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

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    Antibiotics are often added to livestock feed and drinking water to promote rapid weight gain. Photo by Flickr user Damian Gadal

    Antibiotics are often added to livestock feed and drinking water to promote rapid weight gain.
    Photo by Flickr user Damian Gadal

    WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration says 25 pharmaceutical companies are voluntarily phasing out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals processed for meat.

    Citing a potential threat to public health, the agency in December asked 26 companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for use in animal production. The FDA did not name the one company that has not agreed to withdraw or revise its drugs.

    The companies will either withdraw the drugs from animal use completely or revise them so they would only be able to be used with a veterinarian’s prescription.

    Many cattle, hog and poultry producers give their animals antibiotics regularly to ensure that they are healthy and to make the animals grow faster.

    In October, Frontline explored the possible end of the age of antibiotics, due to the growing threat of drug-resistant bacteria.

    The post 25 pharmaceutical companies will phase out animal antibiotics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and can unionize. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testified on behalf of the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and can unionize. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testified on behalf of the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    In a decision that may have a huge impact on college athletics, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and can unionize.

    NLRB Director Peter Sung Ohr wrote in his ruling that football players are not “primarily students” and that they are subject to the university’s control in their performance as football players.

    “The players spend 50 to 60 hours per week on their football duties during a one-month training camp prior to the start of the academic year and an additional 40 to 50 hours per week on those duties during the three or four month football season. Not only is this more hours than many undisputed full-time employees work at their jobs, it is also many more hours than the players spend on their studies,” Ohr wrote.

    Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testified that his coaches discouraged him from taking demanding classes and ultimately he was unable to pursue a pre-med major. Colter further testified that those players receiving scholarships were not permitted to miss football practice during the regular season if they had a class conflict.

    The National College Players Association, backed by the United Steelworkers union, filed a petition to unionize in January.

    Northwestern issued a statement shortly after the ruling saying it would appeal to the full NLRB in Washington, ESPN reports.

    The decision, if upheld, would only apply to private schools, since public universities are subject to state labor laws.

    The post Northwestern football players allowed to unionize, NLRB rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    RIGHT TO UNIONIZE monitor northwestern football

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: An important decision today on a huge and hotly debated question in the world of college sports. Should student athletes be paid? A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University are considered employees of the school and are therefore entitled to organize a union. Those players are the first to seek union representation.

    Jeff is back to look at the details of this case and the potential impact.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For now, the ruling applies only to private colleges and universities, but it is the first of its kind. And the decision is expected to reverberate more broadly.

    The ruling said the university’s primary relationship with the football players was an economic one.

    Michael McCann is director of the University of New Hampshire’s Sports and Entertainment Law Institute, and legal analyst for “Sports Illustrated” magazine. He joins us now.

    The key thing here, Mr. McCann, is the finding that these athletes qualify as employees, not just students? Explain that and why it’s so important.

    MICHAEL MCCANN, University of New Hampshire Law School: Sure.

    It’s important because, by being declared employees, the student athletes will be able to then unionize, and they will be able to enter into collective bargaining with Northwestern University and try to demand salary benefits, but more than that, also, better health care benefits, disability payments, workers’ comp, the typical benefits that go along with the status of employment, which they currently do not get as student athletes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And give us a little bit of background on this particular case, the students at Northwestern, how they came to bring this case, and what they were saying they wanted.

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Sure.

    So the students are led by quarterback, Kain Colter, who several months ago decided to pursue the ability of he and others collectively bargaining with Northwestern. But to get to that step, they had to petition the National Labor Relations Board, which has the legal authority to decide whether or not employees at private employers, which in this case would include Northwestern, have the legal right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.

    There were then hearings where he testified and said a number of things, one of which is that he works a lot, in his words, that he works between 40 and 50 hours per week, whereas NCAA rules limit the amount of time that student athletes can devote to sports to either 20 hours during the season or eight hours during the off-season.

    So what he said was contradicted in terms of what the NCAA’s rules were. And it appears that the regional director sided can Kain Colter on that. And the thesis of the players’ argument is really that they’re working, that they’re just not getting paid.

    Now, there are counterarguments to that, and the case is by no means over because there will be an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board in D.C., but, as a first step, this is a big victory.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there are counterarguments for a long time, and of course most of it — much of it from the NCAA itself.

    They came out with a statement right now. They said: “We strongly disagree with the notion that student athletes are employees.”  They continue: “We frequently hear from student athletes that they participate for the love of their sport, not to be paid.”

    What is — they have resisted this a long time. What is the brunt of their argument?

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Well, the brunt of the argument is what you noted, Jeffrey, that many student athletes are not commercialized in the sense that they are generating lots of revenue for their school, that when we look at athletes that are generating the revenue, they tend to play in two sports, one of which is men’s basketball. The other is college football.

    But there are many athletes in college that are not like that, if you will, that are more traditional college athletes, that they’re primarily students who also play a sport. And there is something of a disconnect, where Kain Colter is representing the group that’s really commercialized, that’s on television, that’s generating a lot of revenue for Northwestern in terms of ticket sales, in terms of television deals, video game deals and the like.

    And as a result, the NCAA is focused more on those that are not as commercialized. But I think it’s important to stress that there is a potential gender equity issue here. If only male athletes are paid, I’m sure that there will be female athletes who will bring a separate lawsuit under Title IX, which is a federal law that commands gender equity in higher education, including college sports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that’s what I was wondering. When you look at this, and it is one ruling, given that, but what — where does — what kind of broader applications might flow from this?

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Well, if it holds, it would have broader applications in that student athletes at other private institutions could then rely on this decision as precedent. They could say, well, look, if Northwestern players can unionize, so can we.

    And we’re not just talking about football players. It could be basketball players. It could be tennis players, you name it. However, student athletes at public universities can’t rely on this decision. The National Labor Relations Act only governs private employees, not public.

    As a result, students at University of Alabama, other state schools, Ohio State, they’re going to have to rely on their state laws to try to unionize. And some states, in fact, 24 states are considered right-to-work states, states that limit or outright deny the ability of employees at public universities to unionize.

    So it could end being that student athletes at private universities can be members of a union, but those at some public schools can’t, including many schools that are in the South, some big-time programs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, and we will watch for that. And, as you said, this case itself will be appealed.

    Michael McCann of the University of New Hampshire, thanks so much.

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Thank you very much.

    The post Labor board rules Northwestern football players are entitled to unionize as school employees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Visitors At The Eurogamer Expo 2013 For Gamers

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: Like other fabled tech Cinderella stories, this one started as a young man with an idea working out of a garage.

    Yesterday, Facebook announced it would pay $2 billion for Oculus VR, a company that makes a virtual reality headset for video games.

    NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman recently featured the company in a pair of reports about virtual reality. We start with this excerpt.

    MAN: This is insane.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Though not yet ready for retail — it’s expected to sell for about $300 — the Oculus Rift is already being hailed as the Holy Grail of gaming, a lightweight, affordable headset to deliver totally immersive virtual reality, or V.R.

    NATE MITCHELL, Oculus VR: A lot of us got into the games industry to build virtual worlds and explore — build and explore neat places. And being able to step inside those places for the first time is incredibly exciting.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nate Mitchell, Oculus’ 25-year old vice president, gave me a sneak peak at the headset, driving a mech, a sort of weaponized robot, in a virtual reality version of the popular post-apocalypse game Hawken.

    Up, up, up, up. Ooh, yes. This is pretty cool.

    The split-screen images, what I’m seeing in each eye, don’t come close to capturing the experience. But begoggled, I was virtually within Hawken’s Mad Max world.

    GWEN IFILL: Hari Sreenivasan in our New York studios picks up the story from there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Vindu Goel covers the tech industry, both big and small, in Silicon Valley for The New York Times. He joins us now from San Francisco.

    So, first of all, why does Facebook want to make this investment?

    VINDU GOEL, The New York Times: Facebook is trying to follow the evolution of the social platform.

    Initially, we all swapped information on the Internet. Now we use our mobile phones. And they’re trying to think about, what is the next big platform that we’re going to use to share with each other? And it’s a futuristic vision, but they think that one possibility is, we will interact with each other in a virtual world, so that you and I could speak and seem like we were in the same room doing this interview right now.

    You could go climb the Great Wall of China and show your family back home what the experience is like. They would be wearing the headsets and they would be there right with you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Virtual reality has been the stuff of sci-fi movies and has been the next big thing for the last 15 to 20 years. What’s so different now?

    VINDU GOEL: The technology has gotten a lot better and a lot cheaper.

    The components that you use in your cell phone that let you take great video images, those are the kinds of things they are now starting to incorporate in the headsets. The technology is still a long way from reality, though. This product, the Oculus Rift, that is the main product that Facebook is buying, is not even out yet. And it may not be out for another year or two for customers to actually be able to buy.

    So there’s a lot to do yet to perfect the technology. And there are some people who still say we’re still a long way away.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what about the unintended social consequences of technology, given that Google has had such a tough time convincing communities about the behavior associated with their little Google Glass devices, a wearable technology?

    VINDU GOEL: Yes, I think that’s going to be a big issue. If you have ever seen one of those Oculus Rifts, it’s like wearing this like gigantic plate in front of your face, and you really can’t interact with the world that you’re in.

    So that’s one of the things that I think people are going to have to figure out as they’re using this. If you’re in your living room and you put one of those on to enter a virtual world, you’re not going to be able to interact with anybody else around you, and you certainly won’t want to do it in the street or in public. It’s going to be pretty strange to see you kind of completely tuning out the world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, are there applications written for or to take advantage of virtual reality? We have seen examples of people wearing these, for example, to get over their fear of heights or post-traumatic stress disorder, but something kind of for the mass audience? Why would we want something like this?

    VINDU GOEL: There are some specialized applications like you’re talking about. The military uses it.

    I think the hope is that, eventually, in addition to social applications, sharing things with your friends, that you will be able to do distance learning, you will be able to participate in a classroom virtually from far away and interact with the teacher and other students as if you were all in the same room.

    Medicine is a big area, to teach medical students what it’s like to do surgery or other medical procedures without actually having to cut open a human being or be there in person to witness it. So that’s the idea. That dream of virtual reality is that you will be able to do all of these things on a computer and feel like you’re really doing them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, just a business question. Is there a Facebook bubble or a Facebook effect that’s happening? They paid $19 billion for WhatsApp recently. They paid obviously a billion dollars for Instagram a while ago, and now this.

    VINDU GOEL: Many people in Silicon Valley are wondering the same thing. You’re seeing the price tags for these startups to go higher and higher, $2 billion for a company that doesn’t have a product yet and a futuristic technology.

    Facebook has a lot of money to spend now, though, so they see it as a cheap bet that this might be the technology of the future.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Vindu Goel from The New York Times, joining us from San Francisco, thanks so much.

    VINDU GOEL: Thank you, Hari.

    The post Facebook invests in a virtual reality future with $2 billion Oculus Rift acquisition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Stradivari Viola. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

    The “Macdonald” was crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1719. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

    No musical instrument has sold for $45 million, but Sotheby’s announced today that they are starting off the sealed bidding this spring for the “Macdonald” viola by Antonio Stradivari at that price.

    Stradivarius string instruments are known in the classical music world as some of the highest caliber. Stradivari made 600 violins and 50 cellos in in his lifetime, but only 10 violas are still around today. The “Macdonald” of 1719 — named after its owner in the 1820s, 3rd Baron Macdonald — is one of only two Stradivarius violas in the hands of private owners, according to a press release from Sotheby’s. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. owns the other one.

    The “Macdonald” is currently owned by the family of Peter Shidlof, a member of the Amadeus Quartet. Shidlof, who died in 1987, purchased the viola in 1964.

    Sotheby’s is expecting the instrument to sell for more than $45 million, which is quite a feat when the current world record for the sale of a musical instrument stands at $15.9 mil. That was for the “Lady Blunt” Stadivarius violin, which was sold in June 2011 by the Nippon Music Foundation to help fund earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in Japan.

    To learn more about the significance of the viola, Art beat spoke to Samuel Zymuntowicz, a recognized maker of string instruments.

    ART BEAT: What makes this viola so special?

    SAMUEL ZYGMUNTOWICZ: There’s a presumption that the price or the value of something is intrinsically related to its functional use. Because things are so expensive we assume that they’re the greatest, but that’s not the right way to start. When it comes to auction prices or any kind of collector’s prices, it’s a matter of collectability. It’s with the expectation that when they sell it long after that it’s going to be worth more. It really has the most tangential connection to its actual value as a musical instrument. At that price, it’s outside the realm of any working musician today.

    One of the last record auction sales was the “Lady Blunt” Stradivari. It was a beautiful instrument, very rare, very fine condition, but it was presented with totally gut strings like a baroque setup. No one could really play contemporary music on it the way it was setup.

    It’s good to keep the different value systems clear in our mind. When talking with musicians, you’re talking utility value, what’s easy to play, what will project well, all those practical considerations of a working tool. When you’re talking of an instrument of this category, you’re really talking about collectible value. If you compare to paintings, it’s not an unreasonable price. I don’t know what a Warhol sells for now, but given the money I’d much rather own a Stratavari than Warhol, personally. As a collectible, it would mean more to me and to me more obvious work of craftsmanship and carries more history. In that context, it’s totally worth the price.

    And someone who owns an old violin — who can afford to buy a Strad — is actually getting a pretty good value because there’s a tremendous amount of personal pleasure just out of owning something like that. They become a little mini celebrity just in the music world and famous musicians will come and visit them even if they are not a musician themselves. It’s really a win for a collector.

    It’s not a win for musicians. Peter Shidlof was part of the Amadeus Quartet, a legendary group. It’s quite clear that this instrument will not be used in this same way next. So from a certain point of view, this instrument is almost officially leaving the world of working musical instruments. It’s going to be a real break with the way it was used before.


    Watch violist David Aaron Carpenter play the “Macdonald.” Video produced by Sotheby’s.


    ART BEAT: What makes Stradivarius instruments so unique?

    SAMUEL ZYGMUNTOWICZ: I can tell you as a maker, I’ve spent my life studying those instruments and they are in fact great and they have been the model for my own work, but I’ve also seen from personal experience, depending on how they are set up, they can be better or worse. A lot of them are not that great or not that great for every circumstance. I know from day to day experience that old violins including Strad’s are not necessarily better for practical performance. They may or they may not be. They’re great violins, but they are violins that are very old and have been through the mill. Some are in great shape, some are not.

    ART BEAT: The vice chairman of Sotheby’s noted that unlike many other rare objects at their auctions, this viola needs to be played. Is the wear and tear of contemporary use a concern for the instrument?

    SAMUEL ZYGMUNTOWICZ: There are lot of Stradivarius in very active use. People have them in their case, they’re schlepping through airport security every day, putting it in the back seat of taxis, and playing a hundred concerts a year and sweating on them and they’re holding up. On the other hand, the wear and tear does take a toll a little bit on these instruments.

    When you have something that’s in really pristine condition like the “Lady Blunt” was at the last auction of a Strad — it was really something that had been used very seldom. Whether or not it was a great violin is sort of beside the point; it was a great specimen. It would be sort of a pity if someone turned that into a gig violin and started playing concertos with orchestras 100 times a year. It would start to wear.

    For an instrument that is very pristine, you could say that its highest and best use is as a collectible and preferable something that could be played on occasion and could be studied and serve as a benchmark that you could judge other current work by.

    What’s ironic is that the Stadivari violas are, well they are very rare for one thing, but they are not as sought after as his violins. His violins have really formed the archetype that most people have studied and followed. His violas are a little more cramped and they are not a very broad sound in general. There are so few that it’s hard to say that they would be more in use. Just as a maker myself, I have never chosen Stradivari violas to model instruments after because they are a little narrow and there are other instruments by Amati and other makers, with a more generous proportion and give it a richer sound. Purely speaking as a musical tool and generally speaking, Stradivari viola is not the most ideal you can think of.

    The Stradivari Viola. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

    The Stradivari Viola. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

    ART BEAT: Do you think this is the best use of funding for the arts?

    SAMUEL ZYGMUNTOWICZ: The New Jersey symphony a number of years ago bought a collection of old Italian instruments that was owned by Herbert Axelrod, and it was a big deal, it was in the press a lot, and (they paid $18 million). The collection was supposed to be worth far, far more than that (initial estimates put the collection at $50 million) and the patron was going to sell it to them for cut rate because he was fond of them and they scraped to buy those instruments. They made a big fundraising campaign and they finally were able to buy them. They were hoping it was going to bring in a lot more patronage and interest. And then as the story unfolded it turns out that the instruments were not all that they were supposed to be and the value had been inflated; it did not bring in all that much extra support or interest and it actually was just kind of a boondoggle in the end. They wound up selling the collection (for $20 million) just to kind of get out from under the debt.

    To kind of reiterate the point, you want to separate the types of value. If collectors want to spend that much money for these kinds of things, there’s no one to stop them, right? But for musicians, or orchestras, to indenture their future for something that actually doesn’t have that much magic in it — people want the magic but they’re not magical, they’re great human works.

    In one sense classical music is like this luxury consumable. If you go to concerts, it’s mostly an older crowd and if you ever listen to classical music radio, it tends to be the commercials are all for investment firms, cruises, restaurants, just things that are part of a luxury lifestyle. But that has nothing to do with the art of classical music and has nothing to do with the years that people put into perfecting their playing and why they play music. I think for the musicians, I think a wiser choice is to sort of break away from this being a little part of this patronage luxury machine and sort of have more independence as an artist by playing an instrument that they can afford and own and alter to suit.

    ART BEAT: Why has the value of these instruments increased so drastically in recent years?

    SAMUEL ZYGMUNTOWICZ: Well, they’ve always been owned by, for the most part by wealthy individuals. And if you look at the names of a lot of these instruments, they’re named not so much for musicians but more often for famous collectors of violins. The market’s been handled by an elite group of dealers and sold to a very small group of wealthy individuals for the most part. You don’t need many people to sell them to and there’re not many people who are selling them and the people who are handling the sales are making sure the prices are going up.

    The post Setting a new bar for the price of musical instruments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama meets Pope Francis at his private library in the Apostolic Palace on March 27, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama meets Pope Francis at his private library in the Apostolic Palace on March 27, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images


    In the Morning Line today:
    • Obama meets with Pope Francis
    • The president’s tough talk for Putin
    • Parties seek to frame the immigration debate
    • 2016 GOP contenders head to Vegas for “Sheldon Primary”
    • Judy Woodruff interviews former President Jimmy Carter

    The Morning Line

    Obama meets the Pope: President Barack Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis Thursday morning at the Vatican was remarkable for the imagery. Are there two more famous people in the world? The president was all smiles as he greeted the Pope, declaring himself a “great admirer.” Francis led him to a table, where they both sat and talked for about 50 minutes. (They were scheduled to meet for half and hour.) Of course, there’s politics at play here. At home, Mr. Obama is struggling with approval ratings at or near all-time lows. On the other hand, Pope Francis is one of the most popular people in the world, and holds an outsize megaphone on an issue the president is pushing: income inequality. In fact, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Mr. Obama jumped right into it, arguing income inequality is a “moral issue” and that Francis has “great moral authority” to speak to it. “The pope is correct when he says that not enough people are sharing in that progress, and too many people are being left behind,” the president said.

    President Obama and Pope Francis do have a lot in common, including that sense of social welfare and economic justice. The president got his start as an activist in Catholic Churches in Chicago, and he’s praised Francis, who Rush Limbaugh accused of being a Marxist. But sharp differences remain, as evidenced by the blind quote in the Sunday New York Times from a senior Vatican official, who seemed to take a shot at Mr. Obama. One cardinal, Raymond Burke, the Vatican’s chief justice and former archbishop of St. Louis, took it further, accusing the president of being “progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.” The Catholic Church has led the fight against the contraception requirement in the health-care law. Of course, the president is pro-abortion rights. And there’s Obama’s willingness to use military force, like with the use of drones. The irony here is for much of Obama’s first five years, European leaders were the ones clamoring to be near him when they were suffering politically. By the way, President Obama’s also meeting with new Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at 9:25 am ET and the two have a joint press conference at 10:35 am ET. Renzi is an emerging international star and has had tough words for the old Italian political guard. As this Vanity Fair cover shows, Silvio Berlusconi he is not.

    Obama’s tough talk for Putin: While in Brussels Wednesday the president delivered his strongest rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. But the president also was speaking to an American audience, with a new online AP-GfK poll showing 57 percent of Americans disapproving of the president’s handling of the situation in Ukraine. “Once again, we are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way — that recycled maxim that might somehow makes right,” Mr Obama said during an address to European youth. The president also suggested the U.S. and its allies would continue to ramp up pressure on Putin if he takes further aggressive steps. “If the Russian leadership stays on its current course, together we will ensure that this isolation deepens. Sanctions will expand. And the toll on Russia’s economy, as well as its standing in the world, will only increase,” the president added. He also pushed back on criticism that the U.S. should have asserted itself more forcefully in its approach with Russia. “Now is not the time for bluster,” the president cautioned. “The situation in Ukraine, like crises in many parts of the world, does not have easy answers nor a military solution. But at this moment, we must meet the challenge to our ideals — to our very international order — with strength and conviction.” And don’t miss this quote, in which the president seemed to suggest the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not as a bad as what Putin has done in Crimea. “Even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system,” Mr. Obama said. “We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain.”

    The president’s team is always aware of criticism and has sometimes been accused of being slow to respond. In those instances they often try to find opportunities for Mr. Obama to make a “major” address to use his oratory, which they see as perhaps his biggest strength, to “reframe” the debate. Thursday’s speech by the president is one the administration will point to when it is pressed for answers regarding the strategy going forward in Ukraine, much like Mr. Obama’s December 2011 remarks in Osawatomie framed his economic agenda leading into the 2012 campaign, or how he sought to tackle concerns about NSA surveillance in his address at the Justice Department in January. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the House and Senate continue to work through their differences on a Ukraine aid package, which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday. Asked Wednesday if he saw any problems with reaching a deal, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters: “You never know. But there’s an awful lot of cooperation and discussion under way to try to avoid that.”

    Both sides court Hispanics: Immigration reform may not be happening this year, but both parties are still doing what they can to court Hispanic voters, who could play a big role in how this year’s midterm elections and the 2016 presidential campaign shake out. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to address the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday, where he will likely ramp up the pressure on congressional Republicans to move forward with legislation to reform the country’s immigration system. On Wednesday the group heard from two top Republicans, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, who both pledged action on reform at some point. “We think there’s a way to do it. To me, it’s not a question of if we fix our broken immigration laws, it’s really a question of when,” Ryan said. “This is a problem that doesn’t have easy solutions, but Republicans agree that the system is broken, that’s number one,” Priebus said. “Number two, we believe that we have to do something. The only question is how are we going to do it.”

    Growing impatient with their GOP colleagues’ failure to move even piecemeal measures, House Democrats on Wednesday filed a discharge petition to force Republican leaders to bring the Senate-passed comprehensive reform bill up for a vote. That measure passed 273 days ago, but despite a solid bipartisan vote failed to gain traction in the GOP-controlled House. The White House released a statement from the president charging that “the only thing standing in the way” of immigration reform “is the unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.” That show of support follows the president’s decision to order a review of the administration’s deportation policy, which had come under scrutiny from immigration rights advocates. For Democrats, their ability to energize Hispanic voters could determine whether the party is able to maintain its majority in the Senate and avoid falling deeper into the minority in the House.

    2014/2016 watch – The ‘Sheldon Primary’: Republicans eyeing the White House arrive in Las Vegas Thursday to bet on their presidential futures. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will attend the spring leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition — otherwise known as the “Sheldon Primary.”. During scotch tastings and rounds of golf, they’ll try to impress Sheldon Adelson, who dished out $90 million last cycle, and other big GOP donors. And if Adelson has anything to do about it, this won’t be the last time they’re all in Vegas; he’s pushing for his city to host the Republican National Convention. Regardless of who leaves with the big checks, at this point, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton besting all the big Republican names in Virginia.

    As presidential hopefuls hunt for cash, more 2014 candidates are using what’s in their coffers to get on the airwaves. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., unveiled the first television ad in his bid to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin. The 30-second spot highlights Peters’ personal background growing up in “an average Michigan middle-class home.” Former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds is also about to go on the air in South Dakota’s Senate contest. And in Iowa, after America Rising PAC released footage of Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley making remarks about Sen. Chuck Grassley not being a lawyer, Republicans are hoping that the Democrat’s gaffe will force him to spend money earlier than he otherwise would have on positive spots. It’s looking more likely, Roll Call reports, Republicans will coalesce around a candidate in the upcoming June primary and avoid what could be a more divisive nominating convention.

    Wednesday’s quote of the day: “What the hell is this, a joke?” – House Speaker John Boehner commenting on the administration giving Americans extra time to enroll in health plans.

    LINE ITEMS

    • Judy Woodruff sat down with former President Jimmy Carter Wednesday for an in-depth conversation about what he calls the most important book he’s ever written, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power,” as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and his grandson’s bid for governor in Georgia.

    • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee met with House Republicans on Wednesday, a potential hint at his ambitions for 2016.

    • Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin endorsed Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst in her bid to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. “If Nebraska’s Deb Fischer can see through the bull in Washington, then Iowa’s Joni Ernst can help her cut through the pork,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page. Ernst released a TV ad Wednesday where she highlights her desire to “cut pork” in Washington by touting her experience “castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.”

    • A new Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker leading Democratic challenger Mary Burke 48 percent to 41 percent. Walker had a six-point advantage in the January survey.

    • First there was Planet Hillary. Now we have Planet Biden.

    • Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is staging his own version of March Madness dubbed the “Elite Eight of Waste Tournament.”

    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

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    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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    Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy speaks at the March For Change rally in Hartford, Conn. on Feb. 14, 2013. Photo by Flickr user CT Senate Democrats

    Conn. Governor Dannel Malloy speaks at the March For Change rally in Hartford, Conn. on Feb. 14, 2013. Photo by Flickr user CT Senate Democrats

    Furthering the recent calls by President Barack Obama to fight poverty and inequality, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to raise the state’s hourly minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017, making it the highest for any state in the country and matching the amount President Obama wants imposed for federal workers.

    The bill, which passed by a vote of 21-14 in the Senate and 87-54 in the House, was lauded by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, who has campaigned with President Obama to increase the minimum wage. Malloy said he will sign the bill into effect Thursday night at Cafe Beauregard in New Britain, Conn. — the same restaurant President Obama dined at three weeks ago prior to a minimum wage rally.

    “I am proud that Connecticut is once again a leader on an issue of national importance. Increasing the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it’s also good for business,” said Malloy, following the vote. His sentiment was shared by President Obama, who stated that Connecticut had set an example wages for other states to follow.

    “But to truly make sure our economy rewards the hard work of every American, Congress must act,” Obama said. “I hope members of Congress, governors, state legislators and business leaders across our country will follow Connecticut’s lead to help ensure that no American who works full time has to raise a family in poverty, and that every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead.”

    Yet the President’s passion was not shared by state Republicans. All Republican state senators, except for the absent Jason Welch of Bristol, opposed the bill, and in the House, all but three of the state’s 53 Republican representatives voted against the bill. Republicans were vocal in their criticism, saying that the increase would serve only a small faction of workers while hurting the hiring prospects in an already ailing state economy.

    “We continue to have this schizophrenic attitude, where we say we’re open for business on one hand — small businesses, you’re our backbone, you are our heroes,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. “Then we keep taking actions that keep punching them in the gut.” That attitude was furthered by other Republicans, including Patrick O’Neil, a spokesman for the state’s House Republican Caucus, who called the proposal “pure politics in an election year,” referencing the fact that Malloy is up for re-election in November.

    Neighboring states New York and Rhode Island have already increased the minimum wage in 2014. At present, Connecticut’s $8.70 minimum wage is the fourth highest in the nation behind Washington, Oregon and Vermont. Washington state’s minimum wage of $9.32 is currently the highest in the nation.

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    About 30,000 people live beside the airport in Bangui in the Central African Republic. Many are reluctant to go home, despite their meager living conditions in the makeshift camp, because they feel safer as a group. Photo by Pacome Pabamdji/AFP/Getty Images

    About 30,000 people live beside the airport in Bangui in the Central African Republic. Many are reluctant to go home, despite their meager living conditions in the camp, because they feel safer as a group. Photo by Pacome Pabamdji/AFP/Getty Images

    Next to the airport in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, a makeshift tent camp is crammed with tens of thousands of people who have fled the deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians that have persisted since a 2013 coup.

    But the U.N. World Food Program, which operates in war-torn nations such as Syria, can’t distribute food within the camp because it’s too dangerous, said Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Program. She recently returned from a week-long visit to the Central African Republic and could see the camp from her airplane window.

    Some of the people who live there, including armed fighters involved in the country’s conflict, get violent when food, water or anything marketable arrives, Cousin explained, so it’s too risky for the residents and the aid workers. “When we go into those kinds of areas, we make ourselves prey for those who are participating in the conflict.

    “These are people who are living in a very desperate situation,” she continued. “It’s an example of how desperate the conditions are for those who have been the victims of this conflict.”

    The cycle of violence in the Central African Republic began when rebel groups called the Seleka overthrew the government in March 2013 and installed their own leader as president: Michel Djotodia, a Muslim in a predominantly Christian country. Seleka fighters embarked on a campaign of violence toward Christians they deemed supportive of the deposed president.

    Christian militias — called Anti-balaka, meaning “machete-proof” or “invincible” — formed in order to protect the Christian population from the rebels’ attacks.

    Djotodia resigned under pressure from other African leaders in January, and interim President Catherine Samba-Panza took his place.

    But the fighting continued, as Christian militiamen gained the upper hand and unleashed retaliatory attacks against Muslims.

    People sell goods inside a camp next to Bangui's airport in the Central African Republic on March 18, 2014. Photo by Pacome Pabamdji/AFP/Getty Images

    People sell goods inside a camp next to Bangui’s airport in the Central African Republic on March 18, 2014. Photo by Pacome Pabamdji/AFP/Getty Images

    An estimated 800,000 people in the country of 5 million have fled to neighboring nations or rural parts of the Central African Republic and the World Food Program is now trying to reach them.

    “To date, we have fed over 400,000 people and we know that we need to increase that to 1 million people by the time the rains come and what is more the traditional hunger season in CAR,” said Cousin.

    Her organization is in a race against time to stockpile food at distribution sites before the rainy season begins in May and cuts off access to certain areas. “If there ever was a situation that defined the term tipping point, we are there in the CAR,” she said.

    A total $107 million is needed for aid operations through September, the end of the rainy season, but the international community has funded only a little more than one-third of that amount, she added.

    During her visit, Cousin spoke with President Samba-Panza about the need to increase security to safely distribute food, and they both agreed that the reverse was true as well: that overall security in the country depends on people having access to food. “We know that we will not have security if people are hungry,” said Cousin.

    Because of the continued violence, Samba-Panza is seeking additional peacekeeping troops from the United Nations and France. About 6,000 African and 2,000 French troops are now in the former French colony, and the European Union has said it will send 1,000 more.

    Ertharin Cousin (in yellow), executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, walks with the imam of the Bossangoa mosque (on right) in the Central African Republic on March 19, 2014. Photo by Pacome Pabandji/AFP/Getty Images

    Ertharin Cousin (in yellow), executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, walks with the imam of the Bossangoa mosque (on right) in the Central African Republic on March 19, 2014. Photo by Pacome Pabandji/AFP/Getty Images

    On the local level, signs of reconciliation are appearing. Cousin said she met with a Catholic bishop and Islamic imam in the city of Bossangoa, about 186 miles north of Bangui. The Muslim community there had been destroyed — its residents were chased from their homes and are now living in tents and an abandoned school. The bishop was trying to provide services to the Muslim and Christian communities.

    “Both were concerned about the security situation and were supportive of our efforts to increase the food security issue,” said Cousin. “But both talked about how they are Central Africans and committed to being in this country and working for a better future for this country.”

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    President Barack Obama meets Pope Francis at his private library in the Apostolic Palace on March 27, 2014 in Vatican City. Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama meets Pope Francis at his private library in the Apostolic Palace on March 27, 2014 in Vatican City. Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama had his first audience with Pope Francis Thursday at the Vatican. The visit is seen as an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the White House and the Catholic Church. President Obama and Pope Francis are expected to speak about shared causes, such as income inequality, but also delve into their disagreements on abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage.

    With his visit to Vatican City, Mr. Obama continues the tradition of presidential meetings with the pope that began with the 28th president of the United States.

    Here is a history of U.S. presidential visits to the Vatican:

    • Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. president to visit the pope at the Vatican. President Wilson met with Pope Benedict XV on Jan. 4, 1919. Wilson was first in Paris to negotiate the treaty to end World War I, when he decided to travel to Rome.
    • Photos via Library of Congress

      Photos via Library of Congress

    • President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Pope John XXIII at the Vatican on Dec. 6, 1959. Eisenhower was the first American president in 40 years to visit a reigning pope. His visit started a tradition that continued with each of his successors.
    • Photo by Paul Schutzer//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

      Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

    • In July of 1963, President John F. Kennedy made one trip to the Vatican during his presidency to meet with Pope Paul VI. Kennedy remains the only Roman Catholic American president thus far.
    • Photo by White House

      Photo by White House

    • President Lyndon Johnson made one trip to the Vatican during his time in office on Dec. 23, 1967. Johnson met with Pope Paul VI.
    • Photo by U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

      Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

    • President Richard Nixon visited the Vatican twice. Pope Paul VI received Nixon in March of 1969 and September of 1970.
    • Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

      President Richard Nixon visits the Vatican in 1970. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

    • President Gerald Ford was the last American president to visit Pope Paul VI at the Vatican, on June 3, 1975.
    • Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images

      Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images

    • President Jimmy Carter was the first American president that Pope John Paul II received at the Vatican in June of 1980.
    • Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

      Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

    • President Ronald Reagan traveled to the Vatican twice during his two terms in office. Reagan met with Pope John Paul II on June 7, 1982 and June 6, 1987.
    • President Ronald Reagan visits Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1982. Photo via Reagan Library

      President Ronald Reagan visits Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1982. Photo via Reagan Library

    • President George H. W. Bush also visited Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on two occasions. The pope received President Bush in May of 1989 and November of 1991.
    • Photo by White House

      President George H.W. Bush visits Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1991. Photo by White House

    • President Bill Clinton met with Pope John Paul II on June 2, 1994, at the Vatican. The Clinton administration and the Vatican openly clashed on issues such as abortion and war.
    • Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

      Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    • President George W. Bush traveled to the Vatican more than any other American president. John Paul II first received President Bush on May 28, 2002. In June of 2004, Bush presented Pope John Paul II with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the Vatican. It was the last time Pope John Paul II would receive an American president before his death in 2005. President Bush also visited Pope Benedict XVI while in office, both in June 2007 and June 2008.
    • President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II. White House photo by Eric Draper

      President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II. White House photo by Eric Draper


      Photo by Giancarlo Giuliani-Vatican Pool/Getty Images

      Photo by Giancarlo Giuliani-Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    • President Barack Obama visited with a reigning pope once before during his time in office. Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI on July 10, 2009, at the Vatican.
    • White House photo by Pete Souza

      White House photo by Pete Souza

    The pope has also met with the presidents several times in the United States:

    • On Oct. 4, 1965, Pope Paul VI met with President Johnson in New York City. Pope Paul VI was the first reigning pope to visit the United States.
    • Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are the only American presidents to receive a pope at the White House. Pope John Paul II came to Washington on Oct. 6, 1979, and Pope Benedict XVI visited the Bush White House in April of 2008.
    • Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick/White House/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

      Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick/White House/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images


      White House photo by Eric Draper

      White House photo by Eric Draper

    • On May 2, 1984, President Ronald Reagan met with Pope John Paul II in Fairbanks, Alaska. The pope was on his way to South Korea, as President Reagan was returning home after a trip to China.
    • Photo via Ronald Reagan Library

      Photo via Ronald Reagan Library

    • President Reagan and Pope John Paul II also came together on Sept. 10, 1987 in Miami, Fla.
    • During a joint address for World Youth Day, President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II spoke to thousands of students on Aug. 12, 1993 in Denver, Colo.
    • Photo via Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States

      President Bill Clinton with Pope John Paul II in Denver, Colo. Photo via Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States

    • President Clinton and Pope John Paul II also met on Oct. 4, 1995, in Newark, N.J., and in St. Louis, Mo., on Jan. 26, 1999.
    • President George W. Bush traveled to Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to meet Pope John Paul II on Jan. 23, 2001.

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    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Update 12:39 p.m. EDT

    WASHINGTON — Congress is speaking with one voice against Russia’s annexation of Crimea, passing legislation in the House and Senate giving help to Ukraine and imposing sanctions against Russia.

    The Senate approved the legislation by voice vote Thursday while the House was passing a different version on a 399-19 vote.

    The votes are a show of solidarity with Obama, who has already announced sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and others.

    Lawmakers intend to get a final measure to the White House by day’s end.

    Each bill would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to cash-strapped Ukraine and sanction Russia for its annexation of Crimea.


    ____________

    WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are rushing to get a bill to the president’s desk that would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and sanction those who had a hand in Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

    The House and Senate were poised to pass versions of the legislation Thursday. Both sides said they want to get one bill to President Barack Obama’s desk before the end of the week, but it was unclear whether the work would be finished by then.

    The Senate bill authorizes $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and an additional $100 million in direct aid. It would codify sanctions the U.S. already has levied against some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close friends and associates, members of his inner circle, government officials, some of the richest men in the country and a major bank. The sanctions freeze any assets those being sanctioned currently hold within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit Americans from doing business with those targeted.

    The Senate bill also included a proposal from one of Obama’s fiercest critics, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., enabling the president to impose economic penalties on Russian government officials for corruption even within Russia’s own borders.

    The House bill also authorizes sanctions, loan guarantees and millions in direct aid. It includes money for the Voice of America and other broadcast networks to counter what the House says is propaganda from Russian-based sources, and funds to bolster Ukraine’s law enforcement and judicial systems. It also urges Obama to greatly expand the number of Russian officials and others sanctioned for human rights violations and compels the president to report to Congress on sanctioning a broad range of senior Russian officials.

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that both sides were discussing ways to get a bill out of Congress as soon as possible. Asked whether he expected problems reconciling the two bills, Boehner said: “You never know. But there’s an awful lot of cooperation and discussion underway to try to avoid that.”

    Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he hoped the Senate would embrace the House bill without requiring negotiations to work out differences. “Our goal is not to go to conference because of the urgency of the situation,” Royce, R-Calif., said.

    McCain stressed the importance of providing additional defense equipment and military training to countries in central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine.

    “Vladimir Putin is on the move,” McCain said in a floor speech in which he called Russia a “gas station masquerading as a country.”

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed, asking rhetorically on the Senate floor: “Should the U.S. and our NATO partners, at the request of the Ukrainian people, supply them with defensive weapons to rebuild the military gutted by pro-Russian elements? To me the answer is yes because if you want to make Putin think twice about what he does next, he’s got to pay a price greater than he has for the Crimea. If he gets away with this and he doesn’t pay any price, he’s going to be on steroids.”

    The Ukraine aid bill gained momentum this week after Democrats backed down and stripped International Monetary Fund reform language from the bill. The move signaled a retreat for the Democrats and the Obama administration, which had promoted the IMF provisions.

    But with tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern border, Senate Democrats decided it was more important to denounce Russia, codify sanctions against Putin’s inner circle and support Ukraine rather than push now for the IMF changes.

    Worried that Moscow was planning more land grabs, eight Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee wrote to Obama on Wednesday urging him to work with NATO allies to share with Ukraine any intelligence on Russian troop movements. They also urged Obama to improve the readiness of U.S. military forces in the region and pursue additional measures to bolster the security of U.S. allies in eastern and central Europe.

    In a meeting with NATO’s secretary-general Wednesday in Brussels, Obama pledged to defend U.S. allies and said every NATO partner needed to “chip in” for mutual defense. He said members should examine their defense plans to make sure they reflect current threats.

    _________

    Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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    New York city classrooms are the most segregated in the country according to a new study by UCLA.

    New York city classrooms are the most segregated in the country according to a new study by UCLA. Photo by PBS NewsHour

    Public schools in New York state are the most segregated in the nation, according to a report out this week from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

    The researchers’ analysis of federal enrollment stats from 1989 to 2010 found that segregation increased over that time. While about half of the state’s students are white, the average black student went to a school during the 2009-10 school year where only 17.7 percent of his or her classmates were white, according to the Associated Press.

    The overall rate of segregation was heavily weighted by New York City schools, which the researchers say is the most segregated school system in the country.

    The city’s charter schools are among the most segregated, with 90 percent qualifying as “intensely segregated.” But James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, told Chalkbeat New York that charters are in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation. He told the education reporting site that charters are seen as having a mission to serve low-income students.

    “And when they do serve children in low-income areas — neighborhoods which are historically segregated and which have district lines that charters must honor and that were drawn in some instances precisely to segregate,” he added, “they are accused of being too narrow in focus.”

    While New York’s uncomfortable first place ranking is getting all the headlines, the state’s story of backsliding after decades of deliberate school desegregation is just one example of what the UCLA researchers say is going on across the country. They’d like to see desegregation put back on the list of explicit goals for schools.

    Other researchers argue this worsening picture has more to do with the way the UCLA team is measuring segregation, not an actual increase. Those from the opposing camp also say it isn’t clear that the more integrated schools relieve inequalities in educational opportunity.

    The debate is likely to continue, at least through May, when the country marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The Civil Rights Project plans to mark the occasion with a national report on school segregation trends.

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    This June 20, 1909 article in New York American first identified Mary Mallon as "Typhoid Mary." Image by New York American, June 20, 1909.

    On March 27 1915, Mary Mallon, known as “Typhoid Mary” was sentenced to a life in quarantine. This article ran in New York American on June 20, 1909.

    North Brother Island is a 16.5-acre bump of land jutting out of the East River, 1,500 feet east of 140th Street in the South Bronx and 2,500 feet west of Riker’s Island. Once the site of New York City’s lazaretto, or quarantine hospital, it is now a favorite nesting point for herons and egrets. In its long career as an agent of quarantine, however, North Brother Island deserves mention as the enforced residence of New York City cook Mary Malone, or as she was better known, “Typhoid Mary.”

    In 1884, Mallon emigrated from Tyrone County in Ireland to the United States. She was only 15. Mary earned her income as a domestic and a cook in the New York City area. Between 1900 and 1907, she infected many people with Salmonella typhosa — then the name for the causative organism of typhoid fever. Less understood to doctors of the time—and explicated so nicely through Mary Malone’s case–was that salmonella carriers can be completely asymptomatic while still spreading the germ, which tends to harbor in a person’s gall bladder. Modern bacteriology dictates that the microbe sheds in feces and urine, demanding excellent hand washing, especially before preparing food, to cut down on the spread.

    An intrepid New York City Health Department epidemiologist named George Soper tracked down a spate of typhoid cases that began in a Park Avenue penthouse where Mary worked. Dr. Soper demanded she turn over urine and stool samples, but Mary refused. As his investigation continued, Soper discovered that of eight families Mary had previously worked for as a cook, seven of them had experienced bouts of typhoid fever. Soper made many more entreaties to Malone, all for naught. Once when she was hospitalized he even promised to write a book about her and give her all the royalties. Still, Mary refused to cooperate, insisted that she had done nothing wrong, and complained that she was being persecuted by the City of New York. In 1907, city officials arrested her in the name of the public’s health. More than one newspaper reported she was “crawling with typhoid bugs.” But it was the Journal of the American Medical Association, in a 1908 issue, that is credited with coining the now famous epithet, “Typhoid Mary.”

    The New York City health department physicians gave her an ultimatum: submit to an operation to remove her gall bladder or be imprisoned on the lazaretto. Abdominal surgery of that era was fraught with deadly complications and infections and Mary understandably rejected such a choice. The officials then, literally, sent her up the river to North Brother Island, where, under sections 1169 and 1170 of the Greater New York City Charter, she lived in a tiny brick bungalow until she was released in 1910.

    One of the conditions of her freedom was a promise that she would no longer earn her income working as a cook. Initially Mary worked as a laundress. But soon enough, to make ends meet, she took on kitchen jobs against doctor’s orders. The result were still more outbreaks of the deadly typhoid.

    On March 27, 1915, the New York City Sanitary Police tracked her down, this time on a Long Island estate. Mary Malone was confined to North Brother Island, never to return to a normal or free life. She resided there until her death, at age 69, in 1938. One of her “jobs” there was to wash the bottles and glassware used in the quarantine hospital’s laboratory. Upon her autopsy, the pathologist diagnosed evidence of live typhoid bacilli in her gall bladder.

    “Typhoid Mary” lives on in the popular culture because the very name conjures a personification of a spreading epidemic or contagious crisis. Perhaps more important, Mary’s case history introduced physicians to the concept of a carrier state, whereby seemingly healthy people can spread typhoid fever as they harbor the disease-producing microbe in their bodies without apparent harm to themselves.

    As we mark the day in medical history when Mary Malone received her life sentence, however, it is worthwhile reflecting on how harshly public health officials once handled those deemed a contagious threat to others. And what a terrible life sentence it must have been. A little less than century later, standing on the rocky shoals of the island, peering into the distance, the city seems remote and inaccessible. From Mary’s perspective of forced isolation for more than 30 years, it must have been truly painful.


    Dr. Howard Markel

    Dr. Howard Markel

    Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicineand the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

    He is the author or editor of 10 books, including “Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892,” “When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed” and “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.”


    More Stories on the History of Medicine

    Do you have a question for Dr. Markel about how a particular aspect of modern medicine came to be? Send them to us at onlinehealth@newshour.org.

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    A view of a computer screen showing a digital portrait of the Turkish Prime Minister and text reading "Yes we ban." Photo by Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

    A view of a computer screen showing a digital portrait of the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and text reading “Yes we ban.” Photo by Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

    A week after the Turkish government banned Twitter, authorities there moved to block online video-sharing site YouTube on Thursday.

    The Ankara, Turkey-based news organization Anadolu Agency reported that the national telecommunication authority had announced an “administrative block” on YouTube, though the website still appeared accessible after the announcement.

    The move followed the online release of unverified audio of a security meeting of Turkey’s intelligence agency head Hakan Fidan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Deputy Chief of Staff Yasar Guler. The audio included a discussion on how to protect a tomb that Turkey considers its territory in the city of Aleppo in northern Syria.

    Davutoglu reportedly called the leak an act of espionage and an “open declaration of war” against Turkey.

    The reports about YouTube prompted a fresh round of comments on Twitter:

    Thursday’s action involving YouTube followed the government’s criticized ban on Twitter Friday, with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threatening to “rip out the roots” of the website. Twitter users have been using the forum to spread documents allegedly pointing to corruption in the government. Many circumvented the ban by changing the IP addresses of their computers to countries other than Turkey.

    The Twitter ban was halted by an administrative court ruling on Wednesday.

    The U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which watches Internet use globally, issued a statement on Thursday expressing “concern” for Turkey’s blockages of social media:

    “We strongly oppose any move by an OSCE participating State that runs counter to our shared commitment to protect the fundamental freedom of expression, including the right enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’”

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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says more than 6 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the new health insurance markets created by his overhaul.

    That’s a milestone, fulfilling a goal set by Congressional Budget Office and embraced by the White House.

    The president made the announcement during an international conference call with enrollment counselors and volunteers, while traveling in Italy.

    Monday is the deadline to enroll in the new insurance exchanges, although many people will still be able to take advantage of extensions announced this week.

    Six million sign-ups is an achievement, considering the HealthCare.gov website didn’t work when it was launched last October.

    It’s still short of the original target of 7 million. And there’s no word on how many consumers have sealed the deal by paying their premiums.

    The post Obama says 6 million have signed up for health care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bonnie Brown's father built the family cabin on the Stillaguamish River in the 1970s. "What was really our family’s past is gone now," she said. Photo by Washington State Department of Transportation

    Bonnie Brown’s father built the family cabin on the Stillaguamish River in the 1970s. “What was really our family’s past is gone now,” she said. Photo by Washington State Department of Transportation


    SEATTLE — Bonnie Brown has photos to remind her of the cabin her parents built in the 1970s near the Stillaguamish River. It was the kind of place that kids dream of.

    “It was just a very beautiful place,” she said. “With beaver ponds and streams and meadows and trails through the wood.”

    The latest photo of her family’s cabin draws a far less idyllic picture. It’s one of the aerial images taken from above Oso, Wash., after Saturday’s deadly mudslide.

    “There’s some grass around the cabin on three sides left but, other than that …” Her voice trails off.

    The picture shows giant gray fingers of rock and muck and debris encircling the little log cabin.

    The slide came down from the cliffs across the river, then up the other side, covering the neighborhood.

    Brown and her family weren’t at the cabin when the slide occurred. The event made her, like millions of others in the Northwest, all too aware that this is a region prone to landslides.

    That’s something that data and maps produced through recent technological advances have been telling scientists, researchers and planners for years. The technology has improved dramatically to gather information about where and when such events are most likely to happen in the future.

    A photo of Bonnie Brown’s cabin before the landslide. Image courtesy of Bonnie Brown

    A photo of Bonnie Brown’s cabin before the landslide. Image courtesy of Bonnie Brown

    But that doesn’t mean this kind of information is being used to avoid tragedies like the one that hit Washington’s North Cascades.

    “It’s public, but whether it gets disseminated to the people who make land-use decisions and planning for geologic hazards doesn’t necessarily happen,” said Dan McShane, a geologist in Whatcom County, Wash.

    Given his familiarity with the geology of Stillaguamish region, McShane said he wasn’t surprised when he heard about the landslide.

    “The Stillaguamish setting, the geologic units, are particularly sensitive relative to say a real solid granite bedrock somewhere else. So the potential for the failure is much greater,” McShane said.

    Towards the end of the last Ice Age, the Stillaguamish River Valley was a giant lake, blocked in by a glacier. It filled with soft lake sediments — sand, clay, gravel, material that falls apart when it’s wet.

    And in recent years, scientists have gained a clearer picture of the scars on this landscape.

    Modern imaging technology called LIDAR shows three-dimensional representations of the Stillaguamish River bed today.

    It looks like a little kid took a toy dumptruck with a backhoe and just moved along the river taking giant clam shell bites out of the slopes. Those bites show where landslides have occurred in the past.

    McShane says anyone can look at maps and get information like this if they have some time to surf the web. But even without LIDAR technology and the Internet, recent history might have been instructive when it came to anticipating last weekend’s landslide.

    A slide occurred in the same place on the Stillaguamish in 2006, causing flooding.

    Snohomish County permitted five new homes to be built there that year and another one in 2009.

    The Snohomish County Planning Office said it couldn’t comment as to why those permits were issued because its staff was busy with the recovery effort.

    No two counties are the same when it comes to incorporating things like new geological mapping technology into their planning or permitting process.

    A lot of that variability stems from money, said Scott Burns, a geologist with Portland State University.

    “We can make landslide hazard maps just like earthquake hazard maps, just like flood hazard maps, but very few of them have been done because we are in a cutback government mode,” Burns said.

    The Washington Department of Natural Resources has maps, although they’re not as detailed as some of the latest 3D imaging.

    Some counties, like Cowlitz and Jefferson in Washington, are incorporating new landslide data into their websites.

    Burns says there’s a ways to go and the government needs to invest in hazard maps and use them in the permitting process.

    Brown said over the years her father and neighbors worried about flooding as the Stillaguamish meandered back and forth across its bed. Landslides weren’t at the top of the list of concerns.

    When Brown’s father built the cabin in the 1970s, mapping technology was nothing like it is today.

    But technology or not, she has no plans to rebuild.

    “The land and what we enjoyed around there is gone and so there’s not the same incentive,” she said. “I don’t know how long it will take for nature to recover but what was really our family’s past is gone now.”

    EarthFix is a public media project of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Public Television, KCTS 9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Latest landslide science not connecting with county planning appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Instagram has surpassed Twitter in U.S. mobile users. Photo by Flickr user Highways Agency

    Instagram has surpassed Twitter in U.S. mobile users. Photo by Flickr user Highways Agency


    Mashable reported Wednesday that during a phone conference about Facebook’s purchase of virtual reality company Oculus VR, Mark Zuckerberg casually dropped the fact that Instagram now has two million users.

    Instagram shared the “two million strong” news on its Tumblr blog and thanked the 50 million people who joined in the last six months.

    As Mashable pointed out, an increase of 50 million users in six months means that Instagram has grown by roughly 100 perfect in the past year.

    That two million number also means that Instagram has now passed Twitter in U.S. mobile use.

    Forbes reports that, according to eMarketer, approximately 30.8 million Americans used Twitter on their smartphones in 2013. That number is expected to rise this year to 37.3 million. In 2013, Instagram had about 34.6 million users, and it is believed to reach 40.5 million by 2014.

    The post Instagram reaches 200 million users, passes Twitter in U.S. mobile use appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In Germany, the Hannover Expo Japan Pavilion was built in 2000. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    The Japan Pavilion at the 2000 Hannover Expo in Germany. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Paper, a traditional material for home interiors in Japan, is not exactly a typical architectural construction material anywhere else. But this year’s winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize has shown that he can create beautiful structures for shelter, culture and worship from the humble cardboard tube.

    Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

    Shigeru Ban, who has designed a wide variety of structures, is known for his humanitarian efforts with disaster victims. The Tokyo-born architect has created recyclable shelters for low cost, starting back in Rwanda during the 1994 conflict that left millions without stable living conditions. The UN Refugee Agency made Ban a consultant after he proposed the creation of shelters out of paper tubes.

    Ban has provided housing assistance in countries all over the world, including Haiti, China, India and Turkey. In 1995, he designed cardboard houses and a “Paper Church” community center for victims of the earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

    According to the Pritzker Prize, he attributes his desire to use recyclable materials to Japanese culture and his upbringing.

    The 56-year-old architect also designed the Pompidou Centre-Metz modern and contemporary art museum in France, the Japan Pavilion at the 2000 Hannover Expo in Germany, as well as other innovative structures for private clients.

    ****

    See photos of several of Ban’s creations below:

    Exterior of the Japan Pavilion, Expo 2000
    Hannover, Germany (2000)

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Curtain Wall House
    Tokyo, Japan (1995)

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Cardboard Cathedral
    Christchurch, New Zealand (2013)

    Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Paper Concert Hall
    L’Aquila, Italy (2011)

    Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse
    Yeoju, South Korea (2010)

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Wall-Less House
    Nagano, Japan (1997)

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Hualin Temporary Elementary School
    Chengdu, China (2008)

    Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Container Temporary Housing
    Onagawa, Miyagi, Japan (2011)

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Paper Log House
    Kobe, Japan (1995)

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Paper Refugee Shelters for Rwanda
    Byumba Refugee Camp, Rwanda (1999)

    Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

    ****

    Paper Partition System 4
    Japan (2011)

    Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

    Watch chief arts correspondent Jeffery Brown’s conversation with Shigeru Ban on Thursday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour. You can tune in to our live stream on our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST or check your local PBS listings.

    The post Pritzker Prize winner used paper to build cathedral, concert hall and homes for refugees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie responds to a question from a shore resident during a Town Hall meeting in Belmar, NJ, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Photo by Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg News

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie responds to a question from a shore resident during a Town Hall meeting in Belmar, NJ, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Photo by Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg News

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Christie “Bridgegate” report
    • Mike Rogers to retire
    • Health care enrollments hit 6 million
    • House, Senate approve Ukraine aid bills
    • More Clinton documents set for release

    If you want something done right, do it yourself: A law firm hired by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration released a report Thursday that found no involvement on the part of the New Jersey Republican in last September’s lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. As part of the public relations push to get beyond the scandal, Christie also sat down with Diane Sawyer of ABC News for an interview Thursday, calling the episode the “toughest time” in his professional life and saying he “felt taken advantage of.” And Christie holds a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. ET in Trenton.

    Christie told Sawyer he “did nothing to create the environment” that spurred his former aides to orchestrate the lane closures. “This is not something that I think I inspired, and to the extent that any of them thought that this was acceptable conduct, then I fell short,” Christie said. The governor added that he didn’t have “any recollection” of former Port Authority official David Wildstein telling him about the shutdown of lanes during a 9/11 memorial service. “I’ll tell you what he didn’t say. He didn’t say, ‘Hey, by the way governor, I’m closing down some lanes of the George Washington Bridge to stick it to the mayor. Is that OK?’ That I’d remember.”

    The Morning Line

    Christie must also combat charges that the report released Thursday was truly impartial, which is a tough sell. The New York Times editorial board derided the review as a “glossy political absolution” and an “expensive whitewash” that cost New Jersey taxpayers $1 million in legal fees. Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee said the report was “nothing more than an expensive sham.” But that’s why Christie’s going public with the big interview and press conference. Answer any and all questions and stop the criticism that this was somehow a biased report. Do note: There are still two other investigations into the bridge matter ongoing; one by the New Jersey Legislature and another by federal prosecutors.

    Mike Rogers to retire: Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will not seek reelction and will instead try a career as a radio talk show host. “They may have lost my vote in Congress, but you haven’t lost my voice,” Rogers told a local radio host Friday morning. First elected in 2000, the former FBI agent has been one of Congress’ strongest voices on national security issues. In a release, he said his new gig would allow him to “continue serving as a voice for American exceptionalism.” A sometimes-harsh Sunday show critic of Mr. Obama’s, Rogers and the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee recently introduced an NSA reform bill that challenges the administration’s proposed reforms of bulk data collection by allowing the government to get court permission after accessing the data. He’s been one of the staunchest defenders of the NSA at a time when more voices in Washington are leaning toward curtailing government surveillance. Rogers is the 22nd member of Congress to announce retirement this cycle. Mitt Romney carried Rogers’ district by just three points in 2012, and Obama (before redistricting) won it in 2008.

    Health care sign-ups hit 6 million: The administration announced that health-care sign ups hit six million. That’s pretty good after the bumpy start and poor rollout of the website. It’s not the seven million the Congressional Budget Office (or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius) predicted originally, but the more important policy point is that they are still under the ratio needed with young people, who are crucial to offsetting costs. The White House, by the way, was saying in its briefings with reporters months ago that it would be three to nine million, not seven, but when Sebelius put it out there, it stuck. Plus, remember, there are an estimated 45 million-plus without health insurance.

    Congress passes Ukraine aid, but process doesn’t bode well for much else: The House and Senate (finally) passed Ukraine aid bills. They are very close and should be wrapped up and merged soon. The Senate also advanced a five-month jobless benefits extension, 65-34, and is expected to win final approval soon. That’s three months after benefits expired. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., now puts the number of those who lost benefits to 2.4 million. But then it’s a familiar story, as it will hit a roadblock in the House. Think about this on Ukraine aid in particular: It took Congress a month to get something as easy as this done. That does not bode well for them doing anything on any big domestic issues before the midterm elections.

    More Clinton documents set for release: Friday will bring the latest wave of documents from former President Bill Clinton’s time in the White House, with the 2,500 pages expected to include “include records from Clinton speechwriter Michael Waldman and domestic policy adviser Ira Magaziner and documents from Clinton’s farewell address to the nation,” reports Ken Thomas of the Associated Press. So far these Clinton document dumps have not been much beyond stuff for the script writers of House of Cards. Of the approximately 8,000 pages released so far, most of the intrigue has surrounded the failed attempt to pass a national health care overhaul and the efforts by the administration to soften the public image of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. With the former Obama administration Secretary of State now considering a possible 2016 presidential bid, the documents released Friday will be closely watched on both sides for anything that might offer fresh insights into her past.

    LINE ITEMS

    • After deriding Sen. Chuck Grassley as a “farmer,” not a lawyer, Rep. Bruce Braley is running into more trouble with Iowa farmers in his bid to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin. The Des Moines Register reports that a campaign press release misspelled several farming terms, and BuzzFeed discovered that an image of a farm on Braley’s Facebook page is actually stock footage of a farm in England.
    • The Washington Post’s Robert Costa highlights Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s efforts to build a nationwide network ahead of a potential 2016 presidential bid.
    • As part of his week-long overseas trip the president will stop Friday in Saudi Arabia, where he will look to smooth relations with a key ally in the Middle East.
    • The United Nations General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution Thursday calling the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine invalid.
    • Politico Magazine profiles Friends of Democracy, Jonathan Soros’ Super PAC that bankrolls candidates who support clean elections.
    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

     

    The post Christie says he didn’t ‘inspire’ bridge lane closures appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ROME — President Barack Obama is making a fence-mending mission to Saudi Arabia, an important Middle East ally that’s grown nervous as the U.S. negotiates with Iran and pulls out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama left Friday for an overnight trip to Saudi Arabia that has only two items on its public schedule: a meeting and a dinner with King Abdullah at his desert camp, a 30-minute helicopter ride from the capital of Riyadh.

    Secretary of State John Kerry was traveling with Obama for what will be the president’s third official meeting with the king in six years.

    White House officials and Mideast experts say the Saudi royal family’s main concern is Iran. They fear Iran’s nuclear program, object to Iran’s backing of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and see the government of Tehran as having designs on oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes identified the points of anxiety in the relationship when he described Obama’s agenda for the trip last week as: “Our ongoing support for Gulf security, our support for the Syrian opposition where we’ve been very coordinated with the Saudis, the ongoing Middle East peace discussions, as well as both the nuclear negotiations with Iran but also our joint concern for destabilizing actions that Iran is taking across the region.”

    The Saudi anxieties have been building over time, according to Simon Henderson, a fellow at The Washington Institute, a think tank focused on Middle East policy.

    “Ever since Washington withdrew support for President (Hosni) Mubarak of Egypt in 2011, Abdullah and other Gulf leaders have worried about the reliability of Washington’s posture toward even longstanding allies,” Henderson wrote this week. “President Obama’s U-turn on military action against Syria over its use of chemical weapons last summer only added to the concern, which has likely morphed into exasperation after recent events in Crimea, where the Saudis judge that President Obama was outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin.”

    The technological advances that have increased oil and gas production in the United States have also made Gulf states nervous, said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of its Saban Center on Middle East Policy

    “A lot of people in the region, I think, are naturally asking themselves what America’s energy independence means for America’s willingness to invest in the security of energy and supply from the Gulf,” she said.

    Obama spent the past four days trying to secure European unity against Russia’s incursion and subsequent annexation of Crimea. But ahead of his meeting with King Abdullah, Obama also met with Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the richest emirate in the United Arab Emirates federation and a Saudi ally.

    Not all the Saudi concerns are aimed at the U.S. Obama’s meeting with King Abdullah comes just days after an Arab summit in Kuwait City ended with participants divided over which opposition factions in the Syrian conflict to support. Those tensions are especially evident between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, a small but oil-rich Gulf state.

    Saudi Arabia and its allies have accused Qatar of arming militant Islamic fighters in the Syrian conflict.

    That dispute, among others, undid a possible Gulf Cooperation Council session that Obama had hoped to attend in Saudi Arabia.

    Friday’s talks also come in the aftermath of Saudi Arabia’s refusal to grant a visa to the Washington bureau chief of The Jerusalem Post who had sought to cover Obama’s trip. Rhodes told reporters that the U.S. government reached out to Riyadh to intervene but to no avail.

    The post Obama makes fence-mending trip to Saudi Arabia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The president, seen here in 2013 speaking to the press about a phone conversation he had with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, has been viewed as weak on foreign policy, while polls show that Americans oppose getting involved with conflicts abroad. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    The president, seen here in 2013 speaking to the press about a phone conversation he had with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, has been viewed as weak on foreign policy, while polls show that Americans oppose getting involved with conflicts abroad. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    It is fascinating to watch the cloud of expectation that follows the president around. Obama supporters, somewhat emotionally deflated after five years of reality checks, still appear to expect him to confront dictators (without troops), end deportations (while protecting the border), raise wages (without any negative impact to the economy) and support marriage equality and health care for all (without offending the Pope or costing anybody any money).

    The president’s detractors, meanwhile, are convinced he cannot put a foot right. They say his inability to stop Vladimir Putin in Russia and Bashar Assad in Syria (or to get a website up and running) proves he is weak. Columnist George Will asserted this week that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hanging back in punishing Putin because she “may think that bringing Barack Obama to a confrontation with Putin is like bringing a knife — a butter knife — to a gun fight.”

    President Barack Obama meets Pope Francis at his private library in the Apostolic Palace on March 27, 2014 in Vatican City. Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama met Pope Francis at his private library in the Apostolic Palace on Thursday in Vatican City. Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

    The trouble with both of these approaches is that they leave no room for complication — especially when it comes to foreign policy matters. The New York Times White House reporter Peter Baker captured the dilemma perfectly, when he wisely pointed out that Putin has bedeviled not one, not two, but three, U.S. presidents.

    And who knows what Americans really want and expect? Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution notes that Americans rate Mr. Obama as weak on foreign policy even though his actions match up with the light foreign policy footprint that polls show they want. He calls it “The President’s paradox.”

    I was reminded once again how difficult it can be for world leaders to satisfy all comers as I listened to the commentary that surrounded the president’s first meeting with Pope Francis. The first African-American U.S. President and the first Latin American pontiff were all smiles. Some headlines even called the simple handshake and exchange of gifts “historic.” This was typical of the kind of hagiographic coverage both men have received, off and on, since they rose to two of the world’s most powerful positions.

    If the pope expresses tolerance for all human beings, gay rights and women’s rights activists perk up. It’s only later that they listen to the subtext and realize that he endorsed neither gay marriage nor the ordination of women as priests.

    And if the president talks tough to intransigent world leaders, it quickly becomes clear he has neither the will, the desire, nor the support of the people he leads to back up his words with military force.
    This is the dilemma of leadership. It’s usually more complicated than we want it to be. Doctrine must be adhered to. Congressional support is often required.

    Better to take a deep breath and remember that, even if it has sometimes seemed that way, nothing worthwhile ever happened only with the stroke of a pen. Pack your patience.

    The post Gwen’s Take: The tyranny of heightened expectations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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