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

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    Photo by Flickr user Mitya Aleshkovsky

    Photo by Flickr user Mitya Aleshkovsky


    As tensions mount over the prospect of further Russian interference in eastern Ukraine, “the White House is preparing a new list of targets to incur sanctions,” the New York Times reported Monday. Among them is Igor Sechin, a longtime Putin ally, who’s depicted as Darth Vader by the Russian Press and described as the “scariest person on earth.”

    As the president of Rosneft, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, Sechin also holds the official title of deputy prime minister. Many regard him as the most powerful person in Russia after President Putin, Forbes said.

    Sanctions against Sechin could worry Western oil companies, such as BP and ExxonMobile, who are tied up in Rosneft’s success. BP owns 12.5 percent of Rosneft, and ExxonMobile and Sechin have a major joint venture in cracking the oil fields of the Arctic and Bazhenov, Quartz reports.

    The post U.S. considers targeting Russia’s ‘Darth Vader’ in new round of sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A young demonstrator with his mouth covered by a Russian flag attends a rally of pro-Russia supporters outside the regional government administration building in the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Photo by Alexander Khudoteply/AFP

    A young demonstrator with his mouth covered by a Russian flag attends a rally of pro-Russia supporters outside the regional government administration building in the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Photo by Alexander Khudoteply/AFP


    There is little American political will for strong U.S. intervention in Ukraine, a new poll finds.

    While a majority, 55 percent, say the situation in Ukraine is key to U.S. national interests, 50 percent of Americans don’t think the U.S. should “draw a hard line against Russia in Ukraine because it could mean losing Russia’s cooperation on other issues like Iran and Syria,” according to a McClatchy-Marist poll out Tuesday.

    Roughly half favor a diplomatic and economic approach, but almost as many 43 percent think the U.S. should not get involved at all. Just seven percent support considering military options.

    That is despite two-thirds, 66 percent, thinking Russia won’t stop at Crimea and almost half, 46 percent, saying another cold war is likely. A majority of Republicans, 54 percent, feel this way, while just 45 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats say so.

    By a 45-45 percent margin, Americans are split on President Obama’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine. Predictably, 72 percent of Republicans disapprove, while 69 percent of Democrat approve.

    Regarding Obama’s overall job approval, 45 percent approve, while 52 percent disapprove.

    The post Little will for American involvement in Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Natividad Gonzalez of Clanton, Ala., and other immigration reform activists hold signs and "Badges of Courage" during a news conference at the east front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Natividad Gonzalez of Clanton, Ala., and other immigration reform activists hold signs and “Badges of Courage” during a news conference at the east front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images


    WASHINGTON — As hopes for immigration reform fades, Latinos and immigration activists are warning of political peril for President Barack Obama and Democrats in the fall election unless the president acts boldly and soon to curb deportations and allow more immigrants to remain legally in the U.S.

    Many activists say Obama has been slow to grasp the emotions building within the Latino community as deportations near the 2 million mark for his administration. With House Republicans unlikely to act on an overhaul, executive action by Obama is increasingly the activists’ only hope.

    “There is tremendous anger among core constituencies of the president and the Latino and Asian communities in particular,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, which champions immigration change. “He has a momentous choice to make.”

    Activists credit their sit-ins and hunger strikes for Obama directing new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review the administration’s deportations policy and suggest ways to make it more humane. Now they’re focused on ensuring they get the outcome they want — an expansion of Obama’s two-year-old policy allowing work permits for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who have been in school or the military.

    The program has helped more than 600,000 people. Activists want it expanded to include more immigrants, such as those who have been in the U.S. for at least five years or who since their arrival have had children. Depending on how it’s defined, that could help many millions more.

    Obama has said he doesn’t have the authority to take such a step without Congress. At a White House meeting with religious leaders Tuesday, he emphasized he wouldn’t act on his own while there still was a window for congressional action, participants said.

    Republicans have warned that a unilateral move by Obama would end any possibility for cooperation on immigration legislation. A bill to improve border security and offer a path to citizenship for many of the 11.5 million immigrants here illegally remains stalled in the GOP-led House 10 months after passing the Senate.

    But many activists say they’ve all but given up on Republicans and argue that Obama has the responsibility and authority to take expansive steps to legalize large segments of the population. They worry that Johnson’s review will produce only small measures aimed at slowing deportations and improving procedures.

    “At this point anything short of an affirmative administrative relief program for parents of U.S. citizens and Dreamers is not enough,” said Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy at United We Dream, which represents immigrants brought here illegally as kids, known by their supporters as Dreamers. “The clock on Obama has run out.”

    Administration officials haven’t tipped their hand on the timing or outcome of Johnson’s review, though activists anticipate initial steps fairly soon. Peter Boogaard, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said the review will be completed expeditiously and the aim is to see “if there are areas where we can further align our enforcement policies with our goal of sound law enforcement practice.”

    Despite the complaints from activists, Republicans accuse the Obama administration of inflating its record on deportations by counting people removed as they’re attempting to cross the border or shortly thereafter. In the 2013 fiscal year more than 60 percent of the nearly 370,000 deportations were of recent border crossers, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Immigration activists, meanwhile, say they feel betrayed by Obama, who was elected with strong Latino and Asian support in 2008. They complain his strategy of winning GOP cooperation by increasing enforcement has failed.

    Cynthia Diaz, 18, participated in a six-day hunger strike outside the White House last week to protest her mother’s detention. She pointed to Obama’s promise to prioritize immigration reform.

    “That’s how he got the Latino vote, and now he just stabbed us in the back,” Diaz said, adding she and others would think twice in the future before supporting the president and his party.

    Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said recent polling shows a drop-off in enthusiasm among Latino voters. “Lack of progress on immigration is hurting our chances of getting these voters out to vote,” Lake said

    Immigrants’ rights leaders say executive action by the president would energize Latino and Asian voters, as happened before the 2012 election when Obama deferred deportations for young immigrants. However, it also could mobilize conservative voters.

    PBS SoCal’s David Nazar talked to embittered activists and fearful immigrants in Los Angeles about the stalled immigration legislation. Video by SoCal Insider with Rick Reiff

    Frustration has spilled over onto some of Obama’s allies in Congress. Protesters from California were arrested last week after swarming the offices of Democratic Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra to push toward stronger action.

    “We’re doing everything that we can,” Sanchez later complained. “So when they come and they pressure us it’s almost like, `Guys, we understand where you’re coming from, but what we need to do is we need to get a vote out of” House Speaker John Boehner. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said activists were giving “a gift to the Republicans” by targeting Obama instead of the GOP.

    Obama expressed a similar complaint at a meeting with immigration rights groups last month, asking officials present to give him 90 more days and meantime keep the focus on the GOP. Participants portrayed a president getting drawn reluctantly into contemplating executive action and focused, at least initially, on smaller steps that he told them would likely not satisfy them.

    That meeting, and Obama’s announcement of a review by Johnson, came shortly after Janet Murguia, head of the National Council of La Raza, labeled Obama “deporter in chief.”

    Now activists are waiting for Obama’s next step.

    “The pressure for sure is working, and I think the question is how bold are they ready to go,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “The hard part is this is not a bold administration, and especially on immigration where the focus has been on legislation.”

    The post Latinos pressure Obama to make deportations more humane appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bostonmarathon_oyl

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The city of Boston paused on this first anniversary of the bombings that erupted at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

    Survivors, public officials and the general public honored the dead and offered hope for the future.

    The day began with a quiet wreath-laying at the site of the two blasts on Boylston Street. The brother and sister of the youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard, laid one of the wreaths.

    A year ago, the scene was very different. As runners made their way to the finish line, the two pressure cooker bombs exploded within moments of each other. Three people were killed, and more than 260 others injured. Many lost limbs.

    MAN: Body parts — I mean, people have been blown apart. They’re dead. There’s — where the window is, the windows are all blown out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A manhunt began immediately for the suspects, identified as two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The city was effectively locked down, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shoot-out with police.

    The younger brother, Dzhokhar, was eventually found hiding inside a boat in a backyard. He pleaded not guilty to more than 30 federal charges and is awaiting trial.

    Today, survivors, families and medical staff joined with hundreds of others, including Thomas Menino, who was Boston’s mayor a year ago.

    THOMAS MENINO, D, Former Mayor, Boston: It’s an honor to be able to thank and praise the first-responders who carried some of you to safety. It eased the pain just a little more to shake the hands of the doctors and the nurses who stopped the bleeding, closed your wounds, or mend your legs, who saved your lives, so you are here with us, in this moment making the city and world a better place.

    Patrick Downes was among those who lost a leg in the attack, and so did his wife.

    PATRICK DOWNES, Survivor: We would never wish the devastation and pain we have experienced on any of you.

    However, we do wish that all of you at some point your lives feel as loved as we have felt over this last year. It has been the most humbling experience of our lives. We hope you feel all the emotion we feel when we say thank you.

    To our fellow survivor community what would we do without each other? We should have never met this way, but we are so grateful for each other.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The theme of Boston Strong ran through the remarks of each speaker, including Vice President Biden.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Next Monday, on Patriots’ Day, when I’m told up to 36,000 people line up to start the marathon, you will send a resounding message around the world, not just to the rest of the world, but to the terrorists, that we will never yield, we will never cower.

    (APPLAUSE)

    VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: America will never, ever, ever stand down. We are Boston, we are America, we respond, we endure, we overcome, and we own the finish line!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, under rainy skies, the crowd moved outside to the marathon’s finish line, and paused for a moment of silence at the precise time the bombs exploded.

    The post One year later, Boston pauses to remember marathon bombings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The man suspected of shooting three people to death at Jewish community sites outside Kansas City was officially charged today. Frazier Glenn Cross, a white supremacist, had his first court hearing. He faces one count of capital murder, which carries a possible death sentence, and one count of premeditated murder.

    District attorney Steve Howe:

    STEVE HOWE, District Attorney, Johnson County, Kan.: The options for the sentence are life without parole, or, if we choose, we file a notice of requesting the death penalty. That is something that we don’t have to file when we file the charges. That is a — I don’t take that decision lightly, and that decision will be made after we get all the facts and evidence in the case, because we want to make an informed decision before that is done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: While the state murder case proceeds, federal prosecutors are working on bringing hate crime charges against Cross.

    In Nigeria, more than 100 female students were abducted from a boarding school. It happened overnight in Borno state. Officials blamed the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The abductions came hours after militants bombed a bus station in the country’s capital, Abuja. The death toll rose to 75 today, with 141 wounded.

    An Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Liberia is now linked to more than 120 deaths. The World Health Organization confirmed the new total today, out of 200 suspected or confirmed cases. There is no cure for the deadly virus, and officials have warned the outbreak could last for months.

    A U.S. Navy robotic submarine has begun its second dive in the Indian Ocean, in search of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. The Bluefin-21 cut short its first attempt yesterday because the water was deeper than 15,000 feet, the deepest it can go. Operators adjusted the search area for the second dive. Data from that initial mission showed no sign of the plane.

    This was the day of the dinosaur in Washington. The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History took delivery of a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus rex. Its fossilized bones traveled more than 2,000 miles, in 16 crates, from Montana, where it’s been displayed since being discovered in 1988. The reassembly will take five years.

    KIRK JOHNSON, Director, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: The T-rex itself, once we unpack it, will be in Hall 13, known as the Rex Room, just off the rotunda, and in that space, we will be making a three-dimensional scan and creating a digital T-rex, which will aid us in the three-dimensional reconstruction and mounting of the actual skeleton for the hall in 2019.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The dinosaur will be part of a $48 million gallery devoted to the history of life on Earth.

    Wall Street managed modest gains today. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 89 points to close at 16,262. The Nasdaq rose 11 points to close at 4,034. And the S&P 500 added 12 to finish near 1,843.

    The post News Wrap: Militants kidnap more than 100 female students in Nigeria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ukraine1

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    GWEN IFILL: Ukraine’s military said its forces clashed with 30 armed members of a pro-Russian militia today and regained control of a small airport.

    The action happened after the country’s acting president announced an anti-terrorist operation to take back buildings held by separatists in at least nine cities in eastern Ukraine.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports tonight on the uphill battle Ukrainian troops are facing against their own countrymen.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Coming into land, reinforcements for a unit of Ukrainian troops, they’re stopped on the main road just north of the towns where separatists have taken down the yellow and blue Ukrainian colors and substituted the Russian flag.

    They unloaded ammunition boxes and other supplies. The Ukrainian government says the anti-terror operation has now started. Their commander was clear that they see Russia as the enemy.

    MAN (through interpreter): This is happening because of the unprecedented intervention by a neighboring country on sovereign Ukrainian territory. Note that this aggression is made in the most base way. Let’s not mince words: It’s a criminal act.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: The soldiers were clear: They don’t want the civil war the Russian government has predicted. Ukrainians, they said, shouldn’t fight each other.

    MAN: The Ukrainian people is not our enemy.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: And the Russians?

    MAN: Maybe.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: They might be your enemy?

    MAN: Russian who? Russian military, yes. Russian people, no.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Further south, near the Russian border, we drove with a convoy of locals determined to make Ukrainian forces leave their village.

    They confronted a small unit of Ukrainian troops who had set up camp here several days earlier. “You have nothing to fear,” said the Ukrainian soldier. “We’re scared of you,” they replied, “and we want you to leave or come on to the side of the people.”

    The people here are siding with the separatists, those who prefer Moscow. They want the soldiers to reject orders from the government in Kiev.

    But you live in Ukraine, and this is the Ukrainian army. They have the right to be here, don’t they?

    VALENTINA MUFAZALOVA (through interpreter): They don’t have documentation to stay here, and we don’t recognize this government who sent them here. We didn’t elect them and we don’t support their decisions.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Whether they like it or not, Ukrainian soldiers are now being drawn into conflict with Ukrainian citizens, the very people they were always tasked to protect.

    The post Ukraine recaptures eastern airport, but still faces confrontation with separatists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-CRISIS

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    GWEN IFILL: Lindsey Hilsum is in Izium in Eastern Ukraine. I spoke to her a short time ago.

    Lindsey, in watching your report, it seemed like things are terribly tense on the ground. How tense are they?

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Well, it’s extremely tense today, because this is the day that the Ukrainian military has launched what it’s calling its special operation against the pro-Russian separatists who are occupying buildings in up to 10 towns across Eastern Ukraine.

    Today, what they — that they brought their armor, armored personnel carriers and other equipment down south, and then they went into a place called Kramatorsk. They went in helicopters. They landed at the airfield, and they seized that airfield, which had been controlled by the pro-Russian separatists.

    Now, it’s not clear at the moment if there were casualties and, if so, how many. The Russian media is reporting that their people were killed, but that is absolutely not confirmed. And this is very much a propaganda war at the moment, so one has to be very careful.

    But what we do know is some of the local people were unhappy about the Ukrainian troops retaking the airfield. They started protesting and confronting them. And the Ukrainian troops, according to eyewitnesses, fired into the air, possibly with automatic weapons.

    So this is definitely a very tense situation at the moment, and also extremely dangerous. President Putin and also William Hague, the British foreign secretary, they both talked about Ukraine being on the brink of war, a civil war. It’s a very dangerous moment.

    GWEN IFILL: It does sound like that. But is there a way to gauge how genuine pro-Russian sentiment is on the ground that you have seen?

    LINDSEY HILSUM: I think there is a very genuine pro-Russian sentiment on the ground here.

    I have talked to a lot of people over the last couple of days, and what they say is that the government in Kiev is illegitimate, as they put it, because it did take power after the previous president, Yanukovych, fled, and it has not been elected. There are supposed to be elections in May. Well, we will see if that’s possible or not.

    And many of the people here, they watch Russian television and they believe pretty much everything that comes out of Moscow. And what the propaganda from there has been saying is that the government in Kiev is fascist, it’s full of Nazis, and so on.

    Now, the propaganda is there on the other side as well from the government in Kiev and from — from Ukrainian sources, too. But I think that what you see here is a people who very much believe that they are put down, they are dismissed by the authorities in Kiev, that this part of the country has all the wealth. You see a lot of power stations and mines here. It provides — it really is a mainstay of the Ukrainian economy.

    They feel that they get no recognition for that and they are looked down on. And they absolutely don’t trust the new government in Kiev. So there is a lot of pro-Russian sentiment here on the ground.

    GWEN IFILL: I was struck by the Ukrainian soldier you spoke to in your piece who said that he makes a distinction between the Russian military and the Russian people. It sounds like there are a lot of divided loyalties.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Well, I think there are because you have to remember that Ukraine and Russia were both part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

    And there are a lot of ties here, links which go back many, many years. And, also, World War II, I mean, we may think that it’s many decades ago, but, for here, it is very real. Where I’m standing now, just north of Slavyansk, was a major battlefield during World War II. Many people fighting for the Soviet army were killed here.

    So all those memories are there, and those memories are shared between Ukraine and Russia. But in the west of the country, people identify far more with Europe and with Poland. So there’s a lot of division within Ukraine. But I think that, for the Ukrainian soldiers, this is really a terrible thing. I mean, what they believe they’re here to do is, like any army, protect the people of their country. To them, that means Ukrainians.

    But what they’re finding as they come into this area is that many Ukrainian citizens no longer feel that loyalty to Kiev, are looking towards Moscow. So they are being forced into conflict with their own citizens, and that’s an extremely difficult thing.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned earlier that we are in the middle of a propaganda war, but to what degree does it feel that we may be on the brink of a civil war as well?

    LINDSEY HILSUM: The two things are linked, because one of the great dangers here is that rumor or misinformation can trigger events.

    People hear of something happening, and then they react. And that — wars have been started like that before, by misinformation, sometimes deliberate, sometimes accidental. So there certainly is a sense of this area, this country being on the brink of civil war. But, of course, it’s important to say that it is not too late. There are supposed to be talks on Thursday which would involve the Russian government, the Ukrainian government, the European Union, and I think the Americans as well.

    And I think a lot does depend on President Putin. There’s no question that he has been pushing the situation here. I don’t think we can say for sure that there are Russian troops here, but I think that we can say for sure that the Russians have been orchestrating this. They have made sure this happens, because they don’t want the government in Kiev to have legitimacy and for those elections to be able to go ahead in May with no problem.

    They seized Crimea. Crimea was part of Ukraine. It’s now annexed to Russia. That happened in February. So I think that they are showing what they can do here. What may be called for now is diplomacy and dialogue, because I think everybody knows now just how dangerous this situation is, and now is the most dangerous moment.

    GWEN IFILL: ITN’s Lindsey Hilsum on the ground in Izium, Ukraine, thank you so much.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: You’re welcome, Gwen.

    The post In Ukraine, will a propaganda war turn into civil war? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    What's the right balance of tax rates in America? Photo from Flickr user AgriLife Today/Royalty-Free/Corbis.

    What’s the right balance of tax rates in America? Photo from Flickr user AgriLife Today/Royalty-Free/Corbis.

    It’s tax day in America. Some of us ducked out of work to dash to the post office, while organized types had their checks written months ago, and still others filed for extensions. (Your chances of being audited by the IRS, by the way, are the lowest in years, AP reports.)

    But what should Americans be paying each year, and where does that money go?

    Fifty-two percent of Americans think their taxes are too high, according to Monday’s Gallup Poll. But how high is too high?

    Two years ago, when many Republicans’ pledge not to raise taxes animated budget talks and the 2012 elections, Paul Solman spoke with the man as responsible as anyone for bringing the tax rate on top earners down from the 70 percent it was in 1980 to the 35 percent it was in 2012. Arthur Laffer was President Ronald Reagan’s economist and is father of the eponymous curve showing the relationship between taxes and revenue. He first doodled his curve on a napkin for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the Ford administration back in 1974, and he did so again for us.

    The central question for Laffer is, at what point will tax rates reduce government revenue? The answer: well below the point of maximum short-term government revenues. As he explained, “At 100 percent tax rate, if you make nothing for doing the activity, you won’t do it, and there will be no revenue.”

    A lower tax rate on top earners, Laffer maintains, will have positive economic effects because the rich will work harder, invest more and create more jobs — generating more revenue for government over the long term.

    But tax journalist David Cay Johnston, himself a member of the one percent, disputes the idea that higher tax rates are a disincentive for top earners to work harder. In fact, he says, they may work even harder to boost their take-home pay after taxes.

    Either higher taxes disincentivize work or they make people work harder to maintain their post-tax income, says Duke psychologist and behavioral economist Dan Ariely. But in reviewing with us his most surprising research from 2013, he explains that people just don’t care much about taxes. In a lab-simulated working environment, Ariely changed workers’ tax rates — some paid none, some paid 25 percent and some 50 percent. Curiously, there was no difference in performance among those three levels.

    Regardless of how taxes affect work, MIT economist and Nobel laureate Peter Diamond is concerned with how much lower income brackets are paying. Rates should be lowered on those workers, he thinks, because they need all the take-home pay they can get to contribute to the economy.

    As long as they’re kept below the point at which they begin to discourage work, Diamond would like to see taxes raised on the wealthiest — say, to about 49 percent — to finance infrastructure, education and research and development, all key engines of economic growth. (See just where tax dollars go in this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

    Just as a slight majority of Americans think that their taxes are too high, a slight majority (54 percent) also think their taxes are fair. (Although this is trending downward from a high of 64 percent in 2003.)

    Making the wealthy pay more is a hot topic in this year’s debate over income inequality, which has seeped from the ivory tower into the political mainstream. The tax system, Nobel economist Robert Shiller, wrote in The New York Times this weekend, “can be viewed as a colossal insurance system, guarding against extreme income inequality.”

    Some inequality provides incentives, Thomas Piketty said at a Tax Policy Center forum Tuesday about his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” But, he explained, “we don’t need extreme inequality to grow.” Piketty would like to see a global tax on capital but admits that’s unlikely. (Making Sen$e will be interviewing Piketty later this week for a future segment, so stay tuned.)

    Shiller, whom we interviewed after he won the Nobel, proposes a tax system that factors inequality into inflation indexing. When inequality goes up, so would the marginal tax rate for the top earners.

    But as we explored with former IMF chief economist and MIT professor Simon Johnson, Americans have almost always preferred debt to taxes to fund the government. If you believe popular mythology, America was partially born, Johnson said at the site of Boston’s tea party, out of a tax revolt. Simply put, we’ve often preferred paying later to paying now.

    That pay-it-later psychology is part of Shiller’s thinking about building inequality indexing into the tax code now. “It pays to ask people to decide on measures to uphold egalitarian ideals,” he writes, “when they don’t have to cough up the money immediately.”

    As things stand now, few really want to pay for the services many people want government to keep, including the Social Security and Medicare spending for aging baby boomers that is increasing our debt load. “That mindset,” Johnson said, “is incredibly dangerous. That is what has broken many governments and many countries. It’s never been the American problem, but it is the American problem today.”

    If nothing else, on this April 15, you can take comfort in Jon Shayne’s argument that by paying your taxes, you’re giving the U.S. dollar value.

    The post What rates should we be paying on tax day? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Clean Air Regulations Impact Coal Burning Plants

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week’s latest U.N. report on climate change warns of the urgent need for global action in the next five to 15 years, if countries want to ward off the worst impacts of rising emissions.

    It also lays out numerous scenarios of what could be done. But those options come with different costs, and in the U.S., there’s been opposition in Congress and often reluctance among much of the public to some big changes.

    We look at the economic and political challenges with Robert Stavins. He’s a lead co-author of the report. He’s an environmental economist at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. And Maura Cowley, she’s the executive director of the Energy Action Coalition, which includes 30 youth-led groups.

    And we thank you both for being with us.

    Robert Stavins, let me start with you.

    This report stresses the urgency of doing something now, implementing new policies. Give us an example of a policy that the United States needs to implement in the near term.

    ROBERT STAVINS, Harvard Kennedy School of Government: Well, Judy, what’s become clear is that, for this country, for the United States, the only approach that conceivably would achieve meaningful emissions reductions, such as those that are talked about in the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would be an economy-wide carbon pricing system.

    That might be a cap-and-trade system, as has been denigrated, and obviously passed the House, but not the Senate, or it could perhaps a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but something that would be pervasive throughout the economy and send the right price signals.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is this something you think, in today’s political environment, lawmakers could embrace?

    ROBERT STAVINS: Well, in today’s political environment, what is feasible is what is happening in the United States, and that is that the administration is taking some action under existing regulations and through executive orders.

    It’s hard to do much more than that. However, it’s possible they will actually be proposing a cap-and-trade system, a tradable permit system, under one of the regulatory initiatives — initiatives for power plants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just pick up with that with Maura Cowley, because the last few decades, you look at whenever Congress has been asked or seriously considered action to try to get polluters to pay for their pollution, for carbon emission, it’s failed. And lawmakers who voted for it often went on to lose at the polls in November.

    How do you surmount that kind of opposition, that kind of problem?

    MAURA COWLEY, Energy Action Coalition: Well, I think you surmount that by taking action on climate change and reaching out to young voters.

    Right now, young voters are the largest voting bloc in the country, soon to outnumber the baby boomers at the polls. And over 73 percent of young people say they will vote against an elected official who doesn’t take action on climate change. So if you want young people to vote for you, taking action on climate change is the right way to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But are you saying, in most states, in most congressional districts right now, young people hold the preponderance of votes?  Because I still hear lawmakers saying young people aren’t turning out. MAURA COWLEY: Well, young people elected Barack Obama in 2008 and turned out again in record numbers in 2012. So I think young people, the millennial generation is here to stay when it comes to voting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robert Stavins, there are also a number of politicians, I think in particular Republicans, who question the science, even, question whether carbon emissions contribute to pollution. How do you address that kind of opposition or doubt?

    ROBERT STAVINS: Well, Judy, in my view, the climate skepticism that you’re referring to that exists among some people in the Republican Party, particularly the more conservative parts of the Republican Party, really doesn’t have to do with climate change itself. It really has to do with political polarization that’s been taking place, as the Republican Party has moved gradually to the right for a whole set of structural reasons.

    And so what we have now is an ideological divide. So, tragically, the debates in the United States, the political debates on climate change, are more akin to the debates on an issue like abortion than they are on debates which are fundamentally about the science and thinking about what’s wise and best for the country and best for the planet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, continuing in that — in that line of thinking, Maura Cowley, you know, you’re — as we said, you’re the head of this grassroots group representing different — different organizations of young people, but the polls right now in this country, we looked at them, show, while a majority of Americans say, yes, we think climate change is real, but doing something about it ranks near the bottom.

    They’re more concerned about the jobs, about the economic, about — in some cases, about health care than they are — climate always seems to come up dragging up the rear.

    MAURA COWLEY: Yes, but I think right now what we’re seeing across the country in terms of extreme weather is really starting to change attitudes about climate change, from superstorm Sandy, to Hurricane Katrina, the droughts in California, the wildfires in Colorado.

    People are waking up to the realities of climate change and they’re demanding that their leaders take action. We have had hundreds of people getting arrested over the Keystone XL pipeline. Right now, students at Washington University…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean part of your coalition?

    MAURA COWLEY: Yes.

    And we have students at universities, Washington, Saint Louis — Washington University in Saint Louis right on a multiday sit-in, demanding that their university sever ties with Peabody Energy, or Peabody Coal, one of the largest polluters in the world.

    And so there’s a rising, swelling momentum right now against the fossil fuel industries and to demand that our leaders take action on climate change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robert Stavins, how much of the responsibility lies with the United States and other developed countries and how much with the developing countries, which are now increasing their use of fossil fuels as they expand their economies?

    ROBERT STAVINS: Well, that’s a very important issue.

    And let’s not denigrate the American population and assume that they’re foolish because of their unwillingness to take on action and to take on costs. We have to recognize, first of all, we’re asking a current generation of people in the United States to take on costs — or in all countries — to take on costs to benefit future generations, because the worst impacts of climate change are going to be off in the future, not this year or next year.

    And then, in addition, what you brought up is the global distribution issue, and that is, you know, the United States has now been surpassed by China as the world’s largest emitter. In terms of the cumulative greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the United States is still in first place, but at current rates of economic growth, China is going to surpass us even in the stock in the atmosphere within a decade or two, depending on various factors.

    If we look overall at developed compared to developing countries, the OECD countries, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, essentially the industrialized world, emissions in these countries are flat to declining. The rapid growth is in the large, rapidly growing, emerging countries, China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia.

    They need to be involved. If they don’t get on the climate policy train, it’s not leaving the station. A different question, though, is whether or not they have to pay for their tickets.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and it’s a much bigger subject than we can deal with right now.

    But, Maura Cowley, in talking to the American people, how important is it that they understand that this is a shared responsibility with other countries?

    MAURA COWLEY: Yes, I think it’s critical that they understand that the United States needs to help lead the international community to take action on climate change.

    And right now, we’re seeing people across the country really demanding President Obama take — step up and enact strong regulations to regulate carbon right here in the United States. And doing that would send a major signal all across the globe that we are serious about climate change, that we are ready to take action. And it would help ease the path forward, so that all of those other countries would join us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to leave it there.

    Maura Cowley, we thank you very much.

    Robert Stavins, thank you very much.

    ROBERT STAVINS: Thank you.

    The post As another report urges action, how can U.S. overcome obstacles to effective climate policy? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New political and economic freedoms in Myanmar have brought rapid changes to the city of Yangon.  The population of the city is expected to quadruple over the next 25 years and developers are eager to build new skyscrapers to accommodate the influx.  But some people are concerned that all of this new construction could threaten the city's architectural heritage -- and historical identity. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

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    GWEN IFILL: Now part two of Jeffrey Brown’s look at Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.

    After years of turmoil, the military government is moving toward political reform. But, as the country begins to open up to the outside world, there’s a new concern: how development could overshadow its architectural and archaeological past.

    That’s the subject of Jeff’s report tonight, which also marks the beginning of a new series, one we call Culture at Risk. We will explore the impact of war, climate change, neglect and more on cultural artifacts around the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The afternoon rush hour in Yangon, as workers board water taxis for the commute home.

    On the streets, food vendors serve tea and noodles. Buddhist monks in their maroon robes are everywhere. And the ancient Shwedagon Pagoda, hundreds of temples, statues and stupas, remains the country’s most important shrine.

    Yangon, the city once known as Rangoon, is often said to be frozen in time, the result of a military regime that kept this country largely isolated from the outside world for more than 50 years. But that’s changing now, and quickly, and a key question here is how to preserve something of the past while moving into a 21st century future.

    THANT MYINT-U, Yangon Heritage Trust: There’s no urban landscape like this left anywhere in the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thant Myint U, a Harvard-educated historian, is head of the Yangon Heritage Trust. As Myanmar opens up, he says, the nation’s very sense of itself, told in part through its buildings, is at stake.

    THANT MYINT-U: What we have now is a physical landscape starting to change, but also this opportunity to remember this history, and to try to begin to save what we can before it’s too late.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Downtown Yangon is filled with grand buildings, many from its British-ruled colonial-era, the end of the 19th century until World War II.

    The huge Secretariat, for example, housed the British administration, but was also the site of the assassination of Burma’s independence hero, Aung San, father of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Some buildings have been restored, like the Strand Hotel, where Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell stayed, and the Rowe & Co., the city’s first department store, soon to open as a bank headquarters.

    THANT MYINT-U: I guess, for these 34 years, it hasn’t really received any attention.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But many others, like the Balthazar, have stood in a state of neglect for decades.

    THANT MYINT-U: So you have this kind of dystopian world here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, wow.

    And today serve as home to squatters who live among rats and squalor.

    THANT MYINT-U: And this is really a building that people shouldn’t be living in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hundreds of buildings have already been torn down to make way for new ones, and Thant Myint-U and his colleagues are working to preserve what they can.

    What started with the plight of a handful of buildings has become a larger quest for smart growth.

    THANT MYINT-U: The last thing that I would want to see is a sort of sanitized tourist zone that’s good for just tourists and some rich Burmese, with five-star hotels and very expensive restaurants, so I think trying to get the economics of conservation right, seeing how we cannot just preserve the buildings, but really try to keep intact some of these communities that have been here for generations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Some of this history is very complicated. Yangon has a colonial past and a lot of people, I would think, don’t really want to remember it.

    THANT MYINT-U: No one has a positive view of colonialism as colonialism, but what I try to say is that this colonial era landscape downtown is also where the Burmese people first learned to be modern. It’s where Burma’s greatest anti-colonial politicians, anti-colonial writers, others, musicians, artists, others lived and worked, and so it’s important for our history.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This remains an extremely poor country, where most people live through subsistence farming. But, as the military government has relaxed its grip on the economy, investment is pouring in from Asia, as well as Europe and the U.S.

    And Yangon’s population is expected to quadruple to 10 million in the next 25 years. The demand for office space and housing is exploding, and rents are already skyrocketing, especially downtown, where new buildings sit, uneasily at times, next to old.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is tearing down what was here, which was…

    MOE ZAT MONE, Unique Asia Gate, Ltd: Yes, I feel a little bit sorry for an older building that has been torn down and…

    JEFFREY BROWN: You feel a little sorry?

    MOE ZAT MONE: Yes, but I got no choice. So, it has got to be done.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Twenty-nine-year-old Moe Zat Mone oversees operations at two construction companies that operate around the country. A native of Yangon, educated in England, he’s eager to be part of change and growth in Myanmar.

    MOE ZAT MONE: According to the architecture, this is what we call urban boutique.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Urban boutique hotel?

    He showed us a model for a new luxury hotel, planned as three stories for now, but depending on what investors want, possibly as high as 15, all part, he says, of developing a modern city.

    MOE ZAT MONE: But we need more infrastructure, such as more hotels, hospitals, schools, and more service apartments for the office rental.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, are you optimistic that Yangon can be a livable city, even as it grows?

    MOE ZAT MONE: Absolutely.

    I think it, come in five years’ time, I think this country — I mean, this city will be able to compete with our neighbor’s country, South Asia.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Come in five years’ time? Well, many are already coming, some touring in hot air balloons.

    And here in Bagan, 300 miles Northwest of Yangon, that raises other questions for the future. Bagan is an archaeological wonder, capital of a former Burmese kingdom and said to contain the highest concentration of Buddhist architecture of any place in the world, several thousand pagodas, and temples in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes, some dating back more than 1,000 years.

    One issue here is sheer numbers: How many tourists, and hotels and buses to accommodate them, can the site hold? Of course, if you’re a carriage driver, like Myo Han, the more tourists, the better for you and your children. His youngest is finishing high school soon, the first in the family to do so, with the hope of becoming a tour guide.

    Myo Han himself was once a farmer.

    MYO HAN, (through interpreter): A farmer’s life is very hard and poor. Driving a horse carriage is easier. I can make much more money.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another issue here: highly controversial restoration and rebuilding practices.

    So the monastery was there?

    U MYO NUNT, Department of Archaeology, Bagan: Yes, it’s monastery complex.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A monastery complex?

    U Myo Nunt served until recently as deputy director of the Department of Archaeology in Bagan. He explained that, as earthquakes took their toll over the years, much restoration was done piecemeal, and not by internationally recognized standards.

    But these are Buddhist shrines, he points out, seen as places of places of worship.

    U MYO NUNT (through interpreter): People put gold coating or lime wash on the pagodas to make them look nice, thinking that will bring them good karma.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Other practices, such as the building of faux historic pagodas, this one by a former top general, also raised concerns, all of this leading UNESCO to deny Bagan World Heritage designation.

    There is now internationally sanctioned work being done here. We watched an effort at one of Bagan’s oldest and most important structures, the 12th century Ananda Temple, to remove layers of white lime coatings. It’s a $22 million project being financed by the government of India, and overseen by Indian experts.

    At the Ministry of Culture, as young people rehearsed traditional dances, another kind of cultural preservation, Deputy Minister Sanda Khin insisted that a new awareness had taken hold.

    SANDA KHIN, Deputy Minister of Culture, Myanmar (through interpreter): Earlier generations tried to preserve their precious monuments in their own way. At the time, the study of archaeological practices wasn’t widespread, so they used their own traditional ways.

    But, for the last 20 years, with the assistance of UNESCO, we have learned the proper ways of preservation that are in accordance with international norms.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, Myanmar wrestles with many challenges: longstanding ethnic tensions, an uncertain move to democracy, and a jolt into the global marketplace.

    Add one more: how to manage and preserve part of its past, even while building its future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can see more photos of the stunning architecture of Bagan. That’s on Art Beat.

    The post Will development overshadow Myanmar’s rich cultural history? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    saslow_pulitzer

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    GWEN IFILL: Forty-seven million people, or one out of every seven Americans, rely on government assistance to feed their families each month. For them, the $78 billion federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, long known as food stamps, is a lifeline.

    Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow set out to trace that lifeline in a series of stories that took him far beyond the typical Washington lightning rod arguments. Yesterday, he was awarded journalism’s highest award, the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting, for his work.

    He joins me now.

    Eli, congratulations, first of all.

    ELI SASLOW, The Washington Post: Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    GWEN IFILL: Thank you.

    We spend a lot of time talking about food insecurity in Washington, about legislation, and ideology. But you decided to go to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Fort Pierce, Florida, and Greeneville, Tennessee, and McAllen, Texas, and even here in Washington, D.C., to get to the bottom of that story. Why?

    ELI SASLOW: Because these are the places where people are still suffering.

    And I think it’s easy here in D.C., or in a lot of places, to feel like the economy has recovered, the recession is over, people are doing better, the stock market is up. But the truth is, there is this lasting scar of the economic collapse, and it’s these 47 million people, one in seven Americans who are now dependent on the government for their food.

    And it’s a program that’s grown four times in size in the last 10 years, and I think those are the people that are worth paying attention to.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the stories — many of the stories you wrote talked about the boom economy around the 1st of the month, illustrated with great photographs by Michael Williamson at The Washington Post.

    Talk — describe what the boom economy is that we’re talking about here.

    ELI SASLOW: It’s really — I mean, food stamps have grown to the point where they’re sort of an economy unto themselves.

    So, the 1st of the month is usually when people get their benefit. And for those people, the end of the month is a countdown to the 1st. Their refrigerators are getting more and more empty, they have less and less. The 1st comes, and they want to shop as quickly as they can.

    So, in grocery stores across America, a lot of stores say they might do 20 percent of their business for the month just on that 1st day. Then the rest of the month is a slow trickle down. So it’s not just money that’s coming to these people who are on the food stamps, but entire towns are now dependent on the 1st of the month as sort of an economic boom.

    GWEN IFILL: So, that lifeline is — goes to the entire community; it’s not just to individuals?

    ELI SASLOW: Yes, first to the individuals, and then out to the grocery stores, and to the banks, and to the employees that those grocery stores hire.

    And in some towns in the country, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, being one of them, 40 percent of the town receives food stamps, so this is something that a huge percentage of the population is dependent on. So, the 1st of the month is a windfall for Woonsocket.

    GWEN IFILL: Do charities fill the gap, food pantries?

    ELI SASLOW: They try, but the gap is immense.

    Even the federal government says that, in a best-case scenario, food stamps give you enough money to pay for food for 17 days, so that leaves you with 13 days, even in a best-case scenario, that you have to take care of. And that’s a huge gap for food pantries and food banks to have to fill. And the truth is, right now, food banks and food pantries are totally overwhelmed. They’re hurting, too.

    So that gap, they’re not quite making it.

    GWEN IFILL: In the towns you talked about, you went from New England to a border town in Texas and to Florida, and you captured the idea that the people who are benefiting from this are elderly and children and everybody in between.

    ELI SASLOW: Yes, it hits everybody.

    Half the people who are on food stamps, half of that money goes to children. And so we’re talking about almost 25 million children who are eating in part based on this program. Elderly people are signed up in high numbers, but the truth is, they’re not signed up to where they should be. Only about 25 percent of elderly people who can sign up for food stamps sign up, because there is still sort of a stigma.

    GWEN IFILL: Still a shame involved.

    ELI SASLOW: Yes, some shame involved.

    So there are people who go around and try to sort of talk to people about the program and inform them about the program, so that maybe they will sign up.

    GWEN IFILL: Is Washington, as in official Washington, seriously tackling these issues?

    ELI SASLOW: I think it’s — there are some people who are trying, but the truth is right now Washington is not set up super well to deal with complicated issues. And this one is maybe the most complex.

    And one of the stories in the series is about a congressman who is trying to cut food stamps. And, in spending time with him, I learned that…

    GWEN IFILL: Republican — Republican congressman.

    ELI SASLOW: Republican Congressman Steve Southerland has — has his own reasons for wanting to do it.

    And he has not yet spoken — when I was writing about him, he had not yet spoken to the main Democrat who is working on the food stamp program. So people aren’t really talking to each other. And that’s — it’s hard to sell things when you’re not — you’re not even beginning conversations.

    GWEN IFILL: You know, as a reporter, a middle-class guy, you went into these people’s homes, you went into their lives, and you decided to tell this story from the inside out. How do you do that? How do you balance that as a journalist?

    ELI SASLOW: It’s the privilege of the job.

    And the kind of journalism that I do, which we refer to as narrative journalism, it’s — I might be writing about big issues and numbers, but I’m doing that by going into people’s lives and into their homes, and not just interviewing them for a few minutes or a few hours, but really shadowing them for sometimes a week or two at a time.

    And that’s a lot to ask of people, especially when you’re there when — in those weeks where the fridge is more and more empty and when maybe their three or four kids are not having very much to eat or waiting for one — one meal a day that’s provided by a food bank.

    It’s a huge act of courage for people to say, sure, come into my life, watch this happen, and write about it for all these people to read. And so what we try to do is, we try to honor that courage by doing a good job telling their stories and doing it fairly and honestly.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, you did a great job. And the Pulitzer Prize recognized that.

    Eli Saslow of The Washington Post, thank you.

    ELI SASLOW: Thanks. Appreciate you having me. Thanks again.

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    Photo by Flickr user khrawlings

    Photo by Flickr user khrawlings


    Consumer prices in the U.S. ticked upward this March, climbing more than expected as Americans paid slightly more for food and rental housing. The hike suggests improving consumer demand, and may alleviate concerns among some Federal Reserve officials over too-low inflation.

    The consumer price index — which essentially measures how much Americans pay for goods and services — rose by 0.2 percent last month, after a 0.1 percent increase in February. Last year, the index rose by 1.1 percent in February. It then surged even higher by 1.5 percent over the past 12 months.

    While the numbers signal that U.S. demand is on the upswing, not all prices are on the rise. Gasoline costs fell by 1.7 percent in March, and interest rates are likely to remain low for the time being, Reuters reports.

    Are the rising prices really a good thing for the U.S. economy? The Federal Reserve seems to think so. Bringing the U.S. economy out of an inflation slump has been a top priority for the Fed, the Wall Street Journal reports, since the beginning of 2014. They consider low inflation to be a sign of a broader economic woes that could hurt hiring and investments.

    But, as The New York Times reported today, the increasing cost of rent, for example, may be doing more harm than good — taking up larger percentages of household income than ever before and making it nearly unattainable for middle-income families. Jay Morelock, an economist at FTN Financial, added that it’s not just about the costs of goods and services.

    “While increases in consumer prices are a good sign for many concerned about disinflation, it is not positive for the overall economy unless wages rise in tandem,” Morelock said.

    Despite the drawbacks of inflation, it appears that the U.S. will continue to see consumer prices surge for the time being.

    “The overall picture is that inflation has stopped falling and is on a gradual uptrend,” said Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered PLC in New York.

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    foster2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Picking up on what we just heard, next, turning the corner — about 15 percent of seniors in the U.S. live below the poverty line and many struggle to find affordable housing. But a unique community in Oregon is offering low-income seniors reduced rents, in exchange for their time, volunteering time, to be specific.

    The NewsHour’s Cat Wise reports for our Taking Care series.

    JACKIE LYNN, Resident, Bridge Meadows: What can we draw?

    CHILD: Maybe a pirate?

    JACKIE LYNN: How about if we have a pirate that is into flowers?

    (LAUGHTER)

    CAT WISE: Four years ago, Jackie Lynn began the process of adopting her niece’s children, who were living in the foster care in Portland, Oregon. Their mother and father, both drug addicts, are now in jail. Lynn is 60. She’s raised two grown children of her own, and she works full-time.

    JACKIE LYNN: It was tough. I had no support whatsoever. I would be fixing dinner, and doing homework, and taking care of kids, and laundry, and all of it. But the kids weren’t getting the attention that they needed.

    CAT WISE: But, in 2011, Lynn and the kids moved to Bridge Meadows, a supportive housing development for families who adopt foster children. That, in itself, is pretty unique, but what really sets this property apart is this.

    JACKIE LYNN: Hello.

    JIM CORCORAN, Resident, Bridge Meadows: Hey. Where’s my buddies?

    JACKIE LYNN: Hi. Well, you look nice today.

    JIM CORCORAN: Thank you.

    JACKIE LYNN: Hi.

    CAT WISE: Jim and Joy Corcoran are Lynn’s neighbors, and they are known here as the elders.

    JIM CORCORAN: I think we ought to go over to the park. What do you think?  Because we haven’t been on the play structures in a long time.

    CAT WISE: There are 27 apartments at Bridge Meadows for low-income seniors who agree to volunteer about 10 hours a week with the adoptive families, in exchange for reduced rents. And for Jackie Lynn, that support has been crucial.

    JACKIE LYNN: They are the reason that we thrive. Jim takes the boys every Sunday morning for about three hours. And they come home excited, with all these wonderful stories. You see children running up to them and giving them hugs. It’s just incredible to watch it.

    CAT WISE: Jim and Joy Corcoran, who struggled financially after Jim lost his job in the construction industry, now pay $500 a month for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment.

    JOY CORCORAN, Resident, Bridge Meadows: It was really difficult to find any decent housing that we could afford in any regard. And so when we had the opportunity to move here, it was just a godsend. It was like a huge relief.

    CAT WISE: Joy is an artist with a long-term disability. She leads story time every week in the community library.

    JOY CORCORAN: It’s sort of almost like a fantasy of being a librarian, or a teacher, or something like that, that I can’t really do physically, but now I have that option to share with children.

    CAT WISE: The development is funded by rents, as well as donations from corporations, foundations, and private individuals.

    The old and young mix here, every day, in multiple ways. Once a week, everyone comes together in the intergenerational community room. Elders provide babysitting, tutoring, music lessons, even rides to school. And there are counselors on site to help both the families and seniors cope with the challenges of caring for children who have often been through a lot.

    Derenda Schubert is executive director.

    DERENDA SCHUBERT, Executive Director, Bridge Meadows: One of the beautiful features of Bridge Meadows is that there’s reciprocity among the generations, so the elders are providing love and support to the families, and the families are doing the same, and even the children are giving back to the elders.

    CAT WISE: In fact, Schubert says that the health of many of the seniors, both physical and mental, has improved since they moved in. But she admits the close-knit community is not for everyone.

    DERENDA SCHUBERT: We have had some folks move in and realize, oh, this is a little too much for me. It’s a little bit of a fishbowl, and I don’t know that I want everybody knowing my business. Like, the best part is people know your business, and the worst part is people know your business. So if that’s not something you’re looking for, an intentional intergenerational community is probably not for you.

    But if you really are looking for a group of people who you feel like you’re now an integral part of a community, then this is a beautiful place to age.

    CAT WISE: For his part, Jim Corcoran says he can’t imagine being anywhere else.

    JIM CORCORAN: We’re flourishing and evolving in this environment, and we’re growing big time. If you go to live in an apartment complex with a bunch of older people, for instance, people kind of wither away, and it’s really not right. Connections across the generations is critical, absolutely critical for aging well.

    CAT WISE: Demand for housing at Bridge Meadows remains high from seniors and adoptive families. Some 8,000 children in Oregon’s foster care system are awaiting permanent placement. Construction on a new property, across town, is expected to begin next year. And Bridge Meadows staff are now consulting with several other communities around the U.S. that are planning to open similar developments in the coming years.

    The post Foster families find and share support with elders at Oregon housing community appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    South Korean Ferry disaster. News wrap with Gwen Ifill.

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    GWEN IFILL: Grief settled over South Korea today, after a ferry disaster at sea. Hundreds of high school students were on board the vessel that capsized and sank. Officials confirmed six deaths, but 290 others were still missing many hours later.

    We have a report narrated by Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

    JONATHAN MILLER: In the Yellow Sea, a few miles off South Korea’s rocky coast, the 150-meter-long, 6,000-ton ferry the Sewol has capsized in 30 meters of water, on board, 459 passengers, among them more than 300 teenagers en route to a school field trip on a volcanic island in the south.

    The ferry had sailed through the night after leaving Incheon near the capital, Seoul. It rolled and sank in two hours flat. As the news breaks, distraught moms and dads converge on the high school. Inside, they’re scouring the white board for names. There’s confusion. At first, the school said all the students were safe. But they weren’t.

    JUNG KYEONG-MI, Mother of shipwrecked student (through interpreter): I feel like my heart stopped. I can’t describe it in words. I’m too shocked. Even the word shocked doesn’t describe how I feel.

    JONATHAN MILLER: Conflicting commands on board led to chaos, it seems. Some stayed put, as instructed. Others donned life vests and jumped into the cold sea. They were the survivors.

    Below deck, a terrified teenager films this. ”The water is rising, the water is rising,” she screams.

    Others are on their smartphones. A daughter texts her dad: “The ferry is tilted too much. I can’t move. It would be even more dangerous if I tried.” Her father pleads with her to get outside. “No, dad, I can’t get out right now,’ she says. “The ferry is at too much of an angle to walk.”  We don’t know if that was their last communication.

    These pictures illustrate her plight. They were posted on YouTube, filmed aboard the listing ship. At 09:27, half-an-hour after the ship sent its first distress call, a son texts his mother: “Mum, in case I don’t get the chance to speak to you, I’m leaving you this message. I love you.”

    Apparently, oblivious to the unfolding disaster, she responds, “Why?” then adds: “Me too, son. I love you.”

    In other messages, this time exchanged between students on board, one writes: “I really love you all,” and continues, “I think we’re really going to die.”

    Fished from the cold water, scared and confused, those who had abandoned ship were asked what had happened.

    “There was an announcement to tell us to sit still, but the ferry was already sinking,” this student said, adding he was worried about his friends still trapped aboard.

    Survivors huddled and hugged in the sports center nearby, hearts broken. Mystery surrounds the capsize. It’s possible the Sewol hit submerged rocks or a reef. Survivors all describe a sharp jolt. A huge and frantic search-and-rescue operation is still under way. Navy divers battling strong currents and poor visibility have entered the upturned hull hoping for air pockets.

    Perhaps it’s false hope, for, tonight, the mood is somber, the captain under police investigation.

    GWEN IFILL: More tragedy back in the U.S. In Washington State, 40 days after a wall of mud all but wiped out a small town, the death toll rose to 39, with seven people still missing. The slide buried dozens of homes in the tiny community of Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle. Teams are still probing the debris.

    Lawyers for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing were in federal court today, trying to lift prison restrictions on their client. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged in the explosions at the marathon’s finish line last year. He wants the judge to bar the FBI from monitoring visits with his sisters. Tsarnaev faces more than 30 counts in the deaths of three people and injuries to more than 260 others.

    In a new online video, the al-Qaida wing in Yemen is vowing to attack the United States. The video shows hundreds of fighters and supporters celebrating a mass prison break in the Yemeni capital back in February. The leader, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, is seen addressing the crowd and then calling for new attacks as the camera pans the gathering.

    NASSER AL-WUHAYSHI, (through interpreter): The crusader enemy, dear brothers, still possesses cards which he moves around. We have to remember, dear brothers, that we are always fighting the biggest enemy, the mother of infidels. We have to remove the cross, and the bearer of the cross, America.

    GWEN IFILL: Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has made several attempts to attack the U.S. since 2009. But drone attacks have killed several of the group’s leaders, including Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric.

    Tensions along Syria’s border with Jordan turned into open conflict today, as Jordanian warplanes destroyed a convoy of vehicles. The kingdom’s military said the camouflaged vehicles were in a rugged area near the border and refused orders to stop. Damascus insisted the convoy wasn’t part of the Syrian army.

    A federal judge has struck down a North Dakota law that bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can come as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The judge ruled today the statute cannot survive a constitutional challenge. It was unclear if the state will appeal.

    There’s hopeful news for the one in 10 Americans who suffer from diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control finds a sharp drop in heart attacks and strokes among diabetics. They’re down more than 60 percent over the last 20 years. The report appears in “The New England Journal of Medicine.” It attributes the drop mostly to better medicine and better care.

    In economic news, the Federal Reserve says growth picked up across most of the country over the past two months; 10 of the Fed’s 12 regions reported increased activity. Also today, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reaffirmed plans to keep interest rates low. That helped boost Wall Street to another strong showing. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 162 points to close near 16,425. The Nasdaq rose 52 points to close at 4,086. And the S&P added 19 to finish at 1,862.

    The post News Wrap: Hundreds missing after South Korea ferry disaster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Case Involving Donor Limits To Political Campaigns

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last night was the deadline for political candidates, parties and some outside groups to report how much money they have raised and spent in the first three months of this election year. One thing is clear: Organizations not officially linked to the candidates are spending at record levels.

    Combined, these outside groups have poured in more than $57 million so far this cycle. That outpaces any election in American history at this calendar date, except the 2012 presidential election, which came on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling prohibiting restrictions on spending.

    Now, a quarter of all this year’s money has been spent in just six states, where some of the key Senate races are playing out. Overall, more money has been spent already in this election than the entire 2000 presidential election, and the races have barely just begun.

    And here to talk about what all this means is Sheila Krumholz. She’s the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. It’s a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics. And David Keating, he’s the president of the Center for Competitive Politics. It’s a nonprofit organization that promotes deregulation of campaign finance.

    And we welcome you both.

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, Center for Responsive Politics: Thank you.

    DAVID KEATING, Center for Competitive Politics: Good to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Sheila Krumholz, as we just reported, a lot of money is being spent by these outside groups in this cycle. And we have a graphic now that I want to show that breaks down some of the totals, liberals, $29.5 million in this pie chart. You see conservative groups $24.3 million.

    Who are some of these groups, some examples of liberals and conservative groups?

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: Well, on the liberal side, in the prior cycle, the most active group was Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action. Others are Patriot Majority, Citizens for Strength and Security.

    On the conservative side, the — perhaps one of the most prominent and strongest at this point in the cycle is Americans for Prosperity, along with Freedom Partners, American Encore, 60 Plus Association, and on and on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And they all have very patriotic-sounding names. And is it always known who is bankrolling these groups?

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: It is usually not known who is bankrolling the tax-exempt 501(c)(4), (c)(6) organizations, which can be active now, following Citizens United, in raising and spending money, purportedly independently of the campaign, to affect the outcome of those elections.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sheila Krumholz, how often are these groups required to disclose? I think we have another graphic that is going to show folks the biggest spending, I guess Democratic political action, the Senate Majority PAC, and then group you just mentioned, Americans for Prosperity, $30 million vs. $8.3 million.

    Those are two different kinds of groups, but it gives you an idea of the amounts that are spent. What more does this tell us about what these groups are doing?

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: Well, we do see the disclosure of the super PACs, which are independent expenditure-only committee. So, we can see where the money is coming from and how it is being spent on ads and other advocacy for and against candidacies.

    But these outside politically active nonprofits that have great latitude now following the Citizens United decision allows them to perform many of the same kinds of activities, but under a veil of secrecy, so we really can’t track the flow of money easily.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Keating, what do we know about how these outside groups spend their money vs. how the candidates and the political action committees, which are pretty much public because they have to report more regularly?

    DAVID KEATING: Well, we have to keep in mind, first of all, whenever a group advocates the election or defeat of a candidate, they have to report within hours if it’s over $10,000.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If they name the candidate.

    DAVID KEATING: Right, how much they have spent.

    And even if they don’t endorse a candidate, if it’s within a certain amount of time before an election, 60 days before a general or 30 days before a primary, they have to report how much they spent. So, we always know how much is spent in that context.

    But we also have to keep in mind this is a year when Congress is in session. There are bills before Congress, and a lot of these calculations are counting bills that are advocating strictly on issues, should Obamacare be repealed, reformed, something like that. And lot of groups are counting that as trying to influence the election, but it’s trying to influence the debate also about where our government should be headed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this is more than just focused on what happens in November, although clearly that is a big part of it?

    DAVID KEATING: It’s all related, obviously. You want the people who are now running for office to take positions. You have groups spending money on global warming issues, tax issues, abortion issues, as we just heard in the previous segment on the court ruling. There’s lots of contentious things this year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sheila Krumholz, any — have you seen any effects so far from the most recent Supreme Court ruling, the McCutcheon ruling, saying that they are no limits on the aggregate total amount big donors can give?

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: It’s too early for us to see what impact the ruling has had on fund-raising, but we did hear that fund-raisers were on the horn immediately following that decision to those largest donors who had maxed out in a prior cycle to ask for additional funds now that they had the ability to give yet more.

    It’s a big plus for the party committees and for candidates who are trying to break through and challenge the incumbents. One of the problems in a lot of these campaign finance laws is that it makes it difficult for challengers to raise the kind of money they need to take on the incumbents who have the name I.D. and the perks of office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying that it gives the challengers a leg up?

    DAVID KEATING: Yes, it gives them — well, less restraint than they had before.

    DAVID KEATING: The party committees also I think will be a bigger factor in this election cycle than they were in the last cycle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do both of you — and, Sheila, to you first — how do you see this as healthy or not for democracy to have this much money in politics and money that isn’t all reported? We don’t know in the case of some of these outside groups who the donors are, or we don’t know or may not know for awhile how the money is being spent.

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: I think most people logically want and expect the parties to play a role in politics and to support their candidates.

    And so with this ruling, they’re able to claw back some of the money that had previously been going to the independent outside organizations. And so I think that is arguably a positive step.

    On the other hand, it returns us effectively to the days of soft money, where the parties are now courting the very elite top donors, who were already influential, to ask for yet more money and the question is, what will they return? What IOUs will be extended to those large donors?

    There have been donor reward programs in past years, and so one wonders whether we’re returning to that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a danger, David Keating, about…

    DAVID KEATING: It’s definitely a plus when we have more debate about where our country should be headed.

    And political scientists that have studied spending in elections, they find that when there is more spending, there’s more message and more people are paying attention, voters are better informed, and they turn out in higher numbers. I think these are all positive things for our democracy across the board.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about Sheila’s point, though, that now the attention, the weight of influence gravitates towards those with the most money?

    DAVID KEATING: Well, I think, ultimately, the voters are in charge, and if the voters don’t like who is backing these candidates, they’re the ones that they control the voting booth, and that is how things get done.

    You have to look. The self-funded candidates, they often flame out. So, money doesn’t equal victory. It just means speech.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: Well, disclosure just got a lot more complicated, because now it’s a big enough chore that we try to undertake to track who these largest individual donors are that are giving to the candidates’ PACs and parties.

    But it is not true that voters have access to the information they need to really understand who is bankrolling efforts to elect these candidates. They have more information about the money that is going in to the candidates — the pockets of the candidates and parties. They know far less about who is bankrolling these outside efforts, which can be determinative in close races.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is it? Do they know or don’t they know?

    DAVID KEATING: Well, a lot of it — a lot of the problem with the disclosure passed in some of the states, it’s generating junk disclosure, where the money that is being recorded has nothing do with the ad that’s on the air.

    Our group just won a ruling in the state of Delaware where Delaware was trying to force disclosure for groups that are publishing voter guides, things like Project Vote Smart and that sort of thing, which is I think a ridiculous level of disclosure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, this is something we’re going to continue to look at throughout this election cycle.

    We thank you both, David Keating, Sheila Krumholz.

    SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: My pleasure.

    DAVID KEATING: You’re welcome. Thank you.

    The post Why outside groups are pouring record amounts of money into this year’s midterm elections appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ukraine setup screen grab

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    GWEN IFILL: As diplomats prepare for talks tomorrow aimed at reaching a solution to the crisis in Ukraine, the country’s government struggled again to take back control of the east.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: Ukrainian armored personnel carriers flying the Russian flag rolled into the eastern city of Slavyansk today, the latest move in a slow-motion takeover of Ukrainian territory.

    The country’s defense ministry announced Russian sabotage groups captured the vehicles, and the Ukrainian soldiers in them, but one of those soldiers said he’d defected. Meanwhile, heavily armed men in military gear patrolled streets in Slavyansk and beat an unidentified man before hauling him away.

    One of them flashed a Ukrainian passport, and said he’d come to the eastern region, known as the Donbass, from a nearby Russian conquest.

    MAN (through interpreter): We are coming from the people’s militia of Crimea and we are here to help people’s militia of Donbass.

    MARGARET WARNER: To the south, Ukrainian jets streaked over Kramatorsk, where the government opened an anti-terrorist offensive yesterday and retook a local airfield.

    But locals, like this priest, sounded dismayed.

    FATHER GEORGIY MUZIKO (through interpreter): My parish is here. Residents of our village, we are against these troops entering and this kind of psychological attacks which they are making with planes flying low.

    MARGARET WARNER: To the east, in the provincial capital, Donetsk, masked militants overran more government buildings today. They have already occupied the regional governor’s office for 10 days. This man, unmasked, made their case to reporters in front of the city council building.

    ALEXANDER ZAKHARCHENKO, Pro-Russian Activist (through interpreter): Our main demand is to send a message to Ukraine’s parliament demanding to pass a law about local referendums. The second demand is for the city council to help in organizing a local referendum about self-determination of the Donetsk region on May 11.

    MARGARET WARNER: His name is Alexander Zakharchenko, and last month, refusing to give his last name, he took us on a tour through Donetsk checkpoints that he and his comrades manned. He said they meant to prevent incursions by supporters of the Kiev government.

    ALEXANDER ZAKHARCHENKO (through interpreter): Donetsk is a sleeping giant. Don’t wake it up. If it wakes up, there will be no place for anyone. Kiev cannot threaten our blood ties to Russia. Let us decide our own future.

    MARGARET WARNER: In Kiev, this is all seen as a replay of the Russian invasion of Crimea.

    Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk:

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Acting Prime Minister, Ukraine (through interpreter): Besides exporting oil and gas, Russia has started exporting terrorism to Ukraine. It seems like there is only one country in the world, namely Russia, that doesn’t see that Russian groups of infiltrators are committing acts of terrorism on the Ukrainian territory.

    MARGARET WARNER: To back up that assertion, the head of Ukrainian counterintelligence said his officers had detained 40 members of the Russian special services, and the agents they recruited.

    VITALY NAYDA, Ukrainian Counter-intelligence (through interpreter): Acts of sabotage in the east of Ukraine are openly controlled by staff officers of the main intelligence administration of the joint staff of the Russian military.

    ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, Secretary General, NATO: We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land.

    MARGARET WARNER: Meanwhile, NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said NATO would fly sorties over the Baltic region and deploy ships into the Baltic and the Eastern Mediterranean Seas. He insisted again that Russia stand down its forces arrayed on Ukraine’s border.

    ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: We call on Russia to be part of the solution, to stop destabilizing Ukraine, pull back its troops from the borders and make clear it doesn’t support the violent actions of well-armed militias of pro-Russian separatists.

    MARGARET WARNER: The public U.S. position remained diplomacy first, and non-lethal aid for Ukraine.

    State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf:

    MARIE HARF, State Department Spokeswoman: There is no military solution here. We don’t want to see more escalation; what we want is de-escalation. At the same time, we’re constantly reviewing Ukrainian requests for assistance and determining what’s most appropriate to provide.

    MARGARET WARNER: In pursuit of diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry joins talks in Geneva tomorrow with Russian, Ukrainian and E.U. officials.

    The U.S. has also warned of additional sanctions if Russia advances further.

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    MOLDOVA-TRANSDNIESTR-UKRAINE-RUSSIA

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    GWEN IFILL: And Margaret joins me now.

    As the U.S. watches this, and sees what happened in Crimea with Russia’s invasion and starts to talk about waiting on the Ukrainian government to see what they need, how concerned is the U.S. and how prepared is it to act?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, you have noticed, Gwen, a shift in tone from the administration in the last few days.

    For months now, they have been praising, urging the Kiev government to exercise restraint and not provoke the Russians and praising them for doing so. There’s now growing concern, I’m told, that the government in Kiev is appearing weak. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister, said to me in an interview three weeks ago, if they cross our borders, we will fight.

    Well, they have crossed the borders. Now you are starting to hear a difference in tone and saying certainly the Kiev government has right to restore law and order. But when the CIA director, John Brennan, went over there in a — quote — “secret mission,” which was immediately, of course, leaked in public, to Kiev, I’m told he took a double message.

    He was there to talk about maybe improving some intelligence sharing, how they could set up a better communications network secure from the Russians, but he also urged them not to take any action that would provoke the Russians.

    And I talked to an official in Kiev who said they do feel they’re getting these mixed messages from the Americans on this point.

    GWEN IFILL: That’s the question, I suppose, which is how are they reacting to it? Do you hear difference in tone now from the prime minister, from the acting prime minister, or do you begin to get a sense that they think the government is weak as well?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, what I hear from people in both Donetsk and in Kiev just today — I talked to a top official in the Donetsk governor’s office who is no longer, of course, in his office — who said, we are still waiting for this great anti-terrorism operation to bear fruit.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    MARGARET WARNER: They took that one airfield. But he said the Russians have planned this so well, they use — he said, they use our local people as their shields and their swords. And he described the scene.

    He said, they come out, they surround one of these tanks, Ukrainian tanks, and what are the Ukrainian soldiers supposed to do, shoot their own civilians? That would totally escalate the situation.

    And then there’s a feeling in Kiev that the Kiev government, it is not just lack of military power, but that they don’t really have the managerial heft. They don’t have control over all the units in the military or in the governments out in the east.

    And I detected a loss of confidence in Kiev among influential people I talked to today in their own government.

    GWEN IFILL: Here in Washington, there are lawmakers who are some seeking to have some influence as well. And there is a debate, as it seems like there always is, about what the U.S. role should be, up to and including military assistance.

    Is that a debate that is penetrating at all at the White House?

    MARGARET WARNER: It is, Gwen.

    The president said to be reluctant to do anything that would turn this certainly into a proxy war between the U.S. and the Russians. And there’s no way the Ukrainians could win anyway. So, they don’t want to give what they call really lethal assistance, like anti-aircraft batteries, things like that. But…

    GWEN IFILL: Is that what the Ukrainians are after?

    MARGARET WARNER: Oh, they have asked for all kinds of things, from everything from, say, body armor and night-vision goggles, all the way up to much more intelligence-sharing.

    So, the U.S. is, I’m told, DOD is now talking to the Ukrainians and there probably will be more of what they call nonlethal, but it will be more than the MREs, meals ready to eat, which is about all the U.S. has provided up until now. It will be not be arms and it will not be ammunition.

    But sharing intelligence is a dicier thing. First of all, there’s a strong feeling in the administration and the intelligence community that the Russians have totally penetrated — they worked together like this with the Ukrainian military and intel services. Whatever you share, you’re probably sharing with the Russians.

    And one former CIA official said to me today, you know, when we were at the CIA, she said, we regarded Ukraine as one of most important counterintelligence threats we faced. They were damn good. And so we have to be careful here.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes. Yes.

    Back to Geneva, it seems that every — I hope that John Kerry has put some money down on real estate there, because it feels like he’s there every couple of weeks.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARGARET WARNER: And it’s very expensive there.

    GWEN IFILL: And it’s very expensive there.

    So, he goes back. And the European Union and Russia, Ukraine all meet. What is on the table and is anybody optimistic?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, what is interesting here is, I have been hearing about this for two-and-a-half weeks. The administration keeps saying, well, wait until Geneva, we will finally get the Ukrainians and Russia talking to each other.

    But then everyone laid out their markers today of what they were going to demand. The Ukrainian foreign minister said they were going to demand not only that Russia stand down at that border, but rescind the takeover of Crimea. Then of course the Russians have been saying it’s all the fault of the Kiev government persecuting Russian speakers.

    I’m told, we’re told that Secretary Kerry is going to try to put the Russians to the test in this way. You say what you want or more — it’s more decentralization, more rights for minorities like Russian speakers in Ukraine. Well, here is the Ukraine government ready to discuss it. Let’s have the discussion.

    But at the same time, we’re told he is going to have a tough message, which is, you have to de-escalate on the border, you have call on these hooded separatists get out of those buildings. And if not — I don’t know if he will say this tomorrow, but a senior official told me today we could see new U.S. sanctions as early as Friday.

    GWEN IFILL: That was the next question I was going to ask you, because they have said before de-escalate, de-escalate, but now they’re saying there may be a hammer to back that up.

    MARGARET WARNER: There may be a hammer before you actually fully invade. There are staged sanctions. We can talk about it another time.

    But it wouldn’t be the full boat. It would not be Iran-style sanctions, but it would get at people and companies closer to Putin than now.

    GWEN IFILL: Margaret Warner, thanks, as always, for all your insights and reporting.

    MARGARET WARNER: I always enjoy it, Gwen.

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    Bomb explodes in Abuja

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Nigeria, Islamic extremists hit again today. Gunmen attacked a village in the country’s northeast, killing 18 people. The incident follows the kidnapping of about 100 female students on Tuesday in the same area, and a bus station bombing that killed 75 people in the capital, Abuja, on Monday.

    A short time ago, the Nigerian military said it had freed most of the captured schoolgirls, but eight are still missing.

    Hari Sreenivasan has more.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: To help us understand what’s behind the surge in attacks and the Nigerian government’s ability to respond, I’m joined by Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    So, Ms. Cooke, who is behind this recent rash of violence and why the uptick?

    JENNIFER COOKE, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Well, Boko Haram, which is the Islamist — violent Islamist group that was originally based in the northeast, is likely responsible for the bus attack on Monday, certainly for the kidnappings and the attack in Borno state today.

    This is a violent group that began as fairly small sect in the northeast of Nigeria, very remote state, but has expanded its tactics, its targets, initially against security forces and police, but now against civilians, against schoolchildren, against ordinary citizens in the capital of Abuja, as well as in the states within its stronghold.

    I think, after a lull, the leadership was somewhat fractured last summer and weakened. It’s clearly come back, is making a statement that it’s still very much on the scene. This is particularly frightening as Nigeria is set to host the World Economic Forum in the coming months and is entering a very fractious election cycle as well.

    So these are very high-profile attacks that come at a very delicate time for Nigeria.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How — what are some of the consequences of these attacks? We’re hearing that almost a million people have been displaced either internally or externally.

    JENNIFER COOKE: Well, one is the displacement. The people killed — and they have killed some 4,000 in the last four years.

    The displacement, as you say, it means that very little investment is going into the north. Education and health programs have been disrupted. The economy, which is already weak, has further collapsed. And it’s made these very poor states in the northeast even poorer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sorry. Go ahead.

    JENNIFER COOKE: Beyond which, it’s damaged Nigeria’s reputation, I think, as a place that you can go and be safe and make safe investments and so forth.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what is the Nigerian government’s ability to respond to this?

    JENNIFER COOKE: Well, I think — initially, I think it was very complacent in taking Boko Haram seriously in the early years beginning in 2000.

    Since then, it’s come down very heavy-handedly on those communities in the northeast and it killed many members of Boko Haram, but in doing so has also swept up many innocents along with that. And that has begun to alienate some of those communities who really ultimately could be the best allies in sharing intelligence and information with the security forces.

    The response in some ways has been counterproductive, perhaps drawn — become a recruiting tool for Boko Haram, but also made the communities less cooperative with the security forces. There’s also divisions within the security forces and a lot of turf battles within the military. And it’s led to a somewhat uncoordinated response and one that ultimately has not proved very effective.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any sort of a simple way to look at this? Is this north vs. south? Is this Muslim vs. Christian? The attacks are starting to accelerate right around specific Christian holidays.

    JENNIFER COOKE: Well, there is an element of that in Boko Haram’s ideology.

    Initially, Boko Haram was an Islamist sect that was very much against Western education and Western values and the traditional Muslim leaders. But most of Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslim in the northeast. This is very much more kind of a protest against government corruption or it began as against government corruption, the poverty of the northeast, but it’s really morphed in to something that is very brutal and it’s very hard to discern any political agenda within it.

    It’s become perhaps more tied with kind of global jihadist ideology, with very much still a Nigeria focus.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are some of the political ramifications, or the economic ones, for the country?

    JENNIFER COOKE: Well, the reel wealth of Nigeria right now lies in its south. And the north has been very much excluded for that — from that. And that has deepened a rift between the north and the south in to which the security situation plays.

    It’s not just the security situation that’s driving this, but a much deeper fissure between north and south that lies in economics, lies in the leadership of the country and how it’s governed. As I said, we’re heading right now into an election period. The government is under threat for the first time from a coalition of opposition groups that has actually a chance of challenging them.

    And Boko Haram and this insecurity has become a real football, and with mutual accusations on both sides, and just at a time I think when Nigeria needs to pull together and kind of find a national solution to the insurgency.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was just revealed that Nigeria has one of the largest, if not the largest economy in Africa now, right?

    JENNIFER COOKE: Right. They have just recalibrated their GDP. And it makes them the largest economy in Africa.

    They have tremendous opportunity in Nigeria, big population, lots of resources, tremendous wealth. And this kind of insecurity, as well as kind of the malgovernance that has driven it, really pits puts all of that at risk. And Nigerians’ government and the Nigerian people, opposition leaders have to see what the stakes are in terms of the country’s future, if they don’t get their heads around and their arms around this problem of insecurity.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thanks so much.

    JENNIFER COOKE: Thank you.

    The post What’s behind the surge of deadly extremist attacks in Nigeria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A federal judge on Wednesday struck down the United States’ most restrictive abortion law, North Dakota’s prohibition of abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, calling it “invalid and unconstitutional.”

    As a fetal heartbeat can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, the law effectively banned abortion argued the Red River Women’s Clinic, the state’s only abortion clinic. The clinic challenged the law after its passage in 2013.

    Following that lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who is based in Bismarck, temporarily blocked the law from taking effect. In a 25-page opinion released Wednesday, he rendered his ruling permanent, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

    “The United States Supreme Court has spoken and has unequivocally said no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” Hovland wrote. “This Court is obligated to uphold existing Supreme Court precedent.”

    In a statement, Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that Wednesday’s ruling “sends a strong message to politicians across the country that our rights cannot be legislated away.” The North Dakota attorney general’s office said it would “confer about” appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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    Bonnie Moore was worried about losing her five-bedroom home in Bowie, Md., when she and her husband divorced at the height of the recession. So the 69-year-old decided to make lemonade out of her sour situation and began advertising for roommates. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

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    GWEN IFILL: It’s not uncommon for young adults to live with roommates in order to offset the high cost of housing. But with one out of every three baby boomers now single and approaching retirement, some of them are returning to the communal living of their youth to ease the burdens of their golden years.

    Special correspondent Spencer Michels reports for our Taking Care series.

    WOMAN: I thought maybe we would use the plastic ones for them.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Karen Bush and Louise Machinist like to plan together, everything from dinner parties to the breakdown of chores at their new condo in Sarasota, Florida, to projects at the shown they share with Jean McQuillin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    WOMAN: I will be hope April 4. And I will probably be there most of that upcoming week, so if there are things that I need to do…

    SPENCER MICHELS: The longtime friends now in their 60s have been coordinating their lives like this for the past 10 years. Before that, like a growing number of female baby boomers, all three were divorced, living alone and unsatisfied with the size of their savings accounts as they neared retirement.

    WOMAN: Let’s tell the real story. She cooks. I do the dishes.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Combining resources, they decided, would make life cheaper, easier, and more fun. Their relationship was easy to describe from the start.

    WOMAN: Fight like cats and dogs, lots of drama every day.

    WOMAN: No, no, no. No, that’s “The Golden Girls.”

    SPENCER MICHELS: “The Golden Girls,” the Emmy Award-winning sitcom from the ’80s that ran for seven seasons, first popularized the idea that four older women can get along well as roommates, for the most part.

    BETTY WHITE, Actress: Dorothy, you’re the smart one. And, Blanche, you’re the sexy one, and, Sophia, you’re the old one.

    (LAUGHTER)

    BETTY WHITE: And I’m the nice one.

    (LAUGHTER)

    BETTY WHITE: Everybody always likes me.

    ESTELLE GETTY, Actress: The old one isn’t so crazy about you.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Nationwide, about 500,000 women offer the age much 50 live with a nonromantic housemate. According to census data analyzed by AARP, that boils down to roughly 130,000 group homes from coast to coast.

    Louise, Karen and Jean officially decided to give it a shot in 2004, when they bought a large brick home together in Mount Lebanon neighborhood of Pittsburgh and drafted a legally binding document laying out everything from financial expectations to overnight guests.

    It worked so well, they wrote a how-to book about living far better for far less. But they also knew the arrangement wouldn’t last forever.

    KAREN BUSH: It’s a great big old colonial built in the 1930s, four stories, three winding sets of stairs. And so it’s a great house for us while we were young, but we know that at some point, that house will become difficult for us to manage.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Still, their eventual need to move on doesn’t mean an end to the partnership, which the three say is becoming more valuable with time. They recently purchased this condo together in Florida, with new legal agreements in the works for what they will and will not do when it comes to things like illness, disability, incompetence, and death.

    WOMAN: Well, I mean, if one of us goes soon, the other one is young enough and cogent enough hopefully to just go get a mortgage or find another person to buy in.

    WOMAN: What are we going to do about some of this stuff?

    SPENCER MICHELS: They’re now gutting the place.

    MAN: I think we will widen the door.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And, with the help of contractor Brian Anderson and independent living strategist Louis Tannenbaum, rebuilding it for a future when the women will be less mobile, which includes everything from selecting floor tiles with enough traction…

    WOMAN: Yes, they slip.

    SPENCER MICHELS: … to choosing age-friendly countertops and appliances.

    KAREN BUSH: The front has some advantages, but having this sweep is really nice to have.

    WOMAN: Yes, definitely good.

    KAREN BUSH: The whole setup that we have here is going to help me be independent for a long time. And at the point at which I can no longer be independent, I will have additional resources to pay for what I need.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But this isn’t just a warm-weather retirement idea.

    The golden girls concept actually got started going strong here in Minneapolis, where a few years ago the median income of elderly women was $11,000 less than for retired men. That discrepancy prompted a local woman to start to organize.

    Connie Skillingstad runs Golden Girl Homes, Inc., a volunteer-based group that introduces elderly single women in the Twin Cities to the concept of communal living and to each other. At least once a month, she hosts get-togethers on topics ranging from picking a roommate to tax preparation. Many say it’s something they have already considered.

    WOMAN: Really, I’m not that keen on living alone. But there I am.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But most admit being more than a little nervous about roommate drama or even sharing a bathroom.

    WOMAN: Go to bed at night and there would be a half-a-roll of toilet tissue, and then you get up in the morning and then there would be no toilet tissue. And that would be an issue for me.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And Skillingstad tells them up front it doesn’t always work, that minor differences can easily ruin everything.

    But she also believes the setup, if managed well, can save lives and keep people out of retirement homes longer.

    CONNIE SKILLINGSTAD, President, Golden Girl Homes, Inc.: I see both women with money and women with no money who need to do this and who can find a place here for that.

    And, for example, there are women who have no money, but they have a house. They have space and they can share it with somebody, and it will help them to survive.

    SPENCER MICHELS: It’s why Skillingstad has been spending time lately advising 54-year-old Nancy Schuna on how to make her home more attractive to a potential roommate. The financially strapped hairstylist has far more space than she needs, even after she finishes construction on a beauty salon in the front two rooms of her home. Several hundred dollars a month would go a long way to helping relieve some stress, she says.

    NANCY SCHUNA: It would uniform my life, I mean, physically, psychologically, financially. And I could help them, too. It’s just not a one-sided thing for a woman to move in to my home, and she may want to help me with things, too. So, it’s a give and take. It’s helping each other and it’s caring for each other.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Schuna’s next step will be finding her own Rose, Blanche, Sophia or Dorothy, and settling into a future where she doesn’t feel so alone.

    GWEN IFILL: And if you’re looking for a Dorothy or a Rose to share your home with, we have tips on how to do that on our Health page.

    The post Taking cues from ‘Golden Girls,’ more single baby boomers are building a future together appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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