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

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    Terminally ill patients often are frustrated to hear about experimental drugs they think might help them, but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration — a process that often takes years.

    Pushed by state legislators and constituents who were upset that sick family members could not access drugs which have passed the first stage of clinical trials, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law the so-called “Right to Try” bill on Saturday. His actions made Colorado the first state to allow patients to work with pharmaceutical companies to access the drugs. Insurance companies are not obligated to pay for the treatment and drug makers do not have to agree to comply.

    “When you’re terminal and there’s a drug out there that might help you, it can seem that the obstacles to get that drug are insurmountable,” state Sen. Irene Aguilar, a physician and bill co-sponsor, said. Aguilar had taken to calling the legislation the “Dallas Buyers Club” bill, taken from the 2013 film that adapted the story of an AIDS patient who smuggled unapproved pharmaceuticals from Mexico to Texas in order to treat symptoms.

    Similar bills have unanimously passed the state legislatures in Missouri and Louisiana, but are awaiting their governors’ signatures. Voters in Arizona will face a ballot issue on a “Right to Try” law in November. Although the bills have had strong bipartisan support, they have been based on model legislation designed by the Goldwater Foundation, a conservative public policy advocacy and research group which has been trying to reduce the FDA’s power.

    There are skeptics, however. In the blog Science Based Medicine, surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski worries that the laws could do more harm than good. He points out that “most investigational drugs that make it past phase I trials still end up failing … only 5% of all cancer drugs that enter clinical testing are ultimately approved for patient use.” Gorski is concerned that chasing after these investigative drugs diverts people from clinical trials or palliative care.

    Although state laws cannot supersede federal policy, a similar law has been introduced into the House of Representatives. According to the Library of Congress, the Compassionate Freedom of Choice Act of 2014 “Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to declare that nothing in it or in the Public Health Service Act shall prevent or restrict, and the Food and Drug Administration shall not implement or enforce any law to prevent or restrict, the manufacture, importation, distribution, or sale of investigational drugs or devices for terminally ill patient.” Gorki says the bill would also not require drug companies to track the impact of any such experimental treatments that are tried. The bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

    The post Colorado first state to pass ‘Right to Try,’ or the ‘Dallas Buyers’ Club’ law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Coleen Whitfield

    Photo by Flickr user Coleen Whitfield

    With Uruguay’s intention to halt the smuggling of marijuana on the black market, the country will exempt all pot production and sales from taxes with in hopes of weakening illegal competition through price reduction.

    “The principle objective is not tax collection,” Felix Abadi, a contractor working with Uruguay on marijuana tax structure, told Reuters. “Everything has to be geared toward undercutting the black market.”

    Under the new policy, individuals will be allowed to buy up to 10 grams of marijuana at any local pharmacy at a price similar to the black market: between 85 cents to $1 per gram. In addition, President Jose Mujica will auction up to six licenses to produce cannabis legally, with the government looking into the possibility of producing its own marijuana on military-controlled land.

    While other legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol are heavily taxed, marijuana will be left essentially untouched to prevent the price of marijuana from inflating; a stark contrast to U.S. states Washington and Colorado, who have imposed heavy taxes on recently-legalized pot sales.

    The post Uruguay will exempt marijuana from taxes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Beth Weber

    W. S. Di Piero photo by Beth Weber

    W. S. Di Piero never wants to hear again that his poems are intense.

    “You get tired of hearing certain things if they get said so many times about the kind of work you do. I don’t write poems that are discursive or casual sounding or stroke my beard deliberative. That’s not what I do,” Di Piero told Art Beat.

    Instead, the poet, whose recent collection “Tombo” was released in January, would rather think about his use of language.

    “I’d like to think that anyone who just reads the poems, not to speak of listening, that the language will just jump on their nerves before they understand anything … Language, if you get it in the right patterns, get the right musicality, it will make some kind of emotional sense and have an emotional immediacy before it has a rational sense.”

    Awarded the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime accomplishments, Di Piero writes poetry and prose. In those moments when he is stuck on one, he says he “always has something under my nose.” (Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke to Di Piero after that win).

    It was during one of those “distressful stretches” without writing when Di Piero composed “Nocturn,” a poem in his newest collection.

    “I woke up during the night and I woke because I had words in my head so I recorded the words and that was essentially, except for minor revisions along the way, that’s the poem.”

    Listen to W. S. Di Piero read his poem “Nocturne” from his newest book of poetry, “Tombo.”


    Where are you now
    my poems,
    my sleepwalkers?
    No mumbles tonight?
    Where are you, thirst,
    fever, humming tedium?
    The sodium streetlights
    burr outside my window,
    steadfast, unreachable,
    little astonishments
    lighting the way uphill.
    Where are you now,
    when I need you most?
    It’s late. I’m old.
    Come soon, you feral cats
    among the dahlias.

    Writing a poem without revision isn’t a usual experience for Di Piero.

    “Revision is so much a part of the process for me. I revise over periods of years, if necessary.”

    But “Nocturne” was a poem he felt that all he needed to do was get it down, that was the experience he was working to convey.

    “All of my poems are driven by experience so I have experienced or have had reported to me as someone else’s experience everything that comes out in these poems … You take on other people’s stories, that is my experience.”

    The post Weekly Poem: W. S. Di Piero uses language to create ‘emotional immediacy’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images

    Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images

    People on the beach watched the detonation of a World War II-era airplane bomb in Wassenaar, Netherlands Monday.

    The 500 pound bomb was discovered while dredging water near a building site in the nearby town of Leiden on May 9, prompting the evacuation of nearby homes and businesses. The bomb was dropped by British allied forces during the second World War.

    The post Photo: Beach audience for a World War II bomb detonation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ATLANTA — A relatively small slice of the electorate will participate in Republican primaries in Georgia and Kentucky, despite international attention and eye-popping sums of money heaped on races that will help determine which party controls the Senate during the final two years of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

    Candidates are making multiple campaign stops urging voters in both states to defy forecasts of abysmal participation in Tuesday’s elections. Turnout in primaries across the nation is notoriously low, but the dynamic stands out in a midterm election year defined by widespread antipathy toward the president and all of Congress.

    “Voters feel very distrustful right now and voters are frustrated and angry right now,” said former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, one of the front-runners among seven Republicans who want to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

    Another top contender, Rep. Jack Kingston, said Monday: “We’re trying to work as hard as we can for a reasonable turnout.”

    Six states hold primaries Tuesday. Georgia, Kentucky and Oregon have closely watched Republican Senate races. Pennsylvania and Arkansas have feisty gubernatorial primaries. Idaho has a contested congressional primary.

    Republican hopefuls in Georgia have spent more than $14 million combined so far trying to reach about 5 million active registered voters in a state with 10 million residents. Yet several candidates and their aides say they expect 600,000 or fewer ballots cast, with the top two vote getters advancing to a July 22 runoff. About 680,000 ballots were cast in a heated Republican primary for governor four years ago when there were 4.9 million active registered voters.

    The eventual nominee is expected to face Democrat Michelle Nunn, former Sen. Sam Nunn’s daughter, in November.

    Georgia voters don’t register by party and can choose either party’s primary ballot but not both.

    In Kentucky, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is poised to dispatch challenger Matt Bevin after spending almost $10 million, but still with a tepid turnout among the 1.2 million registered Republicans eligible to vote in the closed primary. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who happens to be McConnell’s likely Democratic opponent in November, said she expects a maximum turnout of 30 percent for both party primaries.

    Grimes said voters “are tired of the negativity that they see,” using her official forecast to jab McConnell.

    Voter requests for absentee ballots are down this year in Kentucky. Early voting in Georgia actually exceeded 2010 totals, though it’s unclear whether to attribute that to increased interest or the campaigns’ emphasis on taking advantage of the opportunity.

    The primary is two months earlier than usual after state Republican leaders moved the date in hopes of keeping a divisive primary from dragging into the summer. “Voters aren’t used to that change yet,” Kingston said.

    Polls suggest Kingston, Handel and businessman David Perdue will contend for runoff spots, though Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey are within striking distance.

    Kingston expressed optimism that several races for lower offices, including the House seats he, Broun and Gingrey are giving up for their Senate bids, will attract enough voters to exceed turnout expectations.

    Voting sites open at 7 a.m. local time in Georgia and 6 a.m. local time in Kentucky.

    Republicans need to gain a net of six seats to regain control of the Senate, and they can ill afford to lose in either state. Democrats view Grimes and Nunn as their best — and perhaps only — opportunities to swipe GOP-held seats.

    Democrats could look to frame low Republican vote totals as a counter to polls that suggest GOP voters are more enthusiastic about the midterms. Republicans typically have an inherent advantage in midterms, given that older, more conservative voters dominate the electorate in years when Democrats struggle to turn out more casual voters that cast ballots only in presidential election years.


    Associated Press reporters Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Adam Beam in Frankfort, Ky., contributed to this report.

    The post Low voter turnout expected for Georgia, Kentucky primaries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Jeanne Bonner, GPB

    Photo by Jeanne Bonner, GPB

    Editor’s Note: Republicans in Georgia are hoping to appeal to an unlikely demographic in this year’s midterm election — young voters. Their strategy includes showcasing a new online voter registration system and capitalizing on public opposition to the Affordable Care Act. State Democrats are, as expected, already courting the youth vote. But the GOP is hoping that, for a change, young people will provide its party with the edge it needs in 2014.

    ATLANTA — One of the candidates at the top of the Georgia GOP’s ticket this year is 71 years old. That’s Gov. Nathan Deal. He faces a 38-year-old Democratic challenger, Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

    And in the contentious U.S. Senate race, Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, has used a highly visible TV campaign ad to show off her young family as her older Republican opponents duke it out for the primary.

    But many Republicans say the Democratic candidates’ youth won’t be as much of a factor in the midterm elections later this year. That’s partly because turnout in non-presidential, off-year elections skews older.

    So does Georgia’s electorate. The state has nearly 900,000 voters aged 65 and older.

    Joe Pettit with the Cobb County Young Republicans group said Carter and Nunn are part of famous political families and that will help them reach voters, but only so much.

    “They have picked two strong candidates with obvious strong ties to Georgia’s history and name [recognition],” Pettit said. “The Democrats have done a good job over the last few election cycles of tapping into the youth vote and college students and young professionals. But with the right candidates coming out of the primaries, I think we will be able to energize the youth vote just as much as anyone else.”

    State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican who was elected to the legislature the same year as Carter, said his colleague’s youthful pedigree will only go so far. And that’s because Georgia is still a red state.

    “He is a gifted politician, and I think he will run a very good race. [But] I think the problem that he’s got is that Georgia remains a center-right state,” he said. “The challenge is trying to sell Georgians on an agenda that’s out of step with their values.”

    Some Republicans are also hopeful that the timing of the state’s primary elections this year – the earliest ever – and its new online voter registration system will encourage young people to come out and vote. The primary elections take place Tuesday, and McKoon says that’s early enough that many college students won’t have left for summer travel or study.

    Meanwhile, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp spearheaded the effort to streamline voter registration by putting it on the Web. Georgians can find all of the voting information they need at the Secretary of State’s My Voter page. That should appeal to Web-savvy youth voters. And

    Officials with the Democratic Party of Georgia say Carter in particular has an edge with young voters because, age-wise, he’s closer to college graduates and can understand their struggles with finding employment and paying off loans.

    But McKoon, who is Georgia’s delegate to the Young Republican National Federation, said many young people are also facing the so-called Obamacare penalty if they choose not to buy health-care coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act.

    “The people in my district, younger people, have expressed to me great concern about that, either fearing the penalty will be hitting them soon or people who are seeing higher premiums who frankly blame Obamacare for those higher premiums,” he said.

    That could hurt Democratic candidates, many of whom have been distancing themselves from the president.

    Non-presidential elections rarely galvanize younger voters, but it’s not entirely clear how that will affect the gubernatorial race. Deal is doing well with younger voters, says Mark Rountree, a political strategist, whose firm, Landmark Communications, recently conducted a poll in conjunction with WSB.

    “In our survey, Gov. Deal was actually winning among young people, so low turnout could be a help to Sen. Carter,” Rountree argued.

    This post originally appeared on GPB’s website on April 21.

    The post Which way will young voters go in Georgia? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Accusing China of vast business spying, the United States charged five military officials on Monday with hacking into U.S. companies to steal vital trade secrets in a case intensifying already-rising tensions between the international economic giants.

    The Chinese targeted big-name American makers of nuclear and solar technology, stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage, according to a grand jury indictment that the Justice Department said should be a national “wake-up call” about cyber intrusions.

    A company’s success in the international marketplace should not be based “on a sponsor government’s ability to spy and steal business secrets,” Attorney General Eric Holder declared at a news conference.

    The alleged targets were Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse Electric Co., Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel Corp., the United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld. The indictment, which includes charges of trade-secret theft and economic espionage, was issued in Pittsburgh, where most of the companies are based.

    China denied it all. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the charges were based on “fabricated facts” and would jeopardize China-U.S. “cooperation and mutual trust.”

    “China is steadfast in upholding cybersecurity,” said the statement. “The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cybertheft of trade secrets. The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd.”

    The charges underscore a longtime Obama administration goal to prosecute state-sponsored cyberthreats, which U.S. officials say they have grappled with for years. One government report said more than 40 Pentagon weapons programs and nearly 30 other defense technologies have been compromised by cyber intrusions from China. The cybersecurity firm Mandiant issued a report last year alleging links between a secret Chinese military unit and years of cyberattacks against U.S. companies.

    Monday’s prosecution was announced on the heels of a separate worldwide operation over the weekend that resulted in the arrests of 97 people in 16 countries who are suspected of developing, distributing or using malicious software called BlackShades.

    The new indictment attempts to distinguish spying for national security purposes — which the U.S. admits doing — from economic espionage intended to gain commercial advantage for private companies or industries, which the U.S. denies it does. Classified documents disclosed by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden have described aggressive U.S. efforts to eavesdrop on foreign communications that would be illegal in those countries.

    Unlike in some countries, there are no nationalized U.S. industries. American officials have flatly denied that the government spies on foreign companies and then hands over commercially valuable information to U.S. companies. In China, though, many companies are state owned, particularly those that supply the military.

    “These five people were just doing their jobs. It’s just that we object to what their jobs are,” said Mark Rasch, a former U.S. cybercrimes prosecutor. “We have tens of thousands of dedicated, hard-working Americans who are just doing their jobs, too.”

    The indictment says that hackers, officers with the China’s People’s Liberation Army, stole proprietary information from the companies and the labor union, including design specification for Westinghouse pipes and pricing and strategy information from SolarWorld. Working from a building in Shanghai, prosecutors say, the hackers in some cases gained access to computer networks by sending emails to company employees that looked authentic but that actually contained a link to malicious code.

    The defendants are all believed to be in China and it was unclear whether any might ever be turned over to the U.S. for prosecution. But the Justice Department, publicizing the charges, identified all five by name and issued “wanted” posters.

    “For the first time, we are exposing the faces and names behind the keyboards in Shanghai used to steal from American businesses,” said John Carlin, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

    U.S. officials have previously asserted that China’s army and other China-based hackers have launched computer attacks on American industrial and military targets, often to steal secrets or intellectual property. The Chinese say that actually they are the ones who face a major threat from hackers, and the country’s military is believed to be among the biggest targets of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command.

    The new indictment will put a greater strain on the U.S.-China relationship and could provoke retaliatory acts in China or elsewhere.

    “What we can expect to happen is for the Chinese government to indict individuals in the United States who they will accuse of hacking into computers there,” said Rausch, the cybersecurity expert. “Everybody now is going to jump into the act, using their own criminal laws to go after what other countries are doing.”

    In recent months, Washington has been increasingly critical of what it describes as provocative Chinese actions in pursuit of territorial claims in disputed seas in East Asia. Beijing complains that the Obama administration’s attempt to redirect its foreign policy toward Asia after a decade of war in the Middle East is emboldening China’s neighbors and causing tension.

    “If we were trying to make things smoother in this region, this isn’t going to help,” said Richard Bejtlich, chief security strategist at FireEye, a network security company.

    Despite the ominous-sounding allegations, at least one of the firms minimized the hacking. Monica Orbe, Alcoa’s director of corporate affairs, said the company believed no sensitive data had been compromised.

    Last September, President Barack Obama discussed cybersecurity issues on the sidelines of a summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    “China not only does not support hacking but also opposes it,” Premier Li Keqiang said last year in a news conference when asked if China would stop hacking U.S. websites. “Let’s not point fingers at each other without evidence, but do more to safeguard cyber security.”

    Associated Press reporters Matthew Pennington and Ted Bridis in Washington, Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh and Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this story.

    The post Justice Department announces charges against Chinese cyberspies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

    Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday charged Credit Suisse AG with helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes through offshore accounts, and a person familiar with the matter said the European bank has agreed to pay about $2.6 billion in penalties.

    The charge was filed in a criminal information, which is a charging document that can only be filed with a defendant’s consent and which typically signals a guilty plea.

    The penalties will be paid to the Justice Department and to regulators, according to a person spoke on condition of anonymity because the guilty plea had not yet been announced.

    A Justice Department news conference was scheduled for later Monday.

    The penalty resolves a yearslong criminal investigation into allegations that the bank, Switzerland’s second-largest, recruited U.S. clients to open Swiss accounts, helped them conceal the accounts from the Internal Revenue Service and enabled misconduct by bank employees. The case is part of an Obama administration crackdown on foreign banks believed to be helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets.

    Attorney General Eric Holder, criticized last year after telling Congress that large banks had become hard to prosecute, appeared to foreshadow the guilty plea in a video message earlier this month in which he said no financial institution was “too big to jail.”

    The criminal case follows a Senate subcommittee investigation that found the bank provided accounts in Switzerland for more than 22,000 U.S. clients totaling $10 billion to $12 billion. The report said Credit Suisse sent Swiss bankers to recruit American clients at golf tournaments and other events, encouraged U.S. customers to travel to Switzerland and actively helped them hide their assets. In one instance, a Credit Suisse banker handed a customer bank statements hidden in a Sports Illustrated magazine during a breakfast meeting in the United States.

    Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan has said previously that senior executives at the bank were not aware that some Credit Suisse bankers were helping U.S. customers evade taxes. More than a half dozen former bankers have been charged for their role in aiding the tax evasion. The case was filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va., where individual bankers have been charged.

    The administration’s action against Credit Suisse, a banking fixture on Wall Street, comes amid public outrage that boiled over from the financial crisis that plunged the economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Calls for holding big Wall Street banks accountable, and sending top executives to jail, have come from consumer advocates, lawmakers and others, putting the Justice Department on the defensive.

    The Justice Department’s highest-profile settlement over sales of risky mortgage securities in the run-up to the financial crisis — the $13 billion deal among the department, state regulators and JPMorgan Chase — was a civil case, and no bank executives were charged. Federal prosecutors in California have been conducting a related criminal investigation.

    The post Swiss bank Credit Suisse charged with conspiring to help tax evaders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Gov. Nathan Deal signs the Safe Carry Protection Act on April 23, during a during a ceremony in Ellijay, Georgia.  Photo by Jeanne Bonner, GPB

    Gov. Nathan Deal signs the Safe Carry Protection Act on April 23, during a during a ceremony in Ellijay, Georgia. Photo by Jeanne Bonner, GPB

    Editor’s Note: As the NewsHour has reported, Georgia’s expansive new gun law has been lauded by the National Rifle Association as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history,” and opposed widely by gun control advocates as the “guns everywhere” law. But the first poll taken since the Safe Carry Protection Act was signed into law found some surprising results.

    ATLANTA — A new poll shows Georgia voters disapprove of the state’s new gun law, despite being more likely to own guns or believing gun ownership helps protect people.

    Fifty-nine percent of respondents gave HB 60, or the Safe Carry Protection Act, a thumbs down, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll conducted by SRBI of New York. The bill will allow licensed gun owners to carry firearms in many churches, bars, and government buildings. It will also allow military men and women age 18 and older permission to obtain a license to carry a firearm. Under current law, applicants must be at least 21 years old to be granted a gun permit.

    Fifty-seven percent of Georgia voters said they believe owning a gun helps protect people from crime. A majority of the people polled — 55 percent — say they or someone they live with owns a gun. Only 35 percent said gun ownership puts people’s safety at risk.

    The law goes into effect July 1.

    The poll surveyed 1,012 adults statewide between May 5 and May 8.

    This post originally appeared on GPB’s website on May 12.

    The post Poll: Georgia voters disapprove of new gun law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user William Ross

    Photo by Flickr user William Ross

    Telecommunications company Sprint will pay $7.5 million in a record settlement after the Federal Communication Commission said the company failed to honor consumer requests to be spared from unwanted telemarketing calls.

    Sprint customers who chose to opt out of sales calls through the company’s own Do-Not-Call registry reportedly continued to receive unwanted calls from telemarketers. The company, which is the third largest wireless carrier in the U.S., said that the issues resulted from “technical and inadvertent human errors,” which were reported to the FCC.

    “We expect companies to respect the privacy of consumers who have opted out of marketing calls,” said Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau, in a statement released by the FCC on Wednesday. “When a consumer tells a company to stop calling or texting with promotional pitches, that request must be honored.”

    In addition to the settlement, which the FCC said is the largest of its kind to date, Sprint will also have to set up a two-year compliance program aimed to protect consumer privacy and regularly report to regulators.

    Sprint previously settled with the U.S. Treasury in 2011 to the tune of $400,000 to resolve an investigation about a similar issue.

    The full settlement, listed within the FCC’s statement, is as follows:

    In its consent decree with the Enforcement Bureau, Sprint has agreed to:

    • Make a payment of $7.5 million to the U.S. Treasury;
    • Develop and put into action a robust compliance plan designed, among other things, to help ensure future compliance with the FCC’s rules requiring companies to maintain internal Do-Not-Call lists and honor consumers’ requests;
    • Develop operating procedures and policies specifically designed to ensure that Sprint’s operations comply with all company-specific Do-Not-Call rules;
    • Designate a senior corporate manager as a Compliance Officer to ensure that Sprint complies with the terms and conditions of the compliance plan and the consent decree;
    • Implement a training program to ensure that Sprint employees and contractors are properly trained
      how to record consumers’ Do-Not-Call requests so that the company removes their names and numbers from marketing lists;
    • Report to the FCC any noncompliance with respect to consumers’ Do-Not-Call requests; and
    • File with the FCC an initial compliance report within 90 days and annual reports for two years.

    The post Sprint will pay $7.5 million in record settlement over Do-Not-Call list appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    AT&T’s proposed takeover of satellite television giant DirecTV faced some scrutiny Monday morning, fewer than 24 hours after the deal’s announcement.

    Appearing on CNN’s “New Day,” Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, said he’s “very skeptical” of the merger and would like to see some congressional hearings on the issue.

    “This usually leads to higher fees for consumers and less choices, usually,” he said. “We need to keep as much competition in the space. This is going exactly the wrong direction … And the fewer players there are in the space, I believe the worse it is for consumers. And we’re going to be — my constituents in Minnesota will be paying more for cable. This is a bad trend.”

    Franken has voiced his opposition to large media mergers in the past. Last month, during a hearing on Comcast’s plans to purchase Time Warner Cable, Franken said the deal was not good for competition and was not in the public’s interest.

    “There’s no doubt that Comcast is a huge, influential corporation, and I understand that there are over 100 lobbyists making the case for this deal to members of Congress and our staffs,” he said at the time. “But I’ve also heard from over 100,000 consumers who oppose this deal, and I think their voices need to be heard too.”

    AT&T would buy DirecTV for nearly $50 billion in cash and stocks, the Associated Press reported.

    “This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens — mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars and even airplanes,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO said in a statement on Monday.

    Video by CNN

    The post AT&T-DirecTV deal faces early criticism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Buildings and cars were destroyed in the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994 . Seismologists have recorded a record number of earthquakes with a magnitude larger than 4.0 in Los Angeles in the last five months. Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo

    Buildings and cars were destroyed in the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994 . Seismologists have recorded a record number of earthquakes with a magnitude larger than 4.0 in Los Angeles in the last five months. Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo

    In the the past five months, and as recently as Sunday, Los Angeles has experienced five earthquakes — each with a magnitude larger than 4.0. The city hasn’t witnessed such an occurrence since 1994, when the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake killed nearly 60 people and damaged more than 80,000 structures across the city.

    Scientists are still trying to decipher what the series of quakes means — whether they’re connected and if they suggest that a larger earthquake is on its way.

    U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones told the Los Angeles Times that “the chance we will have a bigger earthquake this year is more than if we hadn’t had this cluster,” but of course, there’s no way of predicting an earthquake.

    Following Los Angeles’s March 17 quake, seismologists believed it could have been an aftershock from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. But there’s still a strong possibility that these quakes are part of a new and separate sequence.

    A recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the increase in earthquakes could be connected to fracking — the underground hydraulic fracturing technique meant to extract oil. But as the Los Angeles Times reports, since there’s no public database available detailing what “fluid oil companies are injecting into the ground and where,” it might be difficult to determine if fracking is a cause.

    For information on earthquake safety, visit the Red Cross’s earthquake preparedness site.

    The post Record number of earthquakes over 4.0 hits Los Angeles for first time since 1994 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Support for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been dwindling amid allegations of bribery and appalling labor conditions. Photo by Flickr user Aslan Media

    Support for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup has been dwindling amid allegations of bribery and appalling labor conditions. Photo by Flickr user Aslan Media

    Despite criticism for a lack of transparency and allegations of corruption, the ethics head of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, announced Monday he would not review new evidence of corruption surrounding Qatar’s winning bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

    FIFA’s chief ethics investigator Michael Garcia made the announcement after a report by The London Sunday Times alleged that the Qatari former vice president of FIFA, Mohamed bin Hammam, paid as much £3 million — a little more than $5 million — to secure his position at FIFA and to ensure Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid beat out other nations. In its investigation, the Times said it obtained millions of files, including personal emails and bank account statements, linking bin Hammam to a covert campaign in which he provided cash, gifts and legal fees as bribes to senior officials in order to influence the December 2010 vote that Qatar won, 14-8, over the United States.

    Garcia noted that he has already spent more than a year investigating allegations of bribery and corruption related to the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. The Guardian reported that it would also be impractical for Garcia to attempt a review of the files days before the June 9 deadline to conclude his investigation.

    “After months of interviewing witnesses and gathering materials, we intend to complete that phase of our investigation by June 9, 2014, and to submit a report to the adjudicatory chamber approximately six weeks thereafter,” Garcia said in a released statement.

    Those words may not be enough to curb public backlash over his decision not to investigate the Times’ allegations.

    “If the Garcia investigation refuses to accept The Sunday Times evidence the (investigation) process will be a sham and FIFA will be forever tainted,” said Jim Murphy, a British member of Parliament.

    “Corruption must be tackled.”

    Qatar’s World Cup bid has been wrought with controversy since it was announced. Aside from the claims of bribery, allegations of slave labor have plagued the construction of Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure. The Guardian reported in September instances of forced labor and highlighted the substandard working conditions that have already led to the deaths of at least 185 Nepalese migrant workers, with as many as 4,000 more predicted to die before Qatar’s preparations are finished.

    One of FIFA’s eight vice presidents, Jim Boyce, said he would support a new vote on the Qatar bid, if Garcia’s investigation uncovers corruption in the bidding process.

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    An artist's conception of a planet, with two moons, orbiting a red dwarf star. Image by NASA/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/D. Aguilar

    An artist’s conception of a planet, with two moons, orbiting a red dwarf star. Image by NASA/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/D. Aguilar

    Space winds in the habitable zones of the most common star in the galaxy may be too severe to harbor life, a new study finds.

    Due to proximity, stellar winds constantly blowing from red dwarf stars might be so harsh as to strip the atmosphere of any rocky planet orbiting in the star’s habitable zone.

    Red dwarf stars are smaller and cooler than the sun, meaning that a planet must be around 9 million to 18 million miles from its host star to be warm enough for liquid water. In contrast, Earth is about 93 million miles away from its sun.

    Extreme space conditions may also trigger aurorae — or Northern Lights — 100,000 times stronger than those on Earth.

    “If Earth were orbiting a red dwarf, then people in Boston would get to see the Northern Lights every night,” said Ofer Cohen of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in a press release.

    “On the other hand, we’d also be in constant darkness because of tidal locking, and blasted by hurricane-force winds because of the dayside-nightside temperature contrast,” Cohen added. “I don’t think even hardy New Englanders want to face that kind of weather.”

    The research was presented Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.

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    A detachment of the Chinese People's Armed Police responsible for the security of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City gather for a ceremony to mark the handover of guard duties on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Nov. 23, 2009. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    A detachment of the Chinese People’s Armed Police responsible for the security of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City gather for a ceremony to mark the handover of guard duties on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Nov. 23, 2009. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: In spring 1989, journalists arrived in Beijing to cover Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit, while students amassed in Tiananmen Square. Former PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense editor Michael D. Mosettig looks at how world events and television news coverage became one story. This piece was first published on May 29, 2009. We are reposting it on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.
    It was one of the most riveting weekends in post-World War II history.

    Over two days and nights 20 years ago, China put down with immense force and hundreds of casualties the protesters massed on Tiananmen Square; Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died a decade after seizing power; and Polish voters chose a democratic government in the first free elections in Central Europe since the Communists seized power 50 years earlier.

    These events occurred thousands of miles apart from each other, in nations with totally separate histories and cultures. Yet, the events were hardly disconnected, and they did have one common thread: all took place in front of cameras, and were partly inspired by the rapid expansion of global television in the 1970s and ’80s.

    To start with Tiananmen, most events in China are not open to nor do they receive international television coverage. The live or nearly live coverage of events in Beijing was the result of a historic accident. The demonstrations had been building for weeks when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in the Chinese capital for what was supposed to be a dramatic breakthrough in ending the Sino-Soviet split that had riven the Communist world for more than two decades.

    We tend to forget now what a global superstar Gorbachev was at the height of his power. His trip to China drew journalists from all over the world, including the U.S. television networks and their anchormen. The Gorbachev visit proved to be a major embarrassment for the Chinese leadership, which had to sneak him through the back doors of the Forbidden City after the masses of Tiananmen demonstrators blocked his motorcade. Gorbachev eventually departed, but the networks and their capacity for live or nearly live broadcasting remained, including CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather.

    On the night of June 4, after Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping made the fateful decision to clear out the demonstrators at any price, the world watched in mournful fascination the pictures of soldiers and tanks moving through the square overrunning everything and everyone in their path. The broadcasts continued beyond the weekend as the government pursued their quarry in Beijing and beyond, determined to snuff out any opposition or resistance.

    NewsHour co-founder Robert MacNeil has often remarked that one of the distinguishing features of television is its capacity, amidst its thousands of pictures, to capture one that comes to symbolize a transforming historical event. Among all the pictures from that weekend, one came to symbolize Tiananmen: the young man standing in front of the tank, defying its drivers to crush him as the People’s Liberation Army had crushed his friends and comrades. The tank took evasive action; the picture remains embedded in popular memory, even now.

    As we came into the office that Monday, June 5, we were confronting the biggest agenda of major international stories I had faced in four years as senior producer for foreign affairs. How much could we cram into a one-hour program? After we presented ideas for covering all three stories, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer decided we would do them sequentially: China on Monday, Iran and Khomeini on Tuesday and Poland on Wednesday.

    Our Khomeini coverage coincided with his funeral, a massive display of public emotion.

    The words I drafted for the lead-in to the segment still stick in my mind: Ayatollah Khomeini departed the world stage as he entered it — in a globally televised display of religious fanaticism.

    Khomeini’s had been an electronic revolution from the beginning, with audio cassettes of his sermons bootlegged into Iran from his 14-year exile. In 1979, the seizure of the American Embassy and its employees by a group of Islamist students became a television drama as the U.S. government and Iranian revolutionaries tried to move American and world opinion with demonstrations and announcements broadcast live from Tehran and Washington.

    Some enduring myths, particularly among diplomats, emerged from the hostage drama. A principal one was that the saturation news coverage prolonged the crisis. The reality was that American networks were ousted from Iran in April 1980, after a failed attempt to rescue the hostages. The U.S. hostages were not released until Jan. 20, 1981. The hostage-takers were ultimately working on their own timetable, propelled by the impulses of their revolution, not by the decisions of network news executives.

    A second myth was that the coverage somehow got in the way of real diplomacy. What we learned later was that behind the declarations and public comings and goings of officials and diplomats, there was quiet and secret diplomacy happening all the time. If anything, the coverage provided a cloak for the real diplomacy.

    Amid the funeral scenes from Tehran and the images of Khomeini’s body almost being pulled off its portable catafalque, what few realized at the time was how long and virulently his brand of combative Islam would hold sway in parts of the world. His funeral was anything but a farewell to his ideology and a battle of ideas was carried around the world by television media.

    A totally different kind of revolution was taking place in Poland, and it would quickly spread throughout Central Europe. It was also spurred by television technology. A link between the events in China and Central Europe has been drawn in op-eds and speeches by Tara Sonenshine, a former network news producer, Clinton administration official and now vice president of the U.S. Institute for Peace. Tiananmen Square was the eastern end of a fuse that stretched across the world to Central Europe. Thousands of Europeans enduring Soviet-imposed dictatorship saw young Chinese ready to die to gain a measure of freedom in their lives. They could not help but be stirred.

    The idea that Central Europeans living in repressive regimes could see the Tiananmen coverage was revolutionary in itself. What had transpired, almost unnoticed in the 1980s, was the spread of satellite and other technology that enabled people living behind the Iron Curtain to watch western European television. Citizens of the Soviet Baltic nations tuned into Scandinavian newscasts; East Germans contrasted their meager living conditions with the plentitude of bananas and oranges they saw on West German television; Hungarians and Czechs watched Austrian and West German newscasts. The Curtain had been penetrated in ways that few had realized — even many academics and intelligence specialists.

    This sea change did become strikingly clear as MacNeil and I traveled to Warsaw to cover the evolving Polish story in early September 1989. I still remember driving from the airport past the dreary Soviet style apartment blocks and seeing a satellite dish on every third balcony. I realized these people are living in virtually the same information universe as their western counterparts. The peaceful transformation of Poland from a communist to non-communist Solidarity government became testimony to that change.

    What followed were a couple of the most dramatic months of my journalistic career, a story that dominated the NewsHour from Labor Day through New Year’s. Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, even Bulgaria and finally Romania all toppled their dictatorships. Only in Romania was there bloodshed. The strategic analyst and historian Michael Howard summed up those transforming months in European history by referencing a famous line of the poet Wordsworth, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”

    But on the other side of the world, the one communist nation that would not change its government was China, where the hunger for liberty first stirred in the spring of 1989 and, via the power of pictures, moved the world.

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    Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    Four Republican senators, led by John McCain (R-AZ), introduced the Veterans Choice Act — a new bill aimed at providing better health care to veterans across the country as well as increasing accountability and transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Senator McCain was joined by Sen. Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) Tuesday to address the recent allegations of long wait times and inadequate service at Veterans Affairs hospitals and offered a solution that would allow veterans to have a choice in seeking help outside the VA.

    “It would empower veterans who can’t schedule an appointment within a reasonable time or live too far way from the VA medical facility to exercise the choice, I emphasize the choice, of getting medical care from any doctor in a Medicare or tricare program,” McCain said.

    The recent Veterans Affairs scandal led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last Friday.

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    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. is set to increase its military presence in Europe to counter Russian actions in Ukraine.  President Obama arrived today in Warsaw, Poland, and announced he will ask Congress for up to a billion dollars for the effort. The money would pay for sending more troops and equipment to the continent.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The ability for people to make their own determinations about their country’s future is the cornerstone of the peace and security that we have seen in Europe over the last several decades. And that is threatened by Russian actions in Crimea and now Russian activity in Eastern Ukraine.

    GWEN IFILL: The president remains in Warsaw tomorrow to meet with Petro Poroshenko, the president-elect of Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Ukrainian government reported new advances today against pro-Russian rebels in the east. Kiev claimed its forces broke through rebel positions on the outskirts of Slavyansk, with help from warplanes, helicopter gunships and artillery fire. The Interior Ministry warned people to stay indoors. And civilians took refuge in basements and makeshift shelters while the fighting raged.

    GWEN IFILL: In Nigeria, a leading newspaper reported 10 generals and five other top military officers have been convicted of aiding Boko Haram. They were found guilty of providing guns and information to the Islamist group that’s holding more than 200 schoolgirls captive. Meanwhile, in the capital, Abuja, demonstrators defied an apparent ban on protests to demand the government get the girls back.

    AISHA YESUFU, Activist: All we are saying to the government is just wake up and do what you are supposed to do. We are in this together. We are working together. All we want are these girls back home. If they don’t want me to protest, all they can simply do is to bring back the girls now and alive.

    GWEN IFILL: Later, police said protesters were free to march after all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Egyptian Army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was officially declared the winner today in that country’s presidential election. The election commission reported that he won nearly 97 percent of the votes last month. Turnout was only 47 percent. Al-Sisi led the military move to topple Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, this was the biggest voting day yet this year. Eight states held primary elections, including Alabama, California, Iowa, Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

    Senate and gubernatorial races topped the ballot. In California, Democrat Jerry Brown was seeking renomination for a fourth term as governor.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN, D, Calif.: I don’t know what number election this is, but it’s 40 years since I first voted in the primary in 1974. So, it’s been a long journey. I have learned a lot, and I hope, if the people give me another four years, that I can deserve their confidence and trust and lead California in so many different ways.

    GWEN IFILL: Nominations for a number of seats in the House of Representatives are also being decided.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, Democrat Patrick Cannon, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud. He was arrested in a public corruption sting last March, after less than six months in office. The FBI recorded him accepting thousands of dollars and airline tickets. Cannon could get up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

    GWEN IFILL: In economic news, U.S. auto sales hit a seven-year high last month. Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota reported double-digit gains, and so did General Motors. It had its best month since August of 2008, with sales up 13 percent, despite an onslaught of recalls. Ford sales rose just 3 percent, but that was better than expected.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 16,722. The Nasdaq fell three points to close at 4,234. And the S&P 500 dipped a fraction of a point to finish at 1,924.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There were more developments today in the controversy over the agreement which won freedom for an American prisoner of war, including an apology from the White House.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is, we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The debate over the deal to free Sergeant Bergdahl followed President Obama to Warsaw, Poland today. At a news conference with the Polish president, he defended the prisoner swap with the Taliban, and he said Bergdahl has not yet been questioned about his disappearance in 2009.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity, period, full stop. We don’t condition that. And that’s what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into a war theater should expect from, not just their commander in chief, but the United States of America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Early in his captivity, Bergdahl said, in a Taliban video, that he’d been taken prisoner while lagging behind a patrol. But since his release on Saturday, soldiers who served with him in Afghanistan have challenged his account.

    FMR. ARMY SGT. EVAN BUETOW, Bergdahl’s Team Leader: He walked away. He walked right off the base. The fact of the matter is, is, he deserted us, in the middle of Afghanistan, to go and find the Taliban.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Among the latest is former Army Sergeant Evan Buetow, Bergdahl’s team leader in Afghanistan.

    FMR. ARMY SGT. EVAN BUETOW: People calling him a hero and people calling him this great soldier, I mean, it’s a spit in the face to, one, all the soldiers who were there, and, more importantly, it’s a spit in the face to the soldiers who died as a direct result to him leaving.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl walked away of his own accord, and it called off further rescue efforts.

    Today, on his Facebook page, Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left open the possibility that Bergdahl may be charged with desertion.

    He wrote — quote — “When he is able to provide them, we will learn the facts. Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty.”

    But Dempsey added: “Our Army’s leaders will not look away from this conduct if it occurred.”

    Questions also continued about the five Taliban leaders long held at Guantanamo Bay and flown to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl’s release. The Reuters News Service reported they have been moved to a residential compound and it said they are free to move about the country. President Obama acknowledged today that some of them may try to return to the fight in Afghanistan, but he said:

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security. And we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if, in fact, they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president has also taken heat for not telling Congress the Saturday swap was coming. This afternoon, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken apologized to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, for the lack of notification.

    Earlier, Mr. Obama said his administration did discuss a possible Bergdahl deal with Congress in the past. But Chambliss complained today that was a long time ago.

    SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R, Ga.: I hadn’t had a conversation with the White House on this issue in a year-and-a-half, and if that is keeping us in the loop, then this administration is more arrogant than I thought they were.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner said top lawmakers were briefed more than two years ago. He said they raised serious concerns that were never properly addressed.

    Bergdahl, meanwhile, spent a third full day at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Officials said he’s undergoing debriefing and reintegration.

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    Idaho Hometown Of Released Army Solider Bowe Bergdahl Celebrates His Release

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on all of this and a look at some of the options before the military in the Bergdahl matter, we turn to New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt. And retired Lieutenant General Dana Chipman. He was the Army’s judge advocate general and, as such, was the Army’s top lawyer. And we welcome you both.

    Eric Schmitt, to you first.

    What is the best information you have about the circumstances of Bergdahl leaving his post?

    ERIC SCHMITT, The New York Times: Right now, Judy, the circumstances appear to be, as the soldiers in his unit have suggested, that he did voluntarily walk off his base in June of 2009 into a hostile environment with the Taliban nearby in Paktika province.

    Why he did that is exactly — is still not known. And that’s what’s going to be going on with these debriefings that you mentioned in your report. Clearly, this was an individual who had expressed mixed concerns about his mission in Afghanistan to his parents in e-mails and to his soldier comrades. So, exactly why he did what he did when he did it, those are still answers we’re waiting for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Eric, this is not just one of his comrades. This is several who are saying he walked away.

    ERIC SCHMITT: That’s right, and that’s what Pentagon and other military officials have told us here at The New York Times as well, that he did voluntarily walk away from his post in Eastern Afghanistan in 2009.

    But, again, what his intentions were, there have been some suggestions that he deliberately deserted to join the Taliban. We have seen no evidence yet of that. But, again, as both General Dempsey and Army Secretary John McHugh said today, there will be a full investigation once his medical and reintegration are complete.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, General Chipman, let’s talk about an investigation. As we heard from Eric Schmitt and other reports we have seen, there are not just one, but there are several soldiers who served with Mr. Bergdahl who say that he left of his own accord. Is that the same as desertion?

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN (RET.), Former Judge Advocate General, U.S. Army: Well, no, it doesn’t — it doesn’t mean the same as desertion.

    He may have left of his own accord. That will be proven in the final investigation, because what we have right now is an effort that went under way when he left back in 2009. And now we will have a chance to interview Sergeant Bergdahl to determine from him what was your intent, what was your perspective, what were you thinking at the time, and that will enable us to conclude that investigation that really needs his perspective as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we, I think, said in that report, we said the Pentagon concluded in 2010, the year after he left, that he did walk away. So what more information would they need? If he did make this decision on his own, what would be a mitigating circumstance that would explain it?

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN: Well, you will want to know from him, what was your motivation, what were the circumstances that led you to walk away, if that’s, in fact, what occurred?

    And I don’t think you can determine that without getting into his state of mind and the actions he took at that time, and only he can fully supplement what we already know. And so I think, you know, one of the elements under the code, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prove desertion is an attempt to remain away permanently from military duty.

    That’s what we will find out. What was his motivation, what was he thinking, what did he intend to accomplish at that time?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So was — so there’s an investigation which goes on for presumably months? Is that what normal procedures would be?

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN: It can be quicker than that, but I would expect, with a case of this notoriety, with a case of this interest, that it will be a thorough investigation that could take a matter of months. And at that — the conclusion of that investigation, there will be a decision, was there criminality involved, will we in fact press charges under the Uniform Code?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Eric Schmitt, what are Bergdahl’s comrades who are in the Army serving with him at the same time, what are they saying about what they believe was on his mind at the time?

    ERIC SCHMITT: Well, they are saying is that he expressed disillusionment with the mission in Afghanistan. Remember, this is 2009. The Taliban are resurgent now in Eastern Afghanistan in particular. They’re in this very remote outpost, just 30 or so soldiers, and it’s a very small outpost in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan, not far from the Pakistan border.

    Of course, the surge of troops into Afghanistan under the new president, President Obama at that time, had not yet started. So it was a very difficult time and, as the soldiers in your report indicate, hostilities all around. So it must have been a very dangerous and depressing environment for these soldiers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but what they are saying and what you were telling us is that he gave every indication after a period of time that he was disillusioned and that he was thinking about leaving the military. We know there were communications between him and his parents.

    ERIC SCHMITT: That’s right, but as the general said, to really understand his long-term goal, was he just in a fit of depression and walked off the base? What were his goals, what were his intentions, what were his long-term goals?

    Again, there has been no indication from military investigators that we have spoken to both during this whole period that he’s been missing and more recently that he had any intent to go over to the other side to help and abet the Taliban. Again, these are things we don’t know until the military investigators actually speak to him and find out what was his state of mind at the time, what was going through his head and what were his intentions when he left that post.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, General Chipman, just to be a little bit more clear about what we’re talking about here, so you said they will be wanting to know what his intention was, his long-term intention. Does that mean that he had to have been planning to join the enemy or simply that he was walking away from the United States military?

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN: It doesn’t mean that he was planning to join the enemy, Judy.

    Desertion is when you leave military service with an intent to remain away permanently from military control. So what your ultimate motivation is, to join the enemy, to go away to Canada, to Europe, desertion is complete when you have proven — or when we have proven, the prosecution has proven that you do not ever intend to return to military control.

    And we have had desertion as an offense under the code for a long time, prosecuted many deserters in Vietnam and other conflicts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how tough is it to prove?

    I know that General Martin Dempsey, who is the chairman of Joint Chiefs, he was quoted today as saying he is innocent until proven guilty, as is the case with all Americans. But what — how tough a standard is it to prove that someone deserted?

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN: I think it’s very difficult to prove, in this sense. It’s a subjective standard.

    You have to be in the mind of the soldier. And how do you show that intent? It can be circumstantial, in the testimony of his peers, fellow soldiers. It can be his direct quotes, “I intended to leave and never come back to the U.S.” But it can be very difficult to prove a desertion case, unlike simple absence without leave, where, if you leave without authority, that’s pretty much all you have to prove.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does the Army go into a case like this with some predisposition one way or another or with a completely open mind?

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN: Judy, with a completely open mind.

    In fact, as General Dempsey said, if we prefer charges here, he is in fact presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court-martial proceeding. And so we will have no predisposition. We will have a charge sheet and we will let that criminal prosecution play out, as we do in any other case.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General Dana Chipman, we thank you.

    Eric Schmitt, we thank you both.

    ERIC SCHMITT: Thank you.

    LT. GEN. DANA CHIPMAN: Thank you.

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    GWEN IFILL: The president’s proposal to cut carbon emissions may not take full effect for several years, but the politics kicked in immediately.

    In states where nearly all of the electricity is generated by coal, like West Virginia and Kentucky, Democrats were quick to denounce the plan, which they fear would cost jobs.

    Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, immediately distanced herself from the plan and from the White House, saying she would — quote — “fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry.”

    But a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found 70 percent of Americans actually support curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Joining us for a look at how the decision is resonating politically are Susan Page of USA Today and Reid Wilson of The Washington Post.

    Sue, let’s draw this coal map for us. Does it completely mirror the battleground map we have been watching?

    SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: It mirrors a lot of the key states where there are competitive Senate races, control of the Senate at stake in November, states like West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Colorado.

    These are states where most of the electricity is generated by coal-fired plants. This may not be a big controversy in the some states in this country, but it’s a big controversy in the states on which control of the Senate now hinges.

    GWEN IFILL: So, is this a regional issue or a national issue, Reid?

    REID WILSON, The Washington Post: Well, it’s a regional issue. A lot of states on the coast, specifically in the Northeast, have actually curbed carbon emissions quite a lot.

    The plan by the EPA requires states to curb emissions to a rate 30 percent less than what they were emitting in 2005. A number of states have actually already met that particular goal. The problem is, it’s not in that Rust Belt section, Midwest America, where coal is still a huge portion of the state’s energy concerns.

    GWEN IFILL: Is the concern, Susan, about jobs, mines that would close, or is it about the idea of federal intervention?

    SUSAN PAGE: It’s about both.

    And the federal intervention argument I think works particularly well for opponents of this plan, because the president didn’t do this through legislation that passed Congress, because he wasn’t able to get that legislation through Congress. He’s doing this through executive action, regulations at a federal agency, so that fuels the idea, as with the health care plan, that it’s a federal mandate on the states.

    But the argument about jobs is also, I think, an incredibly powerful one in states like Kentucky, which is probably the highest — you know, the Senate race we’re looking at closely because the future of the leading Republican senator is at stake there. That — and the jobs argument is also a powerful one.

    GWEN IFILL: There are some leading Democrats who also are facing a pretty tough race in some coal states. And I’m thinking about Mary Landrieu, for instance, in Louisiana.

    REID WILSON: Mary Landrieu has made her influence on the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee, where she is the chairwoman, a central part of her campaign. She is very pro-drilling. She’s pro-fracking, in favor of coal mining. Basically any energy proposal that you can come up with, she will back it.

    Just last week, she took the secretary of energy around Southern Louisiana. She’s trying to tell voters that she is going to be a pro-energy Democrat. Now more and more voters, though, are voting based on the letter at the end of her name, whether it’s a D or an R, than her actual policy proposals in the first place. So that is going to be a difficult challenge for her as she faces one of the toughest reelections of any candidate running for reelection.

    GWEN IFILL: Take us to West Virginia and Alaska, two other states where this is playing out.

    SUSAN PAGE: West Virginia is a state where the incumbent Democrat is retiring, Senator Rockefeller.

    We have two women candidates, two strong women candidates. They’re both very much opposed, they say, to this plan. But one of them is a Democrat. One of them is…

    GWEN IFILL: Natalie Tennant, yes.

    SUSAN PAGE: … in the same party as — Natalie Tennant, the secretary of state.

    And so, despite her efforts to distance herself from President Obama, this does — it’s hard for her to totally argue that she’s not a Democrat, even though she differs with the president on this issue.

    GWEN IFILL: And Mark Begich in Alaska faces the same problem. And he’s an incumbent.

    So, why then does the White House rub salt into the wound on this issue? Why make it so hard for Democrats especially?

    REID WILSON: I think it’s in large part because President Obama hears the clock ticking.

    He doesn’t have that long left in office. He’s only got two-and-a-half years until his successor takes over. If he doesn’t put in this rule now, if he doesn’t start the implementation process, the rule won’t be finalized by the time he leaves office.

    If a Republican president is the next one in, they can scrap this rule before it has taken effect. Remember, President Obama’s 2008 acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, he said, this would be the time when the planet starts to heal. This is the most aggressive step that any president has taken on climate change so far, but it’s a step that clearly puts his party and very vulnerable members seeking reelection at odds with some voters who are going to determine the outcome of the U.S. Senate.

    GWEN IFILL: And yet the words climate change didn’t show up much in this announcement. It was all about health and children’s asthma concerns and it was — and jobs.

    SUSAN PAGE: Because those are the — those are the words that poll better. Those are the words that appeal to a broader range of voters.

    When you talk about climate change, it’s an issue that appeals very much to some voters, but really turns some voters off. And that’s why you heard him talk about other aspects of this program, not calling it climate change. But I certainly agree with Reid.

    The president is thinking about his legacy. Could his legacy be dealing with an issue that he talked about so much in the 2008 campaign, like climate change, or could it be holding the Democratic Senate? You give him that choice, I think he would take climate change every day.

    GWEN IFILL: But if you Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, or Kay Hagan in North Carolina, or Mark Udall in Colorado, wouldn’t you like his legacy to be a Democratic Senate?

    SUSAN PAGE: Well, look at those races you named.

    Now, there’s an interesting test, because they are not taking the same tack as we’re seeing in Kentucky and West Virginia. Mark Udall in Colorado, who is in a very competitive race, is saying we need to do things like this, we need to address climate change. So is Jeanne Shaheen.

    Kay Hagan in North Carolina in a very close race is saying, we need some balance. So, we will have a test in November about whether this issue is devastating for Democrats or whether it’s one that can — where the needle can be threaded.

    GWEN IFILL: Is it also one of those issues where there’s a lot of money coming from outside these states into — for instance, we saw there is some very pro-environmental money coming into these states on these issues, as well as anti.

    REID WILSON: Donors who care a lot about climate change are becoming an increasingly large part of the Democratic primary, the Democratic sort of money pool, if you will, led by a billionaire in California named Tom Steyer, who has pledged $100 million of his own money for some key races, including the races that you just mentioned in New Hampshire, in North Carolina, and in Colorado.

    And the difference between what we have seen in the past and what we’re going to see now is in the past, people who cared a lot about climate change talked about global warming and the rising of the seas and polar bears falling in the water in the Arctic and all this. And now what they are going to talk about is drought in Iowa and floods in North Carolina and the sort of immediate, everyday impact.

    Public health is going to be a huge part of it, whether or not your children have asthma. They are going to try to connect climate change to our everyday lives, to everybody’s pocketbook issues, if you will, and try to make it resonate on a much more personal level than they have in the past.

    GWEN IFILL: And when we stop and think about it, it’s not really all that unusual for Democrats to be running against Democratic or Republicans running against Republican presidents in midterm elections.

    SUSAN PAGE: It’s true.

    But we also know that the popularity of the president is a big factor in a midterm election, especially a six-year midterm. President Obama is stuck in the low 40s, and that’s very bad news for these Democrats in competitive races.

    GWEN IFILL: Susan Page, Reid Wilson, thank you both very much.

    REID WILSON: Thank you.

    SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.

    The post Carbon-cutting plan proves politically controversial in states where Senate control will be decided appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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