes or was it over time?

    LUKE HARDING: I think it was over a period of years.

    But there are two things which upset him. Firstly, he saw more stuff. He was a systems administrator, so he could roam around the kind of secret kind of places of the NSA. He saw more documents which troubled him. And, secondly, he became disillusioned with Obama.

    He thought that Obama, even though he didn’t vote for him, would roll back some of these programs. And when Obama didn’t, he decided that he would act and do this extraordinary leak.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what’s your sense of Snowden, I guess his own level of certainty about what he was doing, and what he was seeing and what he should do about it?

    LUKE HARDING: He has this enormous sense of inner calm.

    Ewen MacAskill, Glenn Greenwald, my Guardian colleagues who met him in Hong Kong, said he had sort of reached this place of kind of inner tranquility, if you like, where he decided he was going to do this leak, even though he knew full well that it’s would have enormous consequences for him and that his life would never be the same again.

    But he felt kind of morally compelled to act. And, of course, it was a big price. He’s now in exile with no prospect of going back to the U.S. And he’s a very wanted man.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That first meeting that you describe here — you know, a lot of this is in the I.T. world. It’s the tech world, but that first meeting has a lot of cloak-and-dagger of old-fashioned spy world.

    LUKE HARDING: It’s like something out of a John Le Carre novel…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    LUKE HARDING: … sort of crossed with a magical mystery tour.

    He sends these instructions saying, meet me at the hotel in Hong Kong next to a plastic alligator. And I will be the guy carrying a scrambled Rubik’s Cube. And, of course, Glenn and Laura Poitras, the U.S. filmmaker who met him, were expecting to see an old, grizzled CIA veteran in a blazer. And, instead, they get this young student-like geek, and their first reaction was, it’s not him. We have been…

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s impossible, right?

    LUKE HARDING: It’s impossible. It can’t be him.

    And, of course, over a period of several days, they debrief him. They get his story. And he talks them through the documents. And they discover that he is indeed real.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then so much has come out now. And we on this program and you, we have all looked at this now, so much about the various surveillance programs.

    Where are we in this story? Is there more to come? What do you think?

    LUKE HARDING: Well, there is more to come, but there’s been a fantastic number of revelations over the last nine months. We know so much than we did a year ago.

    We know that iPhones are great spying devices. We know the NSA can hack your Webcam. We know that all of our telephone records are being collected. I think the world is a different place. And there’s a kind of debate, a huge debate going on in the U.S., in Europe, in Brazil, where everyone is saying, you know, what should the boundaries be of surveillance in this kind of electronic age?

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we’re going to continue this conversation online. And I will invite our audience to join us later on.

    For now, Luke Harding is the author of “The Snowden Files.”

    Thank you so much.

    LUKE HARDING: Thank you, Jeff.

    The post In ‘The Snowden Files,’ revealing the man who revealed NSA secrets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — For President Barack Obama, a public spat between his trusted ally at the CIA and a loyal Democratic senator has put into sharp focus his complicated role in managing the post-Sept. 11 anti-terror programs he inherited from George W. Bush.

    The president wants to stay neutral in the feud that erupted last week between Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and CIA Director John Brennan, who served as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser before being tapped to lead the spy agency. Feinstein accused the CIA of illegally searching computers the Senate Intelligence Committee used to study documents related to the harsh interrogation techniques the agency employed after the 2001 terror attacks.

    In brief comments on the dispute, Obama said taking sides was “not something that is an appropriate role for me and the White House to wade into at this point.”

    Staying out of the fray may prove difficult for Obama, given that he’s already entwined with the issue at the core of the dispute: What kind of public reckoning should there be for those who carried out waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods?

    Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images.

    Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images.

    Even as Obama was publicly declaring his neutrality in the dispute between Feinstein and Brennan, he dispatched his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and top lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler to Capitol Hill to meet with the California senator.

    The president has already said he wants the report from Feinstein’s committee to be made public. The Senate committee only undertook the report after Obama banned the interrogation techniques upon taking office. His opposition to the controversial activities had been a centerpiece of his first presidential campaign, helping him build support among Democrats and independents.

    “There’s no reason for him to in any way hide the truth of what happened,” said Tommy Vietor, Obama’s former National Security Council spokesman.

    But carrying out that pledge has proved to be a complicated exercise, marred by friction between Senate Democrats and the CIA, where many officials involved in the harsh interrogation techniques still work. Among them is Brennan, who was a senior official at the agency during the Bush administration.

    Tensions between Feinstein and the CIA reached a boiling point last week.

    In an extraordinary speech on Capitol Hill, Feinstein accused the CIA of illegally spying on her committee’s work. Brennan responded by saying Senate investigators may have “improperly obtained and/or retained” sensitive CIA documents, in violation of the ground rules for how the classified materials would be handled. The agency’s acting general counsel asked the Justice Department to look into whether Senate staffers committed a crime.

    The White House says the CIA gave the president’s lawyer a heads up that it was filing a complaint with the Justice Department. But the White House did not weigh in with any judgment on that step, officials said.

    “With respect to the issues that are going back and forth between the Senate committee and the CIA, John Brennan has referred them to the appropriate authorities and they are looking into it,” Obama said.

    Obama’s remarks were intended to illustrate his neutrality on the matter. But Michael Hayden, a CIA director under Bush, said they were interpreted by the intelligence community as “tacit acceptance from the White House” of the CIA’s decision to take action against its Senate investigators.

    “The president owes certain people freedom of action, particularly when they’re defending their agency,” Hayden said.

    The CIA says it disputes significant parts of Feinstein’s 6,300-page report, which remains secret. And while Obama has said he wants to declassify parts of the report, people close to the administration say the White House is weighing the impact on current CIA officials who were involved in the harsh interrogations, as well as the possibility that new details about the program could inflame anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and in Afghanistan.

    The interrogations program was one of several initiatives Obama inherited from Bush that he pledged to change or end altogether. But fulfilling each of those promises has proved deeply complicated.

    Despite Obama’s repeated pledges to shut down the prison for terrorist suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the facility remains open. The president has run into intractable opposition from Republicans who don’t want to transfer detainees to prisons in the U.S., severely limiting the administration’s options.

    Obama was also critical as a presidential candidate of the domestic surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. But after moving into the Oval Office, Obama kept most of the programs in place, adding what officials said was a more robust system of checks and balances to monitor the programs.

    Those steps did little to quell the controversy when NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden released a trove of documents last year revealing the vast reach of the government’s surveillance programs. It was only after those revelations became public that Obama launched a review of the operations, which has resulted in some modest changes while continuing to keep the core structure of the programs in place.

    In an ironic twist, Feinstein – the senator at odds with the CIA on interrogations – has been perhaps Obama’s staunchest Democratic ally in backing the surveillance programs.

    The post Obama seeks to stay neutral in CIA-Senate spat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour producer Morgan Till is documenting his journey with chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner across Ukraine on Twitter.

    On Sunday, voters throughout the Crimean Peninsula will cast their ballots on a local referendum to decide whether the region will secede from Ukraine. Preparations for tomorrow’s vote are laid out for reporters.

    NewsHour will be talking with Margaret Warner throughout the weekend as Crimea heads to the polls.

    The post NewsHour reporters are following preparations for tomorrow’s vote in Crimea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Malaysian Navy

    Malaysian Navy member navigates a boat in the South China Sea during the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Authorities announced on Saturday the search would shift away from the South China Sea and instead to an area reaching from Kazakhstan to the southern Indian Ocean. Credit: Rahman Roslan/Getty Images

    Authorities said the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370  is “entering a new phase” as investigators believe the jet’s communications were deliberately disabled and that the aircraft could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or the southern Indian Ocean.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Saturday that investigations indicated the jet’s communications had been purposely disabled by someone on board.

    The last sign of the aircraft was registered by military radar at 8:11 a.m. on March 8 — nearly seven and a half hours after takeoff.  Civilian air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 1:20 a.m. The plane reportedly had enough fuel to fly for eight hours.

    “In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” Razak said in a statement.

    According to Razak, investigators were highly certain the Aircraft and Communications Addressing Reporting System on the plane was disabled before flight MH370 reached the east coast of Malaysia. They believe someone then switched off the jet’s transponder, which is used to communicate with air traffic controllers.

    Signals picked up by Malaysian air force defense radar indicate the plan could have turned west, heading back to the Malaysian peninsula and onward to the northern part of the Strait of Malacca.

    Authorities have isolated two “corridors” where they believe the plane’s last signal occurred. The first corridor ranges from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, while the second corridor reaches from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

    Based on this information, authorities have ended the search for the plane in the South China Sea.

    While Razak said investigations are “entering a new phase” looking into the theory of a plane takeover situation, he said they would still be looking into all possibilities for the disappearance.

    With theories arising that someone with aviation skills may have taken control of the plane, police are reportedly looking into the psychological background of the pilots. There is no evidence to indicate the pilots played a role in the jet’s disappearance.

    The post Malaysian official says missing plane’s disappearance was deliberate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Relatives of those missing on Flight 370 await news in a Beijing hotel

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  As you just heard, no country was more immediately affected by the disappearance of Flight 370 than China, and today China demanded answers. For more about how the Chinese are reacting to this continually unfolding story, we are joined now from San Francisco by Orville Schell, he heads the center on U.S. – China relations at the Asia Society.

    So Orville, how is this story playing out in China?

    ORVILLE SCHELL: Well I think since Chinese were so preponderant in terms of passengers in, 154 of them on the plane, China feels they have a very substantial interest in knowing what happened. It’s curious because usually China is not the most transparent of countries but in this case they are being quite insistent and sometimes even accusatory in regard to Malaysia, accusing them of withholding information of not being very open and not passing out substantial enough information about what’s going on so this huge fleet of ships and planes that’s trying to find the crash could do effective work.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  How much of this pressure that the Chinese government is putting on the Malaysian government is coming from the pressure that they’re feeling from all those family members who still don’t have information on their loved ones?

    ORVILLE SCHELL: Well it’s turned into a huge drama in China. These Chinese families waiting in a hotel in Beijing for a week now waiting for news and it’s played out all over the country because this is, at least so far, an incident which does not actually involve China. I think China’s fear however, Is that if there proves to be some sort of a hijacking and should the hijackers prove to have something to do with their own Islamic independence movement in Xinjiang — and there have been many occasions in the last few months that have erupted in China, very savagely brutal — well this would be kind of a blow for China which to date has been able to keep somewhat aloof from any imputation of wrong doing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And how does this impact the kind of geopolitical stability in the region? There are multiple disputes over territories in the region and also, how does China want to be perceived in those fights?

    ORVILLE SCHELL: Well China a few years ago was perceived in a rather friendly and effective manner. They had declared that they were rising peacefully and countries like the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia were, I think, quite soothed by this idea. Of late however, as China has claimed most of the South China Sea and lots of island chains within that great region that are also claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei, there’s lots of tension. This search for this plane has actually brought, at least momentarily, everybody together in a common endeavor. And this is something that hasn’t always come easily to China which has been very circumspect about violations of other country’s sovereignty, for humanitarian intervention or efforts that have involved sort of collective international community. So this is a good example, I think, of China joining such an effort but I don’t think in the long run it’s going to mitigate the tension in the South China Sea.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Orville Schell joining us from San Francisco. Thanks so much.

    ORVILLE SCHELL: Pleasure.

    The post China demands answers from Malaysia about missing plane appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New York City's Little Ukraine in the East Village

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    IVETTE FELICIANO: This is little Ukraine, a small enclave in the East Village of Manhattan.   There are more than 113,000 ethnic Ukrainians living in the metropolitan area, some of them right here.  There’s a Ukrainian butcher, book store, a church, a museum and a sidewalk memorial commemorating the dozens killed during recent protests against the former pro-Russian government.

    We came here to see how the Ukrainian-American community was reacting to the current crisis.  In a small office above a restaurant we met Ukrainian-Americans discussing plans to protest the Russian incursion into Crimea.  Their goal, to get athletes at the Paralympics in Sochi to publicly support the new pro-western Ukrainian government in Kiev.

    MARIYA SOROKA: We can try to get in touch with them through the Facebook page.  Alsoa lot of athletes, they have their Twitter accounts.  We can tweet at them.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Mariya Soroka, is the community relations director at Razom, a privately funded Ukrainian community organization.  Razom means “together” in Ukrainian.  Soroka has lived in the United States for ten years, but her father and many of her friends still live in Kiev.

    MARIYA SOROKA: A lot of my classmates are there.  Some of them were injured.  So it’s very close home– extremely close home.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Images out of eastern Ukraine show pro-Russian demonstrators rallying in large numbers.  But Alexander Motyl, a professor who focuses on Russian and Ukrainian issues at Rutgers University and has Ukrainian roots himself, says that the east/west divide in Ukraine has been overstated.

    PROFESSOR ALEXANDER MOTYL: What people do here in the U.S. and especially the media, frankly, is they– they make that fundamental mistake of comparing the two extremes and then projecting those characteristics on the rest of the country.

    And it’s just not quite the case that everything falls neatly into two black and white boxes.  That’s really the bottom-line. 

    IVETTE FELICIANO:  Motyl points to a poll conducted in February by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology which showed that a majority of the country wants an independent Ukraine.  Even in Crimea, the same poll showed that, only 40 percent of the population wants unification with Russia.  And he says that the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States, whether from the east or west of Ukrainebroadly supports the new government in Kiev.

    PROFESSOR ALEXANDER MOTYL: Everybody pretty much agrees — Yanukovych, the former president, had to go.  The democrats have to triumph.  Putin is an imperialist.  He has to be stopped or else he will dismember the country.  That’s putting it in a nutshell.  But I would bet that over 95 percent of everybody who claims to be from the Ukraine, or has some kind of loyalty to Ukraine, would subscribe to these tenets.

    IVETTE FELICIANO:  Moytl says that’s because the Ukrainians who came here have adopted American values.

    At popular neighborhood Ukrainian restaurant, Veselka, we met, Bohdan Kobystianskyj, a member of the Ukrainian National Home, a cultural organization.  His father was a member of the Ukrainian underground during World War II.

    BOHDAN KOBYSTIANSKYJ: He had to fight against the Germans and against the Russians.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Kobystianskyj visits relatives and friends in Ukraine two or three times every year, the last time was just this January during the protests in Kiev against the former president. 

    BOHDAN KOBYSTIANSKYJ: They didn’t want to have violence, they didn’t wanna have confrontation.  They just wanted to have change, but in a peaceful way.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: When you heard that Russian troops were going into Ukraine, I mean, what did that feel like?

    BOHDAN KOBYSTIANSKYJ: You feel like you wanna do something and you can’t do it from– and you’re hoping that you get some support from the world.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: He believes that the West isn’t doing enough to support the new Ukrainian government.  Jason Birchard, is a third generation Ukrainian-American and one of the owners of Veselka.  He says that everybody in the restaurant is very tense about the conflict.

    JASON BIRCHARD: I think the people here, whoever– Ukrainian-Americans — feel very angry– there is some sense of people wanting to go home to enlist– to fight, possibly.  But we were hoping that there will be a peaceful resolution as time goes on.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Birchard took us into the kitchen, where borscht was being prepared … a beet soup that many consider to be quintessentially Russian … But Birchard makes a point to say that the soup is actually Ukrainian.

    Chef Olesia Lew says that everybody in the restaurant is glued to their phones and the news… waiting for every little piece of information about the conflict.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Your family in Ukraine, what are you hearing from them? What are people feeling?

    OLESIA LEW: Well, I think people are very nervous.  You know, my family’s from the west, so that conflict isn’t happening there, but they’re still very nervous.  No one wants their country torn apart.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: A couple blocks away from the restaurant is Surma Book and Music, a Ukrainian gift shop.  Markian Surmach’s grandfather opened the store in 1918.  Its filled with Ukrainian art, books, and music.  Surmach can’t believe that that a crisis like this could happen in the 21st century.

    MARKIAN SURMACH: I didn’t think that this is how people behaved anymore.  I thought that was relegated to history.  But now, apparently it’s okay for another country just to go in and to claim another part of another country as theirs

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Surmach supports sanctions and travel restrictions against Russia, but stops short of supporting military action. 

    MARKIAN SURMACH: The thought of– of this becoming a global conflict with different countries taking sides, that frightens me beyond imagination.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: It was a common sentiment, war is not the answer. It’s what we heard from Bohdan Kobystianskyj, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

    BOHDAN KOBYSTIANSKYJ: We don’t want war.  Especially military people like myself.  Because as soon as a war starts, Ukrainians will die first.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Professor Alexander Moytl says the conflict has stirred the Ukrainian American community like never before… bringing together ethnic Ukrainians of different generations and from different parts of Ukraine.  

    PROFESSOR ALEXANDER MOTYL: And what this crisis has done is force people to say, “You know, I guess, I’m Ukrainian.”  And I guess it means something.

    The post In New York’s Little Ukraine, tension mounts ahead of vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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