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

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    Construction Of New Homes Rise In March, But Less Than Expected

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: If you saw only the headlines that came out of today’s jobs report, it looked very strong. The Labor Department reported employers added 288,000 jobs in April, a good deal more than economists were expecting. And the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, down from 6.7 percent in March, and that’s a five-and-a-half year low.

    But the picture is more complicated, as our NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

    It’s part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The jobs picture brightened last month, employers reporting they added positions at the headiest pace in more than two years, and hiring picked up in a wide swathe of sectors, led by professional and business services, retail and construction.

    What’s more, 36,000 more jobs were added in February and March than previously reported. And then there’s the drop in the official unemployment rate, which comes from surveying households. It was impressive, although driven, it seems, by a sharp decline in the labor force, more than 800,000 fewer people working or looking for work last month.

    Gerald Chertavian is CEO of the jobs program Year Up.

    GERALD CHERTAVIAN, Founder and CEO, Year Up: I think the jobs report today is moving in the right direction. Clearly, adding the number of jobs we have added is positive, although, in terms of folks leaving the work force and not looking for a job, if those folks come back into the market and we continue to show declining unemployment, that’s what this country needs to do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Chertavian runs Year Up, a national one-year soft and hard skills job training program for young inner-city adults, whose official unemployment rate is almost double that of the nation as a whole.

    Last month, over 12 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds not in school and looking for work were unemployed. For those with no more than a high school degree, the rate was higher, 16.1 percent in April, for black young adults, a key Year Up demographic, 23.3 percent.

    GERALD CHERTAVIAN: We have a significant problem for young adults, especially urban young adults. And we know that if they’re not engaged in labor markets, soon in those early years, it has a long-term effect in their earning capacity.

    SHAQUILLA BOYCE: I sat jobless for two-and-a-half years before I decided, OK, something has to give.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At Year Up, the likes of 21-year-old Shaquilla Boyce spend six months being trained, then get internships in a job market that previously shunned them.

    How hard did you try to get a job?

    SHAQUILLA BOYCE: I think I went on probably over 40 interviews. It’s the, you only have a high school diploma, from this area, you know we’re looking for someone who has a degree or is in college.

    So, no one was willing to say, I will take that chance on you.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fellow participant Daniel Alexandre says that, lacking confidence, connections, money, most of his friends don’t see the point of prepping for the job market. And that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    DANIEL ALEXANDRE: If I were a company, I wouldn’t go to that individual because I don’t see potential there. You know they have dropped out, they have given up on themselves, so why should I believe in them?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Gerald Chertavian’s Year Up is trying to change that.

    GERALD CHERTAVIAN: We have to help employers to look beyond the educational discrimination associated with need not apply if you don’t have a four-year degree.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It’s obviously an immense challenge. In April, hundreds of thousands of young people who never went to college were still out there looking for work. And hundreds of thousands more didn’t even think it was worth it.

    The post Good news in jobs report bolstered by shrinking workforce appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Barack Obama and Angela Merkel on Ukraine

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama and Germany’s chancellor Merkel met at the White House today, where the Ukraine crisis took center stage after Russia declared the recent Geneva agreement brokered with the West to defuse tensions was dead.

    Jeffrey Brown reports.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are united in our determination to impose costs on Russia for its actions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the White House Rose Garden this afternoon, there were strong words for Moscow. The president warned more severe economic penalties are coming, unless Russian leader Vladimir Putin backs off.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our hope is, is that we shouldn’t have to use them. We’re not interested in punishing the Russian people. We do think that Mr. Putin and his leadership circle are taking bad decisions and unnecessary decisions, and he needs to be dissuaded from his current course.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The president said there will be no choice but to act if Russia disrupts Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25.

    Chancellor Merkel agreed.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): The 25th of May is not all that far away. Should it not be possible to stabilize the situation, further sanctions will be unavoidable. This is something that we don’t want. We have made an offer for a diplomatic solution. So it’s very much up to the Russians which road we will embark on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Earlier, though, a spokesman for President Putin declared that Ukraine’s military actions today have nullified last month’s agreement aimed at defusing the crisis.

    DMITRY PESKOV, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin (through interpreter): At present, we can regrettably say that those actions by the Kiev authorities cancel out all Geneva agreements. We appeal to the European capitals, to the United States of America to give appropriate assessment of what is happening.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Russia also called an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, where Ukraine’s ambassador sharply disputed Moscow’s claims.

    OLEKSANDR PAVLICHENKO, Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Ukraine: We reject all attempts of Russia to blame the government of Ukraine for allegedly failing to implement the agreements. And we state that, despite numerous calls of the international community, the Russian Federation has taken no efforts to de-escalate the situation and implement Geneva agreement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, in a Washington speech, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pressed NATO allies to increase military spending in response to Russia’s actions.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: We must not squander this opportunity or shrink from this challenge. We will be judged harshly by history and by future generations if we do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hagel said the events in Ukraine have — quote — “shattered the myth” that the end of the Cold War brought permanent security to Europe.

    And we assess where things stand with Richard Burt, former U.S. ambassador to Germany. He’s now managing director at the consulting firm McLarty Associates. And David Kramer is president of Freedom House.

    Well, David Kramer, let me start with you.

    Given today’s military actions, how serious is the situation right now and how likely is it to escalate?

    DAVID KRAMER, Former State Department Official: Every day, it gets more serious and every day it runs the risk of escalating into a full-blown war.

    The Ukrainian authorities have a right and responsibility to restore control of their territory. These cities in Eastern Ukraine are part of the Ukrainian territory, as is Crimea, which has been sadly forgotten in this whole narrative.

    This has been stirred up by Putin and the Russian government. They’re trying to destabilize Ukraine. They’re trying to keep it from holding elections, which will be three weeks from this Sunday. And they’re doing everything they can to try to make Ukraine as unattractive and unappealing to the West. And the West needs to do a better job, in my view, of imposing very tough, hard-hitting sanctions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, first, let me ask you — first, let me get Richard Burt on this situation right now.

    Is it that clear-cut to you?

    RICHARD BURT, Former State Department Official: Well, I think David is absolutely right that it is becoming increasingly precarious.

    It looks, as one of your early setup pieces said, that we may be on the edge of a civil war. And I think David is also right that the Russians are promoting this instability that is growing there in order to create problems for the Kiev regime and the presidential elections on May 25.

    The real question of course is how do we respond to this and whether or not we, the Kiev regime or even the Russians can actually begin to try to put the genie back in the bottle, because there do seem to be some forces at work here. They’re on the verge of becoming out of control.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, we saw — let me stay with you for a moment, because we saw Chancellor Merkel with the president today. Is the U.S. and Europe on the same page? What explains the differences here so in terms of the response?

    RICHARD BURT: Well, I think, until recently, Jeffrey, there was kind of a quiet agreement amongst the United States and the Europeans that they would be prepared to enact these so-called sectoral sanctions, these broad-based, comprehensive sanctions of the sort that we have taken against the Iranians, for example, if and when the Russian forces cross the border into Eastern Ukraine.

    What I heard today was a different kind of message. I think what we heard from both President Obama and, importantly, Chancellor Merkel was a willingness to think about broad-based sanctions, short of actual overt military intervention, but just greater instability and greater Russian activities behind the scenes to sow that instability, not giving the Kiev government an opportunity to have those elections and to begin to pull the country together.

    JEFFREY BROWN: David Kramer, what did you hear today and what do you want between the U.S. and Europe in terms of a response?

    DAVID KRAMER: The president and Chancellor Merkel did seem to be more or less on the same page, but the concern I have is the Germans and Americans and the rest of the West are too reactive.

    We are not being proactive trying to prevent and preempt further Russian aggression. We have already seen it. Russian forces are in Eastern Ukraine, where they have already taking over Crimea. The concern is too high, I think, for setting the bar for Russian tanks and forces to cross the border. They have already infiltrated the territory. The helicopters that were shot down today by the separatists, by the militants were from surface-the-air missiles, which only Russia could have provided.

    So there’s no question Russia is causing enormous problems in the region. And I think the West needs to be much more aggressive and proactive. Easy for the United States to do it, because we have not even one-tenth of the trade that the E.U. has with Russia. So, the U.S. needs to take a leadership position, and I think the E.U. won’t have much choice but to follow.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Richard, but what about that, then, because could the U.S. go further alone?

    RICHARD BURT: No, I don’t think we could.

    The — so far, I think the administration has tried to take a small lead with the hope that the Europeans will follow. And we have seen that with the modest sanctions that have been enacted. I think that any unilateral U.S. sanctions now would be a big mistake, because, just as David said, we’re not going to have that big an impact on Putin’s decision-making.

    It’s going to take the large European E.U. members, Germany, Italy, Britain, France and others, who have a much larger investment in Russia, to really persuade the Russians that they need to think again. And so we have to stay in synch. If we don’t have a package of multilateral sanctions, it won’t work.

    The multilateral sanctions against Iran brought the Iranians to the negotiating table on nuclearization. Multilateral sanctions helped end the apartheid regime in South Africa. Our unilateral sanctions, for example, against Cuba for many decades have not produced the change we have wanted to see. So we have to stay in step with our allies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, David Kramer, what exactly do you think the U.S. should do? And what can it do to pull along the allies? Why do you think the allies would come along?

    DAVID KRAMER: Well, we’re making a mistake, in my view. And here, I disagree with Rick, that we’re holding out for unity between us and the E.U. in order to move ahead.

    We have to take the lead. And there’s no comparison, obviously, between the Russian economy and the Cuban economy. Russia is very integrated into the global economy. It is very vulnerable and exposed to sanctions, including those just by the United States, particularly given the extraterritorial nature of U.S. sanctions. I think the Europeans will have little choice but to follow, but it’s going to take American leadership. And that’s what we need to see right now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we have time for a short response.

    RICHARD BURT: Well, you’re not going to get — if we take energy sanctions, for example, there are plenty of European energy companies that are already publicly saying they’re willing to step in and fill the vacuum.

    It’s true in the financial area. German banks, British banks, French banks would do the same. We need to get Mrs. Merkel and other European leaders on board. And I’m encouraged that some real progress was made today, but some U.S. leadership, but if we get too far out ahead of the Europeans, then we do Putin a favor, because then it becomes a European-American dispute, not a problem vis-a-vis Russia.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. All right, Richard Burt…

    DAVID KRAMER: It’s still about business as usual.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Richard Burt, David Kramer, thank you both very much.

    RICHARD BURT: Thanks.

    The post U.S. and Europeans unite to persuade Russia to back down ahead of Ukraine elections appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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     NIAID MERS-CoV Particles Transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles, colorized in yellow. Credit: NIAID

    NIAID MERS-CoV Particles Transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles, colorized in yellow. Credit: NIAID

    U.S. health officials have identified the first American infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS.

    According to the Associated Press, an Indiana man became sick and was hospitalized after returning to the U.S. a week ago from Saudi Arabia, where he works in health care.

    Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — as well as Indiana health professionals — are investigating the case.

    MERS belongs to the same virus family as the common cold and SARS. Around 400 people have contracted the illness in Saudi Arabia and more than 100 have died. The outbreak began there two years ago.

    Al Jazeera also reports that officials in Saudia Arabia have joined the World Health Organization in advising older people, children, and those suffering long-term disease to delay their annual Islamic Haj pilgrimage, which is usually held in October, due to the virus.

    MERS can spread from person to person, the AP reports, but officials say that happens only after close contact. And not everyone who is exposed to the virus gets sick.

    The post Officials confirm first MERS case in the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Nigerians rally for missing schoolgirls

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to an extended look at some developments on the African continent.

    We start with Nigeria, one of Africa’s most prosperous nations, where a wave of violence is casting a shadow over plans for a World Economic Forum there next week. Another bomb blast late Thursday killed 19 people in the country’s capital and outrage continues over the fate of more than 275 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

    Mannir Dan Ali is an editor at The Daily Trust newspaper in Abuja. I spoke to him by phone a short time ago.

    Mannir Dan Ali, thank you for talking with us.

    It’s been weeks since these schoolgirls were taken. There are reports that some of them have been forced to marry their abductors, that they have been taken across borders into other countries like Cameroon and Chad. Is any of this verified?

    MANNIR DAN ALI, Daily Trust: What is verified is that these girls were abducted nearly — I mean, more than two weeks ago, exactly on the 15th of last month.

    And, so far, nobody can say exactly where they are. Actually, to the parents of the girls who have been making desperate efforts to try to locate them, but the Nigerian authorities also say that they have been doing that. But at the end of a meeting today, the Nigerian authorities put out a statement saying that they are going to find these girls wherever they may be in the world, and that they will get them back and apprehend and punish the culprits.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the parents? What are they saying to the government and what are they doing?

    MANNIR DAN ALI: Well, actually, generally, Nigerians are quite dissatisfied with the handling of the whole matter.

    They can’t understand that it took more than two weeks for the government to even set up the committee which would (INAUDIBLE) until Tuesday next week to actually try to verify the actual number of the students because there have been conflicting figures.

    It started from 100-plus, then climbed to 200 to — and now the next tally which is from the police who have interacted with the principal of the school and parents is that more than 270 of the students were abducted from that school.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know that Nigeria — we think of Nigeria as a wealthy country with huge oil resources. It’s hard to understand from the outside why the government hasn’t been more successful going after Boko Haram or whoever is behind this.

    MANNIR DAN ALI: Actually, it is even harder for Nigerians to understand that.

    That’s why there have been all sorts of interpretations, also so curious what may be happening or not happening. And that’s why people are so distrustful of the authorities here over the matter. This is why they can’t understand that the Nigerian security forces, Nigerian armed forces that have gone and restored peace in Liberia, in (INAUDIBLE) and other African countries itself creditably well are just at a loss as how to deal with this abduction, and that it took actually the series of protests by concerned parents, by Nigerians that is making the government to actually sit up and take the whole matter more seriously now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, this meeting next week in Nigeria, the World Economic Forum, these are going to be political and business leaders from all over the world. Can the government guarantee their safety?

    MANNIR DAN ALI: Actually, the government has been saying come to that, look, come to Abuja and hold this meeting. There won’t be any problem. All sorts of measures have been taken.

    Actually, the latest measure one has just been announced hours ago, that all government offices and schools will be shut during the time that the World Economic Forum will be holding next week in Abuja.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mannir Dan Ali with The Daily Trust in Abuja, we thank you for talking with us.

    MANNIR DAN ALI: Thank you very much for the opportunity, Judy.

    The post Nigerians dissatisfied with government response to Boko Haram’s mass abduction of girls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Our final look at Africa brings us to the world’s youngest nation, where Secretary of State John Kerry traveled today, hoping to stop a brutal civil war that’s already killed thousands.

    Jeff is back with this report on South Sudan.

    And a warning: It contains some disturbing images.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was the secretary’s first official trip to South Sudan, and the mission was urgent: appealing to president Salva Kiir to end the four-month-old civil war.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: I told president Kiir that the choices that both he and the opposition face are stark and clear, and that the unspeakable human costs that we have seen over the course of the last months and which could even grow if they fail to sit down are unacceptable to the global community.

    JEFFREY BROWN: President Kiir announced he’s agreed to meet with rebel leader Riek Machar, his former vice president, in Ethiopia as early as next week. Kerry said a meeting between the leaders is — quote — “critical,” but U.S. officials say Machar made no commitment during a phone call.

    Fighting erupted in December after Kiir sacked his vice president for allegedly plotting a coup. In recent weeks, hundreds of civilians were slaughtered in the northern oil town of Bentiu, and more than one million people have fled their homes to escape the fighting.

    This week, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay blamed both sides.

    NAVI PILLAY, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: The country’s leaders, instead of seizing their chance to steer their impoverished and war-battered young nation to stability and greater prosperity, have instead embarked on a personal power struggle that has brought their people to the verge of catastrophe.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pillay also warned of famine, as many of those fleeing their homes are farmers, leaving their crops abandoned as the planting season begins.

    The International Rescue Committee lost two of its workers in recent weeks during the fighting. The group’s CEO is former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

    Well, welcome to you.

    Secretary Kerry has warned of violence that’s heading toward genocide. How serious do you see the situation being right now? 

    DAVID MILIBAND, CEO, International Rescue Committee: I think that all of our information — and we have got about 600 workers on the ground around South Sudan — all the information coming to the International Rescue Committee is that this is a dire situation in terms of the violence.

    And there is a very real threat that it will be compounded over the next few months by growing food shortages that already affect at least three million people. And so I think that the secretary’s words are very well-chosen and are an appropriate warning, because, after all, this is the newest nation in the world. And it threatens to become the bloodiest. And that should be a concern to all of us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so we’re hearing now about these diplomatic moves. How much leverage does the U.S. have and what are the chances of bringing the two sides, not only together, because they have been together in the past, but actually to some kind of reconciliation?

    DAVID MILIBAND: The U.S., alongside Norway and the U.K., were absolutely key in forging the original comprehensive peace agreement in 2006 that stopped the civil war in Sudan.

    And that paved the way for the referendum three years, nearly three years ago, that allowed South Sudan to get its independence. So the U.S., both the administration, successive administrations and Congress in a relatively united fashion has played an absolutely key role in South Sudan’s development up to now.

    So I think it’s important to recognize not just the stake that the United States and others have in South Sudan, but also some of the leverage. And I think you saw some of that with Secretary Kerry’s visit today.

    However, the depth of the divisions mustn’t be underestimated. The rebellion has taken significant parts of the armed forces. And the scale of the slaughter that has happened — I think you reported on the hundreds of people killed in Bentiu, which is the far north of the country, quite close to Juba, the capital, where we had our two workers slain — there were 60 people killed, over 260 injured inside a U.N. compound.

    And so I think it’s very important to say that there is a big hill to climb to get the fighting to stop, because the talks next week are not the first attempt to get it to stop, and so far they have not been successful.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what of the million or so people who have been displaced already? Where are they going and how much is anyone able to do for them at this point?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Just for the benefit of your viewers, there are about 10 million population in South Sudan. A million have been driven from their homes. Of that million, 300,000 have gone into neighboring countries, notably Uganda, Kenya. And 700,000 have been displaced within the country and are seeking refuge in a range of U.N. compounds.

    The U.N. compound in Bentiu, 25,000 civilians are taking refuge in that compound. Organizations like International Rescue Committee, we are the only NGO in Bor. We are one of two NGOs in Bentiu. And people are fearful of their lives and fearful of stepping out.

    And so you have got an enormous level of tension with armed gangs roaming around and in some cases storming the U.N. compound. That’s why there’s a big responsibility both on the government of South Sudan and on the rebel leader, a former vice president of the country, Mr. Machar.


    DAVID MILIBAND: And I do want — sorry.

    JEFFREY BROWN: No. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

    DAVID MILIBAND: I was just going to say that the threat of famine needs to be understood.

    The rains have come to South Sudan. That means growing numbers of people are cut off from access to food aid. And that’s why there are emergency preparations being made to drop food aid into the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s exactly what I — excuse me — that’s exactly what I wanted you to ask about, the potential for famine that you had raised.

    So how imminent is that, and what is being done or can be done to avoid it?

    DAVID MILIBAND: In the short term, you have got communities cut off by the rains. And so emergency response means essentially airborne drops to try and reach families in need.

    However, the fact of the fighting has stopped planting, so there hasn’t been proper planting of crops for the next cycle. And that means, come the end of the year, early next year, the threat is not just that 30 percent of the population are in food shortage. That’s the situation at the moment, and U.N. estimates are that over three million people are short of food.

    The danger is that, in the early part of next year, we could be facing a situation where the majority of the South Sudanese population, the majority of a population of 10 million, are desperately short of food. And that’s why the secretary has raised the point about famine. The conflict and the famine come together in a deadly combination.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee, thank you so much.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you.

    The post Warning of genocide, Kerry urges meeting between South Sudan rivals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, let’s go back to the lead story tonight, Mark, and that’s the jobs report — good news, 288,000 jobs created in April. The unemployment rate is down. What does that add up to, and does it make a difference politically somehow?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, first of all, it’s the 50th straight month of job creation, which is good news. There are 409,000 more jobs in the country than there were when this recession began. It took us the longest time to even return to that, some seven years, Judy.

    And it’s good news. There were 36,000 more jobs added than were first reported in February and March. So, in that sense, it’s good news. But there are underlying, continuing problems. I mean, 35 percent of the unemployed people have been out of work for more than six months.

    You have got the long — this is the highest percentage of long-term unemployed people in the history of recorded — record-keeping in this country. I mean, the last 75 years, it only reached 26 percent once, in the 1980s.

    So this is a real problem. You had — the other dark figure is they had 800,000 people dropping out of the job market. And that has to be a concern. So, hold the champagne, but it is encouraging news.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, half-full, half-empty?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Politically, it will take a couple of months like this and you can begin to feel some sense of confidence. And it would certainly help Democrats.

    The right track — the right track/wrong track number would begin to move if they had a couple — we haven’t had a couple months like this. We have had a few blips like this one, but maybe we’re building some momentum, especially since this one was so broad-based.

    Just as a policy matter, though, one of the things — Mark talks about the terrible drop in the labor force participation rate. I would love to see research into the psychological effects. I know it’s been out there. There’s a guy named Peck who did an “Atlantic Monthly” piece about a year.

    And what happens psychologically to people who are so far out? Paul’s piece had a little of this. You have got a gap in your resume, so that’s an obvious thing. But then there are psychological effects, loss of self-confidence, loss of skills, loss of just getting up in the morning, just feelings of, what am I doing here, isolation.

    So you have these devastating effects. How do we counteract those effects and what are the policy proposals to counteract those effects for what is now a pretty significant part of the population?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And — and Paul focused in — Solman — in his report, Mark, on inner-city and young people. But what the two of you are saying is that it’s pervasive throughout the economy.

    MARK SHIELDS: Oh, it is, and that sense of isolation from being out of work for a long time.

    Unfortunately, one of the first questions Americans ask each other when they meet is, what do you do? And when you don’t do something, it puts you immediately I think on the defensive and it does erode yourself self-confidence.

    DAVID BROOKS: One other issue that feeds into this, in South Dakota, drugs, meth, prescription drugs. The people have nothing to do. The drugs are just growing, almost rampant out there, all around the country, and so, it all feeds into problems that are not just urban, but are just spread throughout the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for any Democrats who are out there or for the White House hoping for some…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … news away from this, the midterm elections?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s good, Judy, in the sense that if you get two or three months like this in a row — there are essentially three factors that determine, in my judgment, what happens in a midterm election.

    And it’s the president’s job rating, which in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC poll this week was up from where it had been, not — he’s still at 44 percent approval, underwater. But David mentioned whether the country is headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track.


    MARK SHIELDS: And it’s 27 percent right direction, 63 percent wrong track. Those are depressing numbers for an incumbent party.

    And I really think that if you get two, three, four months in a row of good economic news, that could raise, start to change that number.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I ask because we’re just — next Tuesday launches officially the primary season. We start to see primaries in a number of states across the country.

    And right now, David, the conventional wisdom is Republicans hold on to the House and they have a decent shot at taking over the Senate.

    DAVID BROOKS: A 50/50 shot at the Senate.

    And for the primaries, the story is how many of the people we will respectfully call crackpots are going to get nominated.


    DAVID BROOKS: You have the sort of establishment Republicans and — I will be a little more respectful — some of the more Tea Party candidates, some of the political newcomers who are challenging them.

    And of course the story for the last couple of cycles has been that the establishment candidates have tended to lose. And you have some candidates who are unelectable win. And so how are those, the newcomers doing this time? And I think the general trend is they’re not doing as well, in part because the established candidates have moved right, defanged some of that.


    DAVID BROOKS: Second, because some of — they are getting much better at exposing some of the political weaknesses of the neophytes.

    They’re taking them very seriously. They’re attacking them for attending cockfighting fights or for being involved in scandals. And political newcomers make mistakes. And so there has been a lot more pressure on them.

    So it’s generally looking like it’s going to be a better year for some of the Republican establishment candidates.


    Democrats always hope that they will nominate the unelectable, the Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, the Richard Murdoch in Indiana, and to say nothing of the late, lamented Todd Akin in Missouri. Those were seats that — Sharron Angle in Nevada — those were seats that the Republicans should have won, could have won and would have won but for the flawed Republican nominees that made themselves the issue.

    And that is the hope of the Democrats. The problem for the Democrats is they’re defending seats in states that President Obama didn’t carry. And so it’s not enough just to reenergize the Obama coalition. You have got to reenergize the Obama coalition in those states, plus add to it, while holding on to those loyal the president, which makes the political job a little more difficult.

    The one saving grace, Judy, is the Republican brand is the worst it’s ever been. I mean, it’s really — in other words, people feel less fondly and positively towards the Republicans than at any time.

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s sort of a mystery, that one, though, because the Republican brand is really terrible.


    DAVID BROOKS: On the other hand, who do you want to control Congress, it’s at least even.

    MARK SHIELDS: It’s even.

    DAVID BROOKS: Maybe the Republicans have an advantage. So, we hate them, but we may want them.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one of the other things the Democrats are worried about, you have to believe right now, is the administration, the president’s standing on foreign policy.

    David, the president comes back from his trip to Asia greeted by yet another poll showing a lot of disapproval of his handling of the economy overall and other issues, but foreign policy, and criticism from everywhere. We were going to show the cover of the latest issue of “The Economist” magazine. “What Would America Fight For?”

    The questions are coming from the right. They’re also coming from the left. Is this kind of criticism deserved on the part…

    DAVID BROOKS: I think halfway.

    I do think there’s a fraying of the international order. We have an order that the nation are basically sacred. National borders, you don’t invade them. We have an order that there’s free trade, free movement of people. There are sort of procedures that you organize international affairs about. And we have sort of taken that for granted in the post-war world and post-Cold War world.

    And I do think it’s fragmenting. And when it’s fragmenting, some of the wolves out there are grabbing. And so Putin is grabbing Ukraine, grabbing Crimea. The Chinese are much more aggressive in the maritime waters. Iran is much more hegemonic in the Middle East.

    And so you’re beginning to see the rise of regional powers. And we have not seen that. And the rise of regional powers would just be a disaster for us long-term. And so reestablishing and reasserting that international order is the job of the United States.

    And has been Obama derelict about that? I would say, in some ways, he’s been non-effective. He let the red lines cross in Syria. He hasn’t imposed serious sanctions on Putin. But it’s a much broader problem. The Republicans have definitely not helped by refusing to ratify any treaty, including some of the IMF stuff. They have let the fabric go.

    And then the American public wants to withdraw, wants to pull inside. So, the U.S. is playing a less assertive role. And that fabric of procedures is fraying. And that’s really bad.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the president himself, Mark, held a news conference overseas in the last few days and talked about the criticism and said, what do they want me to do? You know, we have been in these wars and are they saying, we should do more? And they say no. Well, what should we do?


    You saw the president’s traditional and classic cool pierced. He was upset, I think, and I think with some legitimacy, Judy. The fact is that we’re operating in a reality of the last decade of this country, in the sense that the majority of Americans believing that we were deceived and misled into war in Iraq, that whatever one calls our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, they will not be seen as successes.

    And they are not viewed that way, and, at the same time, an American people who were essentially spared any involvement in that war, any of those wars, who have just really sort of soured on American involvement in the world.

    I give the president credit, quite frankly, because he’s dealing in — not only in this situation, but the sanctions that David talks about are being opposed openly by many American companies right now, I mean, caterpillar and at others. Boeing is terrified — they have got 100 plane contracts — that Airbus could move in into Russia and take that, if, in fact, you didn’t have a coalition with all the European countries moving at the same time.

    And I think that’s the only way sanctions are going to make a difference. I would say David’s portrayal of the world is a little dark. I think Putin is the real outlaw. I mean, there’s no question the Chinese on the islands and the Middle East is sui generis.

    But as far as the rest of the world order, the 195 nations, Putin is sort of, I think, the real outlier.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, I guess I disagree with that.

    I think some of the failure of the Japan trade deal, that’s part of a fraying. Some of the restrictions on the movement of people — we have sort of got a problem though of a death by 1,000 cuts, that there’s no individual case where we should get really exercised. Like, we’re not going to commit troops to Ukraine. We’re not going to do anything crazy about Iran.

    We’re probably not going to declare any sort of moral war on China. So it’s all these discrete problems, none of which individually merits this gigantic response, but collectively they can really do some damage. And so that’s sort of the problem we’re in.

    I agree with Mark about the hangover from Iraq and Afghanistan. But I think Obama is going to do this, give some speeches where he says, OK, that’s not my foreign policy, but I am going to have an assertive foreign policy.

    MARK SHIELDS: And I would say, if there’s been a failure of the president, who is just a great public speaker, it’s been to spell out what America’s mission is and what our interests are.

    But I really do think, Judy, that the reality is there is not the will to go to war in this country right now. And those people who talk about it are doing so recklessly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you both.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

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    Nigerians march on during a May 1st demonstration to demand government to rescue schoolgirls abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants two weeks ago, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Getty Images

    Nigerians march on during a May 1st demonstration to demand government to rescue schoolgirls abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants two weeks ago, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Getty Images

    As the number of girls confirmed abducted in an attack on a Nigerian high school last month continues to rise, an increasingly furious public is hoping to spark enough international outrage to ensure the students’ safe return.

    Nearly three weeks ago, gunmen stormed a boarding school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok, seizing hundreds of girls. Initial reports estimated the number kidnapped at under 100, but police on Thursday raised that figure to 276.

    Some witnesses have reported that the students had been taken out of the country, to neighboring Chad and Cameroon, and that some had been sold into marriage with their captors for nominal sums.

    The radical Islamist group Boko Haram is believed to be behind the mass kidnapping, although they have not officially claimed responsibility.

    Protesters gathered across the country this week to express outrage at what they see as an ineffective military response.

    “If this abduction…happened anywhere else in the world, the nation would be at a standstill,” one protest leader said.

    Some families have given up on the government altogether, mounting their own searches into the Sambisa Forest, the dense woods believed to be Boko Haram’s base.

    But others are hoping that international attention will spark a renewed effort on the part of the Nigerian government, which is under increased pressure to crack down on insurgents in advance of next week’s World Economic Forum on Africa, to take place in the capital city of Abuja.

    Protesters have also taken to social media, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to draw wider attention to their plight.

    “Why can’t the government invite other countries to help?” said Dumona Mpur, a school official. “If the world can search for a missing [airplane], why can’t the president ask them to help look for these children?”

    This attack seems to represent an escalation in tactics for Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly bombings this year. The group, whose name translates to “Western education is sinful,” has targeted schools in the past, but spared female students from direct violence – until now.

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    Saturday marks the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is a one-and-a-quarter mile stakes race in which three-year-old thoroughbred horses compete and has been held annually since 1875. The race is the first leg of what is known as the U.S. Triple Crown alongside the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

    Here is a look at the Derby over the years:

    A 1901 composite image of Churchhill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held each year.

    A 1901 composite image of Churchhill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held each year.

    Racehorse Zev wins the 1923 Kentucky Derby with Martingale second and Vigil third.  Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

    Racehorse Zev wins the 1923 Kentucky Derby with Martingale second and Vigil third. Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

    Horses leave the starting gate at the 1939 Kentucky Derby. From left are: T.M. Dorsett (10); Challedon (9); Technician (8); Johnstown (6); On Location (5); Viscounty (4); Heather Broom (3) and El Chico (2).  Photo by Charles Hoff/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

    Horses leave the starting gate at the 1939 Kentucky Derby. From left are: T.M. Dorsett (10); Challedon (9); Technician (8); Johnstown (6); On Location (5); Viscounty (4); Heather Broom (3) and El Chico (2). Photo by Charles Hoff/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

    Officials tallying bets made on the 1945 Kentucky Derby. (Photo by Ed Clark//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

    Officials tallying bets made on the 1945 Kentucky Derby. $184.6 million was wagered on the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Ed Clark/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Trainer Meshach Tenny bedding down with his horse Swaps during the days prior to the 1955 Kentucky Derby. Photo by John Dominis//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Trainer Meshach Tenny bedding down with his horse Swaps during the days prior to the 1955 Kentucky Derby. Photo by John Dominis//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Ron Turcotte in action aboard Secretariat during the 1973 Kentucky Derby.  Secretariat won the Derby and set a speed record that stands to this day. Secretariat would go on to become the ninth horse to win the Triple Crown and the first  in 25 years. Photo by Jerry Cooke/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

    Ron Turcotte in action aboard Secretariat during the 1973 Kentucky Derby. Secretariat won the Derby and set a speed records that stands to this day. Secretariat would go on to become the ninth horse to win the Triple Crown and the first in 25 years. Photo by Jerry Cooke/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

    Jockey Steve Cauthen rode Affirmed to a 1978 Kentucky Derby victory. Affirmed is the last racehorse to win the Triple Crown. Photo by Jerry Cooke/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

    Jockey Steve Cauthen rode Affirmed to a 1978 Kentucky Derby victory. Affirmed is the last racehorse to win the Triple Crown. Photo by Jerry Cooke/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

    Race horse Thunder Gulch poses for pictures as he stands in the winner''s circle following his victory in the 1995 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Getty Images

    Race horse Thunder Gulch poses for pictures as he stands in the winner’s circle following his victory in the 1995 Kentucky Derby. Since 1883, a blanket of 554 red roses has been awarded to the winning horse each year. Photo by Getty Images

    Owner D. Wayne Lukas holds the winning trophy after his horse, Thunder Gulch, won the 1995 Kentucky Derby. Lukas's horses have won the Kentucky Derby four times. Photo by Doug Pensinger

    Owner D. Wayne Lukas holds the winning trophy after his horse, Thunder Gulch, won the 1995 Kentucky Derby. Lukas’s horses have won the Kentucky Derby four times. Photo by Doug Pensinger

    Jockey Chris Antley, on the right, aboard Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, crosses the finish line with his finger pointing number one to second place finisher Menifee and jockey Pat Day at the 1999 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Michelle Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images

    Jockey Chris Antley, on the right, aboard Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, crosses the finish line with his finger pointing number one to second place finisher Menifee and jockey Pat Day at the 1999 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Michelle Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images

    An interior view of Churchhill Downs during the running of the 2006 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Flickr user Richard Hurt

    An interior view of Churchhill Downs during the running of the 2006 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Flickr user Richard Hurt

    The entrance to Churchhill Downs, the site of the annual Kentucky Derby, as seen in 2008.  Photo by Wikimedia user Jainrajat11

    The entrance to Churchhill Downs, the site of the annual Kentucky Derby, as seen in 2008. Photo by Wikimedia user Jainrajat11

    An observer drinks a mint julep during the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2011.  Each year, around 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs over a two-day period.(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) The mint julep has been promoted by Churchill Downs in association with the Kentucky Derby since 1938. Each year almost 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, virtually all of them in specially made Kentucky Derby collectible glasses.[7]

    An observer drinks a mint julep during the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2011. Each year, around 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs over a two-day period. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

    Jockey Gary Stevens looks on after a race prior to the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013. Stevens, a jockey since 1979, originally retired in 2005 and came out of retirement in 2013. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Jockey Gary Stevens looks on after a race prior to the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013. Stevens, a jockey since 1979, originally retired in 2005 and came out of retirement in 2013. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The field races down the front stretch during the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The field races down the front stretch during the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Kentucky Derby contender California Chrome works during early morning workouts at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2014. California Chrome is a 5-2 odds favorite to win the 2014 Derby. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Kentucky Derby contender California Chrome works during early morning workouts at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2014. California Chrome is a 5-2 odds favorite to win the 2014 Derby. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we travel now to Senegal, considered one of West Africa’s rising nations, home to a stable democracy with plans for universal health care and education, but where a troubling human rights crisis persists.

    Kira Kay of the Bureau for International Reporting has the story.

    KIRA KAY: In a sandy courtyard in the city of Saint-Louis, a group of young boys begin their evening prayer studies. They are talibes, meaning students, and they have come 200 miles from their home villages to live with this Koranic master, called a marabout.

    But their studies have only come at the end of a long, hard day’s work begging on the streets. You see Senegal’s talibes weaving in and out of traffic with their little yellow tubs or rusty cans. It’s dangerous, dirty work, up to 10 hours a day. Along with morsels of food, they are hoping for money. They owe their marabout a quota of about a dollar a day.

    Begging is used to teach talibes humility and resilience. But this marabout admits it’s also a matter of simple economics.

    ALIOUNE SECK, Koranic Teacher (through interpreter): You have to buy these books, medicine, water, electricity, everything you need in life. And the government doesn’t give it to us. That’s why they beg.

    KIRA KAY: Talibe aid worker Issa Kouyate says what he sees is more sinister.

    ISSA KOUYATE, Maison de la Gare: The society knows that these marabouts treat these boys like slavery. The government knows these marabouts treat these boys like slavery. Most of the marabouts abuse these boys.

    KIRA KAY: The talibe system is unique to West Africa, and is rooted in centuries-old tradition, says Imam Mouhamed Cherif Diop.

    MOUHAMED CHERIF DIOP, Coordinator, Tostan (through interpreter): It is assumed that I am not capable of giving my children their necessary education because of my affection, that I will tolerate things that I shouldn’t. And so we have entrusted our children to the marabouts, who live in another village, to create this distance to permit a good education.

    KIRA KAY: But Diop agrees the system, so valued in this 95 percent Muslim country, is now being exploited, with at least 50,000 young boys, mostly from poor families, forced to beg.

    MOUHAMED CHERIF DIOP (through interpreter): It’s a staggering number, a huge number who are begging. And they have moved to the big cities, because marabouts who want to use begging as a source of revenue know that’s where you will find the most donors.

    KIRA KAY: Some of these boys left home so young, they don’t remember where they came from. They sleep on cement or dirt floors, dozens to a room. And for boys who don’t make their daily quota, the punishment can be brutal.

    Social worker Abdou Fode Sow is caring for an 11-year-old whose marabout beat him with a shred tire.

    Abdou Fode Sow, Intermondes (through interpreter): With those strips, the boy was hit until he bled. And each time that he came back without money from begging, he was hit again, even though his injuries hadn’t yet healed.

    KIRA KAY: This talibe, named Arouna, told me he has been beaten more times than he can count. He became a talibe when he was only nine. Now 17, he resents the years he’s been kept a virtual captive by his marabout.

    AROUNA KANDE (through interpreter): They called me to tell me my mother had died. I wanted to go home, but my marabout said, no. Then my father died, and again he refused to let me leave. I still have three sisters at home, and if I can get money to buy phone credit, sometimes, I will call them.

    KIRA KAY: I met Arouna at Maison de la Gare, a rare safe haven for boys like him. Here, they can wash their clothes, take a shower, get medical attention, and otherwise take a break from their rough lives. And, for that moment, those street-hardened boys briefly become the children they should be.

    The center is run by Issa Kouyate. He offers local marabouts incentives like a new roof or some sleeping mats in exchange for allowing the boys to visit his center in between their begging rounds. But despite years of this work, Kouyate still finds conditions that shock him, like this school, just feet from the town’s reeking garbage dump.

    ISSA KOUYATE: It’s really difficult for me to just understand why he’s just living here. I don’t know the words how to explain this. It’s just like people who are living here are just rubbish.

    KIRA KAY: Kouyate notices a boy from the center scratching from lice, despite the clean clothes Kouyate gave him three days before. He tries to convince the marabout to move the school before the rainy season floods it with garbage.

    But Kouyate admits it will take much larger forces to end the talibe begging system. A year ago, a candle tipped over in a Koranic school in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. Eight boys died in the fire. You can still see their begging bowls in the rubble.

    Matthew Wells of Human Rights Watch says this tragedy should have been a turning point.

    MATTHEW WELLS, Researcher, Human Rights Watch: In the aftermath of the fire, the president of the country and a bunch of other leaders, they came and they said, this can’t happen again. We have to take action to stop this type of abuse.

    KIRA KAY: And what’s stopping the government from taking that action?

    MATTHEW WELLS: I think, up to now, there’s been a — really a lack of courage. I don’t think there’s a better word. There’s a lack of courage from the government to follow through. It’s been thought of as too sensitive, too complicated. And so every time it starts to act, there’s a certain group of Koranic teachers who react and say, the government’s attacking Islam. It’s attacking religious education.

    But there are also lots of religious leaders who spoke up after this event and said, it’s time for the government to take action. So I think, really, religious allies are there to support the government and now it needs to follow through and take action.

    AMINATA TOURE, Prime Minister, Senegal: That is true, that we have to — we can accelerate things, but at the same time, you have to handle things in such a way that they don’t backfire on you.

    KIRA KAY: Aminata Toure is the prime minister of Senegal.

    The estimates are that there are still 10,000 kids begging just here on the streets of Dakar alone.

    AMINATA TOURE: What would we do? Just take all the 10,000 kids, send them back to their families? They would come back one week later. You have to understand that you’re talking to the deep and the core believing of people.

    One of the policies that we’re trying to implement is to come up with the idea of upgrading the Koranic schools, giving them a curriculum where we would mix Koranic teaching with modern teaching, with math and French, and try to give training to the teachers.

    KIRA KAY: This school is considered a model. Besides Koranic studies, it offers regular academics, with the goal of advancing its students to high school. The school includes girls, not just boys. And, best of all, these students don’t beg. Their parents pay a monthly boarding fee. The fees from the richer kids supplement those of the poorer.

    This pilot program is overseen by Mamadou Basse from the Ministry Of education.

    MAMADOU BASSE, Ministry of Education, Senegal (through interpreter): When we visit a school, we look first at the physical condition: Is it clean, does it have proper bathrooms, do the children have access to medical care?

    And then we look at the marabout: Do they meet the necessary requirements to teach? All the schools that fail to comply with the new laws will be completely closed. The schools that do not practice begging will be promoted by the government.

    KIRA KAY: But Basse has only eight staff and two vehicles to inspect the tens of thousands of Koranic schools in the country. Basse is now waiting for a new law to be passed that could give his department more of the support it needs.

    Meanwhile, it has fallen to religious leaders like Imam Diop to sway local attitudes. He has partnered with the grassroots group Tostan to bring a message directly to parents and community leaders: that child abuse is un-Islamic, no matter where it takes place.

    MOUHAMED CHERIF DIOP (through interpreter): The Koran is here to help people. It is a good thing for everyone who studies it. But to study it, must I live in bad conditions and wear rags? No. I should live in conditions as noble as the Koran is for a Muslim.

    KIRA KAY: And he’s going door to door, convincing marabouts to endorse and join the government’s modernization program.

    MOUHAMED CHERIF DIOP (through interpreter): If the state wants change, but the community refuses, it won’t work. If the community wants it, but the state doesn’t follow, that also won’t work. We have to combine the efforts of both the community and the institutions.

    KIRA KAY: Back in Saint-Louis, another glimmer of hope. With the help of the talibe center, Arouna is now attending a regular school a few hours a day. He wants to become a history or geography teacher, one boy perhaps rescued from a life on the streets, and a role model for more to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This report was produced in collaboration with students from New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute. You can visit our Web site to watch another story from the project, on Senegal’s promising gender parity law.

    The post In Senegal, thousands of young boys forced into begging system for Koranic study appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FARSHAD USYAN/AFP/Getty Images

    Rescuers in Afghanistan look for survivors on Saturday after a landslide on May 3 buried a village under nearly 100 meters of mud in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. Credit: Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images

    Officials in Afghanistan have largely given up hope for uncovering more survivors from a landslide that hit northern Afghanistan on Friday, leaving more than 2,000 people dead.

    According to Mohammad Aslam Seyas, the deputy director of Natural Disaster Management, the rescue mission was losing steam under fears that the unstable hillside could trigger a new landslide.

    The landslide struck at 11 a.m. on a hillside in Badakshan province, which borders Tajikistan. Heavy rain in the last week and the spring snow melt created dangerous conditions that had already resulted in 100 deaths before the incident.

    At the time the mountainside gave way, villagers were in the midst of recovering belongings that had been effected by a smaller landslip earlier that morning. The area has been hit by several landslides in recent years.

    More than 4,000 have been displaced by Friday’s disaster, some as a direct result of the landslide and others out of precaution. There are 350 confirmed deaths so far, but estimates indicate the final death toll could be as high as 2,700 people, with the uncertainty due to the fact that no one is quite sure how many people were home and on the mountain at the time.

    It’s estimated that 300 homes were wiped out.

    Rain over the last week has damaged roads making it difficult to access the area. Rescue teams from Afghanistan’s military flew into the affected region on Saturday.

    While rescuers continued to dig through about 100 meters of mud which could have buried potential survivors, authorities have said its unlikely they will find more survivors.

    “That will be their cemetery,” said Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of Afghanistan’s two vice presidents, after visiting the scene on Saturday. “It is not possible to bring out any bodies.”

    The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is on the ground to help the victims, many of whom are now homeless. According to spokesperson Ari Gaitanis, their needs include water, medicine, food and emergency shelter.

    NATO troops are ready to provide assistance, but the government has not made any requests.

    President Obama said Saturday that American forces were also on standby to help in response efforts.

    “Just as the United States has stood with the people of Afghanistan through a difficult decade, we stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster, for even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure,” he said.

    The post Officials losing hope in Afghanistan landslide rescue mission appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Credit:AFP/Getty Images

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met students involved with the Young African Leaders Initiative in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Saturday shortly before speaking at a conference about U.S. policy in Africa. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — America’s top diplomat said Saturday the U.S. is ready to help increase its ties with Africa, but nations across the continent need to take stronger steps to ensure security and democracy for its people.

    In an Africa policy address to members of the Addis Ababa diplomatic corps and the Young Africa leader network, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted crises in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic and urged Africans to demand stability and financial development.

    He called for an expansion of American investment in Africa and noted that U.S. companies IBM, Microsoft and Google already have spent more than $100 million on projects across the continent.

    “So this is clearly a moment of opportunity for all Africans,” Kerry told about 100 Ethiopians at an environmentally-friendly auditorium on a mountaintop. “It is also a moment of decision.”

    The Obama administration has sought to expand U.S. private investments in Africa, and last year financed about $1 billion to support American businesses across the continent, including an estimated $650 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp., described Africa as the world’s next front for development, largely in part because of a huge rise in the continent’s middle class. She said the number of African households with disposable income will double over the next decade.

    Africa has the natural resources, capacity and the know-how for economic development, Kerry said, adding that the U.S. is the continent’s “natural partner.”

    He said that over the next three years, 37 of the 54 African nations will hold national elections with millions of voters going to the polls. And he called on Africans to combat the political corruption that the African Union says has cost the people of Africa tens of billions of dollars.

    “That money could build new schools and hospitals, new roads and bridges, new pipes and power lines. That’s why it’s a responsibility for citizens in Africa and in all nations to demand that public money is providing services for all, not lining the pockets of a few,” Kerry told the gathering.

    Combating corruption, he said, “lifts more than a government’s balance sheet.”

    But Kerry warned that “a new Africa” cannot emerge with becoming “a more secure Africa.”

    “In too many parts of the continent, a lack of security, the threat of violence, or all-out war prevent even the first shoots of prosperity from emerging. The burdens of past divisions might never be completely eliminated but they must never be allowed to bury the future,” he said.

    Kerry also warned of the dangers climate change, noting that according to a recent U.N. report parts of Mombasa, Dakar, Monrovia and dozens of coast African cities could be under water by the middle of the century.

    “Africa has 60 percent of the world’s arable land. That is a tremendous opportunity for the future, not just to feed Africa’s people, but to feed the world,” he said. But because of climate change and global warming, yields from rain-fed agriculture in parts of Africa could decline by half.

    “When 97 percent of scientists agree that the climate is changing, that it is happening faster they even predicted, and that humans are the significant cause, let me tell you something, we need to listen. We need to act,” he said.

    The post Kerry urges Africans to demand stability, combat corruption appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MIAMI — Vice President Joe Biden has extolled immigration as crucial to American innovation at a graduation ceremony in South Florida.

    A procession of international flags before Saturday’s ceremony at Miami Dade College drew cheers from the crowd of 2,000 graduates and their families. Biden acknowledged that he was addressing many immigrants and the children and grandchildren of immigrants.

    Biden said a “constant, substantial stream of immigrants” is important to the American economy. He said the country has to “bring 11 million people” living in the U.S. illegally “out of the shadows and put them on a path to citizenship.”

    After the ceremony, Biden met privately with local Caribbean-American business leaders to discuss immigration issues.

    This report was written by Associated Press reporter Jennifer Kay. Follow her on Twitter @jnkay.

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    Watch the full video of President Barack Obama at the 2014 White House Correspondents’ dinner below.

    President Barack Obama will join journalists, politicians, celebrities and media personalities Saturday night at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

    The dinner is a star-studded evening known for its moments of comedic release, often at the expense of the attendees.

    Joel McHale, star of the NBC series “Community,” and well known from “The Soup” on the E! cable network, will host this year’s event.

    As Mr. Obama spends the afternoon golfing with three aides at Fort Belvoir in Virginia before the dinner, NewsHour takes a look back at some of the best video from correspondents’ dinners of years prior.

    After the White House released President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, Obama used his opening address at the 2011 dinner to take a comedic jab at speculation that he had been lying about where he was born. (0-3:25)

    President George W. Bush and impersonator Steve Bridges take the stage together during the 2006 dinner.

    C-SPAN’s compilation video in honor of the 100th anniversary of the White House Correspondents’ Association takes a look at speakers at the dinner over the years, from President Ronald Reagan to former first lady Laura Bush.

    The post Relive the top White House Correspondents’ dinner moments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Pfizers $106 billion bid for AstraZeneca has been making news this week both because of its size and suggestions that Pfizer is motivated by lower corporate tax rates overseas. But there’s another aspect to the story that Shannon Pettypiece at the Bloomberg news wrote about yesterday: how the possible merger might affect the development of new drugs. She joins us now. So how does the change the pipeline of drugs that are in there for the companies that are involved in these mergers and transactions.

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well typically it slows down drug development and a lot of drugs that are in testing now are probably going to get cancelled. If history repeats itself from what we’ve seen in past mergers. and a good example to look at of what’s going to happen with research efforts with one of these big deals is Pfizer’s last mega merger which was when it acquired the drug-maker Wyeth. In that instance, about 4.5bn in research spending got cut, thousands of scientists were fired and about 6 research labs were shut down. And the people who’ve analyzed what happens in this company say these acquisitions can slow down the development of a drug in the process by as much as nine months. and a lot of projects end up actually just getting killed outright altogether.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know a lot of times the acquiring company says ‘it’s the promising research that’s happening in these little fields that we don’t know about, that’s why we want to buy the company.’ They change their tune after the merger?

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: They always say that, but in Pfizer’s last acquisition and in so many other acquisitions, they often take the stuff that is furthest along in testing, they’ll continue moving that forward. The riskier stuff though, the earlier stage more cutting edge research, often that gets killed, gets terminated. Some areas that one company is pursuing that the new acquirer isn’t interested in, for example asthma or allergies isn’t a big area that Pfizer is interested in. So those programs you know kind of get killed off or die off. So while a lot of times these companies say ‘this has to do with the research,’ what they’re talking about are the drugs that are further along in the development, the more advanced products. and the early stuff, the thing that really has a promise for medicines 10, 20 years from now, that’s the type of stuff that really falls by the wayside here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this isn’t just specific to Pfizer. What happens in the larger marketplace. I mean what about those drugs for example in those small instances that might not be very profitable to invest in.

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well drug-makers have said that they are interested in doing more work in rare disease. But the fewer companies that we have looking for drugs, the less competition there’s going to be and the more companies are going to say ‘you know we’re just interested in these 6 areas of research’ like Pfizer has. Or you know we’re just interested in cancer, we’re not interested in vaccines. And you know that’s fine when there’s 20 big companies, but when we only have five companies left and one company says ‘you know we’re not going to do obesity research anymore, that’s a little bit too risky.’ You know that’s one less company out of five remaining that are in that area. So it just means less competition and some diseases are just gonna fall of the map. If you have one of those diseases it’s just going to be unfortunate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Shannon Pettypiece from Bloomberg news, thanks so much.


    The post Pfizer-AstraZeneca deal could impact drug development appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Despite all the violence the past few weeks in eastern Ukraine, the greatest bloodshed actually occurred hundreds of miles away yesterday during that incident in Odessa. For more we’re joined now from Odessa via Skype by Philip Shishkin. He is with The Wall Street Journal. So what was the situation on the ground today?

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: Well, outside that building where the people burned to death last night there was a Russian rally, and people were very angry at times. There were couples there. There were mostly pro-Russian, mostly older people, some younger people. They’re very angry at the police, too, because the police played a very peculiar role yesterday, as they have throughout the recent unrest in Ukraine. And their role is to basically not intervene.

    What’s more there is video footage that emerged yesterday on several fairly reliable Ukrainian television channels and other videos that suggest that the police, that the local police, were actually sympathetic to the pro-Russian militants. And if not held them outright then at least did not stand in the way and maybe even sheltered them. And so this is what the Ukrainians are very angry about. The Russians are very angry about the fact that when the molotov cocktails flew at that building where the protestors were entrapped the police were nowhere to be seen, and they allowed this to happen. So there’s anger at the police aimed from both sides.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So for an American audience that’s watching what’s the significance that this violence is happening in Odessa, a western part of Ukraine, which isn’t close to Crimea, which isn’t close to the other areas that we’ve been talking about and hearing about in the last few days?

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: You know, when you ask people here what ethnicity they are, what they identify with, they will say Odessan before they mention any ethnicity. Because it’s a major port city and has been for centuries. It has Russians, Ukrainians. It has always had a significance Jewish population.

    And it’s always been this sort of cosmopolitan melting pot where people have lived, co-existed very peacefully with each other. So what we saw yesterday, and I don’t want to pre-judge some of how the events will unfold from here, but it had sort of (inaudible) of a civil conflict because it’s the first time in Ukrainian, in this latest spiral of separatist unrest that we have actually seen large numbers of civilians clashing with other civilians with massive deaths as a result.

    And we can already see that both sides are trying to package what happened yesterday to their advantage.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there strategic importance, geographically? Is there psychological importance if Russia makes more claims to Odessa?

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: It’s very a peculiar place where people do not exhibit pro-Russian sentiment to the extent that’s in Crimea or in parts of eastern Ukraine. And this is part of the reason why yesterday’s pro-Russian rally, why the shooting and the intimidation that the pro-Russians began met with such a forceful response. In Odessa, we see people pushing back and pushing back very hard and sometimes very violently, too.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Philip Shiskin of The Wall Street Journal, joining us from Odessa via Skype. Thanks so much.

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: Thank you.

    The post Violence in western Ukraine signals intensifying civil conflict appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    RICK KARR: Jesse Morreale has a lot of experience buying run-down buildings in edgy neighborhoods, fixing them up, and opening bars, restaurants and clubs in them. It’s his business model and his passion.

    JESSE MORREALE: I see, for instance, a building like this as an opportunity to contribute something to the community in addition to myself. As the businesses around me are growing and being more successful, my businesses are more successful. This is basic economics.

    RICK KARR: Morreale’s been lauded by the City of Denver for helping to revive a few neighborhoods there. He started out rehabbing old theaters when he was a concert promoter. That’s when I first interviewed him. He bought this building in 2008 and opened a couple of restaurants on the ground floor. He dreamed of converting the upper floors into a luxury hotel. But as the restaurants started to attract crowds the hotel project ran into trouble with city inspectors and his business plan derailed.

    RICK KARR: Your company was wounded, but was it a mortal wound, in your opinion?

    JESSE MORREALE: Absolutely not. It was a distress period. Manageable issues, curable issues.

    RICK KARR: One reason Morreale was optimistic was the relationship he had with his bank. FirsTier Bank had provided most of the financing for the hotel. It was small, so its top executives got involved and it was local, so they knew the area. The bank gave him millions of dollars in loans. He gave the bank all of his business: credit card transactions, checking accounts, everything. Morreale thought of his bankers almost like they were his partners.

    JESSE MORREALE: If we had a cash flow problem, I would go and talk to the bank president, right? And they would be accommodating to that because they had a vested interest in making sure that the small business and their customer was successful.

    GEORGE BAILEY “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”: Remember last year when things weren’t going so well and you couldn’t make your payments? Well, you didn’t lose your house, did you? You think Potter would have let you keep it?”

    RICK KARR: It was the way George Bailey did business in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”- old-fashioned, personal banking. So when Morreale went to FirsTier to talk about a loan modification, to defer payments for a few months so he could take care of the building problem and get the business back on track, the bank had incentives to be flexible. At least it did until the financial crisis hit and FirsTier Bank failed. Hundreds of banks went under during the financial crisis and of business owners like Jesse Morreale lost the bankers they’d been doing business with in some cases for years. They found themselves dealing with strangers who didn’t have a vested interest in making sure they were successful.

    RICK KARR: On a Friday night in January of 2011, Morreale learned that regulators had shut down FirsTier, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation had taken over.

    JESSE MORREALE: And from that day on, it was a nightmare. And for a while we had employees who couldn’t cash their paychecks. It was a mess.

    RICK KARR: Meanwhile, Morreale was getting letters about the loan for the hotel project from the FDIC and others – each one left him with a different impression of who was in charge of the loan he had been trying to modify.

    JESSE MORREALE: We didn’t know who to write the checks to. They changed the addresses you sent them to. They change everything. And each and every time we would have to go through this fire drill with getting things like insurance certificates changed to reflect these new people. And each time that would cost us money.

    RICK KARR: By now the FDIC was trying to figure out what to do with FirsTier’s assets, including Morreale’s loan.

    BRET EDWARDS: We have a statutory obligation to maximize the value of these assets.

    RICK KARR: Bret Edwards runs the FDIC’s division that handles the assets of failed banks. He says because there were so many loans to handle during the crisis and to try to maximize what the agency could get for them, he and his team turned to the private sector, including hedge funds and real estate firms. They became the FDIC’s partners on more than twenty-six billion dollars worth of loans. The agency and the firms split the money that comes in from the loans. The firms also get paid management fees because they collect payments, chase down deadbeats, and deal with modification requests like Morreale’s.

    BRET EDWARDS: We are trying to get out of their way so that they can do what they’re best at doing.

    RICK KARR: A firm called Sabal Financial is one of the FDIC’s partners in Jesse Morreale’s loan. CEO Pat Jackson says his firm doesn’t do business like a bank.

    PAT JACKSON: I don’t have a regulator looking over my shoulder saying, “Hey, you’ve gotta do it this way or that way or this way.”

    RICK KARR: Does that mean that you can be a little bit more aggressive with borrowers than a bank, a regulated bank could?

    PAT JACKSON: Banks in general still look at their borrowers that, “I have a relationship. I’m a community bank.” And they take a different point of view about collections than perhaps we would. We’re simply looking at the value of the collateral, the ability of the borrower to pay, and that’s that simple.

    RICK KARR: Firms like Jackson’s have only one incentive: to maximize the amount of money they make. Morreale believes that gave Sabal and its partner Oaktree Capital incentive to foreclose on the hotel building he’d put up as collateral against his loan. The blocks around his building have gentrified and become a nightlife strip. He also alleges in an affidavit filed in Colorado court that the firms misled him and instructed him to stop making payments on the loan.

    JESSE MORREALE: They said that basically the loans needed to be in default to have their decision-makers pay attention to a modification request. So we let the loans go into default at their suggestion.

    RICK KARR: Did any alarm bells go off in you at that point?

    JESSE MORREALE: They told me that I was in a deferral period. And that was evidenced by the fact that they weren’t sending me any loan statements. They weren’t sending me invoices. And I trusted them, which was a mistake.

    RICK KARR: Is that something that happens? That you actually have to advise people to get behind on their loans?

    PAT JACKSON: No. I mean, certainly not. I mean, if we have a borrower that’s coming to us saying, “Hey, I’ve got problems. I need to work with you.” We’re gonna work with them to try to find the best overall outcome.

    RICK KARR: Jackson alleges that Morreale made unacceptably low offers to settle his debt. Morreale alleges that Jackson and his colleagues wouldn’t negotiate in good faith. As the battle escalated. Morreale turned for help to the FDIC. The agency has enforcement power over the financial firms like Sabal and Oatkree Capital that it partners with. The FDIC’s Brett Edwards wants borrowers to come to him if they have complaints.

    BRET EDWARDS: Because we wanna hear about it, we wanna investigate it. I’ll tell you there’re a lot of controls we have in place. We do annual audits, we do site visits. We thoroughly investigate all complaints.

    RICK KARR: But when Morreale wrote at least two letters to the FDIC detailing his concerns and made dozens of phone calls to the agency, the FDIC replied that there was nothing it could do. And its investigation consisted of contacting one of the companies Morreale alleges is trying to grab his property. We pressed to find out more from the FDIC during a conference call.

    RICK KARR: We got all the parties’ permission to record the call. Here’s how the FDIC’s Brett Edwards got it started:

    BRET EDWARDS: Rick and Hannah, thanks for doing this. And I’m gonna turn it over to Pat, and he can get into the actual details of this particular credit situation. Thank you.

    RICK KARR: He turned the call over to Pat – as in Pat Jackson of Sabal Financial. All of the details about the case we learned during that call came from Pat Jackson. The FDIC didn’t provide any specific information.

    RICK KARR: There’s no way to know how many businesses may be in Morreale’s situation because nobody’s keeping track. There’s at least one other business in Denver. When Sabal filed to foreclose on its property, it laid off dozens of employees. Other business owners testified before the House Financial Services Committee. Jesse Morreale’s business is in bankruptcy court.

    RICK KARR: Is that the collateral damage of 2008 and the financial meltdown?

    BRET EDWARDS: I think what the FDIC’s view on that would be is we’ve tried to do as good a job as we can, given our statutory mandate, to make this work for everybody. But I think the concept that this could’ve been a painless exercise, it’s probably just not gonna happen.

    RICK KARR: As you’ve already said, even before the FDIC’s involvement here, there were issues. Some people might look at this and say, “It’s Jesse’s fault. It’s not Oaktree’s fault. Oaktree’s just doing what they do.

    JESSE MORREALE: The businesses wouldn’t be here without me. I build things. These people don’t build anything. They’re out there taking things from people that other people have built.

    RICK KARR: Is this the FDIC’s fault? Is this Oaktree’s fault? Is this Sabal’s fault?

    JESSE MORREALE: I think it is a combination of the FDIC and Oaktree Capital and Sabal. This is the ultimate display of avarice without conscience, without consequence. And that’s a result of the FDIC failing to appropriately oversee their partner. Fundamentally, if this is how the FDIC is protecting us, I don’t need these kinds of protections.

    RICK KARR: It’s now up to a Federal bankruptcy judge to decide whether Jesse Morreale keeps the building or loses it to the hedge fund and real estate firm. That ruling’s expected on May 15th.

    The post Small businesses left in lurch when local banks collapse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy of Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

    General Motors world headquarters building in Detroit, Michigan seen on May 27,  2009. The company issued a recall on Saturday of nearly 52,000 SUVS with defective fuel gauges. Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

    General Motors issued a recall on Saturday for 51,640 SUVS due to a problem with defective fuel gauges in the vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    “An inaccurate fuel gauge may result in the vehicle unexpectedly running out of fuel and stalling, increasing the risk of a crash,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wrote in a statement on its website.

    The recalled vehicles included in the recall are the 2014 models of Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia SUVs. These models were all manufactured between March 26 and Aug. 15, 2013.

    The problematic fuel gauges are a result of engine control module software that can cause inaccurate readings. Due to the issue, vehicles could unexpectedly stall or run out of fuel.

    According to the recall, dealers will reprogram the faulty software in the affected vehicles at no cost.

    The news comes after GM recalled 7 million vehicles earlier this year for faulty ignition switches that have been blamed for 13 deaths. Included in the recall were 2.6 million Chevrolet vehicles and Saturn ions.

    GM learned about the ignition switch defect more than 10 years, but did not issue the recall until February. The automaker is currently under investigation by the NHTSA, Congress, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for the recall delay.

    The post GM recalls over 51,000 SUVS with defective fuel gauges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 20: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama made a surprised visit to the briefing and answered questions from the White House press corps. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama speaks during a daily press briefing in August 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. POLITICO magazine has released a survey of over 60 Capitol reporters gain insight on their experiences covering the White House. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

    According to a survey of White House press corps members released by POLITICO magazine, news correspondents would like to see changes to the reporting process, including improvements to access and the way press conferences are held.

    One member polled asked for “More candor, less talking points. Spread the questioning around.”

    To learn more about the survey, and gain some insight on Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, I spoke with POLITICO’s deputy editor, Blake Houndshell via Google+ Hangout.

    Read the full results of the survey here.

    The post What do White House correspondents really think of their jobs? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In case you missed it, the White House Correspondents’ dinner was last night. And, as is the custom, the president took playful shots at just about everyone, including himself.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I usually start these dinners with a few self deprecating jokes after my stellar 2013 what could I possibly talk about? I admit it. Last year was rough. Sheesh!

    At one point things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.

    Of course, we rolled out Healthcare.gov. That could have gone better.

    In 2008, my slogan was “Yes, we can”. In 2013 my slogan was “Control, alt, delete.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He didn’t spare his vice president.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You may have heard the other day, Hillary had to dodge a flying shoe at a press conference.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He targeted the media.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am happy to be here even though I am a little jet lagged from my trip to Malaysia, the lengths we have to go to the get CNN coverage these days.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, of course, he went after the Republicans.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Just yesterday, I read a heart breaking letter. You know, I get letters from folks around the country every day. I get 10 that I read. This one got to me.

    A Virginia man has been stuck in the same part-time job for years, no respect from his boss, no chance to get ahead.

    I really wish Eric Cantor would stop writing me. You can just pick up the phone, Eric.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more perspective on what White House correspondents really think about their jobs, and a bit more on the dinner, watch my Google+ Hangout with deputy editor of POLITICO magazine– Blake Hounshell.

    The post Obama takes jabs at GOP, media at annual correspondents’ dinner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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