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

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    Restaurant owner Tom Douglas argues that waiters should not get a $15 an hour minimum wage increase when the servers at his restaurants already pull in $20 to $40 an hour with tips. Photo by Hill Street Studios/Blend Images via Getty.

    Restaurant owner Tom Douglas argues that waiters should not get a $15 an hour minimum wage increase when the servers at his restaurants already pull in $20 to $40 an hour with tips. Photo by Hill Street Studios/Blend Images via Getty.

    Editor’s Note: Making Sen$e continues our look at Seattle’s debate over increasing the minimum wage, speaking with restaurant owners who are caught between their personal support for a living wage and the fear that it would put them out of business. Paul Solman speaks with James Beard Award Winner Tom Douglas, co-owner of 14 restaurants across the Seattle area employing 800 people.

    He made headlines last year when he raised the wage for all of his back-of-the-house workers, from dishwashers to chefs. But raising all the staff, including waiters who collect tips, to $15 an hour could put his business — and his employees’ health care — at stake, he says.

    Seattle Mayor Ed Murray unveiled his plan for getting Seattle workers to a $15 minimum on Thursday. Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees would have seven years to phase in the higher wage, and for the first five years, other benefits – like health care and tips – could count toward the $15 an hour. Bigger local and national businesses, however, would have only three years to phase in a $15 an hour floor. The City Council now takes up the mayor’s proposal.

    “Seattle I think will prove itself when this process is finished in council, to once again be an incubator of democracy,” Murray said Thursday.

    Douglas, who appears in our Making Sen$e segment below, calls himself “as true blue you can be” (he supported single-payer health care), but in his extended conversation with Paul Solman, read why he thinks every mayor and city council member should try being a business owner before making policy.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    When I talked to restaurant owner John Platt, he was quite movingly torn about raising the minimum wage. He really is a very liberal guy in favor of almost anything on that side of the political aisle, and yet he was worried about what it would do to his business. You could see him living out that ambivalence.

    I certainly don’t have ambivalence about it. I’m on the side of the aisle of people being able to take care of their lives and their families, so I’m really concerned that health care’s going to be one of the chess pieces in this little game that we’re playing.

    Not enough people have health care in this country, and so I would hate to see health care become one of the costs of paying the higher minimum wage because I think that that’s what it’s going to come down to for some business folks in order to make their numbers work.

    Of your own volition, you gave a raise to the back of the house, correct?

    Yes, I’ve been a cook all my life, so I have a certain affinity for the fact that the front of the house tends to make a lot more money than the back of the house. My wife and I decided to try and kick start our kitchens to a $15 minimum wage for cooks. I’ve probably had to go through and raise every menu price now by 50 cents because it took away my profit. I just underestimated what it was going to cost.

    A little natural experiment, as they say in economics. What happened when you raised prices? Could you discern any difference in terms of people coming here to eat at your restaurant?

    Nothing much happened.

    So if there was no reaction to raising prices 50 cents a course, that’s either an argument for an increased wage not mattering – or for doing it slowly because of course, this would be a more dramatic rise in prices.

    You can’t really say that there’s no reaction. It’s too soon to tell. I think that if the trend were to continue, I definitely think something’s going to happen.

    I don’t have the numbers right off the top of my head, but what would it mean to you if you came into my restaurant for dinner and it was about $5.50 per person more based on the new wage structure? You sit down with a table of four, and it’s $21 or $22 more, and then you’ve got about 10 percent sales tax on top of that. So for a family of four, your dinner’s going to cost you about 25 bucks more tonight.

    I can afford that. I’m so thankful. But can everyone? I don’t think so. And maybe that’s just the way it has to be. Maybe there are too many restaurants. Maybe some of mine need to close. So be it. I’ll live with the market place.

    Let the people decide. I don’t have the margin to just absorb the difference in pay, so at the end of the day it’s going to be us as the citizens of Seattle that are going to make that choice.

    But what’s shocking and what’s going to be interesting about this to America is that the cost of wages in Seattle is already much higher than it is in most of the country. I raised my dishwashers from $10 to $12. Well, most of America doesn’t pay dishwashers $10.

    But of course that’s part of the reason it’s happening here.

    Waiters here make $9.50 an hour already. A waiter in New York City makes $2.15.

    You’ve got 14 restaurants now, right? So how much does one of your waiters make, on average?

    On average, a waiter, busser, bar tender and host all make about the same. It’s somewhere around $10. But a waiter makes their $10 and then they make their tips, which is often $30 or $40 an hour throughout the evening. Plus health care, plus vacation time, plus eight days paid time off for sick leave a year, plus we have dental – you know, it’s not a bad deal.

    And I am so proud that our industry is fostering people that can have a home and afford to have children. Who doesn’t want that? We all want that.

    Well, that’s a lot of money.

    Remember, a waiter tips out. They tip out the bar tender, they tip out the bus person. They tip out the host. So they have their own expenses, in a way, so that would take away from that total amount. But I would say a full-time waiter in a high-priced house could easily make $75-80 grand a year, yes.

    Is your main objection to this proposal that it doesn’t give credit for the tips?

    If what they really want is $15 an hour – by God, our waiters make $15 an hour and then some. And I love our waiters. I’m not putting them down for one second, but it’s not as simple as $15 or forget it.

    So what would you do? What would be your counter proposal?

    I guess at this point we would take into consideration total compensation. I’m all for this living wage, so my gut says, let’s do it over three or four years, so it’s not a shock to the system.

    I read that you didn’t want the government telling you to raise people’s wages – you would rather do it yourself.

    I thought that was the way it should work. It turns out that I was wrong on that. Once I raised the cooks to $15 or that area, then I had to raise my sous chefs and my chefs to keep the compensation fair. And then I had taken my dishwashers from $10 to $12 and my prep cooks from $12 to $13. And so I raised the whole back of the house in a way that the $1.2 million I budgeted for went to $1.7 like that. Things got tight, and it was like: Oh my God – what have I done?

    So I’ve had to scale that back a bit. I didn’t take money away from the people I’d already given it to, but I took it away from the starting wage. So now you’ve got to earn your $15 after you get started.

    I was naïve to think that I could just go it alone and stay competitively balanced. So if that does happen, it should happen across the board, which I guess is a government mandate.

    How does it make you feel that it will require law and order to get everybody to do something that’s in the common interest?

    Well, I think that’s partly how things work. This is a life issue that I don’t think is as simple as throwing around $15 now or nothing. We need to work together as a team, as a country, to raise wages.

    What’s your best guess as to the percentage of business you would lose, having to pay $15 now?

    I would hate to assume that we would lose. But when I went through and did my numbers of raising the front of the house and the back of the house that’s not at $15 already to $15, it was going to be a number between $5.1 and $5.5 million a year.

    And that’s most of your profit margin.

    Well, that’s most of our profit margin, but that’s assuming that I don’t raise prices. So, essentially, that’s the number that I have to pass through to our customers. And then our customers get the vote.

    So, again, I go back to the total compensation piece. I would never fight against people making a living wage. All we’re saying is that you have to look at the fact that the IRS calls tips wages.

    Matter of fact, they’ll put me in jail if I don’t make my waiters declare their tips to the government. I have a choice – it’s me or the waiters. I mean, that’s literal. The state of Washington calls tips wages. And yet the “15 Now” group doesn’t want to consider that. And so I don’t think we’re all that far apart, except in that area.

    Having been in business for 25 years, I would say that every mayor and city council person in this country should by law have to run a business before they get up on the council because it is nonsense the way they throw stuff around willy-nilly.

    I’m as true blue as you can be, and we’re on the left coast, but I still say that many of them have no clue how business is run and that they can’t just throw out initiatives. It makes me nuts.

    The post OK, $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle, but plus tips? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Obama administration offered a first glimpse Thursday of the demographics of the 8 million Americans who enrolled in health insurance through the health law’s online marketplaces this year.

    The report found 63 percent of enrollees who answered questions about their racial or ethnic background through the federal exchange identified themselves as white, 11 percent as Latino and 17 percent as black. Almost one third of enrollees did not provide that information, according to the report released by the Obama administration.

    As might be expected, there was wide demographic variation by state, with the largest number of Latinos enrolling in border states, including Texas at 33.6 percent, New Mexico at 31.1 percent, Arizona at 24 .2 percent and Florida at 19.2 percent.

    The states participating in the federal exchange with the largest share of African-American enrollees were in the South, with Mississippi at 59.5 percent, Georgia at 38.6 percent and Louisiana at 37.9 percent.

    The highest enrollment of Asians among federal exchange states occurred in Virginia at 17.7 percent, New Jersey at 16.3 percent and Georgia at 14.8 percent.

    About two third of enrollees chose a mid-level, or silver plan—largely because that was the best deal for consumers getting government subsidies. Overall, about 85 percent of those who purchased plans received subsidies.

    Just 20 percent chose bronze plans, which had lower monthly premiums but higher deductibles and co-payments.

    Florida enrolled nearly 1 million people, far more than any federal exchange state– and about 250,000 more people than Texas, which has a larger population and more uninsured residents.

    More than 4.8 million additional individuals enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program through the end of March, compared to enrollment before the marketplace opened last October.

    First-year Obamacare enrollment officially ended March 31, although most states and the federal government extended the deadline until April 15 for people who had trouble signing up.

    The post Healthcare.gov finished strong despite rocky start, enrollment data shows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Xavier Donat.

    WHO says we’re heading towards a “post-antibiotic era.”Photo by Flickr user Xavier Donat.

    In a report released Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned that society may soon be sliding into a “post-antibiotic era” in which common illnesses like pneumonia will once again become feared killers and surgery will come with heightened infection risks.

    In its first investigation into antimicrobial resistance across the globe, WHO reported startling findings about the extent to which viruses and bacteria have evolved to combat antibiotics. Among it’s more notable findings:

    • Resistance to the last-resort treatment against common intestinal bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae has now spread worldwide. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections across the world including pneumonia, bloodstream infections and infections of newborns. In some countries the type of antibiotics used to treat it, carbapenem antibiotics, were effective in less than half of all patients.
    • Resistance to fluoroquinolones — the antibiotics used to treat urinary tract infections caused by E. Coli — is extremely widespread. Despite being introduced in the 1980’s with a zero percent resistance rate, there are countries currently where at least half of all patients are resistant to fluoroquinolones treatment.
    • In parts of Africa, as many as 80% of all Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that causes staph infections) have become resistant to methicillin. These MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureaus) infections aren’t treatable by common antibiotic treatment. In certain parts of the Americas, as much as 90% of all Staphylococcus aureaus infections have now become MRSA.
    • This proliferation of resistant infection strains comes at a grave cost. Those with resistant strains of infections are destined to be sicker for longer and have heightened fatality rates. For instance, those with MRSA are 64 % more likely to die as a result of an infection than those with non-resistant strains.

    The report combines data from 114 different countries to paint a grim picture.

    “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. “Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine.”

    The report did provide guidelines for how to correct the problem. It called on patients to only use antibiotics when prescribed by doctors, and to make sure they always finish their antibiotic cycles. It asked doctors to be more diligent in how they prescribe antibiotics while enhancing prevention control through the promotion of sound hygienic practices. Finally, it called on policymakers to fund and promote innovation and research into the development of new antibiotics. If it’s guidelines are not met, WHO officials fear for the worst.

    “Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods,” said Fukudam” “the implications will be devastating.”

    The post We’re headed towards a ‘post-antibiotic era,’ World Health Organization warns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    KB, Chicago, Illinois (2011). Photo by Myra Greene

    KB, Chicago, Illinois (2011). Photo by Myra Greene

    In 2007, photographer Myra Green had just finished “Character Recognition,” a collection of images of her face printed through a historical photographic process called ambrotype on black glass. The project sparked a conversation with one of her friends about race.

    “My friend really honestly said to me ‘they’re really beautiful, but I just don’t feel comfortable thinking about blackness,’” Greene told Art Beat during a recent phone conversation.

    That remark propelled Greene to ask “Well, don’t you think about whiteness?” The resounding “no” flabbergasted the artist.

    TS, Rochester, New York (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    TS, Rochester, New York (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    “Race is such an important measure of visuality and photography to me and how I see photographs.”

    So Greene embarked on a project to see if she could “portray whiteness.”

    “The title ‘My White Friends’ took a while to concretize, but I started out saying I’m going to photograph my friends, my mentors, my peers in a demonstration of whiteness, not necessarily portraits, but them demonstrating some aspect of whiteness in a visual way.”

    AG, Rochester, New York (2007). Photo by Myra Greene

    AG, Rochester, New York (2007). Photo by Myra Greene

    Greene would spend time with her subjects and together they would work to find the right style for the portrait, choosing a location and clothing. Eventually, the pictures became almost a performance.

    “People are playing specific shades of their character, but it’s not necessarily their whole entirety in any way, shape or form … It’s the scene, the environment, the gesture, the color, the light that all come together to describe, not necessarily that individual person, but whiteness.”

    DW, Rochester, New York (2007). Photo by Myra Greene

    DW, Rochester, New York (2007). Photo by Myra Greene

    While the images depict different aspects of Greene’s descriptions of whiteness, the title is imperative to understand how the images relate to each other.

    “It has a tinge of shock factor for a group of people to be described that way. I think without the title you wouldn’t look at these pictures as just flat out portraits and discuss their successfulness only based on that idea,” said Greene.

    DN, Chicago, Illinois (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    DN, Chicago, Illinois (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    “For me, the photographs are a combination of both the people and the gestures and the environments that these people sit in. If you just view them as portraits, you might not see what kind of environments support the people in the pictures or house the people in the pictures. I think it’s crucial; it’s the context in which to read the photographs.”

    Greene has come across people who argue that one cannot describe whiteness in a photograph, but she doesn’t believe that’s the case.

    The Ws, Chicago, Illinois (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    The Ws, Chicago, Illinois (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    “Why not? Many people who come from otherness would describe whiteness in a photograph. Race is a part of every photograph, but when is it invisible and when is it visible? it seems like a really basic question, and for me to have everyone recognize race all the time is a way to even out the responsibility of the conversation.”

    JS, New York, New York (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    JS, New York, New York (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    KM, Rochester, New York (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    KM, Rochester, New York (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    KJ, Canadiaguia, New York (2007). Photo by Myra Greene

    KJ, Canadiaguia, New York (2007). Photo by Myra Greene

    RW, Silver Spring, Maryland (2010). Photo by Myra Greene

    RW, Silver Spring, Maryland (2010). Photo by Myra Greene

    EG, Brooklyn, New York (2010). Photo by Myra Greene

    EG, Brooklyn, New York (2010). Photo by Myra Greene

    RD, Rochester, New York (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    RD, Rochester, New York (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    JR, Bellafonte, PA (2012). Photo by Myra Greene

    JR, Bellafonte, PA (2012). Photo by Myra Greene

     JV, Chili, New York, (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

    JV, Chili, New York, (2009). Photo by Myra Greene

     JE, Chicago, Illinois (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    JE, Chicago, Illinois (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    “My White Friends” is on exhibit at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham North Carolina until May 17. You can also check out a book of the collection, with the same title.”

    The post Photographer examines what being white looks like appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rosie the RiveterA Michigan factory building that was once the home of World War II-era “Rosie the riveters” is being saved from the wrecking ball. Organizers of a campaign to save the Willow Run plant announced Thursday that they had come within reach of their goal to raise $8 million needed to buy a 150,000-square-foot portion of the property, according to the Detroit Free Press.

    The plant, which churned out B-52 bombers during the war, was made famous by its employee Rose Will Monroe, who was spotted by Hollywood producers and cast as for the role of a “riveter” for a government film about the war effort at home. Monroe went on to star in the film and also in the government’s iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, showing Rosie the Riveter with her shirtsleeves rolled up.

    Organizers will continue raising the additional dollars needed to make the new Yankee Air Museum, which is located about 30 miles from Detroit, a reality. The exhibits will focus on the history of the plant, vintage aircraft and, of course, Rosie.

    The post Original Rosie the Riveter plant saved from demolition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are putting on a display of trans-Atlantic unity against an assertive Russia. File photo from 2011 by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will put on a display of trans-Atlantic unity against an assertive Russia when they meet Friday at the White House. File photo from Merkel’s 2011 visit by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Today in the Morning Line:

    The Morning Line

    • German business interests complicate quicker response to Russia
    • Runoffs could threaten GOP chances at Senate control
    • The nuclear election scenario in Louisiana
    • GOP donors moving away from Christie and over to Jeb Bush?

    Follow the money on Germany, Ukraine: As more fighting has broken out in Eastern Ukraine, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be looking for a show of unity on the situation when they meet Friday at the White House. But if you want to know why Europe, particularly Germany, has been reluctant to go along with economic sanctions as forcefully as the U.S., just follow the money. German businesses have invested roughly $28 billion in Russia, and trade between the two countries was $105 billion in 2013. Russia also supplies 35 percent of Germany’s gas and 30 percent of its oil. For perspective, trade between the U.S. and Russia last year was about $38 billion. By the way, this is Merkel’s first visit to the White House in three years and her first since the National Security Agency’s spying revelations. That the U.S. was spying on its allies, however, is taking a back seat because Ukraine is more pressing, a Merkel aide told Bloomberg. The two leaders meet at 9:40 a.m. EDT and hold a news conference at 11:40 a.m. EDT.

    April’s jobs report: The Labor Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 288,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percent to 6.3 percent, the lowest rate of Mr. Obama’s presidency and the best mark since September 2008. April’s gains were the highest for a single month in three years. The numbers for February and March were also revised upwards by a combined 36,000 jobs. Should this trend continue, Democrats will have something positive to point to heading into the November election.

    Runoffs could make things messy for Republicans: Potential runoffs in three states — North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa — with primaries coming up in the next month and a half could complicate Republican hopes at winning control of the Senate. The AP dives into this today. As we noted yesterday, Republicans are hoping Thom Tillis in North Carolina can get above the 40 percent threshold to avoid a runoff two months later that would not allow him to immediately focus on vulnerable Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan. But in Georgia, a two-month-later runoff is likely with its 50 percent threshold and crowded primary, giving Democrat Michelle Nunn a chance to continue to tack to the center and build her image in one of only two targets for the party this cycle. And in Iowa, if no one gets 35 percent, which is possible in the multi-candidate field — not only would the general election start be pushed back (only by 11 days), but the eventual nominee would be picked at the state party convention, where the most conservative candidate usually emerges.

    The Louisiana Linger: And how about this scenario — in Louisiana, the winning candidate needs 50 percent in the November general election to win. If that doesn’t happen, the top two go to a runoff in December. Imagine — what if the GOP picks up five seats, and we’re all waiting on Louisiana in December for Senate control of the new Congress, which would start a month later. The entire country’s focus would suddenly and sharply turn to the Bayou State. Talk about big money and ground game. The entire country’s political infrastructure would be trained there. (But let’s face it, New Orleans in December for political reporters is a better gig than Iowa in December!) That said, midterms usually break one way or another and operatives don’t expect the Louisiana Linger to happen. But still, it’s possible…

    Potentially problematic runoffs:

    North Carolina: May 6 primary, July 15 runoff if 40 percent threshold not met
    Georgia: May 20 primary, July 22 runoff, 50 percent threshold
    Iowa: June 3 primary, June 14 runoff at a conservative state convention, 35 percent threshold
    Louisiana: Nov. 4 general election, Dec. 6 runoff, 50 percent threshold

    2016 — They’re just not that into you: Misgivings about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and loyalty to the Bush family among top GOP donors are pushing more of them toward backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, if he runs, the New York Times reports. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who’s backed Christie in the state but also served as George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency head, said of the position she’d be in if Bush entered the race: “It would be awkward. It would be very awkward.” Christie may be bringing home the bacon as chair of the Republican Governors Association, but the way his administration has handled the George Washington Bridge scandal has also left a funny taste in donors’ mouths. “I don’t know that Chris will be there at the end of the day,” Whitman said. The energetic donors of the Bush Brigade, the same network that gave Christie his start in national politics, now recognize in Jeb some of the appeal that first drew them to Christie as a swing-state governor, who has challenged the party line on education and immigration.

    Filling in the blanks on health care: Administration officials Thursday helped fill in the details of President Obama’s mid-April announcement that 8 million Americans had signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s federal and state marketplaces. The top line number gave the president and Democratic allies evidence to counter GOP attacks about the effectiveness of the law. But a deeper look at the numbers shows some cause for concern. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 28 percent of the enrollees were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, short of the 40 percent mark that some analysts say would be optimal. The AP’s Carla Johnson also notes the disappointing level of sign-ups among Latinos. She writes: “Hispanics account for 14.5 percent of those eligible for coverage on the new health insurance markets, but they represented 10.7 percent of the actual enrollees who also volunteered their race or ethnicity, the government reported.” On the other hand, an AP analysis found that 31 states “met or exceeded enrollment targets set by the administration before the insurance exchanges opened.” As we’ve written previously in this space, the 8 million enrollments help take some of the sting out of Republican attacks on Democrats for backing the law, and raises questions about the GOP’s singular focus on the health care issue in the campaign.

    Quote of the day: “I hope Jeb runs.” — former President George W. Bush on CNN about his younger brother. Flashback to last year when Barbara Bush, Jeb and George’s mom, said: “We’ve had enough Bushes.”

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1865, President Andrew Johnson offered $100,000 reward for the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Where was Davis eventually captured a few days later? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Colter Diehl (@colterdiehl) for guessing yesterday’s answer: President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden. Also, a hat tip to Yvonne Gibney (Rachel’s mother) for being the first to get the answer; unfortunately she does not have Twitter.

    LINE ITEMS

    • USA Today reports that, per a retired general who was at the U.S. Africa Command in Germany during the time of the Benghazi attack: “military personnel knew early on that the Benghazi attack was a ‘hostile action’ and not a protest gone awry.”
    • Following Sen. Mark Pryor on the trail in Arkansas, David Fahrenthold writes, “Pryor is hoping voters would rather have a Democrat with no great crusades, than a Republican with the wrong ones.”
    • During a talk-radio show appearance Thursday, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called White House officials “scumbags” for what he says was lying about Benghazi. Graham is up for reelection this year.
    • Ahead of North Carolina’s primary Tuesday, State House Speaker Thom Thillis’ name recognition far outpaces his GOP competitors’, and has increased significantly since Febraury, according to the latest Elon University poll.
    • The Economist asks on its cover, “What would America fight for?” Its editorial notes criticism among U.S. allies of President Obama’s foreign policy stances. Morning Line dove into the debate over the president’s foreign policy. On Wednesday, NewsHour had an in-depth discussion on it.
    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

     

     

     

     

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:






    The post Obama, Merkel look for united front on Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The White House is asking Congress to pass new privacy laws that would add more safeguards for Americans’ data and provide more protections for emails sought in the course of a law enforcement investigation.

    The recommendations are among six offered by President Barack Obama’s counselor John Podesta in a report released Thursday. While large sets of data make Americans’ lives easier and can help save lives, the report noted, they also could be used to discriminate against Americans in areas such as housing and employment.

    “Big data” is everywhere. It allows mapping apps to ping cellphones anonymously and determine, in real time, what roads are the most congested. It enables intelligence agencies to amass large amounts of emails and phone records to help root out terrorists. And it could be used to target economically vulnerable people.

    At Obama’s request, Podesta and the president’s top economic and science advisers conducted a 90-day review of how the government and private sector use large sets of data. While the recommendations are not binding, they do track with many of the president’s previous calls for addressing privacy issues.

    Obama has called for changes to some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs that amass large amounts of data belonging to Americans and foreigners. The technology that enabled the surveillance programs also enables other programs used by the government and the private sector, such as data on financial records, health care systems and social media. The White House separately has reviewed the NSA programs and proposed changes to rein in the massive collection of Americans’ phone records and emails.

    “The president, of course, recognized that big-data technologies had to be having an impact elsewhere in government — in the economy and in society,” Podesta said Thursday.

    The report’s recommendations include passing more privacy laws, doing more to protect student and consumer data, ensuring data is not used for discriminatory purposes and giving non-U.S. citizens more privacy protections. They address the many angles of criticism levied at the Obama administration following the disclosures of former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

    Strengthening privacy for emails could provide more protections in the course of a law enforcement investigation. Under the current law, in many cases the government can access emails without getting a warrant from a judge. Many consider that 1986 law to be outdated, and the recommendation represents the first clear message from the Obama administration that it supports updating the electronic communications law.

    “We have artificial differences and archaic distinctions between email that’s left unread or periods of time that need to be rectified,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said.

    As technology advanced, Americans’ physical property received more protections than electronic property. Privacy advocates have long called for emails to be treated the same as physical mail. If law enforcement wants access to someone’s physical mail, a warrant based on probable cause must be issued by a judge. However, if law enforcement wants access to emails, in many cases they can be obtained without a judge’s sign-off.

    “By recognizing that online and offline communications should be treated the same, the report lays the groundwork for keeping everyone’s emails, texts and photos private and secure,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative council for the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Even after the Snowden revelations, there’s little indication that the climate for taking up privacy legislation has shifted on Capitol Hill in an election year.

    Similarly, laws that protect against discrimination have not kept up with the technological advancements either. Civil rights leaders have raised concerns about the potential for employers who use data to map where job applicants live will then rate them based on the time it would take to get to work, particularly in low-paying service jobs.

    One company that describes itself as a leader in “big data workforce optimization,” discussed the commute scenario in a 2013 report. “The distance that employees live from work affects how long they choose to stay at a job,” according to a 2013 workforce performance report by Evolv, a San Francisco-based company. “Unsurprisingly, employees that live 0-5 miles from their place of work have the longest median tenure.”

    Civil rights advocates say that as more jobs move out of cities and into the suburbs, a hiring system based on class could evolve.

    The White House is also renewing its call for national data-breach legislation, which could have more resonance after hackers lifted personal data from millions of shoppers at Target and Nieman Marcus in recent months. The legislation would cull the patchwork of state laws into a single federal requirement for how data breaches should be reported to consumers and law enforcement.

    On Twitter, follow Eileen Sullivan @esullivanap and Julie Pace @jpaceDC.

    The post White House seeks stronger privacy laws for big data appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

    The unemployment rate fell to the best mark since September 2008. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

    The economy added a higher-than-expected 288,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, its lowest since September 2008.

    At the recession’s peak, the unemployment rate was 10 percent, but as the New York Times reports, April’s 6.3 percent is still above the historical average for this stage of an economic recovery.

    For all of the good news in Friday’s report, economists are concerned that 800,000 people dropped out of the labor force, which means they’re not looking for jobs, and therefore, are not counted as officially unemployed.

    Making Sen$e calculates its own unemployment rate called the “Solman Scale,” or U7, which adds to the officially unemployed part-timers looking for full-time work and “discouraged” workers — everyone who didn’t look for a job in the past week but says they want one. This broader unemployment metric also saw a significant drop in April, to 14.38 percent from 14.75 percent in March. NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has more analysis about Friday’s jobs numbers on his Making Sen$e page.

    Solman Scale April 2014

    Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted an addition of 218,000 jobs, but each month’s payroll numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics carry a margin of error of nearly 100,000 jobs and will be revised two more times in subsequent employment reports. The BLS revised job gains in February and March up by 36,000.

    At the conclusion of their Open Market Committee meeting Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said the economy was looking strong enough to support further labor market improvement, and as expected, they continued to gradually reduce their monetary stimulus program by $10 billion a month.

    The post Unemployment rate drops to lowest since fall 2008 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Washington does not lack for smugness. It takes only one committee vote, or one fancy dinner to send many of us into paroxysms of self-congratulation.

    Pass a bill out of committee? Hold a press conference.

    Snag a cable TV star as your “date” for the big dinner? Tweet a picture.

    But we are not alone in this. A brief survey of the week’s headlines should reassure anyone that overreaching is a common problem.

    Headline: Hillary Clinton is leading all other comers by double digits.
    Conclusion: Abandon hope all else who enter here. 2016 is a lock.

    Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    The air of inevitability surrounding Hillary Clinton is unlike anything we’ve ever seen – since 2008, that is — when she was also considered inevitable. Then a first-term Senator from Illinois came along, and we know how that story ended. It’s true the former Secretary of State’s position may be more solid now than it was six years ago, but it’s also too soon to bet the mortgage on what happens between now and 2016.

    Headline: Jeb Bush is less popular than once thought.
    Conclusion: Dynasties are dead.

    Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Bush, the former Florida Governor, with net negatives among the population at large (an 11-point deficit, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 16-point surplus).

    He also lags among women, Hispanics and young people.

    But can Bush at least win his party’s nomination? Possibly, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll, which shows the race wide open. Once again, too soon to count the chickens.

    Headline: Sexual assaults in the military have jumped by 50 percent.
    Conclusion: The problem is getting worse.

    Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    The Pentagon admits the numbers are up, but says that’s the good news. That’s because more military members are reporting violations; and the Department of Defense is acting on them.

    Proponents of tougher response, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, say the numbers only tell so much, because fewer of those reported cases are being prosecuted. Investigations, she argues, should be taken out of the chain of command, replacing military court martial with criminal trials. For the record, the United States Senate disagrees.

    Headline: Vladimir Putin’s still got Crimea and Bashar al Assad’s still got Syria.
    Conclusion: President Obama has lost to the tyrants.

    Photo by Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images

    The Russian president shows no signs of ceding Crimea, and every sign of backing pro-Russian separatists who are behind the continued upheaval in the Eastern regions of Ukraine that border Russia. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al Assad blithely ignored Western demands that he step down, and has in fact announced he is running for reelection.

    President Obama’s critics argue the president should have acted in a more muscular fashion to stop Putin and Assad. But they stop short of saying whether military action in Syria or more rapid and harsher sanctions against Russia would have changed the outcome.

    Headline: Donald Sterling is banned for life from the NBA.
    Conclusion: A historic blow has been struck against racism.

    Screen grab from PBS NewsHour

    Screen grab from PBS NewsHour

    The sheer outrageousness of the Los Angeles Clippers’ owner’s comments about race and gender made it easy for almost everyone to agree on one thing. It was unacceptable, and he had to go.

    But does this mean the discussion should end there? Does racial insult demand action only when it is committed by people so clearly out of the cultural mainstream?

    For now, the answer would appear to be yes. TMZ is far more interested in staking out the errant girlfriend than exploring Sterling’s chronicled history of housing discrimination. Sadly, that is largely true for the mainstream media as well.

    The headlines add up to a lesson. In politics, foreign policy and domestic drama — there is always more to the story. It always serves everyone well to take a deep breath and keep ourselves from drawing too much meaning from any single headline.

    You can tip over when you overreach.

    The post Gwen’s Take: Beware the clickbait (or why there’s always more to the story) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    While 700,000 fewer people were unemployed last month, 800,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force, meaning they did not report looking for work. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

    While 700,000 fewer people were unemployed last month, 800,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force, meaning they did not report looking for work. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

    Yes, April’s jobs report appears to be sunny: more than 300,000 jobs added to the economy, when you include upward revisions of the past two months. That’s what the “establishment survey” of employers says. And yes, the headline unemployment rate, which comes from the door-to-door “household survey,” dropped from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent, seeming to confirm the story.

    But for those of you who expect members of the mainstream media to rain on every parade, not to worry: we do have a shower for you, if not a thunderstorm.

    You see, the household survey reports a stunning 733,000 fewer Americans “unemployed” in April alone, which would accord almost perfectly with the employers’ jobs added number.

    But 73,000 fewer Americans reported that they were actually working in April than in March. So what can possibly be happening?

    One response is that the two surveys so often disagree, it’s best to inspect any one month with a skeptical mind frame. And that’s certainly true. Another, I suppose, would be a massive one-month conspiracy among hundreds of thousands of Americans to lie to interviewers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, claiming not to be working when they really are.

    But the answer, at least for the household survey, is actually right in Table A-1 of the BLS’s report. In the second row, labeled “civilian labor force,” the next-to-last column reports the number of Americans in the work force as of March, “seasonally adjusted,” in thousands: 156,227 – meaning 156.227 million. The last column reports the statistically adjusted total for last month – April: 155,421 (in thousands, 155.421 million). That’s right: the April number of people in the workforce is lower, even though the population grew by its usual 200,000 or so. So roughly 800,000 people “dropped out” of the work force last month.

    BLS.TableA1.April2014

    Practically speaking, that means nearly a million more people than in March told the BLS that they hadn’t looked for work in at least a year.

    The big question, of course, is whether they were thoroughly fed up with the job search – “hyperdiscouraged,” you might call them – or by contrast, all too happy to hang up their 9-to-5 shoes. And if you’ve been following our coverage of unemployment over the past year, you know that we suspect a lot of the slow growth in the labor force, as compared to much faster growth in the population, is due to retirement, as 10,000 or so baby boomers hit age 65 (or 66, for that matter) every single day.

    But here’s the rain I promised. If you look at row 9 of table A-1, you will see the total number of us who are not counted in the BLS’ reckoning of the “civilian labor force” but are counted as “persons who currently want a job.” That is, people (I don’t know why they’re called “persons”) who tell survey takers that they would like to work. That number was unchanged in April: 6,146,000 of us.

    So here’s a consistent, less sunny story about April’s numbers: sure, about 700,000 fewer Americans were reported as “unemployed,” but an even bigger number dropped out of the work force, driving down the unemployment rate artificially, even if the 300,000 or so baby boomers who hit “retirement age” in April hung it up.

    Do we believe our own inclement account? Not fully. Our own inclusive reckoning of the under- and unemployed, the Solman Scale U-7, based on the household survey, also dropped in April, from 14.75 to 14.38 percent. That’s not nearly as steep a decline as the headline fall – 6.7 to 6.3 percent – but it’s still substantial.

    The Solman Scale adds to the officially unemployed part-timers looking for full-time work and “discouraged” workers — everyone who didn’t look for a job in the past week but says they want one.

    The Solman Scale adds to the officially unemployed part-timers looking for full-time work and “discouraged” workers — everyone who didn’t look for a job in the past week but says they want one.

    Okay, one last cloudburst: Unemployment among 16 to 19-year-old black Americans rose significantly to 36.8 percent.

    So again, any one month’s data – and all of its statistical noise – isn’t worth too much of a storm; it’s still the long-term patterns that count. We’ll have more on this on Friday’s broadcast.

    The post Where are the April showers in the jobs report? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An illustration that shows the hypervelocity star cluster HVGC-1 escaping from the supergiant elliptical galaxy M87. HVGC-1 is the first runaway star cluster discovered by astronomers. Image by David A. Aguilar / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    An illustration that shows the hypervelocity star cluster HVGC-1 escaping from the supergiant elliptical galaxy M87. HVGC-1 is the first runaway star cluster discovered by astronomers. Image by David A. Aguilar/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Astronomers have discovered a cluster of several thousand stars that was ejected out of a distant galaxy at a stellar speed of more than two million mph.

    The group of “runaway stars,” named HVGC-1 for “hypervelocity globular cluster,” was found by Nelson Caldwell and his team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics after they found the bright sphere traveling at a high velocity from the the elliptical galaxy Messier 87.

    “Astronomers have found runaway stars before, but this is the first time we’ve found a runaway star cluster,” said Caldwell, also lead author of the resulting study that will be published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Since it takes an enormous amount of energy for stars to escape a galaxy, it’s not immediately clear how HVGC-1 broke free from M87. The study suggests that the cluster drifted between the two supermassive black holes at M87′s center. After shaving some of HVGC-1′s outer stars, the cluster largely remained intact as the black holes, as if a slingshot, flung the cluster out of the galaxy and into intergalactic space.

    The post Star cluster flung from distant galaxy at 2 million mph appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A United Nations spokesperson says that at least 350 people have died in a landslide in Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan.

    The U.N. is working with authorities on the ground to rescue people still trapped, reports the Associated Press.

    The post Hundreds dead in landslide in northeastern Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Drug-resistant bacteria are a hospital’s nightmare. Two out of every 100 people carry methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacteria that can’t be treated easily by antibiotics. When the bacteria multiplies, the infection can be deadly.

    Engineer Liangfang Zhang at the University of California San Diego is developing a nanosponge that will soak up the nasty bacteria. The nanosponge is made from biocompatible, biodegradable polymer nanoparticles, and is designed to look like a red blood cell. Once in the bloodstream, the sponge attracts the toxins to it.

    “A lot of the treatment we try to add something to the body to destroy the bugs or the cancer cells,” Zhang said. “This is doing the opposite.”

    Zhang’s treatment has had a nearly 100 percent success rate in mice. And it doesn’t just work on bacteria. The sponges can soak up snake venom and other toxins too. Miles O’Brien has more on this story for the National Science Foundation’s series “Science Nation.”*

    *For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    The post Nanosponges soak up superbugs and even snake venom in your blood appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Projecting unity on Ukraine, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher and broader new sanctions against Russia on Friday if Moscow doesn’t quickly change its disruptive behavior.

    “We will not have a choice but to move forward with additional more-severe sanctions” if Russia disrupts a presidential election in Ukraine scheduled for May 25, Obama said at a news conference with Merkel outside the White House.

    “Further sanctions will be unavoidable,” Merkel agreed.

    Both leaders made it clear that the next step would be to order sanctions on separate parts of the Russian economy or military — on energy or arms for example — but neither leader specified precisely what was being considered.

    Putin “needs to be dissuaded from his current course,” Obama said.

    The two leaders also made it clear they have differences when it comes to U.S. surveillance overseas, an evident reference to earlier reports that the Americans had listened in to at least some of Merkel’s conversations on her personal cellphone.

    “There are still some gaps that need to be worked through,” the president said.

    Merkel was diplomatic, as well, but a shade more blunt: “We have differences of opinion to overcome.”

    The two leaders met as the European Union announced it would hold talks with Ukraine and Russia later this month on the price of natural gas, an attempt to avoid any disruption in supplies. Moscow recently hiked the price of gas shipped to Ukraine to $485 per thousand cubic meters from $268.50, and threatened to limit deliveries if Kiev does not meet the new price and repay a debt of $3.5 billion.

    More forebodingly, pro-Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters Friday and Ukraine reported many rebels dead and wounded as the interim government in Kiev launched its first major offensive against an insurgency that has seized government buildings across the east.

    The Kremlin said Kiev’s offensive against the insurgents “destroyed” the two-week-old Geneva agreement on cooling Ukraine’s crisis.

    In their remarks, Obama and Merkel both said they would prefer the situation in Ukraine to be settled through diplomacy.

    Obama said Putin is free to offer his own views with regard to events in Ukraine, but it isn’t acceptable for the Kremlin to think “it has veto power” over decisions made by a duly elected government in Kiev.

    As the crisis in Ukraine has worsened, Merkel has spoken to Putin perhaps more frequently than has any other European leader. Because of this, the U.S. sees her as a critical channel of communication, as well as a key player in the effort to prevent other EU nations from going soft on sanctions.

    “There’s no question that the situation in Ukraine, the continued failure by Russia to abide by its commitments in the Geneva Agreement will be a focus of the conversation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said before the two leaders met.

    The diplomatic deal struck two weeks ago in Geneva has failed to de-escalate the conflict between pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the central government in Kiev. The U.S. and Europe have sharply rebuked Putin for flouting his responsibilities under the deal, and Moscow on Friday declared all hopes for implementing the accord “effectively destroyed.”

    On the issue of espionage, Obama said it wasn’t quite accurate to say that the United States had proposed and then withdrawn a no-spy agreement. Instead, he said the government has proposed the same guidelines with Germany that it maintains with other allies including the British. He did not describe them in any detail.

    U.S. and German officials said ahead of the Obama-Merkel meeting that part of the discussion probably would focus on how the U.S. and Europe would coordinate harsher punishments – including sanctions targeting broad sectors of Russia’s economy — should Moscow further provoke tensions in Ukraine, such as by sending military forces into restive eastern Ukraine. The White House is concerned that Europe’s deep economic interests in Russia and dependence on Russian energy could deter EU nations from following through with sanctions that could ricochet onto their own economies.

    “She’s getting enormous pressure from German industry not to harm their interests,” said Heather Conley, a Europe expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “She has to start laying the political groundwork for this because it requires some sacrifice.”

    Merkel, like Obama, has ruled out military action to deter Putin from seizing more of Ukraine. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has urged Obama to send weapons to Ukraine’s government, said he planned to tell Merkel during a private meeting that he was embarrassed but unsurprised by her country’s failure of leadership.

    “The leaders, they’re being governed by the industrial complex of Germany,” McCain said Thursday. “They might as well have them in the government. It’s shameful.”

    A troubled EU-U.S. trade agreement, known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is also on the agenda, as well as joint efforts to deal with climate change, Syria’s civil war and nuclear negotiations with Iran, said Laura Magnuson of the White House’s National Security Council.

    But the German leader may also be bringing her concerns over U.S. spying programs — an issue that’s continued to erode the U.S.-German relationship despite Obama’s assurances that the National Security Agency would stop eavesdropping on Merkel’s cellphone. The issue has aggravated German citizens, prompting calls for Berlin to strike some type of agreement with Washington to limit U.S. surveillance on German soil.

    Another potential wrinkle: A German parliamentary panel probing the NSA issue is eager to invite former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to speak to the panel. The German government has made clear it opposes the idea of letting Snowden, whose U.S. passport has been revoked, testify in Berlin, drawing criticism from the opposition.

    Merkel will also speak to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday, focusing on the fledgling trade agreement and U.S.-European economic ties.

    Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper in Washington and Frank Jordans and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

    Follow Josh Lederman on Twitter @joshledermnap.

    The post Obama, Merkel threaten tougher sanctions on Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video by the Associated Press

    A New York City subway derailed in Queens Friday, sending four to the hospital and leaving more than a dozen with minor injuries.

    The middle six cars of the eight-car express F train derailed underground at 10:40 a.m. EDT about 1,200 feet south of the 65th street station in Woodside. The subway was carrying 1,000 passengers, who were moved to safety by rescue authorities.

    The cause of the derailment is unknown, though factors such as track condition, speed and the train’s engineers will be investigated.

    Video of subway passengers being helped by authorities. Video by Instagram user keishakatz

    The post Subway derails in New York City appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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     JE, Chicago, Illinois (2008). Photo by Myra Greene

    Artist Myra Greene set out to explore “whiteness” with her camera. Photo of JE, Chicago, Illinois, by Myra Greene

    Here at Art Beat, we don’t want to shy away from difficult conversations and sensitive topics when they are depicted in art.

    Such was the case on Thursday when we posted the story “Photographer examines what being white looks like.” It elicited many reactions and raised lots of questions about depictions of race and definitions of diversity.

    Patricia Schwartz comment on Myra Greene

    Stacey  comment on Myra Greene

    In an effort to continue the conversation and further clarify the perspective of the artist, we wanted to share more from my conversation with photographer Myra Greene.

    Greene has spent a lot of her life thinking about race and what it means to her identity. In talking with her white friends, she was surprised to find that they often have not tried to decipher what it means to be white. And thus her project was born.

    Greene explained to me how often she is asked to be a representative of her community as a black woman. She was interested in “having that responsibility reversed and having white people become the representation of their community. All of a sudden they understand what that pressure or that stereotype might be, and whether or not they want to embrace that.”

    Calipenguin comment on Myra Greene

    Chandler comment on Myra Greene

    Is race important to your identity? How would you depict it if you were asked? Tell us in the comments below or tweet @NewsHourArtBeat with #NewsHourAsks.

    The post What does (insert your race here) look like? Impossible answers to an impossible question appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Ukrainian military helicopter lands at a checkpoint in the village of Andreevka, 7 km. from the center of the southern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, which is held by pro-Russian rebels. Photo by Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

    A Ukrainian military helicopter lands at a checkpoint in the village of Andreevka, 7 km. from the center of the southern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, which is held by pro-Russian rebels. Photo by Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

    Updated 3:14 p.m. EDT:

    The Associated Press reports that 38 people have died in Odessa, Ukraine, as a result from a building fire that started during a clash between pro-Russia and pro-government supporters.

    In a statement released by police, the fire was said to have broken out Friday in a trade union building in the southern port city. Several were killed after jumping from the building’s windows.
    In an effort to regain control of the eastern city of Slovyansk, the Ukrainian government launched its first major offensive against pro-Russian separatists Friday, the Associated Press reports. The fighting has claimed at least three lives so far.


    _____________

    Pro-Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian army helicopters, killing two members on board, and one of the pro-Russia separatists was reportedly killed, according to the report.

    Ukrainian forces surrounded Slovyansk, a city 100 miles from the Russian border, and took control of all the checkpoints from the insurgents, acting President Oleksander Turchynov said. He also said that two Ukrainian soldiers were killed, along with seven wounded in Friday’s assault. Turchynov added that the militants suffered significant losses, many killed or injured.

    Video by Associated Press

    “Our security forces are fighting mercenaries of foreign states, terrorists and criminals,” Turchynov said in a statement.

    The Kremlin said that Kiev launched a “punitive operation” that effectively destroyed “all hope” for defusing the tension in the region.

    Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a joint news conference at the White House on Friday to discuss further actions against Russia for its continued advances into Ukraine.

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    “We will not have a choice but to move forward with additional, more severe sanctions” if Russia disrupts a presidential election in Ukraine scheduled for May 25, Obama said, with Merkel at his side.

    “Further sanctions will be unavoidable,” Merkel added.

    The post Pro-Russia forces shoot down 2 Ukrainian helicopters, 38 killed in Odessa building fire as fighting erupts in Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bryan Cranston

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: This is the most important election of your lifetime. And the choices couldn’t be clearer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Lyndon Johnson: ambitious, impatient, tortured and troubled in a million different ways…all captured by actor Bryan Cranston.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: ….him and the rest of his Harvard Blue Bloods would look down their noses at me like I was some kind of country bumpkin!

    BRYAN CRANSTON: In three hours you see him go through a myriad of emotions. It’s rare to be able to have a character of that scope. I’m grateful for it.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: This ain’t about the Constitution! This is about those who got more wantin’ to hang on to what they got.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The play, called “All the Way,” opened on Broadway in March. Written by Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, it’s a look back at the year 1964: President Johnson’s first year in office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A tumultuous time for the presidency and the entire nation.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: We got people in this country living in unbelievable poverty. I know, I grew up like that in the Hill Country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I saw you last night, and I saw this character, you know, neck out, shoulders up.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: That was my version of LBJ. I mean, it really is a version of him. Because you don’t wanna try to take on the character specifically in the sense that – to do an impersonation. I just want to get the sense of who he is. And allow that character to just be absorbed into me, you know. And so I’m able to then let him loose onstage.

    CLIP/BREAKING BAD: The methylamine keeps flowing no matter what.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now 58, Cranston of course, is best-known for his role on the hit AMC drama, “Breaking Bad.” He grew up in Los Angeles. His parents were both actors… but he first thought about becoming a cop. He started taking acting classes in his twenties, and soon began landing commercials…

    CLIP/COMMERCIAL: Now you can relieve inflamed hemmorhoidal tissue with the oxygen action of Prepration H.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And small roles on TV.

    CLIP/MATLOCK: Mr. Matlock, I don’t have much money.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He played a dentist with an off-color sense of humor in “Seinfeld.”

    His nearly-seven-year stint on “Malcolm in the Middle” as the kooky father increased his profile.

    But it was the wildly-praised and popular show “Breaking Bad” that finally made Cranston a major star.

    CLIP/BREAKING BAD: – Say my name.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Before the show ended its six-year run last September, Cranston won three Emmys for his role as Walter White, a chemistry teacher turned meth cook and violent drug lord.

    CLIP/BREAKING BAD: I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Being– so identified with one character, that can be a double-edged sword, can’t it, in terms of–

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Yeah.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sort of narrow casting you, everybody sees you as that one character.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Well, it can if you succumb to that kind of, you know, easy out.

    When Malcolm in the Middle ended after seven years I was offered two pilots for TV that were fun goofy dads. And of course I turned them down. But it was a surprising to those people who offered it. Because they felt I was perfect for it.

    And I went, “I’m not going to help you put me in a box.”

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: Now, where do you suppose this came from?

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s why Cranston chose this latest role — it’s his first time on Broadway — and a chance to take on a multi-dimensional character caught up in the tide of history.

    Cranston said he prepared for the role by visiting Johnson’s presidential library in Austin and reading from the many books written on him.

    He also listened to some of the former president’s recorded phone conversations.

    LYNDON B. JOHNSON (recording): Now you and I are buddies now, and you understand politics and I do too, and I’m telling you that we’re working with the Republicans up there 100%.

    ALBERT THOMAS (recording): Well, I’m on your side.

    LYNDON B. JOHNSON (recording): Well alright, well you just don’t ever agree that’s a good clause, ‘cause you know goddamn well it ain’t.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: I’m gonna resign. Let somebody else deal with it.

    LADY BIRD JOHNSON: No, you are not.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: Yes, I am.

    LADY BIRD JOHNSON: No, you are not going to resign.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: You never knew which LBJ you were going to get when you walked into the Oval Office that day.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: But god, did I love those kids of mine.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: You just didn’t know. He could be high. He could be low. He could be angry. He could be happy. You know, and you had to just deal with it.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: What you think of this civil rights bill of mine?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Much of the play focuses on the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — part of Johnson’s legacy of legislative achievement that’s being remembered and celebrated now, 50 years later…and before he was worn down and, for many, tarnished by the Vietnam War.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you feel yourself part of that looking back at the legacy and therefore some responsibility to– to telling that history?

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Well, there’s a certain amount of ownership that happens when you– when you take on a character. You absorb as much source material as you possibly can. It’s like you’re making a bouquet. You’re taking bits and pieces from each material that resonate with you. And you’re crafting your own LBJ or whomever that character would be.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That resonates with you in some way.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Yeah.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What does that mean?

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Well, knowing that I physically have to be up on that stage and presenting this text, as it were– you– you take bits and pieces of– of information that makes sense to you. That– that make you realize, “Oh, there’s interesting things.”

    For instance, in– I don’t even know where I read it. But– he had a standing appointment to get a massage every night at the White House. He called it a rubdown. He’d get himself a rubdown. And that informed a couple of things. I said, “I– he must have been tightly wound.” And so—I– I gave him– a back issue– in the play.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, the physical transformation Cranston goes through is striking: back bent, shoulders hunched, face scrunched, as Johnson cajoles, sweet-talks and threatens legislators to get his way: the famous “Johnson treatment” — as here with his future vice president, Hubert Humphrey.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: This is about votes! That’s the problem with you liberals . You don’t know how to fight. You wanta get something done in the real world, Hubert, you’re gonna have to get your hands wet. You call yourself the leader of the Liberal wing of the Democratic Party? Then show me some goddamn leadership!

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you’re doin’ that, you know, towering o– lookin’ down, is that fun to do?

    BRYAN CRANSTON: It’s a lotta fun to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is it?

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Sure. Anytime a man could– boastfully be intimidating, you know, that’s– that’s fun to do.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Well, I’ll lean into you a little bit now– I say, “Now–” First time I’d say somethin’ like, “How’s your wife?” And I would– I would remember her name.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That– that’s right.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: ”I’d say, how is she—she doin’ fine? She’s such a pretty lady. You’re a lucky, lucky man.” And I’d get you to go–

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m smiling, I’m happy.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Now look! Now we need to be able to get this done now. Don’t disappoint me. And we– you know, and all of a sudden–

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I’m saying, “Yes, sir, yes, sir,” about anything.

    BRYAN CRANSTON: Because I hook you in. He was uncanny with his political savvy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Cranston says he’s grateful for the stardom that now gives him the ability to pick and choose his roles … and the money to live well.

    But, he also comes off as very un-LBJ or Walter White-like – an un-tortured soul who is happy to have built a life-long career doing exactly what he wants.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did you have times along the way where you thought maybe this isn’t gonna happen the way I had hoped?

    BRYAN CRANSTON: No.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You didn’t?

    BRYAN CRANSTON: No, because my goals weren’t to be a star. It’s still not. My goal was not to be famous.

    By the time I was 25, I started working exclusively as an actor. And I’m 58 now. And that’s all I’ve done since I was 25 years old. And that’s my proudest moment is that I can say that I’m a working actor. I make my living as an actor. And that’s it. Now whatever happens, happens.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: A march into a bright future. Or a retreat into a dark past.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What happens next for Bryan Cranston? Well, “All the Way” runs through the end of June. He’s writing a memoir, due out next year. And he plays a scientist in the new movie “Godzilla.” That opens May 16.

    BRYAN CRANSTON AS LBJ: God bless you!

    The post ‘Breaking Bad’ star Bryan Cranston steps into LBJ’s shoes on Broadway appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by the University of Denver

    Environmentalists are worried that new plans by the Australian government may soon endanger the welfare of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo by the University of Denver

    Two days after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, suggested in a report that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef be listed as a “World Heritage in Danger” site, UNESCO has backed away from its suggestion, allowing the Australian government a year’s time to accelerate protection of the reef. The decision by UNESCO to back off its initial suggestion of listing the reef as “in danger” comes just days after its public condemnation of the Australian government’s plans to dump massive amounts of mud and rock in the area during ongoing work to expand a major coal port.

    Already in danger from rising sea temperatures, water pollution and coastal development, the reef has lost more than half its coral cover over the past thirty years. Some worry that the decision in January by the government agency overseeing the reef to allow the dumping of as much as three million cubic meters of dredged up seafloor material at the site of the reef might further endanger the reef. The dredged up material is the result of an expansion to the nearby Abbot Point, a coal port in the state of Queensland that sits adjacent to the reef.

    Proponents of the coal port expansion dismiss the environmental concerns, stating that while the dredged material would be dumped within the world heritage area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it would be dumped on a sandy seabed about 25 miles away from the nearest offshore reef. They also point to the economic potential of expanding Abbot Point, saying that by establishing one of the world’s largest coal ports in Australia, they will be securing as much as $26 billion in coal-developing projects.

    Environmentalists, however, are less enthused. They are worried that the dredge spoil will be fine sentiment that, despite being dumped some 25 miles away, will hang in the water and be carried by the currents to the reef.

    UNESCO said the dumping of sludge was approved without investigation into less–damaging dumping methods. “This is of particular concern given evidence suggesting that the inshore reefs in the southern two-thirds of the property are not recovering from disturbances over the past few decades,” UNESCO said in the report. Successive reports from scientific groups like the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have warned of mounting damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

    The reef, which straddles the country’s northeast coast, is a huge tourism draw; its network of about 3,000 reefs and 900 coral islands generates millions of tourists and an estimated $5.4 billion each year from tourism and recreation. It hosts 400 varieties of coral, 1,500 types of fish, rare snub-fin dolphins and a number of turtle species threatened with extinction. It is also the only living organism visible from outer space.

    The post Despite UNESCO concerns, UN gives Australia one year to increase protections for Great Barrier Reef appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Ukraine launched a major military operation today against pro-Russian separatists in the east. Their target was Slavyansk, and Ukraine’s president reported many insurgents were killed or wounded, but not without cost.

    James Mates of Independent Television News is there. He filed this report.

    JAMES MATES: Helicopters in the dawn sky above the city of Slavyansk, the start of the biggest Ukrainian offensive since this crisis again.

    But it was a bad start, the flash in this video one of their aircraft being hit. The camera tracked it until it crashed. Pro-Russian fighters cheered as they watched it fall. The ease with which they hit two helicopters and this bit of footage suggest some sophisticated weaponry is being used, possibly supplied from across the border.

    The Ukrainian offensive appears to have stalled on the outskirts of the city. We found troops taking up positions on the routes in and out of Slavyansk, with no sign they’re about to move further. This is just one part of the ring that Ukrainian forces have now thrown up around the town of Slavyansk.

    Where once there was a pro-Russian roadblock, they have taken it over, set up their own. There are armored personnel carriers stationed up the road there with dozens of troops, but confronting them here, angry villagers, furious about what happened this morning. They are the soldiers of their own army and yet these people see them as invaders come to occupy.

    “I’m standing here to stop Ukrainian troops getting into Slavyansk,” this woman told me.

    At another checkpoint nearby, they went further, trying physically to block the path of armored vehicles, repeated volleys of shots fired over their heads doing very little to deter them. If they do try to move into the central Slavyansk, dozens, possibly hundreds of well-organized defenders are there to meet them.

    They have captured armored vehicles and some are very professional-looking troops. In a city still full of civilians, it would get very ugly. As the world watched the east of Ukraine, the southern city of Odessa erupted in brutal fighting that has left four people dead so far.

    Here, pro-Ukrainians are not a minority and are fighting back fiercely. With reports of live ammunition being used and the police nowhere to be seen, it is starting to look perilously like the early stages of a civil conflict.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, there was word of 38 more deaths in Odessa in a building fire linked to the fighting.

    At least 350 people were killed today in a massive landslide in Afghanistan, and local officials said 2,000 others may be trapped. The U.N. mission in the country said the slide engulfed a village in the mountainous northeast. Reports from the area said about a third of the homes there were buried under the mud.

    In Syria, the government agreed to a cease-fire in a city once known as the capital of the revolution. Under the deal, hundreds of rebels could begin leaving Homs tomorrow. That would hand the regime a major victory. The city’s been under heavy attack for some weeks.

    About 200 people were injured today in South Korea when one subway train rammed another. It happened in Seoul, where some 4.5 million passengers ride the metro system each day. Officials said most of the injuries were minor. The wreck followed a ferry disaster that killed hundreds last month.

    President Obama says a botched execution in Oklahoma this week was deeply troubling. The condemned man went into convulsions after a lethal injection and ultimately died of a heart attack.

    Today, the president said he supports capital punishment, but he wants a broad review of its use.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have seen significant problems, racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty. And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied. And this situation in Oklahoma, I think, just highlights some of the significant problems there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Attorney General Eric Holder will carry out the review.

    On Wall Street today, the violence in Ukraine weighed on investors. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 46 points to close below 16,513. The Nasdaq fell three points to finish under 4,124. And the S&P 500 was down two at 1,881. For the week, all three indexes gained about 1 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Massive landslide engulfs village in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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