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- 04/04/14--11:55: _Sen. Dan Coats asks...
- 04/04/14--12:35: _The artist formerly...
- 04/04/14--13:35: _Cheating nuclear fo...
- 04/04/14--13:57: _House Republicans p...
- 04/04/14--14:51: _Republican Senate c...
- 04/04/14--15:07: _Boeing set to sell ...
- 04/04/14--15:18: _Engineering trees t...
- 04/04/14--15:24: _Death toll rises in...
- 04/04/14--15:28: _Is your tax prepare...
- 04/04/14--15:52: _Judge dismisses law...
- 04/04/14--15:24: _Banished or battere...
- 04/04/14--15:33: _Shields and Brooks ...
- 04/04/14--15:46: _Remembering AP phot...
- 04/05/14--09:03: _New poll indicates ...
- 04/05/14--09:54: _Organization offers...
- 04/05/14--10:00: _With 7 million enro...
- 04/05/14--10:44: _Subway poetry proje...
- 04/05/14--11:14: _Chinese ship detect...
- 04/05/14--11:27: _Subway rider reads ...
- 04/05/14--13:57: _Viewers respond to ...
- 04/04/14--11:55: Sen. Dan Coats asks right questions at wrong hearing
- 04/04/14--12:35: The artist formerly known as ‘The President’ debuts work in Dallas
- 04/04/14--15:07: Boeing set to sell spare plane parts to Iran, Reuters reports
- 04/04/14--15:18: Engineering trees to make environmentally friendly paper
- 04/04/14--15:24: Death toll rises in Africa Ebola outbreak
- 04/04/14--15:28: Is your tax preparer actually prepared?
- 04/04/14--15:52: Judge dismisses lawsuit over Yemen drone strikes on 3 U.S. citizens
- 04/05/14--09:03: New poll indicates tough road ahead for Democrats in November
- 04/05/14--09:54: Organization offers free tax help
- 04/05/14--10:00: With 7 million enrolled, challenges remain for health care law
- 04/05/14--10:44: Subway poetry project connects NYers
- 04/05/14--11:14: Chinese ship detects underwater ping while searching for MH370
- 04/05/14--11:27: Subway rider reads original poem
- 04/05/14--13:57: Viewers respond to teacher tenure report
It takes a lot of work to prepare for an appropriations hearing, but that is just half the job. The next step is to be at the right place at the right time.
Seems like an easy task, right? Not always.
Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana made an appearance at a Congressional hearing Friday prepared to ask his questions. He just showed up at the wrong committee.
“I am not here to get a specific answer from you,” the senator said to David Cohen, the undersecretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, who was listening keenly. Coats had commended Cohen on his department’s quick response to a letter about a military accounting office in Coats’ home state.
However, after finishing, an aide was seen handing Coats a note — the contents of which the committee was to find out soon after.
“I have just got a note saying I am at the wrong hearing” said Coats.
“That would explain why I didn’t know anything about this letter,” said a relieved Cohen.
The senator maintained that he has a sterling record of being at the right place. “Well, this is the first time this has even happened to me,” he said.
“I’ll go try to find out where I’m supposed to be.”
The post Sen. Dan Coats asks right questions at wrong hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
A collection of portraits of world leaders — painted by none other than former world leader President George W. Bush — goes on display in Dallas on Saturday.
Entitled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” the exhibit features more than 24 interpretations of everyone from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Bush’s own father, President George H.W. Bush. Paired with the portraits are photographs and objects significant to the 43rd president’s meetings from over the years.
Mr. Bush took up painting after leaving office in early 2009, beginning first with an iPad app called Penultimate before moving on to private lessons and attempting pets, landscapes, still-lifes and self-portraits. Last year, some of those works became public when a hacker gained access to an email account of a Bush family member.
But this marks the former president’s first staged exhibit, a collection he says that highlights the importance of building close relationships between leaders to resolve issues — a concern some might find relevant as President Barack Obama faces his own crisis with Putin over Crimea.
The paintings can be viewed through June 3 at George W. Bush Presidential Center, on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Even if you can’t make it in person, you can still take a photo tour of the exhibit.
The post The artist formerly known as ‘The President’ debuts work in Dallas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A retired general chosen to explore flaws in U.S. nuclear forces signed off one year ago on a study describing the nuclear Air Force as “thoroughly professional, disciplined” and performing effectively – an assessment service leaders interpreted as an encouraging thumbs-up.
The overall judgment conveyed in the April 2013 report by a Pentagon advisory group headed by retired Gen. Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief of staff, appears to contradict the picture that has emerged since then of a nuclear missile corps suffering from breakdowns in discipline, morale, training and leadership.
That same month last year, for example, an Air Force officer wrote that the nuclear missile unit at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was suffering from “rot,” including lax attitudes and a poor performance by launch officers on a March 2013 inspection.
It’s unclear whether the Air Force took an overly rosy view of the Welch assessment, which was not uniformly positive, or whether his inquiry missed signs of the kinds of trouble documented in recent months in a series of Associated Press reports.
Whichever the case, Welch is again at the forefront of an effort – this time at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s personal direction – to dig for root causes of problems that Hagel says threaten to undermine public trust in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The most recent such problem is an exam-cheating scandal at a nuclear missile base that prompted the Air Force to remove nine midlevel commanders and accept the resignation of the base’s top commander. Dozens of officers implicated in the cheating face disciplinary action, and some might be kicked out.
Welch began the new Hagel-directed review in early March, teaming with retired Navy Adm. John C. Harvey, who was not involved in the earlier reviews but has extensive nuclear experience. Much rides on what they find, not least because Hagel and the White House want to remove any doubt about the safety and security of the U.S. arsenal and the men and women entrusted with it.
Hagel’s written instruction to Welch and Harvey in February said they should examine the nuclear mission in both the Air Force and the Navy, focusing on “personnel, training, testing, command oversight, mission performance and investment” and recommend ways to address any deficiencies they identify.
A fighter pilot by training and a former top nuclear commander, Welch also is known for integrity and honesty. Hagel “believes there is no one better suited to examine these issues than Gen. Welch,” Hagel’s press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Friday. “Like his partner Adm. Harvey, he’s tough and pragmatic. And he flat out knows his stuff.”
Welch led the initial outside review of arguably the most startling nuclear failure of recent years, the unauthorized movement in August 2007 of six nuclear-armed cruise missiles from an air base in North Dakota to Louisiana. Welch led that inquiry as chairman of a special task force of the Defense Science Board, which is a group of outside experts who advise the secretary of defense on a wide range of technical issues. The panel’s report was published in February 2008.
The same task force, again under Welch’s direction, published follow-up assessments in April 2011 and April 2013. Each of those examined both sides of the nuclear Air Force – strategic bombers as well as the international ballistic missile, or ICBM, forces whose problems have gained wide attention over the past year.
The April 2011 study cited morale issues among missile crews.
“They perceive a lack of knowledge of and respect for their mission from within the larger Air Force,” it said.
The April 2013 report ticked off numerous significant improvements. It found that senior leaders were paying more attention, with more clarity of responsibility for the nuclear mission than in the years leading up to the 2007 mishap. The system of inspections and the support for nuclear personnel, logistics and facilities had improved. Yet at that point the first signs of new trouble had begun to emerge, including the mass suspension of 19 launch officers at Minot in April 2013, followed by a failed inspection in August at another nuclear missile base in Montana.
Welch’s report also cited “enduring issues that require more responsive attention.” And he said the Air Force needed to prove that the nuclear mission is the No. 1 priority it claims it to be. He also found that ground water intrusion in nuclear missile silos and the underground launch control posts to which they are connected had done major damage, including collapsing electrical conduits.
The bottom-line conclusion, however, was this:
“The nuclear force is professional, disciplined, committed and attentive to the special demands of the mission.”
The AP made a request last week through Pentagon channels for comment by Welch about his 2013 task force report, but he did not respond.
Shortly after Welch’s group completed that review, he briefed the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh. Welsh mentioned the briefing in an email to other generals in which he said the conclusions were reassuring.
“His view of mission performance was positive and didn’t identify any concerns that would lead me to believe there is a larger, hidden problem in this area,” Welsh wrote.
A spokeswoman for Welsh said this week that he saw the April 2013 report as addressing organizational and other aspects of the nuclear mission, not primarily the personnel and attitude issues.
Welsh, the Air Force chief, told the AP last November that he had been aware of bad behavioral trends in the ICBM force, including high rates of spouse abuse, and in fall 2012 had asked the top ICBM commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, to fix that. Last October Carey was fired from his position after an Air Force investigation found he had engaged in inappropriate behavior while on an official visit to Russia last summer.
Maj. Megan Schafer, the spokeswoman for Welsh, said he has been diligent about implementing changes in the ICBM force as recommended by a string of official inquiries, including the 2013 Welch task force report.
Compared to 2010, when Welch’s study group had last examined the nuclear Air Force, morale had improved, he wrote. There remained skepticism, however, about promises of future improvements for the workforce.
“The force is patiently waiting for … visibly increased support for their daily mission work,” the report said.
That patience seems, however, to be wearing thin.
A swelling wave of problems inside the force responsible for the nation’s 450 ICBMs broke into the open last week with the unprecedented firing of nine midlevel commanders at an ICBM base in Montana, and the news that 90 or more junior officers there face disciplinary action for their role in an exam-cheating ring.
Extending a series of sackings of top ICBM leaders in recent months, the top operational commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Col. Donald W. Holloway, was relieved of duty last week for reasons not publicly explained in full. F.E. Warren is home to 150 Minuteman 3 missiles and headquarters of the whole ICBM force.
Those are just a few examples of trouble facing the ICBM force. It also is caught in an unfinished criminal investigation of illegal drug use by at least three nuclear missile launch officers. More broadly, the Pentagon is looking for ways to fix what Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James calls “systemic” flaws that were years in the making in an ICBM force that operates largely out of the public spotlight with limited resources.
The post Cheating nuclear force described as ‘thoroughly professional’ in 2013 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Stymied on comprehensive immigration overhaul, House Republicans are pushing a plan to give young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents a path to resident status if they join the U.S. military.
Rep. Jeff Denham said Friday he would press for a vote on his legislation, known as the ENLIST Act, either as a free-standing bill or as an addition to the defense authorization measure that the House will consider in May. The Californian from a competitive, increasingly Hispanic district is one of a handful of GOP proponents of reform whose hopes for a vote have been quashed this election year.
“This is a way to improve our national security,” Denham told reporters in arguing for his legislation.
Denham immediately faced a concerted effort from conservative opponents to scuttle his move. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., circulated a letter among his colleagues opposing any attempt to add immigration legislation to the defense bill. His intent was to collect as many signatures as possible and deliver the letter to House leadership.
Brooks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, vowed to challenge any move on immigration, either when the committee writes its bill on May 7 or on the House floor.
“If another member tries to give illegal aliens preferential treatment and put them on equal footing with American citizens for jobs in the military, I will fight it and all hell will break loose,” Brooks said in an interview.
In a blow to Denham, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee – and fellow Californian – said in a statement that he would not include the immigration legislation in his initial version of the defense bill. Republican Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who is a co-sponsor of Denham’s legislation, said the defense bill should not be the original venue for an immigration debate.
McKeon, who has announced plans to retire at the end of his term, would prefer to avoid any controversial issue that could undermine speedy passage of his last defense bill, according to congressional aides. The measure that sets policy for the Pentagon and military traditionally enjoys strong bipartisan support and has cleared Congress every year for the last half century, a rare occurrence in the deeply divided legislature.
Denham is not a member of Armed Services, but his is working with Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who is, and several other Republicans on the issue. Coffman could try to force a committee vote to add the immigration legislation.
The latest maneuvering comes as the comprehensive, Senate-passed bill that provides a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tightens border security remains stalled in the House.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders unveiled a set of immigration principles in January, but rank-and-file members balked at moving ahead on any legislation in an election year. Boehner attributed the GOP roadblock to a collective distrust of President Barack Obama to enforce any new laws.
House Republicans want to avoid a divisive immigration fight that could anger their core voters, especially with an improving outlook for the November midterms. The GOP hopes to increase its majority in the House and possibly win control of the Senate.
Denham’s bill, which has the support of 42 Republicans and Democrats, would allow immigrants who were brought to this country on or before Dec. 31, 2011, and were younger than 15 years old to become legal, permanent residents through honorable service in the military.
Denham argued that opponents who have never served in the armed forces lack an understanding of the contributions of immigrants to the military.
“I know there are a lot of members that have never worn the cloth of our nation like I have, but you’re seeing more and more men and women that are on this floor who have served their country that understand that we have immigrants that have served in our military side by side with us,” said Denham, who served in the Air Force.
Brooks dismissed that assessment.
“That’s bunk. Next question,” he told reporters.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., an outspoken immigration overhaul supporter, said he was backing Denham’s effort even if it would amount to an incomplete victory. He also disputed the idea that the quick action by conservatives in the caucus to shut Denham down showed that no action on immigration is possible.
“I believe there’s still a great deal of support,” Gutierrez said. “I say let’s have a victory.”
Gutierrez contended that without action by the House, Obama will act on his own authority by summer to protect more groups of immigrants from deportation.
Last month, Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review enforcement practices to ease his administration’s rate of deportations. Under Obama’s leadership, almost 2 million people have been removed from the U.S.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has circulated a draft memorandum of possible recommendations to Johnson, including a proposal similar to Denham’s legislation and an expansion of the step Obama took in June 2012 allowing young people who immigrated illegally into the United States – so-called DREAMers – to remain in the country under certain conditions. They take their name from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, which is stymied in Congress and would provide a way for them to permanently remain in the U.S.
The caucus said that expansion should apply to the parents of the young people.
The post House Republicans push military service path for young undocumented immigrants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Stepping into an issue on the political fringes, Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin spoke at a Kentucky rally meant to build support for legal cockfighting, a bloody practice illegal nationwide.
The tea party-backed challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell portrayed the event last Saturday as a states’ rights rally, but his appearance among cockfight backers prompted one animal-rights group to call on Bevin to withdraw from the May 20 GOP primary.
The McConnell campaign scoffed at Bevin’s description of the event.
“Only Matt Bevin would go to a cockfighting rally and claim he didn’t know what they were doing there,” said McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman, Allison Moore.
Bevin did not respond to several requests for comment Friday.
But he told WHAS-AM in Louisville he’s never been to a cockfight and doesn’t condone it. He added that he supports people’s right to gather to discuss issues.
“I’m not going to disparage people for exercising their First Amendment rights,” Bevin said Thursday in the radio interview.
Bevin also indicated in the radio interview that the federal government should give way to states on the matter. The federal bill that sets farm policy also prohibits knowingly attending an animal fighting venture, such as a cockfight.
McConnell’s vote in favor of the bill irked cockfighting enthusiasts in his state.
It’s a misdemeanor in Kentucky to enter a bird in a cockfight — in which roosters outfitted with spurs fight to the death while spectators wager on the outcome. The issue surfaces in Kentucky during occasional police raids on cockfighting rings.
Bevin, a Louisville businessman and political newcomer, is facing long odds in challenging McConnell, the longest-serving senator in Kentucky’s history.
McConnell has a huge fundraising advantage. Bevin portrays McConnell as an out-of-touch Washington insider. The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Democratic front-runner Alison Lundergan Grimes in November.
Bevin never brought up cockfighting during his speech before about 700 people at the private rally at Corbin in southeastern Kentucky, but other speakers advocated for legal cockfighting after Bevin had left, said Craig Davis, president of the United Gamefowl Breeders Association. Other issues that came up included federal spending and federal involvement in personal lives, he said.
Davis said the fallout from Bevin’s attendance was an attempt to “disgrace a good man.”
“He was there to talk about the Constitution and what America stood for, the cultures and heritage,” said Davis, who attended the event.
Animal rights activists were furious.
“Matt Bevin showed appalling judgment in associating himself with this band of lawbreakers and perpetrators of unspeakable animal cruelty,” said Michael Markarian, president of The Humane Society Legislative Fund.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone accidentally stumbling into a cockfighting meet-up,” Markarian said.
David Devereaux, director of the American Gamefowl Defense Network, said the event was meant to build support to “change the law, not break the law.” He said that legalizing a “traditional and historical form of gamefowl harvest” would generate revenue for the state and eliminate any “criminal element concerns that currently exist.”
The post Republican Senate candidate speaks at Kentucky rally held to support legal cockfighting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Airplane manufacturing giant Boeing received a license this week from the US government to send spare parts to Iran for commercial aircraft.
The move — first reported by Reuters — is the result of an agreement reached in November that lifted some sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country halting parts of its nuclear program.
A Boeing spokesman told Reuters the company would contact Iranian officials to determine which parts they needed, but any exports will not include new aircraft. The license only covers “components needed to ensure continued safe flight operations of older Boeing planes sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution,” Reuters reported.
According to the Times of Israel, both Boeing and General Electric applied for the license earlier this year. At the time, a GE spokesman said his company had been asking for the right to provide parts and maintenance to Iran since 2004.
The post Boeing set to sell spare plane parts to Iran, Reuters reports appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Researchers have found a way to genetically modify trees for the purpose of creating sustainable paper.
According to “Science Daily,” Lignin — a polymer found in most plants — must be removed to produce paper (and biofuel), but the process requires chemicals and energy that cause waste. Researchers are working to modify lignin to make it easier to break down, without decreasing the strength of the tree.
“We’re designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible,” said Shawn Mansfield, professor of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia.
Not only would the process give us happy trees and “greener” paper, but it could also result in a simpler way to produce biofuel, and reduce pollution.
The post Engineering trees to make environmentally friendly paper appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The deadly Ebola outbreak in Western Africa has now killed more than 80 people, according to the World Health Organization.
The WHO said the deaths are among 137 total cases of the disease strain, which originated in southeastern Guinea two months ago. The outbreak has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Now, according to New Zealand’s Otago Daily News, officials in Mali have identified possible Ebola cases.
Despite the rising death toll, the WHO did report the Thursday release of two patients who had been in isolation. The patients were symptom-free for three days.
The Ebola virus kills nine out of 10 people with severe bleeding. No specific treatment exists.
“The human body will fight Ebola virus, and the clinical care we provide to patients helps to give more time to the body to win that fight,” Doctors Without Borders clinician Tim Jagatic said.
STACEY TISDALE: It’s tax time, and here in Philadelphia there’s no shortage of storefronts offering fast refunds, instant cash, and low prices. But for the taxpayer trying to decide where to go, it can be surprisingly hard to figure out how qualified your tax preparer is.
NINA OLSON: Anybody, today, can hang up a shingle and be a tax return preparer.
STACEY TISDALE: Nina Olson is the National Taxpayer Advocate. She heads an independent office created by Congress to represent the voice of the taxpayer inside the IRS.
NINA OLSON: If you get your hair cut, if you go to a locksmith. There’s all sorts of professional certifications, but not for return preparation.
STACEY TISDALE: So there’s no exam to pass?
NINA OLSON: No exam.
STACEY TISDALE: There’s no requirement that you even have to be educated on tax law?
NINA OLSON: No. You can just hang up your shingle, or not. Just do it on your kitchen table. And we are at our peril. We are harming taxpayers by not insisting that these people have some basic level of competency.
STACEY TISDALE: In 46 states, including right here in Pennsylvania, there is practically no regulation on unenrolled tax preparers – those are the hundreds of thousands of tax professionals who are not CPAs, not attorneys, nor enrolled agents.
All together, unenrolled tax preparers completed over 42 million tax returns in 2012 – that’s about 30 percent of all tax returns.
As National Taxpayer Advocate, Olson has been pushing to regulate these unenrolled tax preparers for more than a decade.
NINA OLSON: I come at this– I started out as an unenrolled return preparer. In 1975, I hung up a shingle, and I started preparing returns. I had no experience whatsoever. I bought a textbook on accounting. And I read the IRS rules, and the publications. Today, with the advent of software, it’s brought in all sorts of people and they just plug in numbers with the return and they don’t know anything about the tax law.
STACEY TISDALE: And for taxpayers, going to wrong preparer can be a costly mistake.
SHARON SHANTZ: I went traveling around and found this place, just walk-in.
STACEY TISDALE: Sharon Shantz is a 42-year old student in Philadelphia. Last year, she says a preparer at a storefront tax service told her she could claim her godchildren for an estimated refund of $1100.
SHARON SHANTZ: They said, “All we need was insurance cards, the medical cards, birthdays, and did all that.”
STACEY TISDALE: But they’re not your children.
SHARON SHANTZ: Right. Exactly. Exactly. And she said, well, did I help take care of them part of the year? I said, yes, I did, financially, but that was it. It wasn’t like they were living with me at all.
STACEY TISDALE: What Shantz says she didn’t realize was that to add dependents, they had to live with the taxpayer for more than six months. And before she got her refund, a letter arrived from the IRS asking for more information. Puzzled, she returned to her tax preparer.
SHARON SHANTZ: She was, like, “Oh, this happens to everybody. Don’t worry. Your money’ll come through. You know, we– we get this all the time.
STACEY TISDALE: And Shantz says the tax preparer wanted $100 dollars more to fix the mistake.
STACEY TISDALE: So what happened?
SHARON SHANTZ: I took it– I had to take it in my own hands and I had to contact the IRS, do all the paperwork. I was very honest with them about the kids not living with them and that I was not related and I could not prove that to them. So I did not get penalized for that.
STACEY TISDALE: In the end, Shantz says she ended up getting a $400 dollar refund. But she paid her tax return preparer $500.
STACEY TISDALE: How did all this make you feel?
SHARON SHANTZ: Irritable, frustrated. I wanted to punch somebody, like I really did, like I was really angry. Nobody is out there helping you. Nobody wants to rectify the situation, whether they’re wrong or right. They don’t– the tax places won’t do it. It’s just– it just happens that they’re trying to get you for more money.
STACEY TISDALE: Instant tax service, the preparer that did Sharon Shantz’s taxes last year declined an on-camera interview, but a manager said that if any clients had issues they were welcome to come back to the office.
IRS Taxpayer Advocate Olson says the lack of regulation leaves low-income taxpayers, like Shantz, particularly vulnerable.
NINA OLSON: You know, the low-income population is the population that is least equipped to prepare their own returns. And they also have some of the most complicated provisions in the code that affect them.
STACEY TISDALE: That means poor people who depend on one of the nation’s biggest anti-poverty programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC, can lose a big refund they depend on. And the federal government has lost billions because of incorrectly filed tax returns.
Over the past decade legislation to regulate tax return preparers has been introduced repeatedly in Congress with bipartisan support, but failed to pass.
So in 2011, the IRS started implementing regulations on its own to try and remedy the situation.
Tax preparers would be required to take an initial certification exam, pay annual fees, and complete at least 15 hours of continuing education each year.
The plan was supported by big tax prep chains like Jackson Hewitt and H.R. Block, both of which already have tax training programs.
It was also supported by groups representing accountants, tax attorneys, and enrolled agents – all of whom were exempted from the new rules.
But in 2013 the regulatory plan hit a snag.
STACEY TISDALE: You were so against this, you sued the IRS–
JOHN GAMBINO: Yes–
STACEY TISDALE: –tell me about that.
JOHN GAMBINO: Yeah, a lot of people thought I was– didn’t think I had a chance of succeeding.
STACEY TISDALE: John Gambino, a certified financial planner in Hoboken, New Jersey who does taxes for many of his clients would have been subject to the new test and education requirements.
He was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit brought by a libertarian, public interest law firm. The suit challenged the IRS’s authority to impose what it called [a] “tax preparer licensing scheme.” And in January of 2013 a federal district court judge sided with Gambino and halted the IRS’s program. Ruling the agency lacked “statutory authority.” This past February a federal appeals court agreed, leaving the new regulations dead.
But despite the legal victory, Gambino remains concerned about the potential for regulation, which he believes would be anti-competitive and increase costs for consumers.
JOHN GAMBINO: Right now they’re free to choose. I have nothing against CPAs or attorneys who– who practice tax prep. I think right now consumers are free to go see these people if they– if they prefer that. But they also– lots and lots of them prefer to use preparers like myself who are not licensed– because they think they’re getting good value for the services that we provide.
STACEY TISDALE: Does it worry you that there’s no basic standard of competency to be a tax preparer. In 46 states, you can just hang up a shingle and a PIN number and say, “Hey, I can do your taxes.”
JOHN GAMBINO: It doesn’t worry me because, I think consumers are smarter than– than a lot of politicians give ‘em credit for. They know if they’re getting– you know, a raw deal or not. I think people need to be free to engage in an honest living. And I think the regulations– you’re punishing people for a few bad apples, before they’ve even done anything wrong.
STACEY TISDALE: What’s more, Gambino says people should be skeptical that mandating a test will improve the quality of tax preparation.
JOHN GAMBINO: If you have someone who’s– who’s not ethical or doesn’t know what they’re doing, they’d have even more incentive to not sign a tax return and kind of just operate in the shadows. And also, anyone can study and prepare for an exam, but it’s not necessarily going to make them a good tax preparer either.
STACEY TISDALE: The IRS does support two large free volunteer tax prep programs, tax counseling for the elderly and the volunteer income tax assistance program, or vita.
Mary Arthur is the director of the campaign for working families, which runs 18 vita sites in Philadelphia. She says free tax prep means more money returning to the community.
MARY ARTHUR: Over the past 12 years, we’ve brought back over $200 million to the community. So, you know, this work is vital. And the dollars that come back to the families, I mean, in some cases, that’s their lifeline to getting through the year.
STACEY TISDALE: Even without a regulatory plan in place, the government does have ways to go after tax preparers who they allege commit fraud.
The Department of Justice has gotten permanent injunctions against more than 60 preparers over the last year, out of an estimated 900,000 or more.
But IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson says making sure all tax preparers meet a minimum level of competency is a more efficient approach than going after fraudulent individual preparers.
In the absence of federal oversight, IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson does agree with John Gambino that the exam and tax education should be voluntary.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said the case raises serious constitutional issues and is not easy to answer, but that “on these facts and under this circuit’s precedent,” the court will grant the Obama administration’s request.
The suit was against then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, then-CIA Director David Petraeus and two commanders in the military’s Special Operations forces.
Permitting a lawsuit against individual officials “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,’” said Collyer. She said the suit would require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States.
The government has argued that the issue is best left to Congress and the executive branch, not judges, and that courts have recognized that the defense of the nation should be left to those political branches
U.S.-born al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an al-Qaida propagandist, were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.
The lawsuit was filed by Nasser al-Awlaki — Anwar’s father and the teen’s grandfather — and by Sarah Khan, Samir Khan’s mother
Al-Awlaki had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner and a 2010 plot against cargo planes.
Anwar al-Awlaki’s classification as a key leader raises fundamental questions regarding the conduct of armed conflict, said Collyer. The Constitution commits decision-making in this area to the president, as commander in chief, and to Congress, the judge said.
Allowing a lawsuit against the individual officials “would hinder their ability in the future to act decisively and without hesitation in defense of U.S. interests,” she added.
Collyer also focused on al-Awlaki’s role. “The fact is that Anwar al-Awlaki was an active and exceedingly dangerous enemy of the United States, irrespective of his distance, location and citizenship,” said Collyer. “As evidenced by his participation in the Christmas Day attack, Anwar al-Awlaki was able to persuade, direct and wage war against the United States from his location in Yemen, without being present on an official battlefield or in a hot war zone.”
She said that the U.S. government moved against al-Awlaki as authorized by the defendants and that the officials acted in accordance with the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: This weekend’s elections in Afghanistan are expected to produce the country’s first democratic transfer of power. And in one sign of social progress, hundreds of women are running for provincial council seats.Afghanistan, however, remains a hostile place to many women. Thousands have been held in jail or safe houses, accused of — quote — “moral crimes,” such as refusing to accept forced marriages or running away from abusive husbands.
That’s the focus of this report from the Center for Investigative Reporting and filmmaker Zohreh Soleimani. It’s narrated by Amanda Pike.
AMANDA PIKE, The Center for Investigative Reporting: Filmmaker Zohreh Soleimani has been covering the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan for more than a decade.
She’s reported progress for women since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. But, today, women’s rights and security are under assault from all sides, Taliban insurgents, tribal warlords, even members of Parliament.
Roshna Kaled is the spokesperson for a provincial governor and a prominent advocate for Afghan women’s rights.
WOMAN (through interpreter): I received threats. These days, the enemy is focused especially on women. The enemy never wants women in Afghanistan to advance.
AMANDA PIKE: Soleimani went with Kaled to a safe house in Kabul. The safe house is a haven for women who have escaped from domestic abuse or forced marriages.
WOMAN (through interpreter): Hello, everyone? How are you doing? I would like to hear about your cases. Hengemeh Dir, describe your problem for me.
HENGEMEH (through interpreter): My problem is my brother-in-law. He raped me in my father’s house. He also raped my 12-year-old sister. For the next two-and-a-half years, my family wouldn’t let me leave the house. Finally, I escaped and I came here to the safe house.
WOMAN (through interpreter): What do your parents say?
HENGEMEH (through interpreter): I told my mom and she said, I can’t do anything about that. If I had told my father, he would have beaten me. My mother said, what’s done is done. I’m not strong enough to do anything about it.
WOMAN (through interpreter): I hope that people like the man who raped Hengemeh will be arrested soon and are forced to face the consequences of their actions.
AMANDA PIKE: A young woman named Basireh came to the safe house to escape a forced marriage.
BASIREH (through interpreter): I loved a young man, but my father wouldn’t let me marry him. He forced me to marry someone else. I went to my husband’s house. He beat me and screamed at me all the time.
I told my father, I don’t want this man. Why did you marry me to him? Why did you marry me away that night? You should have killed me and buried me in your garden rather than marrying me to him. Parents who don’t want the happiness of their children — I love them so much and I still love them. They don’t even come to ask about me. They don’t ask if their daughter is alive or dead.
AMANDA PIKE: Manizha Naderi runs a network of safe houses throughout Afghanistan. We met with her on a recent visit to Washington, D.C. She recalls a time in the 1960s and ’70s when Afghanistan was a very different place.
MANIZHA NADERI, Executive Director, Women for Afghan Women: Afghanistan was being called, you know, little Paris. It was very modern and also for that region. Women were in schools. Women were in universities. They were walking around like women here, wearing skirts, pants, whatever they wanted.
AMANDA PIKE: But Naderi says 30 years of war have eroded rights for women. Today, tribal traditions are gaining strength, most notably cases of fathers forcing their daughters into early marriage.
MANIZHA NADERI: In some parts of the country, it’s a way of life, really. We don’t know what the numbers are, probably thousands and thousands and thousands of women. The girls who have been given away don’t have a voice or a way to protest. And the father, he’s the father. He could force his daughter to do whatever, marry at whatever age he wants. And in the majority of the cases, they think that this is their God-given right.
AMANDA PIKE: Many young girls run away from forced marriages and abusive husbands. If they’re discovered, they can end up in prisons like this one, Badam Bagh in Kabul.
SOHEILA (through interpreter): My name is Soheila. I ran away with the man I loved and I lived with him three-and-a-half years. When my father found me, he had me arrested. I was sentenced to six years in prison. My son was born here in prison.
AMANDA PIKE: This Soheila was only 5 years old, her father pledged her in marriage to an old man to settle a blood feud between their families. We first met Soheila several years ago. Her father had come to visit her in prison and was unapologetic about putting her there.
MAN (through interpreter): Our religion, Islam, doesn’t let a woman do whatever she wants. According to Islamic law, a daughter must marry whoever her father chooses. Islam says whenever a father wants to marry away his daughter, 8, 9, 10 years old, it doesn’t matter, the woman belongs to him and the woman has no right to refuse.
AMANDA PIKE: But Manizha Naderi says this is a tribal custom, not Islamic law.
MANIZHA NADERI: The men have never heard this before. The father has never heard that it’s against Islam to force your daughter to get married.
AMANDA PIKE: In 2012, President Karzai released Soheila from jail as part of a general amnesty for women. But it was impossible for Soheila to go home. She’s been living in a safe house run by Naderi’s organization.
SOHEILA (through interpreter): My father doesn’t recognize government laws. He only recognizes tribal law.
AMANDA PIKE: Naderi and her lawyers are trying to help Soheila obtain a divorce from her arranged marriage.
You went home once. What happened?
SOHEILA (through interpreter): Six months ago, I went to my father’s house with my divorce papers from the court. They all attacked me and started beating me.
MANIZHA NADERI: We took a police escort with us because we knew that it was a dangerous situation. As soon as they saw Soheila, the women in the family started to attack her. The men in the family came out with guns. They was a shoot-out on the street, and the police had to take — whisk her and take her away in order to save her life.
AMANDA PIKE: Filmmaker Zohreh Soleimani was able to convince Soheila’s father and brother to meet with her. It was Soheila’s brother who had started the blood feud by eloping with an old man’s wife, the man Soheila would later be forced to marry to avenge her brother’s crime. Her brother refuses to let Soheila marry the man she loves.
MAN (through interpreter): If Soheila is not coming back to us and goes with that donkey of a man, she will be killed. We are not afraid. We are not afraid of dying. We are not afraid of beating. We are not afraid of killing. For us, it’s like killing a sparrow. It’s nothing.
MANIZHA NADERI: I think the only option she has is to leave the country, either go to a neighboring country or some other country, but if she stayed in Afghanistan, I’m pretty sure that her father or brother will find her and kill her.
We have other cases like Soheila, some that are more dangerous than Soheila. Our work is very controversial. We have resistance from all over. The Taliban is an obvious threat to us, but also members of Parliament, ministers. The minister of justice maybe a year ago went in front of Parliament and was calling shelters brothels. Eventually, he apologized, but it shows how people think.
AMANDA PIKE: As the country prepares for presidential elections and the U.S. and other international forces aim to withdraw later this year, many wonder what kind of future lies ahead for young women like Soheila and the women who work to protect them.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
And I have to say, before we start talking, that was a very difficult report to watch.
Let’s talk about the Supreme Court decision this week. David, closely divided court, 5-4, ruled that there should be no limits on the total amount donors can give to political candidates, political parties. What did you make of the decision and what the majority and the minority justices had to say?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m in a distinct minority in my reaction to the decision because I do see a silver lining.
My view is that, for 40 years, we have had these campaign finance reforms, and they have been failures. Money is more coursing through our system than ever before. Incumbents have used the laws to advantage themselves. And one of the reasons I think they have been failures is we have tried to crush down the money in places like the political parties, and it has squished out into opaque super PACs and sort of hidden channels.
And so we have weakened the parties and strengthened all the special interests. And I think one of the things this decision does in a small way — not sufficient way — is it strengthens the party establishments. So the party establishments, which are much more transparent than all these little super PACs and everything else, which are much more accountable, which involve a lot more people, which have national coalitions, are strengthened by this decision.
So I think it’s actually in some small way a step in the right direction, because the way to solve all the money in politics is not to pretend we can get money out of politics. That will never happen. We have to channel it in ways where we can see it and hold it accountable. And I think the parties are the best vehicle for that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, a step in the right direction?
MARK SHIELDS: No, I don’t think so, Judy.
And just to kind of revisit the historical record, from 1976, Judy to 1996, we had six presidential elections. And it was run under the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1974. In all six of them, every candidate agreed to limits of what he could collect in contributions and what he could spend in seeking a nomination. And they all abided by it.
And the reality, and they — then each of them accepted public funding for the general election, and they could collect no other. That’s six presidential elections during which we had incumbent defeated in 1976, an incumbent defeated in 1980, and then later an incumbent defeated in 1992.
So it wasn’t an incumbent protection act. I mean, Ronald Reagan four times accepted the limits in contributions of what he could take, what he could spend, and the public funding for the general elections. So I just think the idea that it didn’t work, and didn’t work — it did work. It worked brilliantly.
George W. Bush changed it in 2000, when he went to private financing for the nomination, but he accepted public funding in the general. And, quite frankly, so did — it was broken in 2008, when Barack Obama decided he wasn’t going to do that.
I say that because, there is — going to the chief justice, there is nothing more basic to our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. And I wish they felt the same way about voting rights, which they didn’t, that somehow this giving — and that these people, these five majority justices must be hermetically sealed.
They are unaware of the fact that big money buys access in Washington, and access purchases influence. It is as simple as that. And they have basically given a green light, a further green light, after Citizens United, to the biggest money to have the bigger voice in our politics, and to sound out and drown out the voice of just ordinary citizens.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, just first, on the historical record, I agree with Mark about the presidency. I think the presidency is a bad way to measure the effective campaign finance, because in the presidency, there is so much publicity, there’s so much money floating around.
Everyone’s got a lot of money. Everyone’s got a lot of publicity.
MARK SHIELDS: It’s the only place we have tried, though.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, if you look at the House and Senate races, in the — 1970, when we started this last chapter of campaign finance, the challenger — the incumbents had on average $3 for every $2 for the challenger, 3-2. Now it’s like 4-1 or 5-1.
The incumbents just have a ton more money because they have rigged the system to help themselves, because they have these networks of small donors. Meanwhile, the amount of people, the incumbents being reelected has just been — that has been going up and up and up.
It’s just a lot safer to be an incumbent. So I think they have used the campaign finance reforms. They have passed laws that will help themselves stay in office. And I think that’s one of the flaws that we do have in the system.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you think that is what is going to change?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, on the separate issue of this particular decision, I — you know, I want to limit the effects of the power of donors, no question about it.
Roberts’ opinion doesn’t strike me as stupid. I’m not sure I would agree with it just on what’s — how it’s going to shake out. The opinion is, if you have the right to give to one candidate or five candidates, why shouldn’t you have the right to give to 20 candidates? Why — and he’s seeing it from free speech grounds.
That doesn’t seem to me completely irrational to think that you should be able to give to 20 if you can give to five.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Because there’s still limits in this ruling. They’re not doing anything about the limits on individual…
DAVID BROOKS: Right. So, you can just give to more candidates.
And the way it strengthens the parties, it limits — raises some oft caps on what you can give to a party. And the party can create these joint super committees pooling a lot of money and deciding which candidates to give it to.
MARK SHIELDS: Chief Justice Roberts and the majority just apparently are oblivious to the robber barons of the 1890s, to the Watergate, to the soft money scandal of 1990s, and the influence of money.
Their limitation, their narrow definition of corruption is a bribe, where I give you $10 and say I want your vote on the teacher’s bill, and you agree. I mean, it has to be that.
And I just — I have to read something. All right? Joe Scarborough, who writes “Morning Joe,” does “Morning Joe,” was a member of Congress from Florida from 1995 to 2001. And after he left, the Center for Responsive
Politics, they all — talked to the insiders. And Joe Scarborough had this to say.
“The lobbying over China most favored nation trading status was disgusting. There’s no way in hell that MFN would have passed in ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000 if all these companies hadn’t come in flooding and making campaign contributions and ask for people’s support. That drove the debate. Every year was the allure of corporate dollars flooding into members’ bank accounts.”
And that’s — quite bluntly, I mean, that’s it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And this is a Republican conservative.
MARK SHIELDS: I saw — I saw money change votes is what Joe — I mean, they just seem unaware of this, that money is something — if they want to see the appearance of corruption, all they had to do was look in Las Vegas last weekend.
You had five Republican governors, former governors showing up at Sheldon Adelson to genuflect, to beg for his support, to seek his — they were sycophants. John Kasich was — debased themselves.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The governor of Ohio.
MARK SHIELDS: Governor of Ohio.
MARK SHIELDS: You know, Sheldon, thank you for inviting me. God bless you for what you’re doing? For $93 million?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I agree. I mean, I don’t have anything to read, but I have got studies.
And the studies that show the reason Washington real estate is booming and there are so many lobbyists in town, it does pay. The corporations who invest in lobbyists, it pays in terms of tax loopholes, tax subsidies, all the rest. It pays. Clearly, the money has a big effect.
But my point is, the Sheldon Adelsons, the Koch brothers, the George Soroses, what we want to try to do is force them into the parties, not so that Kasich or whoever is going to straight to them and trying to kiss up to special interests, but so the parties have the power and they can direct the money.
They’re still a subject beholden to special interests, but at least they have a national constituency. At least they have to think about national majorities.
MARK SHIELDS: If limitations worked for Ronald Reagan four different times, if he could accept it, and win — win election in an equally funded general election, I mean, that is the — to me, that was the golden period of American politics, from 1976 up to 1996, and really to 2008, basically, when we did have public funding.
I’m telling you, it would be so much cheaper for the American people if we had public funding of elections. We wouldn’t have the kind of loopholes you’re talking about.
DAVID BROOKS: I almost think — well, that would — I’m a little nervous about public funding. It’s better than what we got now. I do agree with that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we have only got a little bit of time left. And I want to leave time for baseball.
Very quick question on the health care law. They did — the administration did get 7.1 million Americans to sign up. Has that — have the Democrats, has the White House stanched the bleeding on this? Are they — or is it still the massive liability, David, that the Republicans say it is?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, the numbers are moving a little in the health care — the law’s favor. It’s still, I think, going to be an albatross for Democrats.
But let’s give the president some due here. They had a mess, and he fixed it, and they mobilized a lot of authority, and they did it.
MARK SHIELDS: Turned the corner.
Has it — is it a complete turnaround? I don’t know. But I will say this. This is a White House that has been very short of smiles. And they have gone from finger-pointing to a little limited fist bump this past week, and for real reasons. I mean, this is a major accomplishment.
And the Republicans, they are in the danger right now of rooting for the country to fail. They look bad that way, I mean, and I want to say to them, cheer up, Republicans. Eventually, things will get worse.
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, they — they couldn’t handle this good news.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we want to leave time for baseball.
Opening week, how is your team doing, Mark, the Nats?
MARK SHIELDS: The Red Sox.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It was…
DAVID BROOKS: The Red Sox.
MARK SHIELDS: The Red Sox.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m sorry. I’m thinking about the…
MARK SHIELDS: The Nationals are doing very well. The Nationals were off and running.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, they did lose today.
MARK SHIELDS: They had the good luck of opening against David’s team, the Mets.
MARK SHIELDS: But they lost — they did lose today.
But, in Boston, the world champions opened up today, and it was exciting and classic. And opening day is really a marvelous thing. And, I mean, generations of males and I guess females have come up with counterfeit excuses as to why they can’t…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Even females…
JUDY WOODRUFF: And the Mets have been a little shaky.
DAVID BROOKS: The Mets, we have achieved a moral victory this week. So, we’re 0-3 so far.
Nonetheless, Daniel Murphy, the second baseman for the New York Mets…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, this is what I wanted to ask you about…
DAVID BROOKS: … AKA the Irish Hammer, who I have watched turned himself from a very mediocre second baseman who could not turn a double play without getting injured, to turn himself into a perfectly adequate second baseman and quite a good hitter, he took the first two days off — games off, because his wife was delivering a baby, Noah, I believe.
MARK SHIELDS: Noah.
DAVID BROOKS: And that’s a heroic moral victory for the New York Mets,. It may be the only kind of victory we’re achieving this season, but he set a good example for professional athletes and the rest of us.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But there are some sportscasters, male sportscasters out there who were criticizing Daniel Murphy and said he shouldn’t have taken a game…
MARK SHIELDS: One of whom, Boomer Esiason, former pro football quarterback, did a mea culpa on the air, saying he was wrong about it.
I think, in a strange way, it was because it was opening day. I think opening day — if he’d taken off two games in the middle of July, it wouldn’t have meant anything. But opening day really does — Judy…
MARK SHIELDS: … pitched a no-hitter.
DAVID BROOKS: It’s your kid. It’s your kid.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I just want to get both of you on the record that…
MARK SHIELDS: I’m talking about — I’m talking — if somebody took off two days in the middle of July, they wouldn’t make the big thing. But opening day, I think that’s it. But I think the criticism was unfounded.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re on the side of who, the wife or the…
MARK SHIELDS: I’m on the side of Noah that he has both his parents there, and he will remember it well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.
DAVID BROOKS: I just, frankly, wish the NewsHour had let me take off when my three kids were born.
DAVID BROOKS: It’s sad. It was sad.
JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.
MARK SHIELDS: … when you were born.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re just glad you both were born.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we return now to Afghanistan, and to a deadly attack on two veteran Associated Press journalists by an unlikely perpetrator, an Afghan police officer.
Hari Sreenivasan has more.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The shooting happened this morning in Khost Province. Photographer Anja Niedringhaus and reporter Kathy Gannon were traveling with election workers and under the protection of Afghan soldiers and police, when one of the police officers approached the car and fired several shots.
Niedringhaus was reportedly killed instantly. Gannon is in stable condition at an Afghan hospital.
We are joined by the Associated Press’ senior vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll.
Ms. Carroll, first of all, do you have any update on the health of Kathy Gannon?
KATHLEEN CARROLL, Executive Editor, Associated Press: Well, she’s had some surgeries, and we are optimistic about her recovery, but she’s still being treated, and that will be true for some time.
HARI SREENIVASAN: For our audience, how did you know Anja Niedringhaus?
KATHLEEN CARROLL: Oh, Anja was a photographer for most of the time that I have been editor of the AP, about 12 years.
And we worked together at the Olympics and on war coverage and on many issues, a quite infectious personality. It’s hard not to be drawn to Anja.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And tell us a little bit about that personality.
KATHLEEN CARROLL: Well, she — people have been describing her all day in various ways, kind of a magical pied piper.
Anja covered many dreadful things throughout the course of her photography career, wars in every place that they existed from the ’90s on, but also sporting events and just everyday life. But what was wonderful about Anja is that she found grace and calm and ordinary human behavior in the face of some of the worse situations life has to offer.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And is that what the Pulitzer Committee or other people around the AP and other people around the world saw about her pictures? What is it about her pictures that made them so special to you?
KATHLEEN CARROLL: Well, Anja was a very open person, and she was open to life and open to new people. And everybody will tell you she had the most wonderful laugh. And it was just the first thing you noticed about her.
And the people that she was photographing, she was open to them as well, and I think that showed in her work. It had — it pulled you in because you were invited by Anja to experience what she had experienced, and to see these people on their own terms, not as — not as icons of some horrible conflict, but ordinary people who had been thrust into terrible circumstances and were still finding a way to have a birthday party or a place to play on a battleground or a cigarette in a quiet corner of a terrible field.
HARI SREENIVASAN: As you mentioned, she wasn’t just a war correspondent, though. She has several images in the field. You can see that she put the flak jacket on. She was there embedded with troops. She was there covering the struggles in Libya.
But then she has also got great photographs that have become iconic, of, say, Rafael Nadal.
KATHLEEN CARROLL: That’s true.
And one of my favorite stories about Anja is when — is at the Beijing Olympics for the race with Usain Bolt, and there were hundreds of photographers there. Anja was one of them, but Anja had set up five camera bodies on a piece of wood and aimed each camera at a lane.
And she operated it with a wireless device with her foot, so that she was going to photograph him with the camera in her hand, but also five cameras operated by her toe. It was pretty amazing.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, that is pretty amazing.
So, we’re heading into tomorrow’s election in Afghanistan. You have got to be thinking, as a news organization, you have still got people there. Does what happened change your plans for coverage?
KATHLEEN CARROLL: Well, throughout the course of the history of the AP, we have had losses as bad as the one we suffered today, and yet we still cover the stories.
We’re not cavalier about the safety threats, and we spend all our time, I do personally and the staff here and our security teams, focusing on how we can do our jobs safely. But we never go away. The story of Afghanistan is important, and we will still be there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there specific topics that Anja and Kathy like to cover, especially considering how long they have been working in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
KATHLEEN CARROLL: I think if you look at their work, what you find is, each of them had a passion for our country that people wanted to forget and often did forget, or wanted to dismiss and often did dismiss.
Something — they each found in a different way something compelling about Afghanistan, and they didn’t want the world to forget or reject this place, and it wasn’t just the conflict and it wasn’t the politics. It was the people and their struggles and their joys and the sheer ordinariness of life that was possible in a beautiful, but sometimes very tragic place.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Kathleen Carroll from the Associated Press, thank you so much.
KATHLEEN CARROLL: Thank you.
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WASHINGTON — The latest Associated Press-GfK poll holds bad news for President Barack Obama, but as the November elections draw closer, there are ominous signs for congressional Democrats as well.
A look at the key findings from the March poll on this year’s election and the burgeoning 2016 presidential field.
GOP GAINING GROUND
Preferences for control of Congress are tight, but Republicans have gained on Democrats since January. Thirty-six percent in last month’s poll said they would rather see the Democrats in charge of Congress and 37 percent chose Republicans.
Democrats held a narrow advantage on that question in January, when 39 percent favored the Democrats and 32 percent the Republicans.
Democrats are in the majority in the Senate while Republicans run the House.
The shift stems largely from a change among those most interested in politics.
In the new poll, registered voters who are most strongly interested in politics favored the Republicans by 14 percentage points, 51 percent to 37 percent. In January, this group was about evenly split, with 42 percent preferring Democrats and 45 percent the Republicans.
That’s not the only positive sign in the poll for the Republicans.
Favorable views of the GOP have improved, with 38 percent overall now saying they hold a favorable impression of the Party. Republicans’ positive view of their own party has increased from 57 percent in January to 72 percent now.
Even impressions of the tea party movement have shifted more positive in recent months. GOP favorability still lags behind that of the Democrats, however, with 43 percent holding a favorable view of the Democratic Party.
CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL STAGNANT
Congressional approval is stagnant and negative, with just 16 percent saying they approve while 82 percent disapprove. Among those who have “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of interest in politics, 90 percent disapprove, including 61 percent who strongly disapprove.
Nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) would like to see their own member of Congress re-elected, an improvement since January. Among registered voters who say they pay a great deal of attention to politics, 44 percent say they would like to see their current member re-elected, compared with 33 percent in January.
Here, there’s a glimmer of hope for Democrats. Those who consider themselves Democrats are now more likely than Republicans to say their own member of Congress ought to be re-elected. Not all Democrats live in districts represented by Democrats, of course, but it represents a shift in opinion since January.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
With control of Congress divided between the parties, most Americans say Obama has a lot or quite a bit of control over what the federal government does, outpacing the share who say the Democrats or Republicans in Congress are in control.
Partisans tend to see the opposition as the controlling force, with Republicans more apt than Democrats to see Obama in charge, and Democrats more likely to say the Republicans have the upper hand.
Six in 10 (62 percent) of those with a great deal or quite a bit of interest in politics say Obama has a lot or quite a bit of control of what the federal government does. Just half (51 percent) of those closely attuned to politics say Democrats in Congress exert a similar influence over what the federal government does and 40 percent say the same about Republicans in Congress.
There’s little change since December in which party Americans trust more to handle major issues.
Democrats’ strong points are on handling social issues, including same-sex marriage (31 percent prefer Democrats, 17 percent the Republicans) and abortion (30 percent prefer Democrats, 22 percent Republicans). Republicans have the edge on protecting the country, 34 percent to 16 percent, a slightly wider margin than they held on the question in December.
LOOKING TO 2016? NOT SO MUCH
The poll measured impressions of 19 potential 2016 presidential candidates, and found that a majority of those surveyed offered an opinion about just seven of them. The other 12 have quite a lot of introducing themselves to do if they are to make a run for the White House.
Most people said either they hadn’t heard of them or skipped the question.
Hillary Rodham Clinton generated the most positive response of the bunch, with 46 percent viewing the former secretary of state and first lady favorably and 39 percent unfavorably.
Among potential GOP contenders, none generated a net positive reaction from the public, with 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan faring best – 27 percent viewed him favorably, 29 percent unfavorably.
Among Republicans, majorities have favorable impressions of Ryan and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. But in a sign that the past isn’t always prologue, nearly half of Republicans say they don’t know enough to have an opinion about former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a large factor in the 2012 nomination fight.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
This report was written by Jennifer Agiesta for the Associated Press. AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
The post New poll indicates tough road ahead for Democrats in November appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is a nationwide organization of tax preparers available to help low-income taxpayers. Last year alone, VITA helped prepare almost one and a half million individual tax returns completely free of charge.
STACEY TISDALE: There are a lot of ads for tax preparation bombarding the airwaves at this time of year—each one promising to get you the best tax refund possible.
But getting that big refund can cost a lot in fees charged by a paid tax preparer. And for low-income Americans, that’s money that many of them depend on as their biggest payout of the year.
However, there is another lesser-known option available to low-income taxpayers: the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program —or VITA—a nationwide organization made up of volunteer tax preparers. Last year alone, vita helped prepare almost one and a half million individual tax returns—completely free of charge.
COUPLE #1: Zero.. .nothing.. It’s unbelievable right.
COUPLE #2: You don’t got to pay nothing. It’s much better. And I’ll be coming back here next year.
STACEY TISDALE: The program began in 1969 as a way to provide tax preparation to under-served sections of the population. Tax payers can find VITA locations close them on the IRS website. To qualify for help, they generally must earn less than $52,000 a year. Vita is paid for in part by the IRS, which provides about $12 million dollars to the program nationally in matching grants.
MARY ARTHUR: This is where we actually take care of about 35 to 4,000 clients…
STACEY TISDALE: Eighteen VITA locations are run by Mary Arthur and the Campaign for Working Families—a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia. Last year, they completed more than 14,000 tax returns and brought in more than $7 million dollars in refunds for low-income earners.
MARY ARTHUR: If you’re on the brink of something, tax times give you that opportunity to really pull some things together in your life.
STACEY TISDALE: All VITA volunteers are required to pass an IRS mandated test in order to prepare taxes.
MARY ARTHUR: It’s no one enters a VITA site without certifications, that– period. Our job is– to make sure that you get every credit you’re eligible for you could go to a paid preparer, and you could come to us, we really should be coming up with the same number.
STACEY TISDALE: To illustrate just how much a low-income tax payer could save using VITA’s services, this year, Mary Arthur posed as an uninformed client at a local paid tax preparer. She asked them what they would charge to file her tax returns. The result: a potential $600 dollar fee.
STACEY TISDALE: So they’re gonna charge $600 to do these are simple returns?
MARY ARTHUR: Yes.
STACEY TISDALE: That take how long?
MARY ARTHUR: For me to do my own tax return, oh, I don’t know. Ten minutes, and I– I’m a single person. I have, you know, no dependents to carry. I have, you know, I live in an apartment. You know, so it’s just– putting in a– W-2.
STACEY TISDALE: Mary wants more people to know that there’s a free alternative to these high prices. Competing against the wall-to-wall ads of paid tax preparers isn’t easy. But, despite the challenge, Mary and her staff are still trying to get the word out.
MARY ARTHUR: We don’t have a large marketing– budget. So we do what we can. So we– the team is out there. We’re all out there. In everybody’s car there’s brochures. And everywhere you stop, you drop them off.
STACEY TISDALE: It’s her hope that even more people will hear her message this year.
WASHINGTON – Seven million people signed up, so there is an appetite for President Barack Obama’s health care law, but that doesn’t guarantee success for the country’s newest social program
Big challenges are lurking for the next enrollment season, which starts Nov. 15. Chief among them are keeping premiums and other consumer costs in check, and overhauling an enrollment process that was advertised as customer-friendly but turned out to be an ordeal.
“They have demonstrated the law can work, but we are a ways off from being able to judge its success,” said Larry Levitt, an expert on health insurance markets at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
Republican opponents of the law keep pushing for a repeal, but as millions of people obtain insurance, how long can the party’s strategy remain a politically viable option?
“What the Republicans need to really pay attention to is what they would do different from the Affordable Care Act,” said economist Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare under President George H.W. Bush.
“Just talking about repeal is not going to make it with 7 million people getting insurance on the exchange. And it has to be something reasonably credible … it can’t just be repeal. We are beyond that.”
The source of the pent-up demand that propelled health care sign-ups beyond expectations could stem from the nation’s new economic reality: a shrinking middle class and many working people treading water in low-paying jobs.
Health insurance has been one of the pillars of middle-class security for decades. With fewer jobs these days that provide health benefits, there was an opening for a government program to subsidize private insurance.
When Medicare and Medicaid were created in the 1960s, policymakers took it for granted that people working steady jobs would have access to health care, said Len Nichols, director of the health policy center at George Mason University in Virginia.
That was “back in the day,” Nichols said. “Our assumptions have been all along that you could buy what you needed. But you cannot. And that is why we are where we are.”
It could take the rest of the year to sort out how many uninsured people have actually gotten coverage, the ultimate test of Obama’s law.
Early statistics provided by the administration have not been useful, mingling uninsured people with those who previously had coverage.
But an ongoing Gallup survey has shown a steady drop in the share of Americans without insurance since Jan. 1, when the law’s main coverage expansion took effect. Those numbers should improve because many people still can take advantage of extensions granted by the administration, and because those eligible for the law’s Medicaid expansion can apply at any time.
Still, vindication for Obama’s law isn’t guaranteed. Among the top challenges:
Health insurance premiums tend to go up every year, so the question now is how much higher in 2015.
“How fast they go up will no doubt vary across the country,” Levitt said. “Public judgment of the law will be influenced by how rapidly premiums rise.”
There’s a back-and-forth going on, he said. An improving economy and the law’s taxes on insurers will tend to push up premiums. Mechanisms in the law to assist insurers with a disproportionately large share of high-cost patients will push down premiums.
The big unknown is what economic bets insurers made when they jumped into the markets created by the law. If they were conservative and figured a big share of costly cases among the newly insured, that would take some pressure off premiums for next year.
Another important affordability issue has to with deductibles and copayments that consumers have to pay when they use their insurance benefits. Many of the new plans have high out-of-pocket costs, a trade-off for keeping premiums low.
The advocacy group Families USA, which has supported the law from its inception, says the government should nudge insurers to cover more routine medical care outside of the annual plan deductible, the amount consumers pay before insurance kicks in. Right now it’s mainly preventive services that are covered outside of the deductible.
OVERHAULING THE SIGN-UP PROCESS
One of the law’s main goals was to take the mystery out of purchasing insurance, in the same way buying a car is less intimidating these days because prices, quality ratings and loan rates are easily available on the Internet.
But even when the websites are working, the insurance exchanges are anything but easy to navigate.
Finding out what hospitals and doctors are in particular plans requires additional work. Also, experts say it’s really difficult to get to a true bottom-line estimate that includes premiums and expected cost-sharing.
“The promise has not been realized,” said Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook, a rating service that evaluates health plans for members of Congress and federal employees. “The law says the exchanges will assist consumers in making easy plan choices, and that has not been realized. But it could be.”
One common recommendation is to provide consumers with much more in-person assistance to enroll and pick a plan. A change that might help meet that goal is to align sign-up season with tax filing because that could enlist the help of tax preparers.
As it stands now, the administration has scheduled open enrollment season to end on Feb. 15, 2015, right around when most people are just starting to think about filing their taxes.
Krughoff says better online tools are needed to estimate costs and find hospitals and doctors.
“I do think there are many cases where consumers will have joined plans that will cost them a lot more than they could have,” he said.
This report was written by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar for the Associated Press.
The post With 7 million enrolled, challenges remain for health care law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
IVETTE FELICIANO: Madeline Schwartzman spends a good portion of her morning like many New Yorkers do, getting to work on the subway.
Yet unlike many straphangers, her mission isn’t just getting to her final destination in uptown Manhattan…the journey itself is her goal…and her success all depends on the openess of strangers.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: Sorry to bother you. Can I ask you a question? I’m doing a project called 365 Days Poems by New Yorkers. You can write about your life, anything…
IVETTE FELICIANO: That’s because on every single trip to and from work since last spring, Madeline asks fellow commuters to write a poem in her notebook.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: I look for people that have this quality of openness. And I could tell instantly…
I can completely recognize who is sort of free to write a poem and almost who can write. I can prove that, it’s amazing. You can just tell. And it’s not necessarily clothing, and it’s not– it’s sometimes a look in the eye, it’s the way they hold their body.
Every time I ride the subway I ask a stranger to write a poem.
MAN ON TRAIN: To write a poem?
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: Would you do one?
MAN ON TRAIN: Um. I’ll try…
IVETTE FELICIANO: She then posts her favorite entries on her website, “365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers” like this one, written to her—one stranger to another
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: This is New York, spontaneity. A stranger asks, usually for money. But today this stranger asked for something valuable and free. She asked for a part of me. I love New York.
I’m fascinated by it. I think we’re all becoming more and more alienated. We– we can connect more through the internet, but we’re more isolated. Really, we’re all independent and living apart, but the subway’s this giant connector. So I feel it’s a very fertile site.
IVETTE FELICIANO: Shwartzman is actually not a poet herself. She teaches architecture and design at Columbia University and Barnard College. But she says she’s always been fascinated by how people connect in public spaces like trains. She says while commuting one day last spring, the idea to ask strangers to write poems hit her with a *thunk*. She had the first participants write in her iPhone… later that day she bought her first notebook for the project.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: It’s person to person, it’s hand to pen, it’s pen to paper, and I’m almost thinking it’s so powerful that I wonder if that is something really we’re missing. Like, why shouldn’t we talk to strangers? Why shouldn’t the train be a party? Why– why are there so many boundaries?
IVETTE FELICIANO: Now with more than 100 entries, she’s on notebook number 5.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: Some days it’s torture. Like, if I’m having a bad day, I think to myself at that time, ‘Why did I do this, and how do I do this? This will never happen again.’ And then the next day or later on the way home, it’s easy again.
IVETTE FELICIANO: Why do you think you’re so successful? Why do you think people decide to participate?
I think people have things to say that they’re not telling people. They want to share that they’re in love, they want to share their pain, they want to share that they’re having a bad day. But we don’t really share the bad day with our friends, so they sort of share it with me.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: Should I read it now?
GIRL ON TRAIN: You can if you want to.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: Oh my god.
IVETTE FELICIANO: Shwartzman plans to turn this project into a book someday.
I’m starting to believe it’s kind of connection, that my commodity in this project is connecting, and that you really feel something. It’s almost a kind of elation to connect to someone.
A Chinese ship searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 reportedly heard a “pulse signal” Saturday in the southern Indian Ocean.
According to China’s official state news agency Xinhua, a black box detector deployed by the ship, Haixun 01, picked up signals at the same frequency as those of a flight data recorder.
Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the joint agency coordinating the operation, said in a statement the characteristics reported by the Chinese vessel are consistent with the aircraft’s black box. However, he cautioned there was no confirmation the signals are related to MH370.
“I have been advised that a series of sounds have been detected by a Chinese ship in the search area. The characteristics reported are consistent with the aircraft black box,” he said.
John Goglia, a former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board member, told the Associated Press the report was “exciting,” but added, “there is an awful lot of noise in the ocean.”
“One ship, one ping doesn’t make a success story,” he said. “It will have to be explored. I guarantee you there are other resources being moved into the area to see if it can be verified.”
The report comes at a critical time in the search, as the battery of the plane’s flight recorders is likely to run out soon, perhaps even this weekend.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the detection range of the signal emitted from the missing plane’s flight recorders is about one nautical mile.
A number of white objects were reportedly sighted on the surface about 90 km from the detection area, but were also not confirmed to be related to the aircraft’s disappearance.
Up to 13 planes and 11 ships are scouring the ocean for the missing aircraft on Saturday.
The post Chinese ship detects underwater ping while searching for MH370 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Elizabeth Meriwether is one of the people Madeline Schwartzman approached on the subway and asked to write a poem. Here she reads her work “Outpouring of My Emotion?” which was written on the 4 train between Nevins and 42nd Street on November 7, 2013. You can read additional poems at 365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to “Viewers Like You.” Your reaction to some of our recent work, including some of the comments you voted most popular.
Most of the feedback we received this week focused on our signature story from last Saturday’s broadcast about a lawsuit challenging California’s teacher tenure laws – a lawsuit brought by several students who say those laws are preventing them from getting a good education.
The kids’ lawsuit is being funded by a multimillionaire
One viewer wrote this online:
“This lawsuit is all about putting the jack boot of the billionaires on the throats of teachers. Be honest, this is about silencing teachers and firing veteran educators – nothing more.”
Another like-minded viewer added this:
“Be careful what you wish for! If this lawsuit is successful, it would usher in the advent of privatized education for all. Public school would die on the vine and if you want your kids to have an education, then you would have to pay teachers what they are really worth, instead of the peanuts they get now. “
That comment brought this retort.
“I would much rather homeschool my kids than have a ” stubborn, ill-disciplined, pathetic, moronic, verbose, idiotic” public school classroom teacher!”
And “Chris” had this to say.
“What serious company do you know that would actually give their employees such benefits like tenure or seniority? Do you think Google, Apple, etc. would be some of the greatest companies on earth if they allowed such employment practices. Absolutely not. We need to hold our public school system to the standards of the private sector.”
Rachel Andrews saw that the other way around. She wrote…
“I am a school counselor, and I would love to be held to the standards of the private sector. When I worked in the private sector, I started work at a specific time each day, and stopped around a specific time each day. Having been an employee of a public school system for seven years, I get to work early and leave very late, rarely even having time to eat lunch or use the restroom. I typically work twelve hour days, and dedicate weekends and vacation days to school-related camps, conferences, and other ventures. “
Stephanie Downer Baber told us on Facebook that getting rid of tenure…“paves the way for teachers to be gotten rid of when the district wants a new teacher that starts at the bottom of the pay scale.”
But Lori Farrell wrote that she supported the lawsuit. She said she witnessed: “quite a few teachers in my time who should have been fired but were carried to retirement.”
And Jess McKay wrote:
“I have worked extensively in unionized and non- unionized schools in Los Angeles, and I will tell you the non-unionized schools are WAY better. Just because there is no union doesn’t mean teachers aren’t being taken care of.”