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

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    donetsk

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For the latest from Eastern Ukraine, we are joined now via Skype by Philip Shishkin. He is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and joins us now from Donetsk.

    So why does today’s vote matter in the grand scheme of things?

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: Well, it matters because Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine are about to declare de facto independence not for one, but for two provinces bordering Russia here. And they need this vote to give their efforts a veneer of legitimacy. That’s why those pictures you see of some people heading to the polls, that’s very important.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So when you spoke to people at the polls today, was this a vote for independence and to join Russia or was this more frustration against Kiev?

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: It’s a combination of both. If you look at opinion polls, the ones that were conducted independently by professionals, there’s very, very low support for any sort of independence or succession from Ukraine here. But interestingly those same polls also show, as you said, great frustration with the interim government in Kiev. So the vote today, the people who did go to the polls, and pretty much everyone who went to the polls, would vote yes to the question of state sovereignty. They were voting against Kiev as much as they were voting for any sort of independence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So we’ve already heard from the Western powers, the Ukrainian government, who finds this entire exercise and this vote illegitimate, has there been any response from Russia today?

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: I have not seen any response yet. It’s interesting because this referendum is actually being conducted for the audience of one or maybe more than one. But the key audience for this referendum is not in the West it’s in the Kremlin.

    The people who call themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic, they are hoping, their long-term game is perhaps to have a Crimea-style annexation by Russia. Because they realized that The Donetsk People’s Republic as an independent entity has no economic future.

    We haven’t heard any public support from Moscow, from Russian leaders for any sort of annexation, so it remains to be seen if whether the Donetsk People’s Republic follows the breakaway statehoods in Georgia and Moldova into this sort of international economic limbo or whether some sort of Crimea-style merger with Russia is in the works. I don’t think people have actually decided what to do here or in Moscow for that matter.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Philip Shiskin, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, joining us via Skype from Donetsk, thanks so much.

    PHILIP SHISHKIN: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

     

    The post Voters in Eastern Ukraine cast ballots in contested referendum appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    View of nine-year-old African-American student Linda Brown (first desk in second row from right) sits with her classmates at the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas, 1953. When her enrollment at a 'whites-only' school was blocked, her family initiated the landmark Civil Rights lawsuit 'Brown V. Board of Education,' that led to the beginning of integration in the US education system. (Photo by Carl Iwasaki/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Saturday marks 60 years since the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared separate schools for black and white students are unconstitutional.

    Gwen Ifill recorded a conversation about the anniversary earlier this week, but, first, some background.

    GWEN IFILL: The case was named for Linda Brown, a third-grader in Topeka, Kansas, forced to travel more than an hour each day to an all-black elementary school, rather than attend the all-white school located just blocks from her home.

    Government-sanctioned racial discrimination was the law of the land in 1954. The Supreme Court’s Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling half-a-century earlier had ruled that, as long as separate facilities were considered equal, segregation itself wasn’t a violation the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

    But the Browns, Linda and her two sisters, who were joined by families of students in four states and the District of Columbia, said no. Their class-action suit eventually reached the Supreme Court.

    Retired Baltimore public school principal John Stokes was one of the original plaintiffs in the Virginia case included in the Brown litigation.

    JOHN STOKES, Plaintiff, Brown v. Board of Education: It was separate, though it was never equal.

    GWEN IFILL: He describes the conditions at his overcrowded all-black high school in Farmville, Virginia, as deplorable, with no running water or indoor plumbing, and a potbelly stove that leaked soot into the classroom.

    JOHN STOKES: We knew we were being programmed for failure. It was very obvious. We could not only see it. We could smell it, and when that soot fell down from that flue, we could taste it. We could actually taste it. So we knew we had to do something to make a change.

    GWEN IFILL: After Stokes helped organize a school-wide walkout, the NAACP took notice, asking the more than 100 students involved to join the broader suit.

    Chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the Supreme Court’s first African- American justice, led the oral arguments before the court.

    On May 17, 1954, in a unanimous decision crafted by chief Justice Earl Warren, the high court declared: “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

    When the ruling came down, Stokes celebrated, but cautiously.

    JOHN STOKES: I said, the war has just begun. I said, these folks are not going to sit down and take this lightly. And they didn’t.

    FMR. GOV. GEORGE WALLACE, D, Ala.: I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.

    GWEN IFILL: Indeed, the separate but equal debate was far from over. Opposition to the ruling was fierce, especially in the South, and anti-integration protests sprang up in communities around the country.

    But the Brown ruling proved to be the turning point that led to the unraveling of Jim Crow laws, and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act a decade later.

    Sixty years later, just how far have we come in eliminating segregated education and increasing opportunity?

    For a deeper look at the many answers to those questions, I’m joined by Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father, along with 12 other Topeka parents, filed the original suit brought by the NAACP. She’s now president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research. Sheryll Cashin is professor of law at Georgetown University. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and is the author of the new book “Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America.”

    Catherine Lhamon is the assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, and journalist and author Ron Brownstein is editorial director for Atlantic Media and a columnist for “National Journal.”

    Welcome to you all.

    I want to start by reading to you the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Brown v. Board.

    He wrote: “In these days, it is doubtful that any child can be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity where the state has undertaken to provide it is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

    Catherine Lhamon, 60 years later, the majority of all school — large school districts in America are majority non-white. Have we fulfilled that promise?

    CATHERINE LHAMON, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education: We have not.

    We have come far, but we obviously have not come far enough. And that’s the depressing reality that I think has to light a fire under all of us. It certainly lights a fire under me in the work that I do. And we need to be working to deliver on that promise.

    But there are so many things that are different and that are better in the 60 years since Brown was decided. My mother was 10 years old when Brown vs. Board of Education was decided. She attended racially segregated schools before Brown. She attended them after Brown. It didn’t change her educational experience, but it dramatically changed her life experience.

    And I didn’t attend racially segregated schools as a result, for which I’m enormously grateful, and my children don’t. And I’m enormously grateful for that. And I work every day to make sure that other people’s children also can learn in the educational environments that the Brown court promised for all of our children.

    GWEN IFILL: Cheryl Brown Henderson, you’re the person at this table who had direct impact as a result. Brown is in the decision. Brown is in your name.

    CHERYL BROWN HENDERSON, Plaintiff, Brown v. Board of Education: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Sixty years later, how do you look at it?

    CHERYL BROWN HENDERSON: I think we have to look inside the promise.

    We talk about the fact that segregated school systems exist still. And that’s a function of, I think, the pushback in Brown v. Board, because power conceded nothing. And so, quite frankly, what power did was decided that we would red-line, we have would housing in certain areas, we would work very hard to make sure schools would remain segregated.

    And we also have to look inside the promise, because as you read from Earl Warren’s statement, which is my favorite part of the Brown decision, by the way, we have to be concerned about educating our kids. African-American parents were only concerned about making certain their student — or their children had the best education possible.

    And I think sometimes we scapegoat our children by suggesting, if they’re not sitting next to somebody of a certain ethnicity, that they can’t possibly be getting a good education. So, I think that we can’t get lost in — while we’re pursuing this lofty goal of diversity in education at every level, we can’t get lost in that and stop educating our children where we find them.

    GWEN IFILL: It sounds like you’re saying integration for its own sake was not necessarily what Brown was about.

    And I want to ask Sheryll Cashin about that.

    As a constitutional lawyer, as a parent, you look at this now and you say, was it worth it?

    SHERYLL CASHIN, Georgetown University Law School: Well, absolutely.

    We had to dismantle Jim Crow, right? And the decision paid enormous psychic benefits. We went in one generation because of Brown from being a country where the majority of the people accepted racial hierarchy and white supremacy to where a majority of the people absolutely reject that.

    Where we have fallen down post-Brown is, we haven’t built enough strong multiracial constituencies for public integrated education. But I want to say, it’s not hopeless. The Hartford area, which is very segregated residentially, there’s a movement called the Sheff Movement.

    Black and Latino and white parents, city and suburban, have gotten together and said we like diversity, we support it, and they have created 31 magnet schools in that metropolitan area that enables people of all colors to access high-quality education decoupled from where they live.

    So there are strategies that work, but you have to be overt at building constituencies for the right policies.

    GWEN IFILL: Ron Brownstein, but it is still true that, if your school system is 80 percent black, you don’t have the same resources as if you are 90 percent white. So is it because the world has changed or because the law didn’t live up to its promise?

    RON BROWNSTEIN, Atlantic Media: The decision was a genuine hinge in history.

    It put us on track to be the nation we are now, a truly diverse, multiracial world nation. And it really began a process that was irreversible. A lot of the numbers are just dramatically different. Before Brown, only one in 40 African-American had a college degree. Now it’s one in five. Only one in seven had a high school degree.

    Now the share of African-American young adults with a high school degree is about the same as among whites. So, it is — the world is a different place. But, as everyone has said, it’s a mistake — no one would claim that opportunity is equal at this point.

    There are very, very different circumstances. The reality is that roughly two-thirds to three-fourths of African-American and Hispanic kids attend schools in which a majority of the student body are qualified as — or classified as low-income.

    And you talk about the resources. The resources issue is not only the amount of dollars that are coming into the school; it’s the community resources; it’s the parental resources. And kind of the challenge we have in education is the schools — the students that need the most often get the least in terms of the quality of the teachers, experience.

    So that’s a challenge. And the nature of the challenge is changing, because the demography is changing the challenge. This is the future work force. A majority of the K-12 system starting September nationwide, not only in the big cities, will be kids of color. This is the last class ever probably in U.S. history of K-12 students that will be majority white nationwide.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, then why — whatever happened to all deliberate speed then in creating the environment K-12 especially that the Brown decision promised?

    CATHERINE LHAMON: Well, what our history showed us was that we had a lot of delegation and very little speed. Right?

    It took fully 10 years before we even began to see real integration in schools at all. And then we saw material progress in 1965 to maybe 1980, where we saw real change in integration in our schools. And then we saw a very significant backlash.

    And, you know, that was — that’s significant in terms of the numbers and what kids’ experiences are in schools today. It’s also significant in terms of the opportunities that we see for our kids. And I think all of us have been talking about what it’s like to be a child in school today.

    My office, when we do our investigations now, we are finding too many places that are racially segregated, but we’re also finding too many places where we’re communicating a message of very little value to our kids, where we’re saying you’re not who we expect to see succeed in school, you are not who we’re going to deliver our resources to.

    We’re not having equitable distribution of teachers. We’re not having equitable of high-rigor courses in our schools. We disproportionately discipline our students of color and push them out of school. We are sending a message about who is valuable and who is not in school, which is directly contrary to the Brown message, it is directly contrary to our federal promises, and it is directly contrary to the law.

    So, that’s what we need to change.

    GWEN IFILL: Sheryll Cashin, you have written a book that talks, that makes the connection between what has happened in our K-12 schools with what happens once we go on to higher education. And given what we have seen play out the court on affirmative action, is there any — how do you make that playing field level, when you start out at such a disadvantage?

    SHERYLL CASHIN: Well, I argue that universities have an ethical obligation to mitigate the fact of separate, unequal schooling.

    And so I argue place, not race. Actually, only 42 percent of Americans of all races live in middle-class neighborhoods. And that’s down from 65 percent in 1970. And, increasingly, there’s a commonality of experience between working-class struggling whites and kids of color.

    If you’re in a high-opportunity setting, you have access to selective, high quality K-12 education. Everyone outside that context gets a different deal. So, I’m arguing that there are strivers from all neighborhoods and that universities should give a leg up in admissions to high-achieving students who’ve done the best they can with under-resourced schools.

    But I also think, post-Brown, post-civil rights America, we need to begin to have an overt discourse where we link the common struggles of communities of color to struggling whites in order for us to — you know, frankly, you talk about backlash. Where we are today is, there’s a lot of white resentment.

    A lot of whites feel that the post-civil rights gains that you talk about came at their expense. And there are a lot of people out there, politicians, media, who stoke that resentment, and that’s the true challenge for progressives.

    RON BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask Cheryl Brown Henderson about this, because, if indeed we are falling short or if indeed this inequity is still the system, the playing field is not yet level, why do you think that is?

    CHERYL BROWN HENDERSON: The backlash began immediately.

    And it was relentless, and it hasn’t let up, and, for example, the Southern Manifesto and some of the documents coming out of our leaders in Congress, and then schools closing.

    I mean, what greater message can you send than I’m going to close public schools for five years, as they did in Farmville, Virginia, rather than allowing African-American students in?

    So, this has been relentless. And Thurgood Marshall — and I’m glad to learn that you clerked for him — reading Juan Williams’ book about Thurgood Marshall, one of the comments I found really profound, he said Brown was never about sitting next to white children. It was about having access to the resources.

    RON BROWNSTEIN: Well, I was going to say that no one would say this is the same country as 60 years ago.

    Obviously, many, many things have changed. And to me, one of the most important things that changed is that terms that — the demography is overwhelming the terms of the debate. When we think about things like equality of opportunity, usually, it’s been framed as an argument of fairness. If we are the country we say we are in the Declaration of Independence, everyone should have a chance to go as far as their talents take them.

    And I think that is still true, but it’s no longer the central — I think the central argument. Over the next 15 years, the estimate is that all the net growth in the work force will be minority workers. The number of white people working in 2030 is projected to be smaller than it is today, not only the share, but the absolute number.

    And in that world, ultimately, there is not really a question of fairness, but it’s self-interest. If we don’t do a better job of getting more of these kids into the middle class, who is going to pay the payroll taxes to support Social Security and Medicare?  Who is going to buy the houses?  Who is going to generate the economic activity through household formation?

    There’s a self-interest argument here to kind of an older white middle class that ultimately has a stake in helping more of these kids succeed, because without more of them succeeding, it is going to be awful hard to sustain Social Security and Medicare that they’re relying on.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Catherine Lhamon, where are the available political, governmental tools to get to the root of it, whether you think it’s about fairness or about just being competitive?

    CATHERINE LHAMON: Yes.

    It’s my job to enforce the federal civil rights laws in our schools all over the country for 49 million public school students and also in all our of institutions for higher education. So, we are aggressively there to make sure that the promise of Brown is a lived experience for as many of the kids as we can reach, and we’re very excited about that.

    But I also think, Cheryl, your point about the Farmville experience, which was at a time when we shut down — in the state of Virginia, we shut down for five years the public schools in that community because we didn’t want to integrate there.

    And it’s an ugly past history. But it also is such an indicator of who we are as a country and what we can become, because, as a nation, we came together with children in Ohio saving their pennies and sending their money to be able to start new schools, to create a school system for one year that wasn’t that public school system, that was privately funded, that had teachers, integrated teachers coming from all over the country to teach kids who had been out of school for five years, who had made serious losses in their learning, to be able bring them back to make enormous gains and to come together as an integrated community and say, this is who we are as a nation.

    Regardless of what locally we said we would be, this is who we are as a nation and who we will become. And I think that’s a lesson for all of us about what we can still do and the gains that we can still make.

    RON BROWNSTEIN: No one doubts that all of this would be a lot easier if you were not dealing with schools that were as segregated and poverty that was a concentrated. Right?

    Roughly three-quarters of African-American kids and two-thirds of Hispanic are in schools where a majority of the kids are low-income. And that makes things harder. But, as you say, that cannot — you cannot wait to solve that problem. Right?

    And there are plenty of big urban districts where there are a lot of resources. The issue isn’t only the amount of money that is spent in the schools. It’s how it’s spent. It’s what kind of resources they get in terms of talent. It’s what kind of resources the kids can draw on at home, in their community, helping parents work better with their kids.

    Would it be easier to equalize opportunity if you didn’t have as many kids studying in concentrated poverty? Sure. But can you say we can’t do anything until that’s solved? I don’t think you can say that.

    GWEN IFILL: But let me ask you whether they’re — we have run now the gamut. Have we run to the limits of governmental and judicial intervention? Is this something…

    SHERYLL CASHIN: No.

    GWEN IFILL: … happen somewhere else?

    SHERYLL CASHIN: It’s true that you have a lot of large school districts with concentrated poverty in the center.

    But there are innovations out there. I go back to the Sheff example. Many of the suburbs surrounding Hartford have said, we will take a certain number of kids to come into our school. There are — there’s the METCO program in Boston. So there’s cross-district solutions.

    There are also innovations that you can do in terms of changing the finance system. Why is it? We haven’t — we haven’t really tried this many places, but why is it that states require schools to be funded based on property taxes?

    GWEN IFILL: Final question.

    Cheryl Brown Henderson, since your life span and your — your arc of your life has traced Brown v. Board, I want to know whether, on the 60th anniversary, you find yourself optimistic or pessimistic about where we are now.

    CHERYL BROWN HENDERSON: No, I’m optimistic, because Brown what did, I think, above all else, it was dismantled, the legal framework for any kind of discrimination, whether it was against women or people with disabilities or whatever. I mean, it did a huge thing for this nation.

    So I try to look at it that way, because it was all about opportunity, and it succeeded when it comes to that. It opened the doors for the legal cases and the legislation that came after. So I’m optimistic.

    What we didn’t do that I would love to see us do in terms of being optimistic was to have some sort of reconciliation. I look at Nelson Mandela and what happened in South Africa. It was amazing. But where’s the courage here to have that kind of reconciliation panel and that real dialogue?

    After Brown v. Board, we missed a huge opportunity, I think. I taught school in the ’70s. And I taught at one of the schools that had been segregated, where my mother had gone, where my sisters had gone. And then their kids had gone there post-Brown and I taught there post-Brown.

    But what I discovered is that the white, my white colleagues didn’t want to be there. It was still 95 percent African-American. So we missed an opportunity to really sit our educators down and talk about reconciliation, talk about their jobs, talk about children being children, talk about education as a value and they being charged with the responsibility of imparting that education.

    Deliberate means slow. So why are we even pondering? Why are people — why we still dragging our feet, when they put that word in the decision?  Why that word, when it means painstakingly slow? The only thing that scares me, too, is when you look at parents involved in community schools back in 2004, and the Supreme Court ruled against them. That was voluntary.

    So if people are going to come along, challenge voluntary programs, and have a court that would strike down those voluntary programs, that’s frightening to me.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, one of the things we can do is keep looking backward and forward as we acknowledge these series of anniversaries we have been doing the last year or so.

    Cheryl Brown Henderson, Ron Brownstein, Sheryll Cashin, and Catherine Lhamon, thank you all so much for a great conversation.

    RON BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

    SHERYLL CASHIN: Thank you.

    CATHERINE LHAMON: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, we have a tale of two city high schools only four miles apart, one a vibrant model for diversity, and the other isolated by race and poverty. That’s on our Education page.

    The post 60 years after Brown v. Board, school segregation isn’t yet American history appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shieldsbrooks

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

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So we just heard Gwen’s discussion. It is 60 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.

    And we know, Mark, that, yes, there has been — there have been dramatic changes in the aftermath of that, but we also know — and we have got a graphic to show this — that much of the — some of the country, maybe even much of the country is still segregated.

    Here, you see — this is a chart showing the difference between 1968, 2011, big drop in the percentage of African-American students attending majority black/Latino schools in the South, where segregation was most prevalent. You know, here, it’s a drop, from 78 to 34 percent. But we see drops in the Midwest and the West.

    But, Mark, is it surprising that in the Northeast, the percentage of African-American students has risen?

    MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know if it’s surprising, Judy.

    I think that Sheryll Cashin — first of all, remember this on that decision. It was 9-0. If you want to see a great politician at work, that was Earl Warren. Thank God you had a governor, someone who had actually been through the process. He assembled that 9-0 coalition, which gave it its moral and political momentum behind that decision.

    But, Judy, I think Sheryll Cashin put it very well in her discussion with Gwen and the other panelists. And that is that it’s a question of place, not race. We’re talking about income inequality. We’re talking about property inequality. And that’s essentially what leads to school patterns and school populations.

    DAVID BROOKS: I suspect they would have been surprised if we had gone back and asked, what do you expect over the next 50 years, I suspect they would have thought there would be a little more progress than we have experienced.

    And I think that’s because there was a supposition, from my reading of the history books, is that once you took away some of the legal barriers, that some of the social barriers would fall more quickly than they have.

    And this is measurable not only in the school segregation, but even in social interaction. When you measure how many people are having real interactions with people of different races, it’s surprisingly — we have made surprisingly little progress, especially — maybe in the first few years after Brown or the Civil Rights Act, but in the last couple of decades, it’s been surprisingly slow.

    And that’s in part because birds of a feather do flock together. People do tend to residentially segregate, in part because of some of the discrimination, but in part I think because of a loss of emphasis on integration that there was especially in the ’70s and ’80s, a little less emphasis on integration, a little more on multiculturalism and things like that.

    And you just have got to keep pushing and pushing. Maybe among people under 20, we’re going to begin to see a shift in that, but progress has been surprisingly slow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pushing how? What kind of pushing?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, we’re in new regime, a non-affirmative action regime based on race, I think. We’re entering that regime.

    But you still have to push based on other things, based on — companies, universities, schools, I do think, have to pay attention to this, and not only getting people in, but once in, ensuring those social interactions are there and there’s not segregation in the cafeterias.

    MARK SHIELDS: No, but segregation is encouraged by colleges. It clearly is, and not simply by race.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Student housing.

    MARK SHIELDS: By student housing, and cultural housing and all the rest of it.

    I do want to point out, Judy, that of all the gender, racial subgroups in the country, the highest per capita, those enrolled in college is black women. Black women enrolled in colleges and universities at a higher level than white women or Asian men, Asian women, white men. Black men are enrolled at a hiring level per capita than white men.

    We have quadrupled the number of black college graduates in just less than a generation. So there is good news, and I just think occasionally we have to pause and reflect on the good news.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the gender aspect.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, and on the racial aspect as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    Well, complete change of subject, and that is presidential politics 2016, David. We saw both President Clinton — former President Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton come out swinging this week after Karl Rove, who, of course, was former President George W. Bush’s top political strategist, suggested that Secretary Clinton might have had brain damage from a fall she took while she was still in government.

    DAVID BROOKS: He didn’t use that phrase, but he said that she was in the hospital, and we should get to the bottom of all this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But is this the kind of exchange we’re going to see? In fact, President Clinton said to Gwen in an interview, he said, we can just expect this from Republicans.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, a couple of things going on.

    First, I hope Rove was just speaking off the cuff, because it was pretty stupid, what he said, and inaccurate, and it was stupid. The response was interesting, because there has been, among the professional people who — like us who watch this thing for a living, there have been some whispers from people who pretend to know what they’re talking about that maybe she won’t run.

    And I guess that’s still kind of true. But the way the Clintons came out swinging makes it look like they’re going to run. And so that was interesting. And then if you are going to have a race in a Democratic primary, picking a fight with Karl Rove is a pretty good thing to do and the Koch brothers. That all works pretty well.

    So I think we learned they may be a little more forward-leaning about this whole deal than anybody who thought they weren’t. And I do think, I still think that I’m less bullish on her chances to get the nomination. I think it’s likely she will get the nomination if she runs, but I’m a little less bullish than a lot of other people around here, because I do think the party has moved to the left, the de Blasio mayor’s race in New York, even the Baraka race in Newark, where the more leftward candidate probably won.

    I do think the party has shifted a little away from her, and so I think there’s some shot that she — it’s not going to be a cakewalk for her.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thirty days in the hospital. Wrong. Three days in the hospital.

    And that she was wearing glasses that were only given to people who had traumatic brain injury — that was Karl Rove. Now, you may not have seen the stethoscope and you may not have seen his bedside manner before, Dr. Rove, making house calls like this.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: I — it’s a little bit called like putting heroin in the bloodstream. You put it — you let out a libel or a rumor and then you just kind of let it go. Oh, where did it come from? And then somebody hears it a couple of months later, sunk into the sewer.

    It’s symptomatic of the Texas candidate. There was a congressman in Texas — he may very well have been a Karl Rove client — who had a very difficult opponent and he said, I’m going to accuse my opponent of being romantically and sexually involved with a barnyard animal.

    And his campaign manager said, you can’t do that, Congressman. We have no evidence, no proof. No, I know we don’t have any evidence to prove it. I just want to see him deny it.

    And that’s what this is. This is that kind of a charge. It was stupid and I think it did help the Clintons. But it does tell you something about the high level we can expect in 2016 in the campaign.

    DAVID BROOKS: The one thing, though, it will not be an issue if she runs.

    Running is arduous.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: And if you can run, your health is fine, and so, if she’s running and she can do it the way every candidate has to do it, her health will not be an issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, what about David’s other point that maybe Hillary Clinton, assuming she does decide to run, may not have that easy path to the nomination?

    MARK SHIELDS: I don’t inevitability is a winning campaign strategy. And that’s basically right now what the strategy is.

    Everybody’s for Hillary. Why? Because everybody’s for Hillary, and because she’s leading in all the polls. I think there is a restlessness and a restiveness in the Democratic Party against the Obama administration, although unspoken in large part, about the fact that all of the people who brought this country to its knees in the Wall Street crisis continue to go to dinner parties and fly off in private jets and get welcomed at the White House, and they pay fines.

    We have basically monetized financial crime. You just pay a check. Nobody goes to jail. And I think there’s an anger. And Elizabeth Warren is probably the catalyst for that, the most logical point for it. Somebody will pick that up.

    Mrs. Clinton may very well try to move in that direction, although, coming as a senator from New York, it would be a departure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have an interview with Senator Warren on the NewsHour Monday night.

    MARK SHIELDS: I wanted to promote that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You were putting in a plug.

    So, just in a few minutes left, the Tea Party, David, they won one of these Senate primaries in this midterm election season, but they don’t seem to be as strong as in the past. Whatever you want to call it, the mainstream, the establishment of the Republican Party seems to be doing better. What’s going on?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think in somewhat — especially in this case in Nebraska this week, the lines were very muddy between who was establishment and who was Tea Party.

    The Tea Party candidate who won, Sasse, he’s a Yale Ph.D. And the other, Tom Cotton, has a Harvard Law degree.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: Mike Needham, who runs the Heritage Fund — Heritage Action, he’s from new — so these are not classic outsiders, I would say.

    But I do think the party has become more nervous of losing seats. The voters — it’s mostly — it’s less over ideology and more over approach. It’s can you come into Washington and do politics, do governance, as opposed to being sort of a FOX News commentator when you get here?

    And so I do think the side of the party that says, you know, let’s pass legislation, and they’re plenty conservative, but they tend to have the momentum right now. And I think the government shutdown that Ted Cruz led was a major turning point, which is not to say that his campaign won’t be formidable when he runs for president.

    MARK SHIELDS: Ted Cruz and Mike Lee were staunch supporters of Ben Sasse out in Nebraska winner, the winner. And their message was, we need reinforcement to fight the entrenched leadership here in Washington.

    Sasse, to his credit, kind of — had a foot in each camp.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is in Nebraska, the winner.

    MARK SHIELDS: In Nebraska. And he did it quite adroitly.

    I think the Tea Party had its most important victory, and we can see it every day, and that was in Kentucky. Mitch McConnell went hat in hand and asked Rand Paul for his endorsement, and so to avoid any trouble. And Rand Paul, who is now a national figure and a major leader of his party, endorsed Mitch McConnell, and probably thereby secured the fact that McConnell would be renominated.

    But that’s how important the Tea Party is, that Mitch McConnell, who opposed him in 2010, when he ran, is now his supplicant, in his debt.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Neither one of you two is a supplicant. We’re going to have lots more occasion to talk about the Tea Party and the establishment.

    We thank you both.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Brown v. Board legacy, tea party outlook appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Genetically modified foods have been around for years, but most people in the United States have no idea if they are eating them.

    The Food and Drug Administration says such foods don’t need to be labeled, so some states are moving forward on their own.

    Vermont recently became the first state to require labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Bills and ballot initiatives are pending in many more.

    What about the rest of the country? And does labeling matter?

    There’s much confusion about genetically modified foods and their safety.

    Opponents, who at times have protested in the streets, say consumers have the right to know whether their food contains GMOs. The food industry and companies that genetically engineer seeds have pushed back against the labeling laws, saying GMOs are safe and labels would be misleading.


    Seeds are big business in Hawaii, where large biotech companies develop genetically modified crops. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson reports on a battle being waged on the island of Kauai by residents who say growing practices like pesticide use are hazardous to public health.

    A look at the debate and some of the facts about genetically modified foods:

    WHAT THEY ARE

    GMOs are hard for the average consumer to grasp. You can’t touch or feel a GMO.

    Genetically modified foods are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA.

    It’s not a new idea.

    Humans have been tinkering with genes for centuries through selective breeding. Think dogs bred to be more docile pets, cattle bred to be beefier or tomatoes bred to be sweeter. Turkeys were bred to have bigger breasts – better for Thanksgiving dinner.

    What’s different about genetically modified or engineered foods is that the manipulation is done in a lab. Engineers don’t need to wait for nature to produce a desired gene. They speed up the process by transferring a gene from one plant or animal to another.

    What are the desired traits? Most of the nation’s corn and soybeans are genetically engineered to resist pests and herbicides. A papaya in Hawaii is modified to resist a virus. The FDA is considering an application from a Massachusetts company to approve a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon.

    IN YOUR GROCERY CART

    Most of the genetically modified corn and soybeans are used in cattle feed or are made into ingredients such as corn oil, corn starch, high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil.

    Even in some of those products, the manufacturing process eventually may remove some of the modified genes.

    A few fruits and vegetables are engineered – the Hawaiian papaya and some squash and zucchini, for example. Only a small amount of sweet corn, the corn we eat, is genetically modified.

    But there’s no genetically modified meat or fish, like the fast-growing salmon, currently in the market for human consumption. The FDA has yet to approve any.

    THE RISKS

    The vast majority of scientific research has found genetically engineered foods to be generally safe.

    An Italian scientist’s review of 10 years of research, published in 2013, concluded that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected “any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops.”

    One French research team raised safety questions. But their much-criticized 2012 study linking genetically modified corn to rat tumors was retracted in 2013 by the scientific publisher, who cited weak evidence supporting the conclusions.

    Even the food police say they are safe.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a well-known critic of food companies and artificial and unhealthy ingredients in foods, has not opposed genetically modified foods, on the basis that there’s no evidence they are harmful.

    Though what we are eating now appears safe, the main concerns for the future would be new genetically engineered foods, from the United States or abroad, that somehow become allergenic or toxic through the engineering process.

    The FDA says the foods they have evaluated to this point have not been any more likely to cause an allergic or toxic reaction than foods from traditionally bred plants.

    The FDA is not required to approve genetically engineered crops for consumption. But most companies will go through a voluntary safety review process with FDA before they put them on the market.

    THE BENEFITS

    There are clear benefits for the agricultural industry.

    For example, crops that are engineered to ward off pests or to tolerate herbicides. Also, companies such as Monsanto that produce modified seeds say their technologies will be needed to feed a rising world population as they engineer crops to adapt to certain climates and terrains.

    So far, most modified foods have been grown to resist chemicals, pests or disease. But advocates envision engineering crops to make them more nutritious as well. Food animals have been engineered to be bred to be free of diseases, be cleaner in their environments or grow more efficiently, though none has yet been approved in the United States.

    THE POLITICS

    There is an escalating political fight between labeling advocates and the food industry. In the absence of a federal labeling standard, GMO opponents have gone to the states to try to get a patchwork of labeling laws approved. That could eventually force a national standard.

    Ballot measures in California and Washington state failed, but the legislative effort prevailed in Vermont. Maine and Connecticut have passed laws requiring labels, but they don’t take effect unless other states follow suit. The food industry has said it will challenge the Vermont law in court.

    The state efforts aren’t slowing down. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 85 pending GMO labeling bills in 29 states.

    In Congress, the food industry is pushing a House bill that would head off efforts to enact mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients by proposing new voluntary labels nationwide – an attempted end run around the state-by-state laws.

    Currently, the FDA says labeling of genetically modified foods isn’t needed because the nutritional content is the same as non-GMO varieties.

    THE FUTURE

    Consumers increasingly are interested in what is in their food, including GMOs.

    Labeling proponents say it’s about transparency, not technology. They say there is precedent, like orange juice labels that say whether the juice is from concentrate.

    David Ropeik, the author of the book “How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts,” says he thinks the food industry should endorse labeling so it can move past the debate.

    “By supporting labeling, companies would say, `There’s no risk, we have nothing to hide,’” he says.

    AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein and AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

    Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter

    The post Debate over genetically modified foods continues amid confusion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Red light camera notice

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    RICK KARR: Drivers who run red lights kill nearly seven hundred people every year nationwide. Sue and Paul Oberhauser refuse to call those crashes “accidents.”

    PAUL OBERHAUSER: Most of those are intentionally people think they going to get away with it and they run the red light. They never think they’re going to kill a person.

    RICK KARR: Their daughter Sarah was killed by a driver who ran a red light in 2002. She was thirty-one years old and a mother of two, a high-school chemistry teacher and basketball coach in Oxford, Ohio. She was on her way to a teacher-training workshop on a Saturday morning when her light turned green.

    SUE OBERHAUSER: There was a young man who was 21 years old. And he ran the red light going 55 miles an hour. And he T-boned her car and Sarah was killed instantly.

    RICK KARR: The Oberhausers believe there’s a way to prevent crashes like the one that killed their daughter: automated cameras that keep an eye on intersections 24/7. So even when police aren’t there, drivers think twice before running a light. And the proof that they work, according to the Oberhausers, is a forty-minute drive from their farmhouse in Ohio’s state capital.

    RICK KARR: The City of Columbus installed its first red-light camera at this intersection in 2006. Since then, it’s put cameras at more than three dozen other intersections. And at those locations, side-impact collisions are down by 74 percent.

    GEORGE SPEAKS: We have significantly altered driver behavior for the good here in Columbus, Ohio.

    RICK KARR: George Speaks is the city’s deputy public safety director — and a red-light camera evangelist.

    GEORGE SPEAKS: Do we have less folks trying to beat the yellow and running lights? And the answer to that is, absolutely. We have over seventy percent less citations than we used to.

    RICK KARR: Columbus drivers haven’t turned into angels. But when one does run a red light at an intersection with cameras, it’s captured in a twelve-second video clip.

    GEORGE SPEAKS: You’ll note that the red light has been red for a number of seconds, prior to the car coming into the intersection. It’s been red now for what, three thousand, four thousand and the driver, jeopardizing everyone

    RICK KARR: The cameras send those videos — and high-resolution photos of the vehicles from behind — to a private contractor. It identifies who owns the car and sends that information back to the Columbus Police Department. Then, cops like Lieutenant Brent Mull review the evidence.

    BRENT MULL: Is he safe? Right there. I’m going to say he made a safe turn. He did look, he was in control of his vehicle, there was no pedestrians, and no other cross vehicular traffic. Um, I’m going to reject that.

    RICK KARR: Okay.

    BRENT MULL: It’s like baseball, if it’s a tie, the runner get the advantage on that. So if it’s a tie there and I can’t really tell we’re going to give the advantage to the person running the light.

    RICK KARR: It’s just giving them the benefit of the doubt, essentially.

    BRENT MULL: Right, right. This is for safety. It’s not about revenue for me. You know, this city is not going to collapse if I don’t write ticket or if I don’t hit an accept versus a reject on here.

    RICK KARR: The private contractor mails citations to drivers — who can pay the ninety five dollar fine … or request a hearing. The contractor processes the fines and gets to keep about thirty percent.

    GEORGE SPEAKS: For– a government entity, it is zero dollars to set up. The company up-fronts all the money. In exchange, they receive a percentage. It allows us as a division of police to concentrate, quite frankly, on– more violent crime.

    RICK KARR: Studies of red-light cameras effect on crashes aren’t conclusive. Most evidence shows that they cut down on right angle crashes – which tend to be severe. But some research shows that they may lead to more crashes overall – because drivers who slam on the brakes to avoid running lights may be getting into more rear-end collisions. Either way, a lot of motorists just don’t like traffic cameras.

    GEORGE SPEAKS: This is probably the most controversial subject matter I’ve ever dealt with in my 20-plus years of experience in government.

    RICK KARR: But automated cameras don’t just watch out for red-light runners — they’re also used to nab speeders.

    GEORGE SPEAKS: Communities, some communities, have quite frankly used these as speed traps.

    RICK KARR: Speed cameras need to be calibrated regularly and the video they capture just show cars driving away – which isn’t as convincing as an image of a light that’s red. Columbus only uses speed cameras in school zones, when a cop is present. But other Ohio municipalities have deployed them more aggressively. Like Elmwood Place, just outside Cincinnati.

    There’s one main drag through the town and the police chief has said drivers used to fly through here. But he didn’t have the officers to issue tickets, So after a couple accidents, the town decided to install some automated speed enforcement cameras. Within a few months, that had led to thousands of citations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

    Motorists filed a class action lawsuit arguing that those fines violated their due-process.

    MICHAEL ALLEN: With speed cameras and red light cameras you’re guilty until proven innocent. And that’s not right. That offends me as a lawyer. It offends me as a citizen. And it offends me as an American.

    RICK KARR: Michael Allen is a former prosecutor and municipal judge in Cincinnati and the lawyer who represented those drivers.

    MICHAEL ALLEN: You know, when somebody challenges a speeding citation, which rarely happens, but if it does, that police officer has to raise his right arm and testify that the device he used, the laser radar was properly calibrated, that he is properly trained, that he is certain that the person that is charged is the person that was driving that vehicle. You don’t have these in the speed camera cases.

    RICK KARR: A county judge agreed – he called the cameras “a high-tech game of three-card monte, a scam that the motorists can’t win,” and ordered Elmwood Place to remove the cameras. And pay back the fines. And generating income from those fines was why the village installed cameras in the first place, according to Allen.

    MICHAEL ALLEN: It’s all about revenue. You’re seeing a trend in this country towards policing for profit. And that’s not what law enforcement is supposed to be about.

    RICK KARR: We sat down with the Oberhausers the other day. Their daughter was killed in a side-on collision. Could you look at them and make a due process argument to people who are grieved that their adult daughter was killed?

    MICHAEL ALLEN: I think I could. I would do it very respectfully, though, But I’m going to say something that some are going to consider controversial, I think. You see so many times in the criminal justice system where you have the families– of people that have suffered horrible tragedies, and legislators will rush to change laws because of that. And at the end of the day, those laws actually are counterproductive and contrary to due process. That’s not the way to make policy. That’s not the way to legislate.

    RICK KARR: Allen won an injunction against another town and he’s filed a third lawsuit against the City of Dayton. Two members of the state House have introduced a bill that would ban cameras in Ohio. Ron Maag represents a mostly-rural district and calls himself a darling of the Tea Party. Dale Mallory represents part of inner-city Cincinnati and calls himself a liberal Democrat. They agree with Michael Allen that cameras violate due process — and are primarily intended to generate revenue. But they’re also concerned about drivers’ privacy.

    REP. RON MAAG: Just look at, I mean, this country. The NSA spying on all your phone calls and your computer work we have too much. If you own that store across the street and you want a camera out there to see who is coming in your store. That’s fine by me. But the government has no right to be spying on American citizens.

    RICK KARR: Mallory believes police like traffic cameras because they generate revenue, even when they’re reluctant to use them to fight other crimes.

    REP. DALE MALLORY: We wanted cameras in our communities for drug dealing, for you know, real serious crimes. And they said, ‘well, you can use that camera but if a guy has got crack in his hand we can identify it but an officer has to be there to confirm it.

    RICK KARR: Mallory and Maag say the firms that install the cameras – and take a percentage of the revenue they generate – have organized a lobbying campaign against their bill. Camera advocates Paul and Sue Oberhauser have been part of that effort — they’re co-chairs of a pro-camera group that’s partially funded by camera companies. But they argue that support hasn’t changed their message one bit.

    SUE OBERHAUSER: We’re not rich. We can’t go out and fund our message. And– what being with the coalition has done is its given us the ability to access data from all over the country and also to send letters to the editors all over the country, which we would not have had any way of doing otherwise.

    PAUL OBERHAUSER: You know, last year we killed almost 700 people running red lights, innocent people one at a time and nobody wants to do anything about it.

    RICK KARR: The bill to ban traffic cameras has passed the Ohio House and is now waiting for a Senate vote. The Oberhausers support an alternative that would set standards. Requiring police to review camera evidence and an appeal process.

    The post Do traffic cameras save lives or violate due process? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and Congress are moving quickly to respond to a growing political firestorm over allegations of treatment delays and falsified records at veterans’ hospitals nationwide.

    The top official for veterans’ health care resigned Friday, and House Republicans scheduled a vote for Wednesday on legislation that would give Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki greater authority to fire or demote senior executives and administrators at the agency and its 152 medical centers.

    The actions came as federal investigators visited a VA hospital in suburban Chicago to look into an allegation that secret lists were used to conceal long patient wait times for appointments. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., meanwhile, called for an investigation into reports that schedulers at a VA medical center in Albuquerque were ordered to falsify patient appointment records.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the Veterans Affairs Department is suffering from “a systemic, cultural problem” that cannot be solved with piecemeal responses, such as the resignation of a top official.

    “What’s needed is a total refocusing of the VA on its core mission of serving veterans – stretching from its top political leadership all the way through to its career civil servants,” McCain said Saturday in the weekly Republican radio and Internet address.

    Citing news reports that VA managers received performance bonuses even as internal audits revealed lengthy wait times for health care, McCain said top VA officials too often have been “motivated by all the wrong incentives and rewards.”

    McCain, a Vietnam veteran, said Congress must give VA administrators greater ability to hire and fire those charged with caring for veterans, as well as give veterans greater flexibility in how they get quality care in a timely manner.

    Reports of long waits for appointments and processing benefit applications have plagued the VA for years. Officials have shortened benefits backlogs, but allegations of preventable deaths that may be linked to delays at the Phoenix VA hospital have triggered an election-year uproar. A former clinic director said up to 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix VA hospital, even as hospital staff kept a secret appointment list to mask the delays.

    A VA nurse in Cheyenne, Wyoming, was put on leave for allegedly telling employees to falsify appointment records. A VA investigation in December found that staffers at a Fort Collins, Colorado, clinic were trained to make it appear as if veterans got appointments within 14 days, as VA guidelines suggest.

    Problems also have been reported in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Florida and others.

    Amid a growing outcry, the administration and Congress took steps to reassure the public that problems are being addressed.

    Robert Petzel, the VA’s undersecretary for health care, had been scheduled to retire this year but instead stepped down Friday. Petzel had said he would remain until the Senate confirmed a replacement, but a department official said Shinseki asked Petzel to leave immediately.

    Republicans denounced the move as a hollow gesture. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the announcement “the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak.” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Shinseki’s “reticence to hold fellow bureaucrats at the VA accountable is exactly why we need new leadership that is willing to take swift action to ensure we are living up to our promises to our nation’s heroes.”

    Cornyn is among a handful of Republicans who have called for Shinseki to resign. The American Legion, one of the nation’s largest veterans groups, also has called for Shinseki’s resignation and called Petzel’s departure “a continuation of business as usual.”

    The White House said President Barack Obama supports Shinseki’s decision to remove Petzel and that Obama is “committed to doing all we can to ensure our veterans have access to timely, quality health care.”

    Petzel’s resignation came a day after he and Shinseki were grilled at a four-hour hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where lawmakers and veteran groups expressed exasperation at long-standing problems.

    In his position, Petzel oversaw what officials say is the largest health care delivery system in the U.S. The VA operates 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other facilities around the country, serving about 6.5 million veterans and other beneficiaries each year.

    Miller, who wrote the legislation that the House will take up next week, said Congress must act, because the VA is “apparently unwilling to take substantive actions to hold any of its leaders accountable.”

    Shinseki on Thursday told senators he was “mad as hell” about allegations of severe problems and that he was looking for quick results from a nationwide audit. He has rejected calls for him to resign.

    Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.

    Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter.

    The post Administration moves to address VA hospital allegations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Vice President Biden Speaks At Familes USA Health Action Conference

    Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julian Castro speaks at the Families USA’s Health Action 2014 conference in January. Castro is reportedly President Obama’s choice for the next secretary of housing and urban development. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama intends to choose San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the secretary of housing and urban development, the New York Times reports Saturday.

    The Times, citing Democrats informed of Obama’s decision, said Castro would take the place of Shaun Donovan, who currently holds the position.

    Castro, often described as a rising star and a potential vice presidential candidate for the party, spoke with the PBS NewsHour following his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

    Watch the full video:

    The post Report: Obama plans to choose Julián Castro for Housing Secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tamir Carter, Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School, Brooklyn, NY (Student Reporting Labs)

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    ZANE DUKES, BLACK RIVER FALLS HIGH SCHOOL, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Integration should be a goal for every school in America because it allows students to be exposed to the diversity that they’ll experience in the real world and gives them a chance to really connect with different people other than high school.

    HANNA HODGE, BLACK RIVER FALLS HIGH SCHOOL, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Integrated schools are no doubt what we need at a national level. Students need to learn that their skin color is not the only one out in the world. Outside of school students are bound to meet people who have different backgrounds and why keep an opportunity like that away from them by keeping them locked up in a segregated school? -

    TAMIR CARTER, BROOKLYN COMMUNITY ARTS AND MEDIA HIGH SCHOOL, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: We have the opportunity to go to schools with mixed races. It’s just that I think people that feel comfortable going to school with people in their own race.

    MIGUEL POSADAS, PFLUGERVILLE HIGH SCHOOL, PFLUGERVILLE, TEXAS: You can’t show people like one culture for their whole lives and then when they see a person of another culture, they’re going to think theirs is better. It’s better to diversify and let people, let them meet new-new people so they don’t become like racist when they’re older.

    DEVIN NEWBY, BLACK RIVER FALLS HIGH SCHOOL, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: I believe that technology and advanced resources should be integrated into schools before different groups of cultures and people.

    ALYSSA VARGAS, PFLUGERVILLE HIGH SCHOOL, PFLUGERVILLE, TEXAS: Integrated schools should be a national goal because diversity in schools prepares kids for future work environment by working with different races.

    TYLER LEADHOLM, BLACK RIVER FALLS HIGH SCHOOL, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: If you allow students to go to another school they want and don’t segregate based on race, it doesn’t need to be an issue.

    JOSEPH SPENCE, PHILIP’S ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I think it’s really helpful if schools would be more diverse.

    KATHERINE MALCHOW, BLACK RIVER FALLS HIGH SCHOOL, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: People have so much to give depending on where they come from and who they are and you can learn so much from someone depending on their race and ethnicity and background

    The post Is integration important to today’s high school students? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    wwf_rhino_r_06small_edit

    In the early 1900’s an estimated 100,000 wild rhinos were thought to roam the world. Today that number stands at about 29,000 rhinos. Almost 75 percent of those wild rhinos are in South Africa.

    In some of the country’s national parks, rhinos are being slaughtered at an alarming rate for their horns. In 2007, 13 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa. By 2013 that number had risen to over 1,000. The trend continues with 376 deaths recorded as of May of this year.

    Number of rhinos poached in South Africa, 2000-May 2014

    Many attribute the increase in poaching to the rise in demand for horns in some Asian countries like China and Vietnam where a pound of rhino horn can sell from $25,000 to $50,000. In those countries, some believe rhino horn can cure illnesses like cancer and arthritis. Scientists say rhino horn has no medicinal value and consists mostly of the protein keratin, also found in human nails.

    Save the Rhino campaign

    Save the Rhino began this ad campaign in 2011.

    While park rangers are fighting the battle with poachers on the ground in South Africa, over the past few years ad campaigns by conservation groups have also been hitting airwaves and websites in consumer countries to discourage the consumption of rhino horn.

    In a 2011 campaign to protect the rhino the NGO Save the Rhino ran print ads using pictures and minimal wording.

    savetherhino3

    Save the rhino: Nothing we do can ever bring them back

    savetherhino1

    Save the rhino: Nothing we do can ever bring them back

     

     

     

     

     

    More recent campaigns by TRAFFIC and the World Wildlife Fund targeting countries like Vietnam focused on how little difference there is between rhino horn and finger and toenails.

    adinvietnamese

    Some ads have used local and international celebrities to re-enforce the message between buying rhino horn and rhino poaching.

    Despite the campaigns, demand for rhino horn is growing, with 2013 being the deadliest year on record for South African rhinos. It’s a trend that is being fueled by some newly wealthy Asians eager to try rhino horn and continued claims of rhino horn curing diseases and ailments.

    According to the journal Science, if poaching in South Africa continues at this rate, rhinos could be extinct in that country within 20 years.

    The post International ad campaigns aim to reduce rhino horn demand appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    One Year Anniversary Of General Motors Filing For Bankruptcy

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We want to go more deeply tonight into a significant story that broke yesterday – the record government fine against General Motors. This, for its slow response reporting a safety problem linked to 13 deaths. For more, we are joined tonight from Phoenix, Arizona by Micheline Maynard. She has covered the auto industry for many years.

    So just remind people what this case is all about.

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: These involved General Motors vehicles Saturns, Pontiacs and Chevrolets that started to be built in 2002. These are older model General Motors cars. The problem is that there’s a little pin in the ignition that can come loose and if that happens the car can basically switch itself off essentially. When that happens people can lose control of the car, and if the ignition is off your airbags don’t work. So, that’s the biggest issue here is that sudden loss of control, this sudden loss of power and then if you get in a crash which could happen if you lose the ignition, your airbags won’t come on so it’s a very scary situation for the people involved in these accidents and sadly thirteen people have died.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, on the one hand $35 million bucks that’s a huge amount of money and on the other hand Senator Markey calls it a parking ticket.

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: That’s right. This fine is actually the limit that the government can charge a company for failing to disclose information about recalls. And, there are proposals in fact, backed by the Transportation Department, to raise that to about something around $100 million. So if the new bill went through GM would have paid a much higher fine, but in this case this is all the government can charge.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Besides the fine, what about these monthly meetings that they have to have with regulators about every safety issue under the sun that they’re dealing with.

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: My friend Nick Bunkley at Automotive News says ‘GM was put on a short leash.’ So, this is unprecedented in terms of one of the Detroit carmakers. General Motors has to basically report in it is almost like it’s on parole or something with the Transportation Department. This is the kind of information that car companies, you know they don’t like giving out information to the government. They would rather be able to run their operations without having to justify what they do. So, it’s an unprecedented level of supervision for a Detroit company. And it will be very interesting to see how this relationship works out.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It doesn’t see that GM is finished with all of this. There are still investigations going on with all of this. Are they still possibly liable for criminal malfeasance?

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: So, there’s a couple of milestones that will probably still happen here. First of all, General Motors is conducting its own internal investigation and it also hired Kenneth Feinberg, who adjudicated the 9/11 victims’ cases, he was the person who looked into compensation in the BP oil spill. And Feinberg is expected to make his recommendations to GM about whether it should be paying the families of the victims. And then finally, there will be more Congressional oversight and possibly a Justice Department settlement like we saw with Toyota which was $1.2 billion and Toyota also admitted fault.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The investigation seems to have uncovered a culture more than just a specific problem. So how do they tackle this? How do regulators change the minds of people who are on the front lines of figuring out whether this complaint should be taken more seriously?

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: What’s fascinating about this is that this is the second time that the government has had to wade into General Motors to fix problems that people saw over years but were never addressed. So if you remember back to the bailout of 2009, one of the things that the White House task force did was basically tell General Motors you haven’t been running your operations correctly – these are the suggestions, I guess suggestions with a baseball bat, that they had for GM. And now here we have the Transportation Department saying you camouflaged safety information from 2009 forward. So I think it’s kind of a sad situation for GM that it takes outside regulators, or politicians essentially, to tell the company how to run its operations the way it was supposed to.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Micheline Maynard joining us from Phoenix, Arizona today, thanks so much.

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: My pleasure.

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    Rhinos - v2 - 05_16_14 - 440p

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    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The Kruger National Park is enormous, as big as the state of New Jersey, home to the largest population of rhinos on the planet. And they are being poached here at an alarming rate for their horns. Rhino horn is composed of the same material as a finger nail. But it is prized in Asia, especially Vietnam. Some believe it can cure cancer and boost virility So it is more valuable than gold. A pound of rhino horn sells for about $50,000. A typical horn can weigh between two and six pounds.

    In Kruger Park last year 606 rhinos were killed for their horns. So far in 2014 the figure stands at 235. Johan Jooste is a former South African general commanding an aggressive anti-poaching unit in Kruger Park.

    JOHAN JOOSTE: You’re dealing with armed incursion, you’re a sovereign country you have armed thieves entering your country, armed poachers, illegally. They plunder your resources and they exit illegally again.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The rhinos are defenseless—the poachers relentless, brutal—cruel—rhinos are shot, their horns hacked off whether they are dead or alive. A tourist captured these shocking images of one rhinos suffering.

    Learn about international campaigns to save the rhino

    Learn about international campaigns to save the rhino

    BRUCE LESLIE: I think the worst is when you come across an animal that’s alive that hasn’t been killed humanely and it’s actually bleeding out and it’s on its hindquarters and it’s trying to walk away but it can’t and its whole nasal cavity and horns are removed. Those aren’t easy. Or a calf—I’ve seen a rhino calf of a few weeks that has been shot and killed by poachers and you ask yourself, well why? Why kill the calf it doesn’t make sense. It is a symptom of the level of greed. A calf horn is tiny, but still worth something to the poachers. And poachers will not hesitate to shoot at rangers.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Mbongeni Tukela has been a park ranger for 27 years.

    MBONGENI TUKELA: They can be very, very dangerous. Of late they’ve taken to bringing more firearms then you’d expect from a hunting group. They would normally bring a hunting rifle plus a protection firearm, be it a shotgun or be it an automatic weapon like an AK-47. Sometimes they even carry pistols and one group who had a grenade.

    JOHAN JOOSTE: Last year we had 60 firefights, six-zero. Killing doesn’t come easy for any civilized person. In those 60 firefights 47 poachers died.

    KEN MAGGS: We have 22 sections in the Kruger National Park.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: It is a small war and it is run from a tiny operations center in the park. Rangers are deployed at strategic locations across Kruger. At any given time there are between five and 15 groups of armed poachers hunting rhino in Kruger Park. Rangers patrol day and night trying to track them down. It is dangerous and difficult.

    RANGER: If we find a track like this and then that is where we get our information that the movement of the poachers, how are they walking here, looking for the rhinos and then from this information is where we can start working on how are we going to get them.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Not easy for a few reasons.

    KEN MAGGS: First of all they’re not scared to enter the park, they’re not scared of wild animals, they’re not scared of the dark or the night and they have no rules, absolutely no rules.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Ninety per cent of the poachers cross into the park along South Africa’s porous border with Mozambique. It’s their escape route too. Grant Knight flies support from above but he says they cannot follow the poachers into Mozambique.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Is it frustrating for you when you have to leave them?

    GRANT KNIGHT: Oh big time, big time. I mean it’s such a complete barrier that the poachers know it. They know they’ve just got to get over the fence and we cannot carry on into another country and it’s a real barrier for us.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Limpopo National Park on the Mozambican side is a grim testament to the ravages of poaching. There are few animals here and no rhinos because poaching was never illegal in Mozambique. That will change this year. Afonso Madope is a director at Mozambique’s ministry of tourism. He says the laws are about to get a lot tougher.

    AFONSO MADOPE: Most of the guys the poachers they were completely free because you know they were convinced that no one can do anything in order to arrest us or make their selves, their lives complicated. From now I’m convinced that will be completely different.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: At the moment though the poachers remain all powerful and they prey on people still living inside Mozambique’s Limpopo Park boundaries. The village of Mavodze in Limpopo Park is only 20 miles from the Kruger Park border. There are several communities like this scattered throughout the park, subsistence farmers and that is an important part of the equation. They don’t have much money and the poachers do. They’ll pay up to $30,000for a pair of rhino horns—huge money for people living on about $6 a day.

    ANTHONY ALEXANDER, MANAGER, LIMPOPO PARK, MOZAMBIQUE: If you look at the poacher the poacher is typically 18-25 years old—young. Not many job prospects. But the money is spent at best on a house but generally on alcohol, vehicles, parties, so greed is a huge factor.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: We were told by a park official that these young men were involved in poaching—he warned us not to approach them. The older generation spoke to us but they were nervous. If they knew there were poachers in the village they didn’t say. Amelia has lived here most of her life. I would not show people the way or help them she says. If they came I would not take their money.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Thomas—one of the parks officials says he knows there are people here who do because he says there are many new houses.

    THOMAS: Sometimes it’s about poaching, you know.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Yeah. So some of these houses in the village were built with money from poaching?

    THOMAS: Yeah, but I don’t know actually who is poaching or not but I see the house. In a few moment I see the house, you know.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Mozambican park rangers have the weapons to prove it—these are from recently arrested poachers.

    JOSE SITHOI: Because they are ready to fight.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: So, they use the AK-47 to shoot against the rangers, and they use this weapon here?

    JOSE SITHOI: For rhinos.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: For the rhinos.

    JOSE SITHOI: For the rhinos.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: On the South African side the Kruger rangers are training to fight back. In this simulation “poachers’ are tracked. The ensuing staged firefight involves live ammunition. And it all ends with a capture. South Africa and Mozambique have just signed an agreement of co-operation. Soon rangers from both countries will be free to conduct joint operations and South African rangers will be able to chase poachers into Mozambique.

    JOHAN JOOSTE: This agreement has the potential to change it over the next year most definitely. One will be able to pursue with a joint operation across the border. Mozambique park ranger Jose Sithoi says he is looking forward to working with the South Africans.

    JOSE SITHOI: South Africa itself cannot fight against poacher alone and Mozambique, too, cannot fight against poacher alone. We are fighting against the same enemy and therefore we have to be united.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: It is a significant development—perhaps a turning point in this war because in the last 6 years 1500 rhinos have been slaughtered in Kruger Park alone. The black rhino is now classified as critically endangered, the white rhino near threatened. The frontline rangers in Mozambique and South Africa offer the best hope in this determined effort to save the rhino.

    BRUCE LESLIE: We are not going to go away. They need to stop and turn around and walk away because we are not going away. We are here forever and we are going to ensure that the rhino are here forever.

    The post Can cross-border cooperation save the endangered rhino? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Doug88888

    Credit: Flickr user Doug88888

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to help Central American farmers fight a devastating coffee disease – and hold down the price of your morning cup.

    At issue is a fungus called coffee rust that has caused more than $1 billion in damage across Latin American region. The fungus is especially deadly to Arabica coffee, the bean that makes up most high-end, specialty coffees.

    Already, it is affecting the price of some of those coffees in the United States.

    “We are concerned because we know coffee rust is already causing massive amounts of devastation,” said Raj Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    On Monday, he was expected to announce a $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University’s World Coffee Research center to try to eliminate the fungus.

    But the government isn’t doing this just to protect our $4 specialty coffees, as much as Americans love them. The chief concern is about the economic security of these small farms abroad. If farmers lose their jobs, it increases hunger and poverty in the region and contributes to violence and drug trafficking.

    Washington estimates that production could be down anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent in coming years, and that those losses could mean as many as 500,000 people could lose their jobs. Though some countries have brought the fungus under control, many of the poorer coffee-producing countries in Latin America don’t see the rust problem getting better anytime soon.

    Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica have all been hard hit.

    Much of the blander, mass-produced coffee in this country comes from Asia and other regions. Most of the richer, more expensive coffees are from small, high altitude farms in Central America. Because the farms are smaller, farmers there often don’t have enough money to buy the fungicides needed or lack the training to plant in ways that could avoid contamination.

    The rust, called roya in Spanish, is a fungus that is highly contagious due to airborne fungal spores. It affects different varieties, but the Arabica beans are especially susceptible. Rainy weather worsens the problem.

    “We don’t see an end in sight anytime soon,” said Leonardo Lombardini of Texas A&M’s World Coffee Research.

    So far, major U.S. coffee companies have been able to find enough supply to avoid price increases. But some smaller outfits already have seen higher prices, said Ric Rhinehart of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

    Rhinehart said the worst-case scenario is that consumers eventually will pay “extraordinarily high prices for those coffees, if you can find them at all.”

    He said some very specialized varieties from a single origin – Guatemalan antigua coffees, for example – have been much harder to source. If the problem continues, he says, some small coffee companies either will raise prices or use blends that are easier to find, decreasing the quality of the coffee.

    Larger companies such as Starbucks and Keurig Green Mountain Inc. have multiple suppliers across the region and say they have so far been able to source enough coffee.

    “It’s a little bit too soon to tell what the impact will be on supply and long term quality over time,” said Lindsey Bolger, who heads up coffee sourcing for Keurig Green Mountain.

    Still, the companies are trying to ensure that their future supply isn’t affected, so they are working closely with growers on better practices that will help them avoid contamination.

    “Supporting the farmer’s ability to access information, technology and resources allows them to adapt to these uncertainties and ensures the longevity of our industry’s supply chain,” said Craig Russell, Starbucks Global Coffee executive vice president. Starbucks even bought a Costa Rican farm for research purposes.

    USAID intends to work with Texas A&M to step up research on rust-resistant coffee varieties and help Latin America better monitor and respond to the fungus. The U.S. already collaborates with some of the coffee companies and other international organizations to finance replanting of different varieties of trees.

    The effort is part of the Obama administration’s Feed the Future program, which aims to rid the world of extreme poverty through agricultural development and improved nutrition.

    While the effort has helped hungry children around the globe, “we’re at risk of backtracking because of coffee rust,” Shah says.

    The post Devastating coffee rust raises prices on high-end blends appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Handcuffed but not obeying police commands, the 21-year-old suspect absorbed the first shot from a 50,000-volt stun gun as he lay on the ground.

    Over the next 14 minutes, a police officer used his Taser on Baron Pikes at least seven more times when Pikes did not follow orders.

    Pikes began showing signs of distress a short time after officers dragged him into the police department building in the central Louisiana town of Winnfield. A little over an hour later, on a January day in 2008, he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

    The Supreme Court is being asked to review Pikes’ case as part of a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of his young son against a former Winnfield police officer. If the justices agree to hear the case, it would be the court’s first look at police use of stun guns after turning away appeals from both recipients of the high-voltage shocks and from police officers.

    A decision on taking up the issue could come as soon as Monday.

    Since 2001, stun guns have been listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths in the United States, according to the human rights advocacy group Amnesty International. More than 540 people have died after police use of stun guns in that time, the group said.

    “Police departments using these weapons should limit their deployment only to situations which are life threatening or where there is the threat of serious injury,” said Rachel Ward, managing director of research for Amnesty International USA. “What we have now is such a piecemeal approach as to how these weapons are being deployed, when really what is needed is very strict national guidelines on their use.”

    Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, says that its stun guns are a safe, nonlethal alternative to firearms and that they have prevented 124,000 deaths or serious injuries. The company says injuries to officers and suspects decrease significantly when officers carry stun guns. Tasers are used by more than 17,000 law enforcement and military agencies in 107 countries.

    “It’s disingenuous to limit the use of a tool that’s actually saving lives and has proven safer than actually tackling someone to the ground,” Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

    A Justice Department study published in 2011 concluded that officers using stun guns should avoid shooting suspects multiple times or for prolonged periods to reduce the risk of potential injury or death. But the study also found that using stun guns to subdue unruly or uncooperative suspects is appropriate.

    In 2012, an American Heart Association report linked stun gun use to heart attacks and deaths.

    Lawyers pressing the suit in Pikes’ case also point to a recent Justice Department report about abuses of power by police officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, because they say Pikes’ case is similar to what investigators found in New Mexico. The report said Albuquerque police used Tasers unreasonably, including in situations that placed people at risk of death or serious harm. It also said police too quickly resorted to Taser use when other less extreme options were available.

    The devices work in two different ways.

    They can fire two barbed darts attached to wires that carry a high-voltage charge. In this mode, the stun gun has a range of 35 feet and can be used to subdue violent suspects at less risk to police.

    The stun gun also can be used in “drive stun” mode in which the device is pressed directly against part of a suspect’s body and is intended to deliver enough localized pain to get someone to obey police orders.

    In Pikes’ case, all but the first shot were in “drive stun” mode. His death certificate listed the cause of death as cardiac arrest, following nine 50,000-volt applications of a stun gun. It is unclear whether Pikes was shocked eight or nine times. He had marijuana in his system at the time of his death and had sickle cell anemia. The cause of death is not at issue in the suit.

    Rather, the question is whether the police used excessive force against Pikes, especially because he was handcuffed. Pikes, 6-feet tall and weighing nearly 250 pounds, initially ran from police, but was caught a few minutes later. He was wanted for possession of crack cocaine.

    Winnfield fired Officer Scott Nugent after the episode. Nugent was charged with manslaughter in Pikes’ death but was acquitted by a jury in 2010.

    A federal trial judge said the civil suit against Nugent could go forward, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the claims against him.

    The appeals court said Pikes was arrested for a serious crime, tried to evade arrest and did not comply with the officers’ commands to cooperate. The court said the case must be dismissed because it wasn’t clear that Nugent’s actions violated Pikes’ constitutional rights. The law shields an official from being sued for money damages unless the official violated a constitutional right that was clearly established at the time the claimed misconduct occurs, the court said.

    The case is Thomas v. Nugent, 13-862.

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    HariBike_01

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s some new data out on how we get to work and what that may say about us.

    This past Friday was bike to work day, but chances are you did not participate – only point six percent of Americans commute to work by bike.

    I am occasionally, one of them. On some days I ride to work over the 59th Street Bridge.

    The number of us that pedal to work is up 60% over the past decade. That’s according a new report from the Census Bureau. But it also finds something else interesting about those who have to ride to work, versus those of us who can choose to.

    Turns out, the poorest and the richest; least educated and most educated are the most likely to ride to work. As the Washington Post put it, “alternatives to driving in the United States are both a luxury for the well-off and a last resort for the poor.”

    Here in New York – where dramatically fewer people drive to work than in the rest of the country – I ride my bike as an alternative to the subway. In the past few years the city has installed hundreds of miles of bike lanes and launched a new bike share program.

    PAUL STEELY WHITE: We’ve seen double-digit growth in bicycling each year for the last several years in New York.

    Paul Steely White is the executive director of transportation alternatives, a New York cycling and pedestrian advocacy organization. On bike-to-work day they handed out coffee and snacks to cyclists making the trip in.

    White says the census data only tells part of the story.

    PAUL STEELY WHITE: The Census only captures work trips. So it’s not counting errands, or recreation, or other kinds of bike trips. And it doesn’t count trips that people take to the train, or to the bus.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Every kind of person. On every kind of bike. Doing every sort of thing. Even a quick promo for the NewsHour.

    One promise, I won’t be doing the show anytime soon in my bike clothes.

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    African elephants (loxodonta africana) in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

    African elephants (loxodonta africana) in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Officials reported on Friday the first case of elephant poaching at the park in over a decade. Credit: Wikimedia via: freestock.ca

    Officials at South Africa’s Kruger National Park have reported the first case of elephant poaching in the park in over a decade. The male elephant’s corpse,  stripped of its tusks, was found near the border with Mozambique.

    Rangers fear an increase in elephant poaching due to continued demand for ivory. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, poaching is responsible for the death of between 25,000 and 35,000 elephants a year. The killing occurred on the same day that authorities in Hong Kong began a two-year program to destroy 29 tons of confiscated ivory.

    NewsHour Weekend reports from Kruger on the cross-border battle already being waged with rhino poachers. The rhino poaching epidemic in South Africa reached a high in 2013 with 1004 recorded incidents.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Switzerland today voters rejected a plan to establish what would have been the world’s highest minimum wage. The vote was approximately 3-to-1 against. Supporters said the plan would reduce income inequality. Business leaders had argued against it, saying it would make Switzerland less competitive with other nations and lead to higher unemployment.

    For more about this we are joined now via Skype from Geneva, Switzerland by John Heilprin. He’s the chief correspondent for the Associated Press in that country.

    So, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development calculated that the minimum wage that voted down in Switzerland would have been about twice as high as the American minimum wage. So tell us about the debate that led up to today’s vote.

    JOHN HEILPRIN: Well, first of all, this was one of four referendums that voters decided on Sunday. The Swiss Trade Union Federation had gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot. They were arguing that a nationwide floor of 22 Swiss francs an hour – which works out to about $25 an hour – was needed to keep the lowest-paid employees from falling into poverty. And that may sound like a lot outside of Switzerland but this is a country that has pretty much the highest prices and the costliest cities in the world. You can spend $7 for a Starbuck’s grande latte. You can spend more for a deluxe burger at McDonald’s.

    And it’s also the country has a median pay of about $33 francs an hour – which works out to about $37. So you can imagine the price pressures people feel.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So if you’re earning $37 an hour or the equivalent thereof in Switzerland does that make you feel poor?

    JOHN HEILPRIN: Surprisingly you do. I’ve been living in Switzerland for three years now and it generally feels like things cost two to three times as much as they do in the States. I’ve seen a pair of jeans that sell for $50 in the States go for about three times that much in Switzerland.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So this is part also of a kind of a pattern we’ve started to see here over the last year or so. This is like the third different vote on income inequality. They were trying to pass one that reduced the income disparity between the people who run companies and those people that work at them. There was another one about CEO compensation. How do they have these so often?

    JOHN HEILPRIN: Well this is a county that’s a direct democracy. They are a bit crazy about their referendums. It’s Switzerland’s unique take on popular rule. They have these endless citizen-inspired referendums. You need 100,000 signatures to get it on the ballot and then it takes a little time to get it to the vote. But the trade union got this approved. They got enough signatures in 2012 and here we are today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And finally, how does the minimum wage in the neighborhood affect this minimum wage debate?

    JOHN HEILPRIN: Switzerland, first of all, has no minimum wage, but what’s important to bear in mind is that the OECD, which adjust figures for spending power, says the highest current minimum wage is Luxembourg’s which is $10.66 an hour. Next is France, Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. By comparison the U.S. comes in tenth on the list. It’s listed at $7.11 at the adjusted rate. In reality it’s $7.25. And my understanding is that the Swiss minimum wage would have worked out to about $14 in terms of spending power, which I think puts the high costs into perspective.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right John Heilprin, joining us from Switzerland via Skype. Thanks so much.

    JOHN HEILPRIN: Thank you

    The post Swiss voters reject plan to set a minimum wage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Students at Doherty Middle School get their healthy lunch at the school cafeteria, on June 18, 2012 in Andover, Massachusetts. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

    Students at Doherty Middle School get their healthy lunch at the school cafeteria, on June 18, 2012 in Andover, Massachusetts. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans are proposing to let some schools opt out of healthier school lunch and breakfast programs if they are losing money.

    A GOP spending bill for agriculture and food programs released Monday would allow schools to apply for waivers if they have a net loss on school food programs for six months in a row.

    Championed by first lady Michelle Obama, the new standards have been phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming in 2014. The rules set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond.

    The first lady was holding a call to rally supporters of the healthier food rules Monday as a House subcommittee is expected to consider the bill on Tuesday.

    While many schools have had success putting the rules in place, others have said the rules are too restrictive and costly. The House Appropriations Committee said in a release that the waiver language is in response to requests from schools.

    The School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies who sell food to schools, said Monday that schools need more room to make their own decisions.

    “School meal programs need more flexibility to plan menus that increase student consumption of healthy choices while limiting waste,” said Leah Schmidt, president of the organization.

    The School Nutrition Association says that almost half of school meal programs reported declines in revenue in the 2012-13 school year and 90 percent said food costs were up. The School Nutrition Association says that almost half of school meal programs reported declines in revenue in the 2012-13 school year and 90 percent said food costs were up.

    Nutrition advocates and other supporters of the rules say it will take some time for schools to adjust and the House proposal is overly broad. Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says the House Republicans are using a “hacksaw rather than a scalpel” to try and solve problems some schools are having.

    Wootan argues that there may be other factors in play such as enrollment or food costs if a lunch program is losing money.

    “It’s a shame that the House Republicans are taking a step backward and allowing schools to serve more unhealthy food to children,” she said.

    The House bill would provide money for Agriculture Department programs and Food and Drug Administration programs. A Senate subcommittee was also scheduled to mark up its version of the food and farm spending bill Tuesday but that panel has not yet released its language.

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    Award-winning singer Jessye Norman has a problem with declining arts programs in America’s schools.

    “It is a big issue and it makes me completely crazy,” Norman told correspondent Jeffrey Brown, when they sat down to discuss her new memoir, “Stand Up Straight and Sing.”

    In that book she describes how, despite growing up in the segregated South, Norman’s family, church, and schools nurtured her interest in singing and provided the foundation for her later success.

    Watch the video to hear more of Norman’s thoughts on the importance of arts education.

    The post Arts education helps build ‘whole people,’ says singer Jessye Norman appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supporters of Russia take over the government building in Donetsk. Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Supporters of Russia take over the government building in Donetsk. Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    DONETSK, Eastern Ukraine — Just two months ago, this 11-story building in the heart of the state capital was the symbol of Ukrainian central government power in its easternmost region, Donetsk. We were there to interview the new governor, steel and energy oligarch Sergei Taruta. He was most proud of the fact that he and the local police had retaken the administration building from pro-Russian separatists.

    But now the separatists are back in charge. They are well ensconced behind barricades of tires, concertina wire and checkpoints. Russian flags fly atop tents, which sport signs declaring “Stop Ukrainian fascism, ” and “America and Europe: Keep your hands off Ukraine and Russia. We are one nation.”

    Inside, though, the atmosphere is a little less charged. After six weeks of re-occupation, it feels more like a college administration building taken over by students in the ’70s than it does the headquarters of a Russian-backed challenge to the Ukrainian government here. The walls are festooned with graffiti and tired posters. Empty coffee cups, cigarette butts and piles of trash litter the corners, and beat-up computers and printers are piled in the hallways.

    Trash piles up inside a government building in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Photo by Margaret Warner

    Trash piles up inside a government building in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Photo by Margaret Warner

    The people bustling about inside are mostly young men in their 20s and 30s — perhaps because the elevators no longer work, so you have to be fit to move around. But otherwise they seem to lack for nothing. The authorities have not cut off the water or power supplies, and the occupiers say they have plenty of food and medical care.

    Nobody wears ski masks as they reportedly did shortly after retaking the building in early April. Only on the 10th floor, where Taruta’s office had been, did we see a handful of them carrying sidearms, and we heard three men barking into the phone in native Russian rather than the Ukrainian-accented Russian commonly spoken here.

    Typical of the local occupiers were four young men — including a former furniture designer, and an IT specialist — we found hunched over laptops in an office, working on the website for the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk. That’s the entity that since the May 11 “independence referendum” claims to represent the people here.

    Viktor Priss, a 28-year-old IT specialist wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, said he was spurred to join the separatists by the February revolution in Kiev’s Maidan Square, when he felt that western Ukrainians overthrew the country’s legitimately elected president from the East, Viktor Yanukovych. Yet Priss and his new compatriots didn’t appear to agree on what future they seek — a fully independent Donetsk, a Donetsk joined to Russia or a Donetsk remaining in Ukraine but with much greater independence. “We don’t know what will happen,” he said.

    Separatists' website IT specialist Viktor Priss sits with Margaret Warner in his recently occupied office with the flag of the People's Republic of Donetsk. Photo by Natalya Gryvnyak

    Separatists’ website IT specialist Viktor Priss sits with Margaret Warner in his recently occupied office with the flag of the People’s Republic of Donetsk. Photo by Natalya Gryvnyak

    I asked them if they felt more Ukrainian or Russian in their identity. Two laughed and the other two shrugged. “I was raised as a Ukrainian,” said Viktor, who was 5 years old when Ukrainian parliament declared independence from the collapsing USSR and all its other republics, including Russia. “But now that I’m forced to choose, in my heart I am of Russian culture.” Asked what he meant by that, he paused for a moment before saying, “I am of Slavic culture.” Ukraine is part of the thousands-year-old Slavic civilization too, of course.

    What was striking to me was that Priss and his friends seemed to lack any sense of Ukrainian identity, despite having grown up for the last 23 years in a “free and independent Ukraine.” They said they were never taught the history of Ukraine as a distinct entity, neither by their teachers nor by their textbooks. They learned only about Ukraine’s prominent status within czarist Russia and as the breadbasket and a major industrial heartland of the USSR. Said Viktor, who is of mixed parentage like so many here, “I think I never knew what it was to be ‘Ukrainian.’”

    If you ask people in Egypt if they feel Egyptian, the answer is a resounding yes — and they can tell you why. Whatever their political differences, Egyptians share a sense of national and cultural identity. The same goes for most French, for most British and for most Americans, steeped as they are in their common history and national myths.

    But on display here today — the consequences of a tragically missed opportunity by every Ukrainian government since independence nearly a quarter century ago, to inculcate a proud national identity and founding mythology in its youngest citizens. Now, facing the gravest crisis of its young existence, Ukraine faces the task of trying to forge that identity against odds that seem to grow longer every day.

    The post Dispatch from ground zero for the Donetsk People’s Republic appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    One of the most heroic things you can do is spend time figuring out how to make sure your loved ones are financially secure after you're gone. Photo by funstock/iStock/360 via Getty Images.

    It’s important to settle on the right Social Security claiming strategy to ensure your loved ones are financially secure after you’re gone. Photo by funstock/iStock/360 via Getty Images.

    Larry Kotlikoff’s Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Let us know your Social Security questions. Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version.


    Question: I am currently 62 and have been collecting Social Security disability since September 2010. My wife turned 62 in October of 2010. My life expectancy is likely a year or less now after a long battle with cancer, certainly no more than two. I was the higher wage earner. One of cancer’s nemeses is not being able to put everything together in a timely manner.

    I only had the vague impression that the longer my wife waited to file, the higher the benefit for her. Now my thinking is this: she should have filed for a spousal disability benefit at 62. Then when I die, she would file (at full retirement age of 66) for survivor benefits. Water under the bridge, but we now plan to file ASAP even just a few months short of her 66th birthday for the spousal disability and proceed later with survivor benefits as planned. Just want to check my reasoning with you. Thanks for your great column.

    Larry Kotlikoff: My heart goes out to you and your wife. You are doing what so many other heroic people in your situation do, namely spending their remaining time making sure their survivors will be in the best financial shape possible.

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    It’s not clear that you made any mistake in not having your wife file for a spousal benefit at 62. And having her file for her spousal benefit before reaching full retirement age may be a huge mistake. If she waits until full retirement age, she can collect just her spousal benefit and let her own retirement benefit grow. At 70, she can take it inclusive of her delayed retirement credits — at a 32 percent, inflation-adjusted, permanently higher level.

    Once you pass away, she can immediately apply for a survivor benefit and then wait until 70 to collect the larger of either her own retirement benefit or her widow’s benefit. Depending on your and her past earnings histories, her age-70 retirement benefit may exceed her widow’s benefit.

    Were she to file right now (before full retirement age) for her spousal benefit, she would be deemed to also be filing for her retirement benefit. This would plunge her into “excess benefit hell” in which she would never be able to collect one benefit (either her spousal benefit starting at full retirement age or her widow’s benefit) by itself while letting her own retirement benefit grow.

    Had she, for example, filed at 62 for her spousal benefit, she would have been forced to take her retirement benefit as well. She would have then received her reduced retirement benefit plus her reduced excess spousal benefit, which would surely have been zero. (The excess spousal benefit, before being reduced for taking it early, is half of your primary insurance amount less 100 percent of her PIA. This difference is set to zero if it’s negative. And given the progressivity of the formula for determining the PIA, the difference would surely have been negative.)

    So, if I’m right, had she filed early for a spousal benefit, she would have only ended up with a permanently reduced retirement benefit. Plus, had she filed early, when you pass away she would have received not her full widow’s benefit (before any reduction due to taking it before 66), but just her excess widow’s benefit.

    This amount too could be very small or zero. Furthermore, had she filed for her spousal benefit early, been deemed (forced to) file for her retirement benefit too, been plunged instantly into excess benefit hell, and then suspended her retirement benefit upon reaching full retirement age, she would collect only her very small (potentially zero) excess widow’s benefit between full retirement age and 70.

    Yes, at 70, she could, under this suspension scenario, restart her retirement benefit at a 32 percent larger value than its value at the time of suspension. But its value at the time of suspension would be 1.32 times her full retirement benefit — reduced because she was forced to take it early.

    Moreover, if her excess widow’s benefit were positive before and after suspending her retirement benefit, the suspending would produce lower benefits between full retirement age and 70 in exchange for no higher benefits after age 70.

    Bottom line? Do not have her file for her spousal benefits before reaching full retirement age unless she had really low Social Security-covered earnings during her working career. At full retirement age, have her file just for her spousal benefit and, when you pass away, have her file immediately just for her widow’s benefit. She’ll then get that widow’s benefit through age 70, at which point she’ll collect the larger of either her own retirement benefit, augmented by the delayed retirement credit, or her widow’s benefit. (This amounts to the sum of her delayed retirement credit-augmented retirement benefit plus her excess widow’s benefit).


    Steve: I am 64 and my wife is 55. She has been the major wage earner in our 24-year marriage. After doing a little reading, she discovered that I should wait until I am 66 to file for my Social Security benefits, and that she should wait until she is 70 to apply for hers. Is this information accurate? I feel crummy about her having to work so hard and for so long to file for Social Security, and, who knows? I may be gone by the time she is able to retire. Is there a better way for us?

    Larry Kotlikoff: I think your wife is providing very bad advice. A little reading in this area is a dangerous thing because if you are reading anything on the Social Security Administration’s website, you can easily read half-truths. Also, many people writing about Social Security benefits aren’t qualified to do so. I have all my answers in this column checked by Jerry Lutz, a former and brilliant long-time technical expert with the SSA. I feel confident that what I tell you and others is, indeed, correct.

    I recommend you wait until 70 to collect your highest possible retirement benefit and leave your wife in a position to collect the highest possible widow’s benefit when you die. I recommend ​your wife file just for her spousal benefit at full retirement age (and not a second sooner so as to avoid “excess benefit hell,” which I describe above). And I recommend your wife file for her own highest possible retirement benefit at 70.

    If you pass away in the near term, your wife should either file for her retirement benefit before reaching full retirement age and then at full retirement age, file for her widow’s benefit or file just for her widow’s benefit early (although not necessarily as early as possible) and then at 70 file for her retirement benefit. Which option is best is a question that inexpensive and accurate software can answer in less than a half a second.


    Note: The following question has multiple parts, so I broke it up for easier reading, with each part in bold.

    Dear Larry, here’s some background for you: my wife and I are both 66 and fully retired. I was the higher earner, maxing out on my Social Security benefit projection. My wife took her Social Security benefit early at age 62. We both recognize this was a mistake that affected opportunities to maximize our joint benefits.

    We have hopefully put some strategies in place to allow to us to adjust. I have deferred taking the benefit on my record until some later date (possibly age 70) to grow the benefit 8 percent each year I defer. However, I did a file and restrict/suspend on my record when I turned 66 (in September 2013), and then I filed to start collecting spousal benefits on my wife’s record at that time.

    ​You surely did not file for your retirement benefit and suspend its collection and also file for your spousal benefit when you reached 66. Had you done so, you would have been given your excess spousal benefit, which would surely have been zero. You surely filed just for your spousal benefit. This is very different from filing and suspending your retirement benefit and filing for your spousal benefit.

    I’m emphasizing the distinction, not for you, but for other readers who can make the tragic mistake of mistakenly filing and suspending for their retirement benefit when they are trying to collect a spousal benefit, rather than provide one. Making this mistake then plunges them into “excess benefit hell.”

    Social Security can easily trap people into making such mistakes that will cost them tens of thousands of dollars over their lifetimes. I’m not saying that was the intent of its architects (although they surely had to have been aware of this potential), but that’s the impact. And being plunged into excess benefit hell is perhaps the biggest trap.

    So since my wife took an early benefit at age 62, when she files for a spousal benefit on my record, it will not be 50 percent of my benefit. What will be her eligible percentage?

    ​Because your wife plunged into excess benefit hell the nanosecond she filed for her own retirement benefit, she lost her ability to collect a full spousal benefit starting at full retirement age. By “collecting a full spousal benefit,” I mean collecting a spousal benefit just by itself, while letting her own retirement benefit continue to grow.

    Your wife also, in that same nanosecond, forever lost the ability to collect a widow’s benefit just by itself. So, were you to die today, she wouldn’t be able to start collecting just her full widow’s benefit while suspending her own retirement benefit and letting it grow through age 70. During this period, she’d collect just her excess widow’s benefit. At 70, she’d collect her retirement benefit plus her excess widow’s benefit. Her retirement benefit would be augmented by 32 percent due to the delayed retirement credits, but her excess widow’s benefit would be reduced by exactly the same amount.

    Hence, if at 70, her excess widow’s benefit is still positive, this strategy of suspending her benefit would simply mean lower benefits (potentially a lot lower) for four years and no higher benefits after age 70 than she’d otherwise have received. So, if you should die and she should become eligible for a widow’s benefit, she should check using highly accurate software before she suspends her benefit.

    So, yes, the strategy you chose was, to put it nicely, sub-optimal. Because you did not file for your retirement benefit and then suspend it when you filed just for your spousal benefit, your wife wasn’t deemed to be filing for her spousal benefit when she went early to collect her own retirement benefit. But as soon as she does so file, she’ll just get her excess spousal benefit, which if not zero, will likely be very small.

    ​When will she be able to apply for this benefit?

    When you are 70 and file for your retirement benefit, she can file for a spousal benefit, but, again, it will be an excess spousal benefit, which will likely be small, if not zero.

    Do I have to stop taking the spousal benefit on her record and file for benefits on my record in order for her to collect spousal benefits on my record? I’ve spoken with Social Security agents and confirmed that my benefit will continue to grow and is unaffected by me taking spousal benefits on my wife’s record.

    ​Yes, for her to collect a spousal benefit — actually, as indicated, an excess spousal benefit — you will need to file now for your retirement benefit. But if you file and suspend your retirement benefit, you won’t enable her to collect anything more. The only thing you’ll do is join her in excess spousal benefit hell and see your full spousal benefit become your excess spousal benefit, which also will surely be zero.

    Now for the possibly good news. Your wife can suspend her retirement benefit and start it up again at age 70 at a 32 percent higher value after inflation. Then when you die, she’ll flip onto her widow’s benefit, which will be as large as possible because you will have waited to collect your retirement benefit.

    However, it would not make sense for her to suspend her retirement benefit if her excess spousal benefit were actually positive and large enough so as to remain positive when she restarted her retirement benefit at 70. In this case, she’d again get something very small for four years and nothing extra in total after age 70. So she’d end up losing money for four years to no advantage.

    What if her excess spousal benefit were positive now, but would be zero after 70? (For you Social Security aficionados, this can happen because the excess spousal benefit is recomputed only after you restart your retirement benefit. And, her excess spousal benefit is computed as half of your Primary Insurance Amount less 100 percent of her PIA, augmented by any delayed retirement credits she accrues by suspending her benefits.) In this case, suspending would let her get her presumably small excess spousal benefits now and a higher total check (consisting just of her retirement benefit) after age 70. This would make suspending worthwhile if her excess spousal benefit were quite small.

    Careful software can sort out exactly what she should do at this point.

    While I plan on deferring taking my benefit, I’ve looked at break-even points using various ages to start collecting. It would seem that when deferring a benefit start-time from age 66 to 70, the break-even point is at age 81?

    The break-even idea is inappropriate. Social Security is providing longevity insurance. You wouldn’t consider breakeven in buying homeowner’s or auto or health insurance. You’d look at the worst case scenario — your house burns down, you total your car, and you get a very expensive illness. Here, the worst case scenario is that you live to your maximum age of life without having enough savings. (Read more about breakeven in the second question of this column.)

    My guess is that highly precise software will find that the best thing to do is for you to wait until 70 to collect your own retirement benefit and for your wife to suspend her retirement benefit and start it up again at 70 at a permanently higher value. But you need to check with Social Security maximization software.

    The post Protecting your spouse’s Social Security when cancer cuts your time short appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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