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

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    Instituting a basic income in the United States, Megan McArdle says, would require closing off immigration to the U.S. from low-skilled countries. Photo by Flickr user BBC World Service

    Making a basic income politically viable in the United States would require closing off immigration to the U.S. from low-skilled countries, says Megan McArdle. Photo by Flickr user BBC World Service.

    Editor’s Note: The guaranteed basic income, as we’ve explored, is not a neat ideological issue. Its proponents include Occupy activist David Graeber and libertarian economist Charles Murray. They want to see a lump sum income replace a bureaucratically administered federal welfare system. As conservative Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy told us, “The minimum income assumes that [the recipients], better than anyone else in Washington, know what they need.”

    But liberal economist Barbara Bergmann is against the basic income because she thinks people need those specific federal programs. And today’s interviewee, conservative blogger Megan McArdle, agrees: a lump sum wouldn’t be enough to help a family with a child with special needs, for example.

    In reality, McArdle argues, the basic income couldn’t replace the existing social welfare system, as some of her fellow conservatives suggest; instead, she says it would end up doubling the federal budget. And at the same time, because the U.S. would have to halt immigration from poorer countries, she fears it would increase global poverty.

    McArdle appears in our Making Sen$e segment about the basic income, below, and our edited conversation with her follows.

    Why are you opposed to the guaranteed income?

    Well, you’ve got a couple of problems with the guaranteed minimum income.
    The first is just fiscal. If you look at how much income would be required to actually give anyone what even we consider a very basic standard of living, you’re talking about probably $15,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. So you think about for a family of two adults — that’s $30,000 a year. That’s probably enough to live on, but what’s the fiscal impact of that? It’s about 200 million people you would have to be sending those checks to — a little over, actually. So you’re talking about in the region of $6 trillion a year, which is much larger than our current budget.

    At the same time, you know, often it’s argued: Well, you could do that and you would zero out all the poverty programs. But a lot of the poverty programs are things that I don’t think we would be comfortable zeroing out. So for example, $30,000 a year is probably not enough to pay for a special needs child who has a lot of wheel chairs and special training and so forth that they need, so that program is going to stay. It’s possibly not enough to cushion various financial shocks; those sorts of programs are going to stay. And so what you would end with is an add-on that’s sort of conservatively doubling the size of the federal budget.

    If you think about the debate, I don’t think there’s anyone in America who wants their taxes doubled.

    And how would a basic income affect work?

    The other problem of course is that some people are going to drop out of the labor force. If you can live without working, some people will choose to. We don’t know how many there are; no one’s ever tried this experiment, but what is the end result? The tax base is going to be shrinking at the same time that the number of payouts has to go up.

    Part of this is a bit moralistic. Everyone should be contributing. Having half of the population, or any significant fraction of the population, say that my job is just to take, and other people go out and make that money, I think that is morally problematic. Not, obviously, for people who really can’t work, for people who are unable to, for one reason or another, are unable to support themselves. But for people who can and choose not to.

    But even beyond that, what we know from looking at studies of people who are out of work is that being out of work makes you unhappy; it makes you less healthy. All sorts of socio-economic indicators say it decreases your wellbeing. Even though this can be a rational short-term decision, right: I don’t like my boss right now. I don’t like my job right now so I’m going to step back and stay out of the labor force. One place we do see this now is with stay at home mums — not to in any way criticize their decision, but ones who then want to go back to the workforce have a really hard time getting back in.

    And so the short-term decision to not work because you don’t like what you’re doing right now can turn into a long-term decision to never get onto that employment ladder that leads to better jobs in the future. What we see in studies of people who are home, even if they’re financially covered, even if they’re on disability or long-term unemployment, those people are not happy and they aren’t happy until they get back to work.

    Charles Murray and David Graeber want to gut the federal bureaucracy and replace it with a basic income. Do you support keeping these federal programs the way they are?

    Well, again I go back to what programs are we talking about? For example, are we talking about public schools? Are we not going to guarantee that every child gets educated? That’s a big expense, but that is a big expense for the government. In some sense, it’s a redistribution program because wealthy people don’t get nearly as much out of the system as they pay into it. Are we going to take that out and turn that into a voucher? It’s not that I wouldn’t necessarily support that, but you still need an infrastructure to make sure… There are some parents who wouldn’t send their kids to school if you made it a cash free grant.

    Are you going to take away health care benefits for people who are too sick to buy insurance on $30,000 a year? I’m skeptical and I’m not sure that I would support, say, taking someone who is severely disabled and telling them: Well, here’s $10,000 a year, just like that healthy 20-year-old down the street, and you get the same as he does. I’m not sure that I would support getting rid of all of the government transfer programs and replacing them with a check that goes the same to everyone.

    There is a question in society of some people having greater needs, and we’ve decided to make sure that those needs get met.

    Switzerland is weighing a ballot referendum that would give a basic income of 34,000 Francs to all its citizens. Why couldn’t that work here?

    The greatest poverty reduction program that the world has ever seen has been the United States of America. We have, for decades, over a century, been moving people who are extremely poor in the countries where they are, to a country where, just by being here, their wages can double or triple or quadruple. That would not in any way be compatible with a guaranteed minimum income, just politically. If you come here and become a citizen, that entitles you to a check for $15,000 a year for the rest of your life from the U.S. government?

    A lot of immigrants are low-wage workers. They’re not skilled, a lot of them. They don’t have as much education as most Americans and so they never do get up to the point where they would ever pay enough in taxes to make back that check. Even if you just limited it to their children, the political support for importing people whose children will then be entitled to the same $15,000 a year as your children — I don’t think that would ever be politically viable.

    So if you want to have a guaranteed minimum income, you need to shut down, pretty much effectively, shut down immigration, or at least immigration from lower skilled countries, which on net would do a lot more to increase global poverty than it would to decrease poverty in the United States.

    So will we ever have a guaranteed minimum income?

    I think it’s very unlikely that the United States will ever pass a guaranteed minimum income. For a few reasons: First of all, part of what makes a welfare system work is trust, and having a very homogenous culture where you trust that people you’re giving welfare to aren’t abusing the benefits, and they trust that the benefits are going to be given out in their best interests.

    And America doesn’t score very high on that. We’re a very pluralistic society. We’re not culturally homogenous. We live in communities that are often very separate, and so it’s pretty politically difficult to persuade people that we should give 220 million Americans, give each of them – I’m excluding the children – give each of them a check that’s got no strings on it at all, and to which they’re entitled for the rest of their life. I’m just very skeptical that we’ll ever pass anything like that.

    I think it’s going to be a really tough pass in Switzerland. And in Switzerland, essentially, what they’re doing is taking money from the immigrants, almost all of whom are wealthy, and are bidding up the price of real estate, to give to Swiss citizens. The dynamic in the United States would be the opposite and I just don’t see that happening.

    The post How a basic income in the U.S. could increase global poverty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Instagram video courtesy of Wikichava

    A magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit Mexico Friday.

    The quake was centered northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for Easter, according to the Associated Press. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

    The earthquake, which the U.S. Geological Survey initially calculated as a magnitude 7.5, struck about 170 miles southwest of Mexico City.

    Mexico’s capital is vulnerable to even distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds.

    “This earthquake had tremendous power — it lasted 30 seconds, instead of just a few seconds,” journalist James Blears, who’s based near Mexico City, told the UK’s Sky News. “Buildings were swaying and thousands of people have evacuated buildings and are standing in the street.”

    The post Magnitude-7.2 earthquake rattles Mexico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Many took to the Internet Thursday and Friday to post tributes Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, who died Thursday at the age of 87.

    Among those remembering him were Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat and Chilean writer Isabel Allende.

    Danticat, writing for the New Yorker, remembered the author’s “famously unbridled imagination” that he used to portray “somewhat common yet unbearable realities”:

    I am often surprised when people talk about the total implausibility of the events in García Márquez’s fiction. Having been born and lived in a deeply spiritual and extraordinarily resourceful part of the Caribbean, a lot of what might seem magical to others often seems quite plausible to me.

    Of course a woman can live inside her cat, as the character Eva does, in García Márquez’s 1948 short story “Eva Is Inside Her Cat.” Doesn’t everyone have an aunt who’s done that? And remember that neighbor who died but kept growing in his coffin, as in the 1947 story “The Third Resignation”? What seems implausible to me is a lifetime of absolute normalcy, a world in which there are no invasions, occupations, or wars, no poverty or dictators, no earthquakes or cholera.

    In a statement released Friday, Allende remembered her “maestro,” stating that his work is “immortal”:

    I just learned with great grief that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died. The only consolation is that his work is immortal. Very few books can withstand the implacable test of time, very few authors are remembered, but Garcia Marquez belongs among the classics of universal literature. He is the most important of all Latin American writers of all times, the voice of magic realism, and the pillar of the Latin American Boom of Literature. He narrated Latin America to the world and he showed us, Latin Americans, our own image in the mirror of his pages. We are all from Macondo. All Spanish-speaking writers that came before and have come after him are measured against his immense talent. His undeniable influence is like the tide; it comes and goes in waves. I owe him the impulse and the freedom to plunge into literature. In his books I found my own family, my country, the people I have known all my life, the color, the rhythm, and the abundance of my continent. My maestro has died. I will not mourn him because I have not lost him: I will continue to read his words over and over.

    The post Writers remember Gabriel Garcia Marquez appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Students, teachers and educators in Detroit will march to Michigan's capital in Lansing to protest what they feel is an unfair "zero tolerance" discipline policy in schools. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Students, teachers and educators in Detroit will march to Michigan’s capital in Lansing to protest what they feel is an unfair “zero tolerance” discipline policy in schools. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    About 150 Michigan students, parents and educators plan to take the 90-mile trip from Detroit to the state’s capital in Lansing Monday through Wednesday to protest schools’ zero-tolerance discipline policies. That may not seem like much of an undertaking – but they’re making the trek on foot.

    The three-day march is the work of a group called Youth Voice. The group’s co-president, 16-year-old Michael Reynolds, was suspended for five days in 2013 for not having his student ID card on multiple occasions.

    “It hurts me because schools are pushing kids out in the streets,” Reynolds told the Detroit Free Press about seeing students miss school for minor infractions like his. “If we’re in the streets, nothing good can come of it. I think sometimes the schools set us up for failure.”

    Michigan is one of several states reconsidering its discipline policies. The Obama administration started urging schools to make changes like this earlier this year, citing data that showed harsh discipline options like suspension and expulsion are more likely to be used with black and Latino students.

    Colorado was an early adopter of less extreme discipline policies. The state legislature passed a bill in 2012 that whittled the list of offenses that made students eligible for immediate suspension or expulsion down to just one: bringing a firearm onto a school campus.

    The PBS NewsHour visited Colorado earlier in February to learn about the restorative justice program one high school is using in the place of old zero tolerance policies.

    But – some signs point to the need for robust planning and support when new discipline policies are adopted. Teachers in Denver schools reported an increase in disruptive and dangerous behavior once swift suspension and expulsion were off the table. The state even saw a spike in the number of black and Native American students referred to the local police over in-school incidents in the year after the policy change.

    This story and PBS NewsHour’s education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Michigan students march to end ‘zero tolerance’ approach to school discipline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The State Department is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL pipeline before deciding whether to issue a permit.

    That could push a decision about the controversial oil pipeline until after the midterm elections in November.

    The State Department is citing a recent decision by a Nebraska judge that overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path through the state. The State Department says that created uncertainty and ongoing litigation.

    The government is not saying how much longer the review will take. But it says the process isn’t starting over.

    The pipeline has become a politically fraught issue. Republicans criticize President Barack Obama for taking too long to decide. The State Department has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.

    The post Keystone pipeline review delayed by State Department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It will take all of three seconds to recognize UNICEF India’s recent “Take The Poo To The Loo” is not your average public service announcement.

    The Indian government and private aid groups have struggled with the country’s rural sanitation for years. UNICEF India’s video campaign is an attempt to curb public defecation — by employing a catchy song. In it, a man is awakened by the need to have a bowel movement and is chased by an army of excrement until he builds them a bejeweled latrine. All this to a four-minute long flatulence-themed bass line and a toilet flush melody.

    According to UNICEF India, the song was produced by Indian composer Shri, who is known for his contributions to the 2012 film “Life of Pi.” The video appears to be the organization’s latest in their campaign to end open defecation, which according to the CBC, results in 72,000 tons of human waste a day.

    In 2012, the BBC reported that just under half of India’s 246.6 million households had toilets leaving 49.8 percent to defecate in the open. While some of UNICEF India’s previous videos have framed this as an affront to female dignity, it is more pressing public health issue.

    Disposing of feces in the open leave the most vulnerable, especially children, at a high risk of microbial contamination which causes diarrhea. According to UNICEF India, “children weakened by frequent diarrhea episodes are more vulnerable to malnutrition and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia.” Chronic malnutrition can also stunt educational opportunities, the organization’s website reads.

    The video has soared well over the channel’s other education and health-themed videos with over 77,000 views. It might be good for a laugh but what will it do to actually stem open defecation? Probably not much. But UNICEF India has also tried mobilizing village women to encourage household sanitation and other organizations have also stepped in.

    In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded 16 researchers to engineer a safe and sustainable solution to human waste. Project designs included collapsible and solar powered toilets. There was even a toilet that transformed human waste into a “charcoal-like product” for cooking fuel or fertilizer.

    There are many more researchers who have dedicated themselves to the dirty business of revamping India’s sanitation system. It might not be the most glamorous job in the world but UNICEF India’s crazy video will keep trying to prove you otherwise.

    The post Using bathroom humor to try to improve India’s rural sanitation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This Tower Records has seen better days. Photo by Amin Eshaiker via Wikimedia

    This Tower Records has seen better days. Photo by Amin Eshaiker via Wikimedia

    Remember that mall you used to go to each weekend with your friends? The one that’s now devoid of any life? Or the empty lot near your apartment that used to house your favorite hamburger joint?

    We want you to tell us about the spaces in your life that have, more or less, gone extinct. Take a photo of the places of your yesteryear that are now abandoned, the rundown buildings you pass everyday on your way to work and the vacant stores that were once filled with the bustle of people.

    Post your photos on Twitter or Instagram and tag @NewsHour and #ExtinctionWeek. Do you have history with the place? Is it somewhere you’ve seen several times but don’t know the full backstory? Tell us.

    You can also send your photos and descriptions to cshalby@newshour.org.

    The post Share your photos of places that have gone ‘extinct’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A final decision on a much-debated plan to add on to the Keystone oil pipeline has been delayed again, possibly until after the November elections. The U.S. State Department today extended the federal review of the project indefinitely. It cited a Nebraska court fight over the route.

    The pipeline would extend from Canada to Nebraska, then connect with existing lines carrying crude oil to refineries in Texas. Environmental groups welcomed the delay, but Republican Speaker John Boehner called it shameful.

    An avalanche on Mount Everest killed at least 12 Sherpa guides today and left four others missing. The disaster was the deadliest ever on the world’s highest peak, in Nepal. It happened just shy of 21,000 feet, about 8,000 feet below the summit. Guides had gone out early to fix ropes for climbers, including Australian Gavin Turner.

    GAVIN TURNER, Climber: The experience was great. It was going well, and then suddenly there was a huge thud. We got covered by this enormous cloud of snow and snow dust. But, for a few seconds, I thought, wow, this is going to take me out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hundreds of climbers and guides are at Everest’s base camp, preparing to scale the peak next month, when the weather is mildest.

    Hope dimmed even further in South Korea today for some 270 people, many of them high school students, who were on a ferry that capsized Wednesday. Rescue teams kept up their efforts even as the ship sank from view.

    Jane Dodge of Independent Television News narrates this report.

    JANE DODGE: A last glimpse of the Sewol before it disappeared beneath the waves early this morning. Two large inflatables now mark its position. The rescue operation has become more of a recovery process, as bodies are brought ashore. There has been progress of sorts. Divers managed to gain entry to part of the vessel.

    KO MYUNG-SUK, Coast Guard, South Korea (through interpreter): Two divers entered the water and opened the door of the cargo compartment and went in. But they couldn’t get further due to obstacles, and they didn’t find any survivors.

    JANE DODGE: Anger at the South Korean authorities once again boiled over today. Originally told their children were safe, families now wait to hear their fate, aware time is against them.

    KIM CHANG-GOO, Father of passenger (through interpreter): They have to hurry to rescue survivors, but the divers are not going in. The number of survivors will reach its limit after today.

    JANE DODGE: The captain is believed to be one of the group seen leaving the ship before it capsized. Here, he’s wrapping himself in a blanket. Lee Joon-Seok and two other members of the crew have now been arrested. It emerged today he wasn’t at the wheel when the vessel started to list.

    The captain didn’t give an order to evacuate until half-an-hour later. And it’s not clear if passengers ever heard it. Most of those on board were schoolchildren. The teacher in charge has been found hanged in woods close to the gym where parents are waiting for news. He had been rescued from the ferry, but in a suicide note said he couldn’t live for himself and asked for his ashes be scattered at the site of the tragedy.

    Investigators now believe it may have been an abrupt change of direction that caused cargo to shift to one side and the ferry to tilt over. But it’s not the answers families want right now; they’re desperate to get their children back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For now, the confirmed death count stands at 29.

    A powerful earthquake shook Central and Southern Mexico today, but there were no reports of major damage. The epicenter was northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, but the quake was felt in Mexico City as well. The shaking lasted about 30 seconds and sent people running into the streets. The U.S. Geological Survey said it registered a 7.2 magnitude.

    Around the world, Christians commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus on this Good Friday. In Jerusalem, thousands of pilgrims lined the cobblestone streets of the Old City. Some carried wooden crosses, tracing the traditional route that Jesus walked. And in the Philippines, some people had themselves nailed to crosses despite the Catholic Church’s efforts to discourage the rite.

    There’s a new warning on marijuana, even as cities and states move to decriminalize it. A study of young adults finds even casual use of pot may harm parts of the brain that control emotion and motivation. It’s not clear if the damage can be reversed. The study was done at Harvard and Northwestern medical schools and Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s being published in “The Journal of Neuroscience.”

    The post News Wrap: Keystone oil pipeline decision delayed again appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ukraine1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite Thursday’s surprise agreement by the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union to de-escalate tensions in Eastern Ukraine, there’s little evidence that any of the terms of the deal are taking hold in the country.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News is in Donetsk, and she filed this report.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: He was tidying up, not tearing down, his barricade, the man in the World of Tanks T-shirt. He and his friends have no intention of handing back the armored vehicle they seized from Ukrainian troops.

    In fact, in Slavyansk today, it was clear that none of the pro-Russian protesters were going anywhere. People I have been talking to say they’re not very interested in what was decided in Geneva yesterday. And they’re not going to abandon the municipal buildings they have taken over or take down their barricades until the government goes, because, they say, how did this government in Kiev get to power? Exactly like this, by staying out on the streets.

    A Ukrainian MiG fighter flew overhead. The authorities in Kiev may rule the skies, but they have little power here on the ground.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): We will not remove the barricades until these jets and tanks have gone. They’re threatening to shoot us and our children.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: So, are you going to take these barricades down, like they said you should in Geneva?

    MAN (through interpreter): We will only go when people are left in peace, when we have freedom.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: It was the same story in the regional capital, where the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said he’d only leave his government building if the president and prime minister in Kiev did likewise.

    DENIS PUSHILIN, Donetsk People’s Republic (through interpreter): This is an absolutely nominal agreement, but everyone has to leave the buildings, including comrades Yatsenyuk and Turchynov, who also occupy their place as the illegal result of a military coup. After they do, we will agree to follow suit.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Then presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko came to town.

    YULIA TYMOSHENKO, Presidential Candidate (through interpreter): The purpose of my visit is to understand what Ukrainians who live in Donetsk are demanding from the central government. I would like to listen to these demands myself and find out how serious they are, to find a necessary compromise between East and West that will allow us to unify the country.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: She’s not much loved here, but would like to be.

    In parliament in Kiev, they were blaming Russia for everything, while also trying to sound conciliatory, hoping to hang on for the elections in a month’s time. The tension has, to some extent, abated in Eastern Ukraine, but nothing’s resolved, and the government in Kiev seems powerless to change that.

    The post Pro-Russian protesters in Eastern Ukraine hold their ground despite tentative deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tensions Continue In Eastern Ukraine Despite Diplomatic Progress

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on Ukraine, I spoke to President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, a short time ago.

    Ben Rhodes, welcome.

    As we just heard in that report, a number of the people who are occupying these buildings in Eastern Ukraine say they’re not going to leave, they’re not going to give them up. Does that undercut the deal that was reached yesterday in Geneva?

    BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting: Well, Judy, what we believe is that the Russian government has a tremendous amount of influence with at least a portion of these protesters.

    And what we would like to see them do is use all their influence, their public statements, their private comments, to encourage these protesters to leave these buildings, to disarm. The Ukrainian government is keeping its end of the bargain. They took steps toward passing an amnesty law, so they would be immune from prosecution if they do lay down their arms.

    And we will be watching this over the next several days to see if the Russians are using their influence and if these protesters are pulling back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, even if some of the protesters listen to Moscow, there are still others who say they’re Ukrainian and they don’t respect the government in Kiev and they’re not budging, no matter what Moscow tells them.

    BEN RHODES: Well, what we see is actually the vast majority of the Ukrainian people, including a majority of the people in the East, do support the unity of Ukraine and the government in Kiev.

    And there’s a way to address the concerns of some of those minority populations, including ethnic Russians, which is through a constitutional reform process. And the Ukrainian government committed to decentralization, rights for minorities being protected.

    They have indicated their commitment to protecting the right of the Russian language as one of the languages of Ukraine. So there’s a pathway for these protesters to have their grievances met through politics and not through the type of armed actions that we have seen in these buildings.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And one of the other arguments they’re making, Ben Rhodes, is that they’re simply doing what the protesters in Kiev have done, which is take to the streets, hold their ground until they see the government doing what they want. I mean, why isn’t that a valid argument?

    BEN RHODES: Well, there’s a huge difference here, Judy, which is, the fact is, in the protest in Kiev, you had tens, in some cases hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in these protests to have their voices heard.

    We have not seen that by any measure in the East. What we have seen is very small protests in the hundreds and very organized armed groups in a coordinated fashion taking over these buildings. So this has not been a groundswell of popular opinion manifested by thousands and tens of thousands of people taking to the streets. This has been small numbers of armed men taking control of government buildings in a coordinated fashion, we believe clearly with some support from Moscow.

    And it feels much more like a play to destabilize the country, rather than a kind of popular movement that has emerged organically as, was the case in Kiev.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, even having said that, these protesters, again, pointing to Kiev, is the U.S. saying to the Kiev government, we want these protesters in Kiev who are occupying the Maidan also to stand down?

    BEN RHODES: Yes, absolutely.

    So, when we say in the agreement in Geneva that the Ukrainian government signed up to, all paramilitary groups should lay down their arms, give up those arms, not occupy buildings, that applies to protesters in the West, as well as the East.

    And we have encouraged and the government of Ukraine has taken steps to disarm some of those extreme nationalists who are engaged in activities like taking over government buildings in the West as well. This is something that applies not just in the East, applies across the country. And, again, the government in Kiev has made those commitments.

    Prime Minister Yatsenyuk went out to the East to try to have a dialogue with some of these protesters. We believe it’s important they keep trying to have that dialogue inside of Ukraine, as well as with the international community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But if Ukrainians, if the East — if the protesters in Eastern Ukraine don’t do what the U.S. is asking, if Russia doesn’t do what the U.S. is asking, the president and others have said there will be more consequences.

    But what we have seen so far is that the sanctions haven’t really had much of an effect on Mr. Putin. What makes the administration, what makes the president think more sanctions will have an effect?

    BEN RHODES: Well, first of all, we have put in place a series of sanctions. We also have an executive order that gives us broader authorities to target individuals and entities that they control that are important to the Russian economy and then also potentially sectors of the Russian economy.

    We have seen President Putin pause with those forces on the border where he’s massed significant military forces. And then we have seen this destabilization taking place in Eastern Ukraine. So, we haven’t yet seen the worst-case scenario, which is Russian forces coming across that border, which would trigger those vast sectorial sanctions that we would move to with the Europeans.

    So, that deterrent effect is in place. But we have also been very clear that if we continue the see these destabilizing activities that we believe are rooted in Moscow’s policy, we will move to additional sanctions. And, again, if we start to go after additional individuals who are important in the Russian economy, important to the Russian leadership, as well as the companies and banks that they are responsible for, we believe we can have a significant impact on the Russians.

    In fact, we have already seen their forecasts for the economy downgraded. We have seen capital flight out of the country. So it is having an effect. It’s just, how much does it have to sink in for the Russians to change their calculus and pursue this through politics, instead of force?

    And that’s what we have an opportunity to do through Geneva, but, again, if we don’t see them following through, we will move to those additional sanctions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser to the president, thank you very much.

    BEN RHODES: Thanks. Good to be with you.

    The post How will U.S. deliver consequences if Eastern Ukraine conflict doesn’t improve? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nevada Rancher And Federal Gov't Face Off Over Land Use Battle

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a story that takes us out to the Western U.S., to Nevada, where a standoff between the federal government and a local cattle rancher involving an armed militia almost turned violent.

    Hari Sreenivasan is in our New York studio with this report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Armed militiamen pointing guns at federal officials over cattle. For more than 20 years, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has refused to pay fees for grazing cattle on public lands, some 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

    The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says Bundy now owes close to $1 million. He says his family has used the land since the 1870s and doesn’t recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction. Last year, a federal judge ordered Bundy to remove his livestock. He ignored the order, and two weeks ago, BLM agents rounded up more than 400 of his cattle.

    Last weekend, armed militia members and states’ right protesters showed up to challenge the move.

    FMR. SHERIFF RICHARD MACK, Graham County, AZ: I came here because I don’t believe the BLM has any authority whatsoever. They have no law enforcement authority in Clark County, and they have no business whatsoever destroying the pursuit of happiness of one of our friends and brothers.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Rather than risk violence, the BLM did an about-face and released the cattle. But the dust-up has put longstanding disputes over Western range rights squarely in the spotlight.

    Last night, Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid blasted the protesters.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D, Nev.: So, these people, who hold themselves out to be patriots, are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists. And I think that we are a country that people should follow the law.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The BLM now says it is pursuing a peaceful resolution through the courts.

    We’re joined by Ben Botkin from The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    So, Ben, help us understand, how did this escalate into the standoff that it was?

    BEN BOTKIN, Las Vegas Review-Journal: Well, the entire situation leading up to the standoff took 20 years, and was 20 years in the making.

    You had a couple of court orders that the BLM obtained to obtain the cattle, which that came because Cliven Bundy wasn’t paying his grazing fees. But in the last few days before the standoff, you had a bunch of different types of groups and people, everyone from groups that call themselves militia to so-called patriot groups and just others across the country, gather together over the course of several days leading up to Saturday.

    And at that point, Saturday, the Bundy family took the protesters, went up to the corral where the BLM had rounded up their cattle, and after a short and brief negotiation and standoff, the BLM decided to release several hundred cows back to the family.

    There’s no formal agreement, but during that standoff, there were guns drawn from both sides. So, rather than run the risk of bloodshed, the agency, at that point, decided to release the cattle.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how many cattle are we talking about here? They rounded up a few hundred. Did they release them all back?

    BEN BOTKIN: They did release them all back. They rounded up about 350 to 400 or so over the course of about a week.

    It was intended to be a month-long roundup that would have required gathering a few hundred more cows. That didn’t happen. They stopped the round-off. So now there’s a lot of unanswered questions about what’s going to happen next, because there’s no formal agreement between the BLM and the Bundys for the release of the cows.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So you were out there several days in the last couple of weeks. How many of the people that were out there to protest or to protect Mr. Bundy were aware of the issues with the BLM, and how many were there for their own sort of philosophical purposes, not recognizing the federal government?

    BEN BOTKIN: I would say the vast majority was there more for the broader philosophical stance.

    They weren’t necessarily familiar with BLM or ranching issues. They were more there because of their agreement with Mr. Bundy, who has the expressed opinion that the federal government is overstepping its bounds and somehow infringing on his constitutional rights.

    So a lot of groups seized on him and looked at him as the figurehead for not just ranching or not just grazing, but just these broader issues that they adhere to.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there still protesters out there?

    BEN BOTKIN: When I was out there a couple of days ago, there were about a couple dozen protesters. So, what once numbered in the hundreds is now down to just a handful.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And then what are we talking about in terms of cash? How much does Mr. Bundy actually owe?

    BEN BOTKIN: According to the agency, he owes a little over $1 million in grazing fees, and that’s a figure that’s accumulated over the last 20 or so years since he stopped paying them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the local authorities? What are they planning to do in the next week or two?

    BEN BOTKIN: Well, the local authorities have not given any indication of what they will be doing, if anything.

    The local police were at the scene where the standoff was, so that they did have a hand in helping the event reach its conclusion. So, at this point, things are really kind of in flux. The Bundys have indicated that the BLM has sent four certified letters to them that they have chosen not to open at this point.

    The BLM hasn’t said what’s in those letters, so, at this point, things are pretty — it’s pretty unpredictable at this point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Ben Botkin from The Las Vegas Review-Journal, thanks so much.

    BEN BOTKIN: Thank you.

    The post Land dispute between rancher and government inspires ideological standoff with armed protesters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    venezuela

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In March of last year, the 14-year rule over Venezuela by the controversial and charismatic Hugo Chavez came to a dramatic end when the leader died of cancer.

    His handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, was elected president soon after. As Maduro marks the end of his first year in office tomorrow, divisions have deepened in a country that has become violent in recent months.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: Late last week, after more than three months of sometimes deadly street protests throughout Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro met with his political opposition.

    The six-hour televised session brokered by the Vatican and three South American foreign ministers attracted record ratings on Venezuelan TV, reflecting the nation’s anxiety at the street violence that has killed more than 40 and posed the biggest challenge to the government in more than a decade.

    The alternative to finding an accommodation, said Maduro, is a dark one.

    PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuela (through interpreter): Imagine, it would be the beginning of an armed, violent civil confrontation, bloody, bloody, and no one would win anything.

    MARGARET WARNER: What began in January as demonstrations against rising crime mushroomed in February into massive marches, with hundreds of thousands protesting the scarcity of goods, insecurity and the arrest of demonstrators.

    Today, there remain smaller, but fervent localized protests in neighborhoods fortified with barricades. The target of all this? President Maduro. Maduro has struggled to maintain Chavez’s aura, but he is being swamped by an economic slide that has brought this oil-rich country 57 percent inflation and near empty store shelves, and a further explosion in Venezuela’s rampant crime, creating what the U.N. says is now the second highest murder rate in the world.

    This has made life unbearable for 19-year-old student Christian Alejandro Martinez. He never protested before, but after having his house robbed, his car keys and car stolen, he’s taken to the streets. He and his fellow students feel their future is slipping away.

    CHRISTIAN ALEJANDRO MARTINEZ: We can’t see it on the horizon. We are studying, but we don’t really know if we’re going to ever achieve our careers. We don’t know if we’re going to go out some day at night and get shot at. So, how can you live in this situation?

    MARGARET WARNER: And Martinez has no faith in Maduro, as he did in Chavez.

    CHRISTIAN ALEJANDRO MARTINEZ: I do believe that Hugo Chavez had a plan, a plan that had ideals, and a way of thinking that it would be better for the community.

    MARGARET WARNER: Chavez called his plan Bolivarian socialism. The goals were social justice, empowering the poor with expanded government services and redistributing Venezuela’s vast oil riches to finance it.

    MICHAEL SHIFTER, President, Inter-American Dialogue: This is what Chavez represented. This is what I think he put his finger on a legitimate grievance in Venezuela.

    MARGARET WARNER: Michael Shifter is president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: I think, for Maduro and his followers, this is a revolution that he’s committed to continue. The problem is, this is a model that has obviously failed and obviously is unable to deliver basic goods to people, a reasonable economic environment with security protections.

    MARGARET WARNER: Why isn’t it delivering anymore? Two reasons, says former Venezuelan Development Minister Moises Naim, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    MOISES NAIM, Author, “The End of Power”: The problem is that the 21st century socialism requires two things that are no longer there. One is a lot of money brought in by very high prices and Chavez’s charisma.

    MARGARET WARNER: And Maduro doesn’t have that?

    MOISES NAIM: Chavez was a political genius. Chavez was perhaps one of the best politicians we have seen in Latin America in a long time.

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: The problem with Chavismo is that it was based on the model of one person makes all the decisions. It’s what happened for 14 years. Nobody else was involved politically. And you see the problem with Maduro.

    MARGARET WARNER: And Chavez depended on Venezuela’s huge oil reserves, the world’s largest, to fund his social programs. But Naim says mismanagement of that state-owned sector has cost the country’s oil income to slip.

    MOISES NAIM: In Venezuela, production has gone down. Lack of investment in the oil industry — again, the Chavez model is not a model of investment. It’s not a model of boosting productivity. It’s a model of spending.

    MARGARET WARNER: To test the public’s view of all this, a NewsHour crew went to San Cristobal far from the capital, near the Colombian border, to meet up with architecture student Geraldine Colmenares. She’s finding life untenable right now.

    GERALDINE COLMENARES, (through interpreter): I cannot go out on the streets and get what I want to feed my child, always having to stand in line, looking from supermarket to supermarket and thinking if I’m going to get back home alive.

    MARGARET WARNER: She doesn’t stay long at her neighborhood’s barricades. She’s afraid to take her young son, but she helps by supplying protesters with food and water. She too has no confidence in Maduro.

    GERALDINE COLMENARES (through interpreter): Maduro wants to do the same as Chavez, but he can’t. He wants to be like Chavez, but he is not like Chavez.

    MARGARET WARNER: There are still plenty of fervent Chavistas who are sticking with Maduro, like Marlin Marchand, who lives with her mother in Caracas, and depends on Chavez era government programs, like the subsidized food stores.

    MARLIN MARCHAND, Maduro Supporter (through interpreter): This merkal is a basic grocery, but with very low prices. A pack of flour cost two bolivars. On the open market, it’s 35 or 50. Why? Because capitalism is structured in a way that we, the poor, can’t buy what we need.

    MARGARET WARNER: She says her faith in Chavez and Maduro endures.

    MARLIN MARCHAND (through interpreter): Chavez was a leader. He built schools for people who did not know how to read, and now many more people know how to read. This is socialism, and Chavez transmitted this to President Maduro. Maduro’s made mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, but he’s trying to lead things in a positive direction.

    EDGAR RODRIGUEZ, (through interpreter): Chavez was always seeking their votes. He always spent money before elections. That is why he won.

    MARGARET WARNER: Fifty-year-old Caracas-based engineer Edgar Rodriguez, long opposed to Chavez, concedes he did improve the quality of life for many of Venezuela’s poor, but he says signs of an economic implosion are everywhere now.

    What’s more, he says, Maduro doesn’t have the political skills to handle the country’s changed circumstances, demonizing his opponents or those who suggest he should change course.

    EDGAR RODRIGUEZ (through interpreter): There is a future if the president recognizes the other point of view, but he speaks only for himself and his people. We are talking for the other half of Venezuela, and the president is ignoring us.

    MARGARET WARNER: The NewsHour contacted the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington for an interview to explore the government’s perspective. We got no response.

    But, earlier this month, Maduro in an op-ed in The New York Times took no responsibility for the country’s difficulties, and instead cast blame on a familiar Chavez boogeyman.

    “The anti-government protests are being carried out by people in the wealthier segments of society,” he wrote, “who seek to reverse the gains of the democratic process that have benefited the vast majority of the people. Now is a time for dialogue. We have extended a hand to the opposition.”

    Maduro didn’t mention that his government has jailed a top member of that opposition, former Mayor Leopoldo Lopez, on charges of fomenting unrest.

    What’s more, says Naim, statistics do not back up Maduro’s claim that this is an uprising of only the wealthy.

    MOISES NAIM: Venezuela never had so many wealthy people. Venezuela didn’t have such a large middle class. And even the election results show that about half the country is against the government. That means there are millions of very poor people that they claim to represent, that the government claims to represent that are taking to the street.

    MARGARET WARNER: Michael Shifter thinks there’s a bit more merit to Maduro’s charge.

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: I think they are expression of the profound discontent that’s widespread in Venezuela, but it — but I think it’s a mistake to interpret the protests as reflecting necessarily the majority opinion of Venezuelans.

    MARGARET WARNER: There appear to be low expectations for the talks between the government and opposition. Maduro didn’t even attend the meeting that resumed this week. But if they don’t produce any sort of reconciliation, what’s the alternative? A second year for Maduro and post-Chavez Venezuela that is worse than the first.

    The post Socialism after Chavez: Political divisions deepen amid unrest in Venezuela appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shields and brooks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, the State Department, the Obama administration announcing, I guess surprising everybody today, Mark, with this announcement that they’re delaying the decision on what to do about extending the Keystone oil pipeline. The reaction is all over the place. The Canadians are upset. We said, House Speaker John Boehner said it’s shameful. The environmental groups are happy.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, and I think the last point is the key.

    The people who care most passionately and intensely about the pipeline are those who are opposed to it, not unlike gun control, except an entirely different cast of people and voters. But the environmental groups are. And they are cheered. And they are an important constituency for the Democrats heading into what looks to be a stormy 2014 election.

    And I don’t think the White House or the State Department, for that matter, wants to alienate that group at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think it’s purely political, largely political?

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m sure there are — I’m sure there are thoughtful, serious considerations here that I’m totally unaware of, but just looking at first blush, that would be my take.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David, how do you read this, the Keystone…

    DAVID BROOKS: Pretty much the same.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s been about six years since they have been entertaining this. And everybody in the White House that I have spoken over that time, you can tell what they believe, which is I think is that they want to approve this thing eventually, but they don’t want to do it at a politically inopportune time.

    And politically inopportune times keep coming. The only thing I would say is, if you look at it nationally, about 65 percent of Americans support the thing and about 22 percent oppose it. It’s those 22 percent who happen to be in the Democratic base.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — we could talk about this for a long time, but I do want to ask you about the story that we just heard Hari reporting a few minutes ago, Mark, and that is Nevada standoff between a cattle rancher and the federal government.

    He has refused to pay his grazing fees over the last several decades. They’re saying he owes something like $1 million. There have been people armed, standing there saying that these — that these federal agents shouldn’t be there. Does this say something about what’s going on out West?

    MARK SHIELDS: It does. This is where the Sagebrush revolution, rebellion started, Judy, a generation ago, more than a generation ago now.

    But, I mean, you know, to — looking at the equities of the situation, this man, Mr. Bundy, is a freeloader. Other ranchers pay grazing fees, which are not onerous, so that their cattle can graze there. The responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management is to make sure that that land is available for the next generations for multi uses, not simply grazing, but for others as well and for the preservation.

    So I don’t understand it. I mean, I give the folks at FOX News great credit. They have — this has been an orchestrated and produced operation there, but they have tapped into something that there are some peoples — people who are just totally outraged at anything the federal government does. They happen to own — the federal government, the United States owns 87 percent of Nevada, and has since — essentially for quite a while.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, is this something — I mean, does this man have a legitimate grievance against the federal government?

    DAVID BROOKS: Not the way he’s doing it.

    I mean, he’s self-discrediting, the way he’s doing it. You know, you go out West and you hear grievous against the BLM constantly. There’s — and I think there’s probably a lot of frustration with working with the BLM. But it comes in waves. And I would not say we’re at a high wave.

    Certainly, in the Clinton years, you heard of real frustration. And that’s the Sagebrush — part of the Sagebrush revolution was at its peak, but now I think you hear low-level gripings. So I wouldn’t say this represents a mass movement of any sort. It does seem to me more like — more like pseudo-militia activity than a genuine rebellion among people who are otherwise politically un-ideological.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, no sense that this is going to spread to other parts of the West?

    DAVID BROOKS: I certainly have not heard that in my visits out there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about what’s — what was the lead of our program tonight, Mark, and that’s — and that’s Ukraine, this surprise deal reached yesterday in Geneva between the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union, trying to defuse what’s been going on there.

    Today, the reporting is all about these protesters in the eastern part of the country saying, we’re not going anywhere.

    Where is this headed?

    MARK SHIELDS: I honestly don’t know, Judy. I will say that it appears that Mr. Putin’s plan and the Russians’ plan is to partition Ukraine. And this certainly — they call it federalization, but it is a partition of — an eventual partition of sorts.

    Whether it’s to destabilize or delegitimize the elections of May 25, we don’t know. But Putin made a statement. He said, the Russian Federation Council — Russia’s Federation Council has provided the president with the right to deploy armed forces in Ukraine.

    Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: He says, I really hope that I am not forced to use this right.

    I think that, you know, the situation has grown more serious and worse in the past week. And the lack of sense of celebration on the part of the president or Secretary Kerry in announcing the agreement, their expectations seem to be minimal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David, worse, despite this deal yesterday?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I agree with Mark on that one.

    Obama’s reaction was really remarkable. They have this pseudo-breakthrough, and the president really — was really quite realistic about it, that it’s really — probably not going to amount to much.

    And I do think that’s right. What happens in Geneva may be about the timing of how fast Putin acts. What happens in Donetsk and the other places where some of the more militia groups are taking over buildings and stuff, that’s a sideshow.

    The main show is in Vladimir Putin’s brain. It’s sort of striking how it’s just one person who really matters here. And the brain, as it’s revealed it to us, even in speeches this week, is pretty aggressive, pretty assertive, growing increasingly more assertive.

    And it seems to me, in our response, we really need a psychiatrist more than a foreign policy apparatus. We need to understand what is going to upset him, what is going to disrupt him. And I’m afraid the way that we have done the sanctions has not been well-tailored to sort of a psychological campaign against Vladimir Putin.

    We have sort of ratcheted them up slowly, partially hindered by the Europeans. But that’s the sort of thing, beginning slowly as we have, that is going to arouse his contempt, not his respect and certainly not his fear. It might have been smarter if we could have done it with the Europeans to have all the sanctions we did unleash right away just to send a little sharp shock at him.

    The next debate is going to be what to do with the Ukrainian army, whether we want to help, how we want to help them, non-lethal, lethal aid. But somehow getting inside his head, which is the main arena here, seems to me the crucial task.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, you — go ahead.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, just — just one point.

    I guess where I disagree with David is on the sanctions. You have to bring the Russians along — the — I’m sorry — the Europeans along to — in spite of the fact that we might have to get stronger ones. We are dealing here — and I give the president credit that he has not done the macho swagger — swagger or the sort to make this a matter of his manhood or he’s got to earn his varsity letter.

    I think that has been strong, and to his credit. We are dealing with the third largest defense budget in the world in the Russians. Only the United States and China have larger defense budgets. I mean, they have got 270,000 troops, 50,000 of which are at the border of Ukraine. Ukraine has an army of 77,000, Judy.

    It’s not a first-class, first-rank. I mean, we’re dealing with — to the point, if it comes to military confrontation, of realities here. And I think what may be a cautionary note for the Russians is that they have seen us in Iraq, for example, where invasion is a lot easier than occupation.

    And I think, you know, perhaps that will hold things back. But I agree with David that the sanctions have to be accelerated and intensified. And that’s going to require the cooperation and some suffering on the part of the Europeans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s interesting you point that out about Russian defenses, because there’s been a lot of focus on how relatively weak the Russian economy is compared to other countries.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re pointing out — David, his point is that it’s the military establishment in Russia we should be worried about.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    And we’re not going to send any troops. American troops are not going to Ukraine. But really we’re trying to deal with a dictator’s head or an autocrat’s head. How do you get him to think twice?

    And I think the way you do it is sort of not through kind gestures, where he says, well, they’re being — they’re not being too provocative, I can relax, they’re not scaring me. I don’t think that’s the way he thinks. I do think he thinks in much more brutal terms.

    Now, the debate going on within the White House — or at least was a couple of weeks ago — is do — if we send — if we’re aggressive in sending aid to the Ukrainian army, does that send a shock to Putin, or does it give him a pretext to invade?

    And I think the administration decided — maybe correctly — that it’s more likely to give him a pretext to be more aggressive. Nonetheless, I do think he’s not a guy who’s going to respond to our own self-restraint. He’s going to respond to a unified sort of assertiveness.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All kinds of things I want to ask the two of you about in a few minutes left.

    I want to ask you about — Mark, about the Pulitzer Prize this week. Among others, it went to The Guardian newspaper, to The Washington Post for the reporting they did on the national security leaks from Edward Snowden.

    I guess my question is, what was your reaction? Did you see honoring the newspaper the same as honoring the man who delivered the leaks…

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … who’s been seen as both a traitor and hero?

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    I mean, the Pulitzer award goes to the dominant, most important news story and coverage and reporting. And I think it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t the most important news story. And the reporting that was done on it was quite professional. The fact that along with it comes Edward Snowden is — is in no way, in my judgment, recognition of him as a heroic figure.

    He was central to it. He was indispensable to it. But we saw the part he played yesterday in Mr. Putin’s press conference in Russia, where…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s why I…

    MARK SHIELDS: And he certainly — he certainly didn’t rise to heroic status, I wouldn’t say, in that capacity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I find him repellent. If somebody talked about internal conversations at the NewsHour, or at The New York Times and then broadcast them, I would find that person repellent, and doubly so when it’s national security secrets, after he’s sworn an oath to do so. So I’m no fan of him.

    As for the press coverage and whether it deserves recognition, I guess I have sort of complicated views. I’m a little made nervous by the fact that they really did benefit by what I think of as a repellent, unpatriotic act.

    On the other hand — and let’s be honest about what we do in the media — a lot of our leaks and a lot of our best stories come from people who are betraying a confidence, come from somebody who’s violating an oath, violating some secrecy, violating an understanding of what goes on.

    And so we live in a business that — where we try to expose the truth, but, sometimes, as Janet Malcolm said years ago, we do it by relying on betrayal. We do it by some violated confidence. We do it sometimes by being not totally honest with the people we’re dealing with, by not being dishonest, but not — but by sort of seducing information out of people.

    And so this is a morally complicated business we’re in, like most businesses. And I don’t have a total problem with what The Washington Post did, but I don’t have total comfort with it either.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You were saying yes.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    No, I understand. I think David’s — David’s point is well made and well taken. And I don’t know how you make — he is central to the story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Snowden.

    MARK SHIELDS: He is.

    And what he’s done, he has not made himself accountable for it. He did break the law, break the oath that he took, and has not accepted the consequences and refuses to do so. But I think it’s impossible to deny that it started — and the president acknowledged this — a much-needed, long-overdue conversation.

    I think we’re finally going to see as a consequence of these stories some element and some urgency in judicial review and congressional review of what’s been going on. And we found out that the NSA apparently was collecting a lot of information, simply because it could collect a lot of information.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Right.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it’s true that sometimes good people produce bad outcomes, and sometimes bad outcomes — bad people produce good outcomes. We’re sort of in that world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that leaves me only to say that, in your case, two good people do two good outcomes every Friday.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you both. Thank you.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Keystone politics, Nevada land dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Gabriel Garcia Marquez Portrait Session

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we look at the seminal work in the life of author and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    Hari joins us again from our New York studio for this appreciation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: His poetic words evoked love and longing, fantasy and fatalism, and worldwide admiration.

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the most popular Spanish-language author since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, outselling all other Spanish literature, except the Bible. His novels and short stories exposed millions to Latin American life, and to magical realism, a style he discussed in an interview some years ago.

    GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ (through interpreter): I lived in a supernatural world, a fantastic world where everything was possible, where the most wonderful things were just daily things.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Garcia Marquez first gained fame with the epic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” published in 1967. It sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

    His birthplace in Colombia, the small town of Aracataca, was the inspiration for the village depicted in the book.

    Biographer Gerald Martin:

    GERALD MARTIN, Author, “Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life” (through translator): The Colombian government created a system of national high schools and scholarships for disadvantaged students. Garcia Marquez won a scholarship and leapt through that window of opportunity, a little bit like Alice entering into a wonderland or into magical realism.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The author’s other beloved classics include “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “Autumn of the Patriarch,” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.”

    And, in 1982, his collective body of work won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Garcia Marquez was also known for his leftist politics, and, for years, was denied a U.S. visa over his support of Fidel Castro and criticism of U.S. military interventions in Vietnam and Chile.

    But last night, fellow authors, including Mexican writer Jorge Hernandez, said his literary contributions will be what are remembered.

    JORGE HERNANDEZ, Writer (through interpreter): It’s a sad day, but it’s the first day of the first 100 years of an infinite solitude that we all share. No matter what language or what country, we must embrace all of his millions of readers. Not just today, but in five centuries, people will continue to speak of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the literature he gave us.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Gabriel Garcia Marquez was 87 years old.

    We take a closer look at the life and literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with William Kennedy. Kennedy is a journalist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Albany Cycle,” and was a longtime acquaintance of Garcia Marquez.

    So, for the unitiated, what is it about his work that resonated so much first with Latin Americans and then with the rest of the world?

    WILLIAM KENNEDY, Author/Novelist: I don’t know.

    He had the secret. He found the secret of how to tell the story of the human race in a single book. The great Latin American novel became the great — one of the great world novels of all time. And he did it — he did it with accessibility. It wasn’t complex or exalted — it was exalted prose, but it was exalted in an accessible way, beautiful writing, funny, great wit, and very profound insights into what constitutes the family and the family of man.

    And he did it in — with such finesse and such control.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, speaking of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” you were one of the first reviewers of the book.

    And then you’re famously quoted as saying, “The first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

    That is high praise. Why?

    (LAUGHTER)

    WILLIAM KENNEDY: Well, I kept reading the book, and I would say to myself, this is a classic work. This is a — and it kept going on.

    And then I would say, by God, there’s an abundance of it. It just doesn’t end. And it’s a — it’s classic. It’s classic. And when I was finished with it, I was baffled as to how to review it, because it was so phenomenally impressive to me, that I — it — the story was so complex.

    And it takes — takes you over, you know, 100 years in a family and in a society that stands for everything. And it was a — it was a believable, credible story. He turned the fables or the myths of our lives and the myths, the great — the Greek myths, the Irish myths, the Spanish myths, and made it everyday currency in the lives of these people that he invented.

    It wasn’t mystical. It wasn’t improbable. It wasn’t a fairy tale. It was, the ghosts walked, and the ghosts disappeared, and they would come back, and they grow old. And it was just a very natural progression of life, and told in these wonderful anecdotes that he strung together to create this world and this family of the Buendias. It was like nothing else.

    I mean, when you read the book, you have never read a book like this before.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You knew him personally as a friend. So, what was it was like? What was he like a person? What was it like to hang out with him?

    WILLIAM KENNEDY: Yes. Yes.

    Well, it was fun. He was a — he was a great conversationalist. He was not — he was a storyteller. Everything he told was — had a funny twist to it. He had a great wit, and he was a great guy.

    He was — but he was also — and he would never — he wouldn’t monopolize the conversation, except if he — if you wanted him to. And he was an easygoing conversationalist, and then a great presence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: William Kennedy, thanks so much for your recollections.

    The post Remembering Gabriel Garcia Marquez, storyteller who resonated with readers around the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Several cities have passed laws that ban people from living in their cars. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Several cities have passed laws that ban people from living in their cars. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    As U.S. home prices continue to rise and apartment vacancy rates drop, the lack of affordable housing has even edged the most vulnerable — the homeless — out of their cars and into the streets.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that at least 70 cities in the nation have passed laws that ban people from living in their vehicles. In Palo Alto, Calif., people living in their cars face a fine as high as $1,000 or a six-month jail sentence. These measures are a response to homelessness, which has increased in certain metro areas during the recession, despite a nationwide dip:

    “With the dearth of affordable housing for folks, sometime they have no other option,” said Robert Dolci, homesless-concerns coordinator for Santa Clara County. He said that with a low vacancy rate and rising rents, landlords aren’t necessarily eager to rent to people with spotty employment and credit or limited government housing subsidies.

    Palo Alto has withheld from enforcing the ban for now, the Journal reports, awaiting the result of an appeal to a similar law in Los Angeles. A decision is expected later this year.

    The post Cities crack down on homeless living in vehicles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The diploma stand at Bryant University is a no-selfie zone this year. Photo by Getty Images

    The diploma stand at Bryant University is a no-selfie zone this year. Photo by Getty Images

    An effective selfie should capture a unique, once in a lifetime moment. Like winning an Oscar or meeting the president. But students graduating from Rhode Island’s Bryant University can nix “receiving your college diploma” from their selfie bucket list.

    That’s because the university has asked students not to pursue a selfie with its president while receiving their diplomas.

    University President Ronald Machtley says students stop him all the time on campus to ask him to take a selfie with them. But having 800 graduates trying to snap a shot at the May 17 ceremony would be too much, he tells the Associated Press.

    He says he’d be happy to take photos afterward.

    Senior Ali Luthman told the news agency that some students might be upset about the no selfies rule but “no one is crying about it.”

    The post University president to grads: no selfies while receiving your diploma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    A Gulf Coast Project pipeline is placed in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The nation’s energy boom is blurring the political battle lines  typically drawn across the country. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    DENVER — The U.S. energy boom is blurring the traditional political battle lines across the country.

    Democrats are split between environmentalists and business and labor groups, with the proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline a major wedge.

    Some deeply conservative areas are allying with conservationists against fracking, the drilling technique that’s largely responsible for the boom.

    The divide is most visible among Democrats in the nation’s capital, where 11 Democratic senators wrote President Barack Obama this month urging him to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which is opposed by many environmental groups and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. The State Department said Friday that it was extending indefinitely the amount of time that federal agencies have to review the project, likely delaying a pipeline decision until after the November elections.

    Several senators from energy-producing such as Louisiana and Alaska have distanced themselves from the Obama administration, while environmental groups complain the president has been too permissive of fracking.

    There is even more confusion among Democrats in the states as drilling rigs multiply and approach schools and parks.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown was shouted down at a recent state convention by party activists angry about his support for fracking. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has kept fracking in his state in limbo for three years while his administration studies health and safety issues. In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper has drawn environmentalists’ ire for defending the energy industry, and a ballot battle to regulate fracking is putting U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in a tough situation.

    But the issue cuts across party lines.

    Even in deeply Republican Texas, some communities have restricted fracking. In December, Dallas voted to effectively ban fracking within city limits.

    “You’re looking at a similar boom as we had in tech in 1996,” said Joe Brettell, a GOP strategist in Washington who works with energy companies. “The technology has caught up with the aspirations, and that changes the political dynamics fundamentally.”

    Those technological advances have made it possible for energy companies to tap deep and once-untouchable deposits of natural gas and oil. They include refinements in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the injection of chemicals into the ground to coax buried fossil fuels to the surface.

    The U.S. is now the world’s largest natural gas producer and is expected to surpass Saudi Arabia soon as the world’s greatest oil producer, becoming a net exporter of energy by 2025.

    The boom has brought drilling rigs into long-settled neighborhoods, raising fears of water contamination, unsafe traffic and air pollution, and outraging residents.

    Pollster Steven Greenberg said Cuomo provides little notice before his public appearances because anti-fracking protesters will crash his events. Republicans blame the governor for stymieing growth. New York voters split evenly on fracking, with Democrats only modestly more likely to oppose it than Republicans.

    “No matter what he decides, he’s going to have half the people upset with him,” Greenberg said. “From a purely political point of view, it’s hard to argue with his strategy – punt.”

    In California, Brown has a long record of backing environmental causes, but he’s drawn the wrath of some environmentalists for supporting fracking. One group cited the $2 million that oil and gas companies have given the governor’s causes and campaigns since 2006. Democrats in the Legislature have proposed a freeze on fracking but are not optimistic Brown will support it.

    The Democratic split is sharpest in Colorado.

    Hickenlooper, a former oil geologist, has been a staunch supporter of fracking; at one point he said he drank fracking fluid, albeit a version without most of the hazardous chemicals. His administration has fought suburban cities that have banned fracking, insisting that only the state can regulate energy exploration.

    In response, activists are pushing 10 separate ballot measures to curb fracking. One measure would let cities and counties ban it. The effort has the support of Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a wealthy Democrat. At the state party’s recent convention, he gave a rousing speech nominating Hickenlooper for a second term but acknowledged “none of us … are going to agree on every single issue.”

    Some Colorado Democrats worry that the ballot push is bringing energy groups who generally support Republicans into the state. One pro-fracking group has spent $1 million in TV ads.

    Jon Haubert, a spokesman for the group, said leaders in both parties think the measures are economically dangerous. “We look at that and say this seems to be an extreme opinion,” he said, referring to the initiatives.

    The ballot measures will force Democratic candidates to choose among environmentalists, labor groups and Colorado’s business community, whose political and financial support is vital to Democrats in the swing state.

    Udall embodies this dilemma. He’s an environmentalist in a tight re-election campaign with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who represents an oil-and-gas rich, mostly rural congressional district.

    In an interview, Udall declined to say if cities should have the right to ban fracking. “I’m not a lawyer,” he said.

    Hickenlooper has put in place several landmark regulations – requiring that drilling occur a set distance from homes and schools and limiting methane emissions from energy exploration. But that has not assuaged activists such as Laura Fronckwiecz, a former financial worker who got involved in an effort to ban fracking in her moderate suburb of Broomfield after a drilling well was planned near her children’s elementary school.

    A Democrat, she’s aghast at her party’s reluctance to embrace the cause. “Ten years ago, I’d say it was a progressive cause they’d get behind,” Fronckwiecz, 41, said, “but much has changed, and the politics of oil and gas are not what you’d expect.”

    Fronckwiecz says she has Republicans and Libertarians in her coalition, as do activists pushing to limit fracking in energy-friendly Texas. While the GOP-dominated Legislature in Texas has rejected efforts to limit drilling, activists have earned small victories in towns and cities that have limited drilling, and one big win, the Dallas vote.

    Sharon Wilson, Texas organizer for the environmental group Earthworks, says she gets a warm reception from conservatives and Libertarians. “When they come into your community and start fracking,” she said, “it does not matter what your political affiliation is.”

    Associated Press reporter Nicholas Riccardi wrote this report. Follow him on Twitter.

    The post National energy boom blurs traditional political allegiances appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    Divers from the South Korean Navy continued to search on Saturday for the nearly 270 missing passengers from a ferry that sunk off the country’s southeastern coast this week. Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    The 68-year-old captain of the ferry that sank off the southern coast of South Korea was arrested on Saturday for suspicion of negligence and abandonment.

    266 people are missing since the ship sank on Wednesday. As the confirmed death toll rose to 36, divers have not been able to get inside the ship where they expect to find additional bodies. Hundreds of divers took part in the search on Saturday.

    Captain Lee Joon-seok has been accused of abandoning the passengers, with local news reports indicating he was one of the first people to evacuate the sinking ship leaving a majority of its passengers inside.

    “I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims,” Lee told reporters when he left court on Saturday.

    He is also accused of waiting 30 minutes after the ship began to sink before issuing evacuation orders. The captain defended this move, citing rough waters and cold temperatures, as well as the fact that rescue ships had not arrived.

    “I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties,” Lee said.

    According to the Associated Press, some of the survivors said they never heard an evacuation order.

    The two other crew members arrested were a helmsman and a third mate. According to senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin, the 25-year-old rookie third mate was steering the ship through unfamiliar and challenging waters when the incident occurred.

    There were 476 people on board the Sewol when it sank. A majority of the passengers were students from a high school outside of Seoul who were on vacation.

    The post Ferry captain arrested in South Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Credit: Yves Herman - Pool/Getty Images

    President Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Nuclear Security Summit in March. The leaders will meet during Obama’s Asia trip this week; he will make stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.  Credit: Yves Herman – Pool/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama travels through Asia this coming week, he will confront a region that’s warily watching the crisis in Ukraine through the prism of its own territorial tensions with China.

    Each of the four countries on Obama’s itinerary – Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines – has disputes with China over islands and waters in the South and East China Seas. Their leaders will be weighing Obama’s willingness to support them if those conflicts boil over.

    “What we can say after seeing what happened to Ukraine is that using force to change the status quo is not acceptable,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country is in one of the fiercest disputes with China.

    Administration officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have taken a tougher line on the territorial issues in recent weeks, sternly warning China against the use of military force and noting that the U.S. has treaty obligations to defend Japan in particular. But in an attempt to maintain good relations with China, the U.S. has not formally taken sides on the question of which countries should control which islands.

    Analysts say there are concerns that China could be emboldened by the relative ease with which Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine over U.S. objections, as well as the very real possibility that Moscow could take more land. Moreover, some in Asia question Obama’s ability to follow through on his security pledges in light of his decision last summer to pull back on plans for a military strike against Syria.

    “The heavyweights in the region got very scared by the Syrian decision,” said Douglas Paal, a longtime U.S. diplomat in Asia who now is vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They’ve never seen anything like that. They’ve always counted on strong executives bringing the Congress along or going around the Congress to make sure that our security guarantees will be honored.”

    Obama’s advisers say they see little evidence thus far that China has been encouraged by Russia’s incursions into Ukraine. Instead, they say Beijing appears to be viewing with concern the Kremlin’s attempts to sway pro-Russian populations in areas of Ukraine, given China’s own restive minority populations in border regions.

    U.S. officials also have tried to keep China from supporting Russia’s moves in Ukraine by appealing to Beijing’s well-known and vehement opposition to outside intervention in other nations’ domestic affairs. Officials say they plan to emphasize that stance when they discuss Asia’s territorial disputes with regional leaders this week.

    “We have been talking with them about the importance of a strong international front to uphold principles that they and we all hold dear, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, the need for peaceful resolution of disputes,” said Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser. “And we will continue to have that discussion throughout each of the stops on our trip.”

    Obama’s eight-day Asia swing is a makeup for a visit he canceled last fall because of the U.S. government shutdown. Leaving Washington on Tuesday, he will stop briefly in Oso, Wash., where mudslides killed dozens of people. He will arrive Wednesday in Japan.

    Obama’s advisers say there are no plans to scrap the trip if the situation in Ukraine worsens. But the president may have to make decisions while traveling about imposing more penalties against Russia if a deal to ease the crisis collapses.

    The U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an agreement Thursday. But already, the prospects of it holding appear slim, with pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine refusing to leave the government buildings they occupy in nearly a dozen cities.

    Russia’s foreign ministry on Saturday said it would offer strong help to Ukraine, but that responsibility for reducing tensions rested with Ukrainians, not outsiders.

    Compared with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, China has been relatively restrained in its territorial ambitions. But tensions spiked last fall when Beijing declared an air defense zone over a large part of the East China Sea, including the disputed islands controlled by Japan and a maritime rock claimed by both China and South Korea. China’s coast guard also has blocked Filipino ships in the South China Sea in recent weeks.

    China claims virtually the entire South China Sea. Nansha is the Chinese name for the Spratlys, a chain of resource-rich islands, islets and reefs claimed partly or wholly by China, the Philippines, Malaysia and other southeast Asian nations.

    Former Philippine national security adviser Roilo Golez said he expects Beijing to avoid Russian-style moves on any of the disputed territories, in large part because China is surrounded by American allies from the East China Sea to the Strait of Malacca and may have to deal with the U.S. military in the region if it undertakes a major act of aggression.

    “It would be a folly on the part of China to do anything drastic, to do a Crimea,” Golez said.

    Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines and Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo contributed to this report.

    Follow Julie Pace on Twitter.

    The post Obama, traveling in Asia, confronts a region warily watching Ukraine crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Technician working with biosimilars and biologic drugs.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    EMILY SENAY: Philip DeLuca is enjoying retirement after working decades on the Long Island Railroad.  The 71 year old stays busy with his ten grandkids, but lately it’s been difficult to keep up.

    How has your energy been?

    PHILIP DELUCA: Low. I can’t do the things I did, you know, ten, 12 years ago.

    EMILY SENAY: Patricia DeLuca is his wife.

    PATRICIA DELUCA: He became more tired, more frustrated with not being able to do the things he normally could do.

    EMILY SENAY: DeLuca found out his bone marrow wasn’t producing enough normal red blood cells, and if the levels dipped too low it could be life-threatening. So the doctor gave DeLuca two choices: blood transfusions or medication that would boost his red blood cell count.  He chose the medication.

    PROCRIT AD: Too tired to do the things you used to do? Talk to your doctor about Procrit.

    EMILY SENAY: DeLuca’s medication, Procrit, is known as a biologic, a relatively young and revolutionary class of drugs. Other popular biologics include Humira or Enbrel used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Lucentis for macular degeneration.

    Unlike pills used to treat common conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol that are made from chemicals, biologics are more complex.  They’re made in living organisms, resulting in proteins.

    They’re often considered more effective because biologics work with the body to normalize its immune system in a way chemicals don’t.

    GEOFFREY EICH: We will see more biologic medicines.

    EMILY SENAY: Geoffrey Eich is Amgen’s executive director of research and development policy. Amgen is one of the largest manufacturers of biologics, including the drug DeLuca takes.

    GEOFFREY EICH: I think everyone is very excited about what the future holds in terms of our ability to treat diseases like high cholesterol, or diseases like Alzheimer’s and fighting cancer, but also for disease where a patient will have a chronic lifelong disease.

    EMILY SENAY: Since DeLuca’s condition is chronic every Monday morning he goes to the hospital for an injection of Procrit. The biologic medication has helped, the DeLucas say, but it’s also extremely expensive.

    EMILY SENAY: When you heard the price of the, of the shot can you tell us what your reaction was?

    PATRICIA DELUCA: I was shocked.  I had no idea that this could cost this much.

    EMILY SENAY: Had you seen a medication that has cost that much before?

    PATRICIA DELUCA: No.

    EMILY SENAY: According to a bill DeLuca showed us a single injection costs $1,500. Under his insurance plan his copay ended up being $196. And remember, he was going to the hospital every week.  So the copay turned out to be nearly $800 a month.

    PATRICIA DELUCA: It’s financially difficult.  We’re on a pension.  And $196 a week extra, coming out of that pension, is a lot of money for us.

    EMILY SENAY: Can you afford it?

    PATRICIA DELUCA: Can I afford it?  I have to afford it.  I have to pay it.  It’s a bill.

    EMILY SENAY: But why is it so expensive?  Some critics say that’s because there’s no system in place in this country that would make “generic” biologics available.  But they are sold overseas and at a much lower price and have been for nearly eight years. There they are known as biosimilars.

    STEVE MILLER: If you look at Europe with there are already biosimilars on the marketplace the discount is somewhere between 30 and 50 percent.  So, we’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars of savings annually for each and every patient.

    EMILY SENAY: So Europe is already using these biosimilars?

    STEVE MILLER: Much of the world is way ahead of us.  So Japan, Canada, much of Europe already has biosimilars in their marketplace.  And patients are already benefiting from both the great products and the discounts.

    EMILY SENAY: Steve Miller is the Chief Medical Officer at Express Scripts, which negotiates drug prices with pharmaceutical companies for employers, unions as well as the department of defense.

    Patients like DeLuca are forced to pay much more for their biologics because there’s no competition in the U.S. in Europe there are at least 5 versions of DeLuca’s biologic where according to manufacturers they’re sold for up to 30 percent less than the brand name biologic.

    So why aren’t less expensive versions of DeLuca’s drug or any biosimilars available in this country?  That’s because when Congress passed the Hatch-Waxman bill nearly thirty years ago creating generic drugs, biologics barely existed.

    EMILY SENAY: If these biosimilars could be sold would people have access to something they don’t have access to now because it’s just too expensive?

    STEVE MILLER: So just like when you use a generic drug and you often have, you know, a four-dollar payment or ten-dollar payment, the same thing would happen with biologics in that you would have a much lower co-pay.

    EMILY SENAY: In 2009 the federal trade commission reached a similar conclusion that “competition is likely to lead to an expanded market and greater consumer access.” In other words lower prices.

    Geoffrey Eich of Amgen says his company is open to competition but cautions that biosimilars cannot be approached the same way as traditional drugs.

    GEOFF EICH: They’re different, right.  These are, these are different than drugs and different than chemicals.  And the prevailing assumption is that you have a brand medicine and you have generic medicines and generics are all the same and they’re also the same as the brand medicine. In the world that we’re going to in the future though, because they’re expressed in living cells, each medicine will have its own particular profile.

    EMILY SENAY: That means biosimilars will never be identical to the original biologic.

    According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “given the complex nature of biologics, it’s unlikely that a “one size fits all” systematic assessment of biosimilarity can be developed.”

    But Miller says the U.S. should simply look to the European Union as a model. The European medicines agency, which is the equivalent of the F.D.A., has been approving biosimilars there for eight years.

    STEVE MILLER: There has actually not been a single episode with a biosimilar in Europe that has risen to the point of concern. And they’ve had a great track record.

    EMILY SENAY: In an email to NewsHour a spokesperson for the European Medicines Agency wrote, “biosimilars have a good safety record since introduction” in 2006.

    Still, Eich says new procedures have to be in place before biosimilars hit the u-s market.

    GEOFFREY EICH: You really have to have a program in place that gets them from the law that enables them to be approved to the FDA approval, to the way they’re going to be used in health care.

    EMILY SENAY: The affordable care act passed in 2010 authorized the FDA to set up an approval process for biosimilars. But in the four years since, not a single biosimilar has hit the U.S. market.

    What’s taking the FDA so long?

    In an email to the NewsHour an FDA spokeswoman wrote:  “congress deliberately set a very high bar for a biosimilar product approval…when these products go to market, they will meet the standards of safety, efficacy and high quality that everyone expects and counts on.”

    But Miller says the FDA has been impeded by biologic companies that have extensively lobbied congress and state legislatures to stall competition. He says the strategy is designed to protect the huge profits they make off their biologic drugs.

    STEVE MILLER: If you think about just the drug erythropoietin which is made by Amgen, their profit’s a month over $100 million for that product.  That product came out into the market in 1989.

    EMILY SENAY: Eich says the high price of biologics is justified.

    GEOFFREY EICH:  They are expensive to manufacture.  The workforce is made up of PhD scientists who on a daily basis, are managing the production of these medicines, so there’s a tremendous amount of investment that goes into making and manufacturing high-quality biologic medicines.

    EMILY SENAY: Some people say that Amgen is able to charge $50,000 a year for a particular medication because it can. Because it’s able to.  There’s no regulation. And when those issues come up, a company like Amgen has been very successful at lobbying to prevent any– movement in terms of price.

    GEOFFREY EICH: I’m not, I’m just not familiar with any of the pricing information.  But what I can tell you is that I mean, we’re a company that’s focused on the future. So if there are revenues here, we want to invest in clinical studies for new clinical trials and for new medicines.

    EMILY SENAY: In fact Eich says if the company were so against biosimilars it wouldn’t have its own plans to start selling them.

    EMILY SENAY: One of the points that Amgen makes is that they too are getting into the biosimilar marketplace.  They don’t see anything they’re doing as, as a roadblock to getting biosimilars on the market.  Is, is that fair?

    STEVE MILLER: The reality is that they actually are well positioned to make biosimilars, but they probably make more on their branded product than they’ll make on their biosimilars.  So, it makes sense every, every month they can delay makes a lot of money for them.

    EMILY SENAY: Now these medicines that would be very similar to the one you’re taking would require that the FDA, and the regulatory process, and the states, and the companies move very slowly to make sure that these are safe.  Isn’t that what we want?

    PATRICIA DELUCA: How long does it take?

    PHILIP DELUCA: And if they are being used in Europe, and if they’re standing’, and if they’re still surviving, and if they’re in better shape?  Then obviously it must be, it must be working and it must be safe.

    EMILY SENAY: Philip DeLuca’s doctor recently added another biologic drug to his treatment regimen. He’s waiting to find out how much that one’s going to cost him.

    The post What’s keeping less expensive versions of biologic drugs off the U.S. market? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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