Articles on this Page
- 06/08/14--09:51: _Abdel-Fattah el-Sis...
- 06/08/14--11:01: _Pope Francis holds ...
- 06/08/14--13:17: _Gunmen storm Karach...
- 06/08/14--13:37: _Kidnapped girls sti...
- 06/08/14--15:09: _What has the U.S. l...
- 06/08/14--17:08: _Kids out of school ...
- 06/09/14--10:49: _Obama moves to exte...
- 06/09/14--11:42: _7 years later, Blac...
- 06/09/14--12:37: _SCOTUS: Children ov...
- 06/09/14--12:51: _Online gamer robbed...
- 06/09/14--13:47: _Will the European C...
- 06/09/14--13:54: _Immigration reform ...
- 06/09/14--15:02: _News Wrap: Sao Paul...
- 06/09/14--15:07: _Taliban attack on a...
- 06/09/14--15:10: _In Pakistan, views ...
- 06/09/14--15:18: _Reverse incentives ...
- 06/09/14--15:19: _Detroit’s automaker...
- 06/09/14--15:27: _Common Core standar...
- 06/09/14--15:33: _Rats regret their d...
- 06/09/14--15:35: _Will loan forgivene...
- 06/08/14--09:51: Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is sworn in as Egypt’s new president
- 06/08/14--11:01: Pope Francis holds Middle East peace prayer summit
- 06/08/14--13:17: Gunmen storm Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport
- 06/08/14--15:09: What has the U.S. learned from the Snowden leaks?
- 06/08/14--17:08: Kids out of school also missing subsidized lunch
- 06/09/14--10:49: Obama moves to extend student loan payment relief
- 06/09/14--11:42: 7 years later, Blackwater guards go on trial
- 06/09/14--12:37: SCOTUS: Children over 21 go to back of visa line
- 06/09/14--12:51: Online gamer robbed during livestream; gamers jump to action
- 06/09/14--15:07: Taliban attack on airport highlights fragile Karachi security
- 06/09/14--15:10: In Pakistan, views differ on best approach for dealing with Taliban
- 06/09/14--15:33: Rats regret their decisions, study finds
- 06/09/14--15:35: Will loan forgiveness offer long-term student debt solution?
Egypt’s new president and former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was sworn into office on Sunday following last week’s elections — the second free elections in the country’s history.
El-Sissi will take on a four year turn nearly a year after he helped lead the removal of then-president Mohamed Morsi from office last July during weeks of heated protests.
“The presidency of Egypt is a great honor and a huge responsibility,” el-Sissi told a group of local and foreign dignitaries gathered after the ceremony. Leaders came from countries throughout the region including Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The military official was the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces and after Morsi’s ouster he was appointed as Egypt’s First Deputy Prime Minister. Thousands of Morsi supporters were detained and hundreds killed during his time as prime minister.
El-Sissi held the positions until March of this year, when he resigned in order to run for the country’s highest office.
The 59-year-old leader said he will pursue regional security and stability during his time in office.
“It is time for us to build a future that is more stable and pen a new reality for the future of this nation,” he said, urging Egyptians to work hard in order to develop and grow their rights and freedoms.
Acting president Adly Mansour who was installed after Morsi’s overthrow will return to being the Supreme Constitutional Court’s chief justice.
Police and troops were deployed in Cairo as inauguration ceremonies kicked off during the day on Sunday, which was declared a national holiday.
The post Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is sworn in as Egypt’s new president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Pope Francis hosted the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican for a prayer summit on Sunday evening in a move meant to inspire a renewed interests in peace talks from both sides.
Before the service, Francis welcomed Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas for a private meeting with each leader at his residence in the Vatican hotel.
The symbolic gesture comes just weeks after U.S.-sponsored peace talks collapsed between the two parties.
The service was held this evening in the Vatican Garden, where prayers were delivered in Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and English. The evening prayers focused on themes common among all three religions represented at the meeting — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Orthodox Christian church’s spiritual leader was also be in attendance.
According to Vatican officials, the summit is not a political move and is meant to serve as a “time-out” from political negotiations. No tangible results are expected from the meeting, especially considering Peres does not hold an official role during peace negotiations.
The three leaders are expected to make remarks, shake hands and plant an olive tree to represent a sign of peace. Peres and Abbas are scheduled to meet privately afterwards.
Sunday’s events developed out of an invitation Pope Francis issued to both the leaders just two weeks ago while he was in Bethlehem during his Middle East tour.
The post Pope Francis holds Middle East peace prayer summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
At least five people were killed in an attack at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport that began late Sunday night, the Associated Press reports, citing a Pakistani official.
Gunmen reportedly engaged in firefight with security forces in a terminal used for cargo and V.I.P flights.
“The old terminal of Karachi airport was attacked by militants,” a senior police official told Reuters.
The fighting continued into Monday morning. Airport Security Force spokesman Shaukat Jamal said the military has been called in, while police were fighting off the attackers.
The airport was closed off and flights were diverted.
— Ali Kamran Chishti (@akchishti) June 8, 2014
Witnesses reported smoke coming out of an airport terminal and local television stations aired footage of what looked like a large fire at the airport.
The post Gunmen storm Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It has been another violent week in Nigeria. On Monday, the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram posed as soldiers sent to protect villagers when they attacked three villages in the northeastern part of the country, killing hundreds. On Wednesday, 45 more were killed by the group after they were gathered in front of a mosque in the village of Bargari.
More than 2,000 people have been killed by the group this year alone and 750,000 driven from their homes. This violence comes as reports that members of the Nigerian military have been found guilty of providing arms and information to the extremist group.
Boko Haram is still holding more than 270 girls kidnapped from their school on April 15th. For the latest we are joined via Skype from Lagos, Nigeria, by Tim Cocks, the chief Nigeria correspondent for Reuters. So let’s start with the status of the girls. President Goodluck Jonathan has said that he knows where they are, but there hasn’t yet been any action taken.
TIM COCKS: Well, the government is in a very difficult position because the girls are almost certainly not being kept in one place. And the area where they are is quite a large kind of forest (inaudible) area. The dilemma they face is if they go in to try to rescue them, supposing they can even rescue one group, that the problem they would then face is that that would endanger the lives of the others.
Let’s not forget that it’s a textbook al-Qaida stroke, Islamist tactic, to kill your hostages, if you think they’re about to be freed. This has happened before with western hostages in Nigeria, and the last thing they want is for this to be some kind of bloodbath. That would make them look even worse than things do now. On the other hand, there’s not too much they want to offer them either. There’s talk of money. There’s talk of some kind of a prisoner swap. That was what Boko Haram themselves suggested.
But the government is saying well, if we start releasing them, then we make them stronger. And we need to also think about the people who haven’t yet been killed or kidnapped. It’s a very dangerous group, a very violent group, and they don’t want to be giving them that kind of advantage. So they’re very much between a rock and hard place.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And so, you mentioned that connection to al-Qaida. How strong a connection is there between Boko Haram and al-Qaida? Do they want to be part of it? Are they sanctioned? Are they officially deemed by al-Qaida as a member organization?
TIM COCKS: The al-Qaida leadership in Afghanistan has never to my knowledge once even publicly mentioned Boko Haram. It’s not at all clear that Boko Haram do want to be an al-Qaida affiliate. Their behavior isn’t the sort of thing that the current thinking of the leadership would sanction.
Certainly these massive attacks on civilians, seemingly wonton killing of civilians, in large numbers, and a very large proportion of them Muslim civilians as well, is not the kind of thing—in fact al-Qaida’s leadership came out recently to say that they didn’t want too much killing of civilians in Syria. They actually broke away from al-Qaida in Iraq, or what used to be called al-Qaida in Iraq, but now Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant, and they condemned this.
So, the way that they’re going about things is not the kind of thing that the leadership would sanction. It’s not the kind of thing that even the al-Qaida in the Sahara would sanction who themselves, the Mali-based group, or who used to be Mali-based, are very much focused on things that are sanctioned—things like kidnapping westerners, hitting high-valued targets, like the Algerian gas plant in January last year. This just kind of—especially kidnapping girls, I just do not believe that that’s the sort of thing that the leadership would want right now. So I don’t think that they are going to be an al-Qaida affiliate. And I’m not even sure that that interests them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the idea that there have been senior members of the Nigerian military providing assistance or aid to Boko Haram?
TIM COCKS: Well, there’s always been that suspicion that there are some people in the military, because the military much like Nigeria itself, is divided along ethnic and sectarian lines that there has been a degree of collaboration. The military denied that story. They denied that anyone had been court-martialed.
So, the official position is that this hasn’t happened. But there’s always been that suspicion especially amongst soldiers in the field that sometimes they’re ambushed, and the enemy seems to know what their movements are, seems to know what their plans are, and the only explanation for this, for the ability of Boko Haram to ambush them along some of these roads, has been that they are given some kind of advanced warning. But as I’ve said the military are not the most transparent, the Nigerian military, not the most transparent organization at the best of times has never admitted to having this problem.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Tim Cocks, the chief Nigerian correspondent for Reuters joining us. Thanks so much.
TIM COCKS: Thank you.
The post Kidnapped girls still missing as Boko Haram continues spread of violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Monday will mark one year since Edward Snowden made headlines by identifying himself as the source of classified information leaked from the National Security Agency. The U.S. government claimed the revelations would jeopardize national security, making valuable information available to the nation’s enemies.
In the past year, Snowden has spoken virtually at South by Southwest conferences and sat down a few weeks for an interview with NBC anchor Brian Williams from Russia, where he currently has asylum. For more now we’re joined from Washington by Shiobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. So what’s Snowden’s status now? Has position of the US government changed at all in this year?
SHIOBHAN GORMAN: The position of the U.S. government hasn’t changed in terms of his status, although we have seen some pretty significant policy shifts, over the last year particularly as it has to do with the N.S.A. phone data program.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right, and so in the last year, has the government changed the way it gathers its intelligence. Or how has the intelligence gathering apparatus changed as a result of these operations?
SHIOBHAN GORMAN: Well I think, it remains to be seen what will change in terms of actual intelligence collection. There was quite a bit of outcry about the monitoring of foreign leaders. There were some 35 foreign leaders that the National Security Agency was monitoring, eavesdropping on. And I think the most notable was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And that has either you know been reevaluated, or in many cases ceased.
And the president in January did announce a set of changes, some which were to be implemented immediately, which had to do with some smaller alterations about the way the national security agency was collecting American phone data. As well as extending privacy protections to foreigners, in terms of the way the N.S.A. handles its surveillance data.
But the big question mark is still, what sort of reforms will see to the actual N.S.A. phone data program because there is now legislation pending on Capitol Hill that would implement some of the changes the president has recommended, which would primarily have phone companies conducting searches of American phone data, instead of the National Security Agency. Then it would provide the results to the National Security Agency.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And that made its way in sort of a bipartisan manner through the house. What are the chances of that actually passing through the senate and possibly getting signed into law?
SHIOBHAN GORMAN: Well it’s interesting there was a hearing last week that was sort of the first public vetting that the Senate Intelligence Committee did of the house proposal that passed. And we saw a lot of skepticism actually, both from democrats and republicans, generally for different reasons, but it suggests that the passage might not be instantaneous or smooth. Although I do think that people expect something to pass at some point. Especially because the law that authorizes that particular program does expire in about a year.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So how worried are U.S. officials that you speak with? I mean it seems that over the past year we’ve had a series of different shoes drop. Are they concerned about what else may come out in the next few weeks or months?
SHIOBHAN GORMAN: I think that they’re perpetually concerned because they never quite know. And Glenn Greenwald has been sort of flagging publicly that he does at least one significant story to come, he’s sort of suggested sometime soon. And I don’t think U.S. officials quite know what that is, so I think that they’re still pretty much on edge about it, but at the same time, once you get sort of a year into it, some of the way that they handle these issues are kind of incorporated into just sort of the normal business.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Has public perception changed over the past year about Edward Snowden?
SHIOBHAN GORMAN: In small ways, yes. But not as much as you might think. I was looking at the polls and last July his positives were at 11 percent and today they’re at 13 percent. So that hasn’t shifted all that much across America. His negatives have gone down a little bit from 36 percent to 27 percent, but still it’s sort of a 2 to 1 ratio, or a little bit more, in terms of actually a negative view. The interesting thing, however, is that the younger demographic as you might not be surprised to learn has a different view from the older demographic. So people who are of the Facebook generation, if you will, find Snowden a much more appealing individual in this context.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright Shiobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent for the Wall Street Journal joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.
SHIOBHAN GORMAN: Thank you.
School is letting out all across the country. And for millions of children, summer vacation also means losing access to free or reduced-price lunch and breakfast programs.
More than 21 million kids rely on these programs during the school year, but only three million have access to nutrition programs during the summer.
Jim Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center, joins NewsHour Weekend correspondent Megan Thompson via Google+ to talk about the organization’s latest report on childhood hunger.
The lack of access to nutrition programs can increase both hunger and obesity, as kids eat cheaper, less-nutritious meals at home. It can also strain the budgets of families already struggling to get by.
After years of decline, participation in federal Summer Nutrition Programs increased by 5.7 percent between 2012 and 2013, the first major increase in a decade. But still only a fraction of the low-income kids who need the programs are being served.
WASHINGTON — Aiming to alleviate the burden of student loan debt, President Barack Obama expanded a program Monday that lets borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their income every month, and threw his support behind more sweeping Senate legislation targeting the issue.
Flanked by student loan borrowers at the White House, Obama said the rising costs of college have left America’s middle class feeling trapped. He put his pen to a presidential memorandum that he said could help an additional 5 million borrowers lower their monthly payments.
“I’m only here because this country gave me a chance through education,” Obama said. “We are here today because we believe that in America, no hard-working young person should be priced out of a higher education.”
An existing repayment plan Obama announced in 2010 lets borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in payments, but is only available for those who started borrowing after October 2007. Obama’s memo expands that program by making opening it to those who borrowed anytime in the past.
Obama also announced he is directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers to encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans. And he asked Treasury and Education departments to work with major tax preparers, including H&R Block and the makers of TurboTax, to increase awareness about tuition tax credits and flexible repayment options available to borrowers.
“It’s going to make progress, but not enough,” Obama said. “We need more.”
To that end, Obama used the East Room appearance to endorse legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans.
The bill’s chief advocate, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, joined a half-dozen other Democratic lawmakers as Obama urged Congress to pass the bill.
“This should be a no-brainer,” Obama said.
The Senate is expected to debate the legislation next week, but it faces significant opposition from Republicans, who disagree with the Democrats’ plan for how to pay for it.
The dual strategy — taking executive action while urging Congress to finish the job — has become Obama’s signature playbook this year. Stymied by gridlock as Congress marches toward the midterm elections, he has repeatedly sought ways to go around Congress with modest steps that underscore his pitch from the bully pulpit for Congress to finish the job.
Under an income-based repayment plan created by Congress, the maximum monthly payment is already set to drop from 15 percent of income to 10 percent in July 2014. But that plan only affects new borrowers. Obama’s “Pay as You Earn” plan uses another part of existing law to offer similar benefits to people who already borrowed to finance their education.
In previous Obama budgets, the White House has predicted that making the plan retroactive would cost the federal government billions of dollars in the early years. Asked about the costs Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration won’t know how much it will cost until they go through the rule-making process to put the expansion in place.
“We actually don’t know the costs yet,” Duncan said. “We’ll figure that out on the back end.”
Republican leaders in Congress have faulted Obama’s steps on loan repayments for failing to address the root cause: college costs that are too high.
“This was not a thought-out policy solution, but another in a series of political events designed to distract from the difficulties facing college grads in the Obama economy,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
WASHINGTON — After years of delays, four former guards from the security firm Blackwater Worldwide are facing trial in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 18 others in bloodshed that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe.
Whether the shootings were self-defense or an unprovoked attack, the carnage of Sept. 16, 2007 was seen by critics of the George W. Bush administration as an illustration of a war gone horribly wrong.
A trial in the nearly 7-year-old case is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Wednesday, barring last-minute legal developments. Prosecutors plan to call dozens of Iraqis to testify in what the Justice Department says is likely to be the largest group of foreign witnesses ever to travel to the U.S. to participate in a criminal trial.
The violence at the Nisoor Square traffic circle in downtown Baghdad was the darkest episode of contractor violence during the war in Iraq, becoming one more diplomatic disaster in a war that had many. Iraqi officials, who wanted the guards tried in a local court, were outraged.
In the trial, defense lawyers will focus on the guards’ state of mind in a city that was a battleground.
Car bombs and insurgents were daily perils for the Blackwater teams. As part of its work with the State Department, Blackwater had a team of 15 intelligence analysts who produced daily threat updates, colored maps of a city riddled with bomb blasts.
“The core disputed issue in this prosecution is self-defense — whether the defendants believed that deadly force was necessary to defend themselves and their teammates from an insurgent attack, and whether that belief was objectively reasonable,” lawyers for the guards said in court filings.
Reasonableness shouldn’t be judged on “hindsight analysis in a courtroom seven years and thousands of miles removed from the event,” the lawyers argue in the filings.
In the aftermath of the shootings, Blackwater Worldwide provided the government with photos of the guards’ vehicles pocked and streaked with bullet marks.
On Capitol Hill, one theme in politically tinged congressional hearings was that hiring large numbers of security guards, and letting them operate outside the military chain of command in a war zone, was a recipe for disaster.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince declared: “I believe we acted appropriately at all times.” The Nisoor Square shootings spelled the death knell for his company. Formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, the company is under new ownership, is based in Virginia and Prince is no longer affiliated with it. The company was sold to a group of investors who changed the name to Academi.
The very presence of security guards in Iraq is touchy. Lawyers for the guards had asked that current or former members of the military not wear uniforms when they testify in the case, a request the court denied. The guards’ lawyers argued that distinctions between contractors and uniformed military had become highly politicized.
In 2009, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed the case against the Blackwater guards. From the Iraqi government’s perspective, the dismissal was an example of Americans acting above the law. Urbina said government lawyers ignored the advice of senior Justice Department officials by building the criminal case on sworn statements of the guards given under a grant of immunity — meaning the guards’ own statements could not be used against them.
Two years later, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the prosecution, ruling that Urbina had wrongly interpreted the law. The decision gave the Justice Department another chance.
In the upcoming trial, one of the guards, Nicholas Slatten, is charged with first-degree murder. The other three guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — are charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges. Slatten could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, while the other guards face a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years in prison if a defendant is convicted of the gun charge and at least one other charge.
Last September, prosecutors agreed to dismiss their case against a fifth guard, Donald Ball, a retired Marine from West Valley City, Utah. A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway of California, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, is expected to testify for the prosecution and is awaiting sentencing.
On the day of the shootings, a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad near a meeting attended by a U.S. official. In response, the 19-member Blackwater team — known by its call sign Raven 23 — established a blockade at nearby Nisoor Square.
The government says six of the 19 members of Raven 23, including the four defendants, fired shots that resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people and injuries to at least 18 others.
One of the defendants, Slatten, “initiated the entire incident” by firing the first shots that day “without justification,” the prosecutors said, firing his sniper rifle from a concealed position inside the convoy’s command vehicle.
In 2010, prosecutors obtained indictments against former Blackwater president Gary Jackson and four others on felony firearms violations involving dozens of weapons. All charges against three of the accused were dismissed after a federal judge ruled to reduce several of the felony charges to misdemeanors. Jackson and the former company vice president admitted guilt on misdemeanor charges.
Last year, Academi settled federal criminal charges against the company, paying a $7.5 million fine for firearms violations. Academi also settled lawsuits brought by survivors of the Iraqi civilians killed during the Baghdad shooting.
WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that most immigrant children who have become adults during their parents’ years-long wait to become legal permanent residents of the United States should go to the back of the line in their own wait for visas.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with the Obama administration in finding that immigration laws offer relief only to a tiny percentage of children who “age out” of the system when they turn 21. The majority — tens of thousands of children— no longer qualify for the immigration status granted to minors.
The case is unusual in that it pitted the administration against immigration reform advocates who said government officials were misreading a law intended to keep families together by preventing added delays for children seeking visas.
The ruling also features President Barack Obama’s two court appointees — Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — on opposing sides of a complicated debate over what the law means and what Congress intended when it wrote the laws governing wait times for children seeking visas.
The case does not have any impact on the recent influx of thousands of immigrant children traveling on their own to cross the U.S. border from Mexico.
Five justices agreed with the outcome of the case but there was no majority opinion. Writing for three justices, Kagan said the law preserves the place in line for a child whose petition for a visa was filed directly by a parent who is a green card holder, but not for children in other categories. She was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate opinion agreeing only with the outcome, but not Kagan’s reasoning.
Because approving families for green cards can take years, tens of thousands of immigrant children age out of the system each year, according to government estimates. Congress tried to fix the problem in 2002 when it passed the Child Status Protection Act. The law allows aged-out children to retain their child status longer or qualify for a valid adult category and keep their place in line.
But appeals courts have split over whether the law applies to all children or only those in specific categories. The Obama administration argued that the law applied only to a narrow category of immigrants, leaving out most of the children affected. Government attorneys said that applying the law too broadly would lead to too many young adults entering the country ahead of others waiting in line.
Immigration advocates assert that the law was passed to promote family unity. According to Catholic Legal Immigration Network, forcing an aged-out child to go back to the end of the line would increase his or her wait time by more than nine years. By contrast, it says keeping the child’s priority dates would increase the wait time for others by just a few months.
The case involved Rosalina Cuellar de Osorio, a Salvadoran immigrant who was in line for a visa along with her 13-year-old son. But after years of waiting, her son turned 21 and government officials said he no longer qualified as an eligible child. He was placed at the back of the line, resulting in a wait of several more years.
The family won its challenge before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision.
In a lengthy dissent, Sotomayor said there is no conflict in the law and it should be read to clearly allow all aged-out children to keep their place in line. She quotes a book by Scalia in which he says courts “do not lightly presume that Congress has legislated in self-contradicting terms.”
Sotomayor was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a separate dissent.
A group of lawmakers in Congress when the law was passed — including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — submitted a brief arguing against the government in the case.
Immigration reform groups were hoping the issue would be addressed in Congress. The Senate last year passed a bipartisan bill that would tighten border security, provide enforcement measures and offer a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. That measure stalled in the House, where Republicans have rejected a comprehensive approach in favor of a bill-by-bill process.
A home invasion was captured via webcam during a livestream of an online gaming session. Video via azfamily.com
A home invasion in Tempe, Arizona received quick police attention that resulted in an arrest — all thanks to an online video game.
An online gamer was livestreaming herself playing the computer game “Dota 2” Monday morning when two armed men forced their way into her apartment. The commotion prompted the woman to move off-camera, while one of the intruders was soon after captured by the webcam carrying what appeared to be a weapon.
Gamers playing with her online, in addition to those watching the live stream, jumped into action and contacted authorities, while a friend of hers contacted police with her address. One suspect was captured at the scene, while the other remains at large.
The post Online gamer robbed during livestream; gamers jump to action appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Last Friday marked what we in the United States affectionately call “jobs day,” when the monthly release of unemployment data is closely watched to predict whether the central bank will continue dialing back its monetary stimulus. But across the pond, last week brought the unveiling of an unprecedented monetary policy decision by the European Central Bank.
On Thursday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi announced that the ECB would start charging a negative interest rate on money banks deposit at the central bank, effectively making the banks pay the ECB to hold their money there rather than the banks earning interest on their deposits. (We’ve discussed this tactic — known as Interest on Excess Reserves or IOER — often on Making Sen$e with regard to the Fed, most recently late last year.)
What’s the point of a negative interest rate? The goal is to discourage banks from hoarding money at the ECB, and instead send it flowing back out to the borrowers and businesses that will stimulate the economy and raise inflation. When the euro is worth less, euro zone exports should become cheaper and consequently, more globally competitive. (The Upshot’s Neil Irwin offers a crisp explainer of the negative interest rate.)
In the euro zone, maintaining 2 percent inflation is the central bank’s only mandate, and toying with interest rates is their main stimulatory tool. The Federal Reserve, by contrast, has what’s commonly referred to as a dual mandate: managing inflation while striving for “full” employment.
In the United States, the decline of the unemployment rate over the past year has led the Fed to gradually draw down its hallmark monetary stimulus program. The Fed has said it will continue gradually reducing the purchase of mortgage-backed securities and U.S. Treasuries — the program known as quantitative easing — with a total drawdown this fall, as long as the economy meets their expectations.
The Fed’s super-national counterpart in the euro zone isn’t making those kinds of asset purchases, in large part, former Fed economist Catherine Mann reminds us, because it represents nation-states, not states, and to decide whose sovereign debt to buy would amount to playing political favorites. Draghi floated the idea of asset purchases in 2012, when he promised “to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.” But he never actually had to do it; as the Wall Street Journal explains, the mere promise that he would do it if needed was enough for investors. Since Draghi never had to act, he never addressed how to handle the sovereignty question, says Mann, now a professor at Brandeis’ International Business School. On Thursday, Draghi again left the door open to buying assets in the future, but as Mann explains, this would be different from the Fed’s quantitative easing program because they’d be buying private asset-backed securities.
For now, the European Central Bank is still using its ability to set rates on money deposited at the Bank to try to keep inflation where they want it. But in a super-national organization, even determining the inflation rate is a challenge since Europe has a range of them. Rolling those into one clean number carries with it statistical and political complications. So even though the ECB has only one mandate, where the Fed has two, Mann explains, theirs is somewhat harder to achieve. But “however you cut it,” Mann continues, “they are a long way away from their objective.”
Which is why the ECB took the unprecedented step of lowering the deposit rate from zero to minus .1 percent for banks to park their money at the central bank overnight. Denmark experimented with a negative rate, but never before has a negative interest rate policy (“NIRP,” for the wonks used to talking about a zero interest rate policy or “ZIRP”) been implemented on this large a scale.
The question now is what will happen once the rates go into effect on June 11. A negative interest rate “sounds radical,” says Benn Steil, senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And the optics are very dramatic,” he adds, but it’s “unlikely to have much more of a stimulative effect” than the already low rate.
Banks like to make themselves seem local, with branches rooting themselves in our neighborhoods. But it’s important to remember, Mann stresses, that banks are global, with no respect for international boundaries. So the effectiveness of any interest rate policy, she says, “will be tempered by the fact that money is fungible across borders and across the ECB.”
That’s not unique to the ECB, of course. As Mann explained to Making Sen$e late last year when the Federal Reserve was taking its initial steps to taper quantitative easing, the Fed’s lowered interest rates send capital abroad, especially to emerging economies, where it can get a higher return.
With NIRP, banks in Europe are likely going to want to send money abroad too. Naturally, they won’t want to deposit and hold their extra reserves at the European Central Bank if they have to pay to do so. Instead, they can funnel it to branches in the United States, where it can earn a quarter of a percentage point interest, aka 25 basis points, at the Federal Reserve.
This flow of capital, Mann thinks, represents a kind of leakage because the money that is diverted from one central bank and lands at another never reaches the economy it’s supposed to stimulate. Encouraging hiring and generating demand for goods and services is the whole point of freeing money from the central bank in the first place.
The constant challenge for both the ECB and the Fed, she says, has been how to push that credit into the economy to stimulate growth. Inducing even more of it to be deposited at the Fed, or at another bank in Europe, isn’t going to change anything.
So besides lowering that deposit rate, the ECB is deploying another tool to arrive at the same goal. To discourage banks from keeping their excess reserves on the central bank balance sheet, the ECB will reward banks that increase their private lending (to non-bank institutions) with access to cheap funds. That’s been tried before in England, but Benn Steil isn’t convinced of the results: the banks were rewarded for loans he thinks they would have made anyway.
Mann, too, is skeptical, given failed efforts in the United States to push banks to lend to the nonfinancial sector, although none of the Fed’s stimulus programs have been attached to explicit lending. In short, “it’s a great idea,” she thinks, but businesses can also use the money for stock buybacks or mergers and acquisitions. She likens the concept to a relay race: central banks pass the money on to businesses, which are supposed to pass the baton on in the form of hiring people and building products. But corporations often drop that last baton. And if they don’t think they have good investment opportunities, given slack consumer demand and/or more capacity than they need, who can blame them?
Again, as is the case when lowered deposit rates at the European Central Bank send excess reserves to other central banks, when funds sit at European corporations that don’t use them for hiring, it’s the economy that loses out.
But the scariest concern for most non-economists right now may be the sound of a negative interest rate. If negative interest rates cut into banks’ margins, surely they’ll try to pass those negative rates onto their customers. What can everyday Europeans with a modest bank account expect?
Neither Mann nor Steil thinks the banks would want to alienate their customer base. But while they may not pass those rates onto their customers, they may still pass on the cost and just call it something else, like a new fee structure, Mann speculates. Even if that comes to pass, Steil thinks most retail customers would be reluctant to move their money around from one bank to another. Even so, the fear that depositors will remove their money from the banking system entirely, Neil Irwin notes in The New York Times, will likely keep central banks from ever making rates highly negative.
At the end of the day, Steil thinks, the ECB’s announcement makes holding assets in the euro zone less attractive. But that could all change if, as Draghi suggested on Thursday, the ECB is seriously open to some sort of asset purchasing program like the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing. (Although Draghi specifically talked about buying private sector asset-backed securities, whereas the Fed buys government debt.) “We think this is a significant package,” Draghi said at the ECB’s announcement of the rate cut and lending package Thursday. “Are we finished? The answer is no.”
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ASHLAND, Va. — There’s a reason immigration reform has not moved its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. And it can be found in places like this, a strawberry festival just north of Richmond.
“It’s nothing personal against Eric,” Dave Brat, an economics professor at nearby Randolph-Macon College and primary challenger to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, told NewsHour. “It’s just I don’t see what he’s doing on immigration.”
Brat, who showed up when the gates opened here to shake the hand of every person he encountered, is considered a long shot Tuesday in the primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Cantor’s campaign released an internal poll showing the congressman up 34 points. But the threat Brat has posed — along with the endorsements he’s received from prominent national talk-radio hosts — has forced Cantor to look over his right shoulder. He’s had to work and spend money.
Brat is indicative of the challenge House Republicans are facing across the country. If a Republican member shows any kind of openness to immigration reform measures, no matter how small, they have to worry more about a potential primary challenger than losing in a general election to a Democrat. That’s due in part to how districts have been redrawn, creating fewer competitive House races than in years past.
“I have told the president, there are some things we can work on together,” Cantor told the local Richmond CBS station Friday. He added, “We can work on the border security bill together, we can work on something like the kids. So far, the president has just insisted that it’s all or nothing — my way or the highway. That’s not going to happen.”
To Brat, that’s being in support of “amnesty.” Cantor, who breezed through the sun-drenched festival five hours after Brat had arrived — and by that time, they were out of berries — disputes Brat’s characterization.
“My position on immigration has never wavered,” Cantor told the Richmond Times Dispatch. Cantor has voted multiple times to heighten border security and has opposed immigration reform measures like the DREAM Act.
“I oppose Senate Democrats’ comprehensive bill that offered blanket amnesty, and refuse to allow it a vote in the House,” he continued, adding, “We all know that our immigration system is broken, and we should make reforms in a step-by-step approach. We should be able to find common ground when it comes to securing the border and addressing children who did not break any laws and were brought here at no fault of their own and know no other country as home.”
Advocates argue the Senate bill was not “blanket amnesty,” because it took about 13 years with a fine, a clean criminal record and going to the back of the line to qualify for citizenship. Still, a path to citizenship has been a non-starter in the House.
President Obama has indicated an openness to work on piecemeal measures, as House Republicans like Speaker John Boehner and Cantor have wanted. But Boehner continues to say that a lack of “trust” among those in his conference in the president is preventing action on immigration.
“The problem is that the guy’s been talking out of both sides of his mouth,” said Frank Sharry, executive director for one of the leading immigration advocacy groups, America’s Voice, about Cantor. “On one hand, he has been saying for over a year that the Republicans have to do something on immigration reform — and then Brat emerges and decides to make immigration the dividing issue of the primary.”
Using immigration as a motivator, Brat, who has campaigned to be Cantor’s “term limit”, has gained tea party support and even picked off some former Cantor backers.
Ron Hedlund, who owns a small industrial repair business in Richmond, is a former volunteer for Cantor, but said he can no longer back his congressman.
“[Cantor’s] interests have turned toward large corporations, and he’s not looking out for my interests,” Hedlund said at the strawberry festival, as locals waded through stands filled with homemade goods and food trucks serving everything from barbecue to strawberry shortcake. “That’s why I have changed, and now I’m supporting Dave Brat.”
Brat has also picked up support from some local Republican groups. At the district’s GOP convention in May, for example, Brat topped Cantor by more than 40 points in the straw poll.
Despite some of those grassroots gains, Brat faces the reality of two major roadblocks: experience and money.
In 2012, Cantor won the Republican primary with 79 percent of the vote. He has been the House majority leader since 2011, and has served in the Republican leadership since 2003.
“He has great experience and leadership,” said Chris Erb, a supporter of Eric Cantor’s at the festival. “I think that he is obviously well above the competition as far as experience level.”
On top of that, Brat has been woefully outspent. Brat had less than $84,000 cash on hand and only spent about $123,000, as of May 21. Cantor’s campaign, on the other hand, has spent more than $5 million during the 2013-2014 cycle, with $1.5 million cash on hand.
A Cantor aide told the NewsHour that although they are confident about winning reelection, “we are taking the election seriously,” adding that they have never taken an election lightly.
By the end of April, Cantor began to put out multiple television ads and a series of mailers attacking Brat. In fact, the campaign tried to label him a “liberal college professor”, who supported tax increases proposed by former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.
Brat rejects that depiction, but feels that all of the negative campaigning is a sign of something good.
“They know it’s a horse race,” Brat said. “It’s going to be neck and neck, and I think we’re going to win it.”
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Shelling ripped into the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk for a second day in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. Mortar fire left a trail of destruction throughout the city, damaging several buildings. It also left many people pleading for a peaceful resolution.
SVETLANA VIKTOROVNA (through interpreter): This will never end. They will end the shooting only when they wipe us from the face of the planet, when nothing remains here but a flat space. Only then the war will be finished.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just yesterday, newly installed President Petro Poroshenko announced the start of negotiations involving his government, Russia and European security monitors.
GWEN IFILL: In Iraq, a double bombing tore through Kurdish political offices in a string of attacks that killed at least 40 people. It came a day after similar bombings on Sunday. Today’s took place in the town of Tuz Khormato, about 130 miles north of Baghdad. Local officials said a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives to a checkpoint. A second truck blew up as the people ran to the scene.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad granted a wide-ranging amnesty today. He reduced jail terms for many crimes and canceled some altogether, but it was unclear just how many prisoners would be freed. Assad has issued several amnesties since the uprising against him began in 2011. Today’s announcement came less than a week after his reelection.
GWEN IFILL: Police in Brazil fought today with subway workers who walked off the job just as a flood of tourists begin arriving for the World Cup. It was the latest sign of trouble in the run-up to the most popular sporting event on the planet.
Dan Rivers of Independent Television News filed this report.
DAN RIVERS: As Brazil prepares to welcome the world three days before kickoff, this was the scene in Sao Paulo.
Riot police fired tear gas at striking metro workers, whose walkout has brought Brazil’s largest city to a standstill at the worst possible time. But there aren’t just problems here. In Rio, the smoldering threat of gang violence is just one challenge.
We found this burning car on the main road from the airport in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. It was set ablaze by feuding dealers. The army gave us exclusive access to the sprawling slum known as Marre. Flak jackets are advisable here. Today, soldiers were shot at by gang members in this area; 2,400 troops are deployed here to quell gang violence, fear and football on streets few outsiders would dare to walk along.
But it’s not just gang violence that’s threatening to disrupt the World Cup. There’s been months of protest and unrest at the amount of money being spent on the event. What should be a sporting celebration has become deeply controversial. Some are preparing to party.
But is this country really ready for the giants of the football world and half-a-million fans? They certainly love the beautiful game like nowhere else, but can they do it justice as hosts?
GWEN IFILL: Ready or not, the competition begins Thursday, when Brazil plays Croatia in the opening match.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 18 points to close at 16,943, another new record. The Nasdaq rose more than 14 points to close at 4,336. And the S&P 500 added the better part of two points to finish at 1,951, also a record.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House condemned a deadly attack overnight by the Pakistani Taliban at their country’s busiest airport.As John Sparks of Independent Television News report, the group’s assault and fighting with government forces left dozens dead.
JOHN SPARKS: Just before midnight, clouds of smoke rose above the international airport. And there was gunfire too.
It was clear that something had gone terribly wrong in Karachi. Fiery scenes were captured by the country’s tireless news channels. Heavily harmed insurgents from the Pakistan Taliban had stormed the airport. According to their spokesman, they wanted to hijack a plane, and seek revenge for the death of their leader in a drone strike.
It was a well-planned attack. The militants dressed as airport security, evading checkpoints on the perimeter, then fought their way into terminal one. Officials said they approached a number of aircraft as well.
“It’s a cowardly act by the terrorists,” said this police chief. Karachi hosts Pakistan’s biggest and busiest airport; 43,000 people pass through the main passenger hub every day. Yet the militants targeted a different part of the facility. They infiltrated via a side entrance here. Then a van dropped them off at terminal one. It’s now used for cargo and VIPs.
As the gun battle raged, the authorities evacuated the airport and canceled incoming flights. But that wasn’t all. Troops had to get passengers off a number of aircraft that were sitting on the tarmac.
Saim Rizvi was one of them. He used Twitter to express himself, cursing, then adding: “They fire rocket launchers. May God protect the country and passengers on board, as well as on the floor.” A few minutes later, he tweeted: “We’re going to be off-loaded soon. Commandos are on the plane. Long live the Pakistan army.”
The battle for Jinnah International was over by sunrise. Military officials said they’d killed the insurgents, 10 in all. Another 16 had also lost their lives. A long convoy took their bodies away.
Local residents looked on in alarm.
“The firing was so intense, I thought war had broken out between India and Pakistan,” said this man.
The authorities were quick to congratulate themselves. Captured weapons were displayed for all to see, including several suicide vests packed with explosives.
“We did a tremendous job,” said this regional cabinet minister.
But the attack highlights the fragile sense of security here. The sprawling city of Karachi has long been used by militants as a place to hide and organize. And a recent attempt by the government to negotiate with them has failed.
Officials said the airport would soon reopen. But few will feel completely secure. Pakistan faces a brazen foe prepared to fight to the death.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Late today, the official death toll climbed to 29 killed, including the 10 attackers.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the siege and how it fits into the larger picture in Pakistan, we turn to two who have studied that country for a long time.Christine Fair is an assistant professor at Georgetown University. Her latest book is “Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War.” And Shuja Nawaz is director of the Southeast Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. His latest book is “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within.”
And we welcome you both back to the program.
Shuja Nawaz, to you first. What does this attack say about the strength of the Taliban in that country?
SHUJA NAWAZ, Atlantic Council: I think they have the government on the back foot. They have the advantage that they can pick any target, and it can be a soft or hard one, and this certainly was a spectacular target.
We don’t know if they actually planned to go to the terminal where they ended up or whether it was a mistake on their part or whether it was the strength of the second post that they attacked which turned them to the right instead of to the left. This could have been much worse had they ended up in the Jinnah International terminal, where there were planes loaded with passengers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Christine Fair, how do you read this? What does it say to you about the Taliban?
C. CHRISTINE FAIR, Georgetown University: I think it really says Pakistan as a country has simply failed to understand this problem strategically and to deal with it.
I mean, for years, we have been having these discussions on your show, and Pakistan’s problem is as it has been. It wants part of these militants to be retained as strategic assets that they can deploy to kill people in Afghanistan, usually often are Afghan allies and other allies, as well as Indians.
The problem is that the very organizations that the ISI have spawned to do its bidding in Afghanistan and India…
JUDY WOODRUFF: ISI being the intelligence…
C. CHRISTINE FAIR: The intelligence agency of Pakistan — is that elements of those groups have formed the Pakistan Taliban.
And what I find really interesting about the media discourse that you see in Pakistan is that they don’t want to talk about this. They want to talk about these militants as being foreigners. There’s been discussions about them being Uzbeks or Indians. They’re trying to everything they can to avoid a real discussion in Pakistan about this being blowback from Pakistan’s own policy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, at the same time, one of you was telling us this afternoon that this wasn’t an attack that clearly wasn’t well-executed because they ended up killed. How well-organized did they seem?
As you said, Shuja Nawaz, they didn’t get to the destination they were headed for. What does it say about them?
SHUJA NAWAZ: Well, they were extremely well-prepared.
The equipment they had, there are reports that they were also carrying injections that assist the blood in coagulating if they’re wounded. And, indeed, I spoke to somebody in Karachi who told me that three of them were wounded and actually hid well past the deadline that the army had said that the airport was free, and after that they were discovered, so fighting continued beyond that midday deadline.
So they were well-equipped. I think this is not the first. This is probably the second major attack in Karachi that they have launched very successfully. The PNS Mehran attack in 2011 was also a successful attack. The government can’t take this lightly. I agree with Christine that they need to have a clearer strategy and they need to stop the policy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: They being?
SHUJA NAWAZ: The government…
JUDY WOODRUFF: The government.
SHUJA NAWAZ: … needs to stop looking at good and bad Taliban.
There are networks. There’s al-Qaida, as well as the Punjabi Taliban, that are active. And Karachi have five million Pashtun, more than in FATA alone. So it provides a kind of petri dish for the development of terrorism.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pick up on that, Christine Fair. I think — and also for Americans trying to follow this, there are more groups involved than I think people can even keep track of.
But when it comes to the essential Pakistan Taliban and the government, how do you see them as they face one another? Which one has the upper hand right now?
C. CHRISTINE FAIR: So, I kind of think of these groups as a kaleidoscope and the different flux.
Give it a twist, you get one picture. You twist it again, you get another. The Pakistan Taliban are very different, for example, from the Afghan Taliban, who still, despite different disputes between commanders, more or less remain faithful to Mullah Omar.
The Pakistan Taliban is really a misnomer. It doesn’t have that command-and-control. Its current putative leader is actually absconding in Afghanistan. He hasn’t really been heard from in quite some time, so it doesn’t have this coherence.
Part of the Pakistan Taliban are very much dedicated to overturning the state. Some of them can be turned to go fight against us and our allies in Afghanistan. And this is the problem with the Pakistan government.
There is actually two strategies. There is the strategy of the civilians led by Nawaz Sharif. Now, he is scared to death of these groups. They can kill him whenever he wants, and he knows. But he has another problem. Some of the parties that vote for him actually have sympathies, so he can’t — he’s constrained. But the army has its own strategy.
And the army’s strategy is to flip them and send them to Afghanistan, so big difference between what the government wants to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Several different threads to follow.
But, Shuja Nawaz, that reminds us what that what President Sharif had been doing was attempting to negotiate with the Taliban. Where does that stand in the middle of all this?
SHUJA NAWAZ: Well, they launched a new internal national security strategy or policy in February this year. And after that, they launched the talks with the Taliban that have sputtered on and off.
There isn’t a very clear definition of the aim for those talks. They’re also only focused on the Federally Administered Tribal Area which borders Afghanistan, whereas, as I mentioned earlier, Karachi remains a hotbed of violence. The Punjab remains a hotbed of violence.
They are groups in the Punjab that are equally responsible for terrorism within the country and outside the country. So, they need to have a much clearer definition of what they’re aiming for in these talks if they’re going to succeed.
I don’t think that they can succeed. There’s also a sharp division between the military and the civilians. The military has remained mum on these talks and thus has exercised a veto of sorts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, to pick up on that, Christine. And you were talking about the split there between the military and the civilian…
C. CHRISTINE FAIR: Yes.
So, from my point of view, I have been long a critic of these talks. What’s interesting is that they always have the same playbook. The militants always come out on top. Pakistan civilian leaders engage them. They give them this credibility.
OK. Having said this, if you look at the timing of this particular round of negotiations, it’s really coincidental that it completely overlapped with the Afghan elections. And I think that tells you more about what the Pakistan army wanted than anything else, because, as I said, the Pakistan army’s idea of negotiating is that they flip them. Go kill Indians, go kill Afghans, go kill Americans, which raises questions about our policy towards this perfidious ally.
From the civilians’ point of view, they are willing to make concessions, but the problem is the Taliban have been clear that they don’t want to negotiate within the frame of Pakistan’s constitution, and that really puts Sharif in a bind, because Pakistanis, for better or for worse, despite their different views about the Taliban, they’re committed to those talks being within the constitution.
So there’s a lot of difference in opinions about what should be the best way forward with dealing with them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will leave it there. And we thank you both. The story certainly continues.
Christine Fair, Shuja Nawaz, thank you.
SHUJA NAWAZ: Thank you.
C. CHRISTINE FAIR: Thank you.
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GWEN IFILL: The Veterans Affairs Department today released a new audit documenting widespread delayed patient care.
It’s based on a nationwide review of 731 of its hospitals and outpatient clinics. According to the internal report, 57,000 veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first medical appointment; 64,000 others appear to have fallen through the cracks, after enrolling with the agency and requesting medical care.And in another major finding, 13 percent of schedulers said their supervisors had asked them to falsify appointment schedules to make the wait times appear shorter. The audit also found that a 14-day target for scheduling appointments wasn’t attainable.
Joining me to discuss the report are Dr. Sam Foote, whose complaints about wait times and bookkeeping in Phoenix led to an investigation in that area’s VA system. He was a VA doctor for 24 years. And Ralph Ibson, national policy director of the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services to veterans. He previously served as the VA’s deputy assistant general counsel.
Dr. Foote, how dire is this, how widespread? Were you surprised at what you saw in this report?
DR. SAM FOOTE, Former Doctor, Phoenix VA Health Care System: I think what I was surprised at is so many brave individuals came forward, GS4s through GS6s being interviewed by GS14s and 15s.
And we learned from this that 76 percent of facilities had at least one or more employee that had the guts to come forward and say, yes, they were gaming the system on the desired dates on return patients, and 70 percent of facilities had one or more braves employees who came forward and said that they were finding ways around the electronic waiting list.
GWEN IFILL: Were you surprised, Professor?
DR. SAM FOOTE: I’m not. No, I was not surprised that that was happening, but I’m pleasantly surprised that that many people had the courage to step forward and speak up in that situation.
GWEN IFILL: Professor?
RALPH IBSON, Wounded Warrior Project: I was surprised by the scope and gravity of these problems. And I agree with Dr. Foote that it took courage for these men and women to come forward and share those — share those findings.
GWEN IFILL: Is this one of these things that happens that everyone knew it was happening, that everyone understood there was a problem, but it hadn’t happened, Mr. Ibson? Is it that no one had just done anything about it, covered it up?
RALPH IBSON: I think we have been well aware that there’s been a misalignment between patient need for care and the available staffing to provide that care.
Again, I don’t think we realized how widespread it was, nor the extent to which the system was being gamed.
GWEN IFILL: Dr. Foote, I want to talk to you about some of these numbers because they’re quite amazing; 64,000 people were enrolled in the program but not seen, not served over the last decade, in addition to the numbers we were talking about before, and yet, a lot of these veterans actually were served, 96 percent.
So, is it just that the 4 percent was so egregious?
DR. SAM FOOTE: No.
We were doing pretty well until about 2010. And then the demand just ramped up. And rather than own up to the problem, the VA decided to cover it, because there’s no incentive for Washington to get good numbers. If Phoenix turns in good numbers and Susan Bowers is happy as Division 18 director and everybody gets their bonuses, and she turns in good numbers to Washington, when Congress asks them, they say everything is great.
So there is never any incentive. And it was cheaper, and easier and quicker to fix the numbers than it was to fix the problem.
GWEN IFILL: When you first brought — when you first raised these problems, Dr. Foote, how was it received?
DR. SAM FOOTE: Well, you know, I think the San Diego guys when they came out were shocked and appalled, but they basically did nothing.
And from my standpoint, the VA covered it up. I’m so tired of hearing how I was confused about Phoenix handled the electronic waiting lists, how clerks were confused about the desired date, they were confused about how to make appointments.
And one of the things that this study addressed, that people were not confused, that problem is where they were being pressured to falsify data. They didn’t have provider slots to put them in and they didn’t have enough schedulers to do it in a timely fashion.
GWEN IFILL: Ralph Ibson, let’s talk about some of the causes. How much of this was workload?
RALPH IBSON: I think workload is a piece of it. And I think, as Dr. Foote suggests, it’s a culture that discouraged candor and even in some cases encouraged ethical lapses.
GWEN IFILL: How about physician shortages?
RALPH IBSON: Yes, I would agree. Many of these facilities have more patients needing care than they have staff to take care of those patients.
GWEN IFILL: Why?
RALPH IBSON: We have both an aging veteran population and a compelling need on the part of veterans returning from war in large numbers with multiple medical problems and a system that just wasn’t equipped at all facilities to handle that.
GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about the system, Dr. Foote. How much of this is dated technology?
DR. SAM FOOTE: The computer is not the problem.
VistA works quite well, if you’re trying to do it honestly, but it was never designed to try to prevent people who were going to do things incorrectly to do it. And as far as the medical thing, you have got — the Vietnam veterans pretty much drive the medical side of the house, as the aging baby boomers and the younger returning vets are putting a huge strain on mental health.
And if you look at the Phoenix situation, only about half our primary care providers are physicians, and maybe a little more than half of those are actually internists. And there’s a real shortage of supply of primary care physicians. And I think this is a nationwide problem that is only going to get worse, but the VA is feeling it first.
GWEN IFILL: Ralph Ibson, part of the problem apparently was that one of the fixes the last time this came up was to put in this 14-day scheduling, that someone would actually see a doctor within 14 days, and instead it turned into a reverse incentive for people to make up scheduling times.
How do you know that any fix right now won’t result in the same kind of problem?
RALPH IBSON: I think we have a long way to go, and I think, certainly, certainly VA central office has — understands the gravity of the problem.
I don’t think these are easy solutions. And, as Dr. Foote indicates, we have shortages of primary care physicians. We have shortages of psychiatrists across the country. So this is going to take time, and we need to keep at it.
GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you both about the solutions, the VA suggesting today among them creating a patient — what they call a patient satisfaction matrix, changing scheduling and access, hiring — putting in place a hiring freeze to get some of the people who have been doing these things wrong out of the office.
First with you, Ralph Ibson, do these sound like the kinds of solutions which can work?
RALPH IBSON: Well, I think they are steps in the right direction.
I don’t want to suggest that these are a panacea. And I think, again, what really is important is leadership and changing that culture. And, again, that doesn’t take — that doesn’t — you know, building trust in the employees to have the courage, as Dr. Foote indicated, to come forward and say we are so short-staffed.
GWEN IFILL: Dr. Sam Foote, what do you think about these solutions that the VA put out today?
DR. SAM FOOTE: The fundamental problem is a mismatch between demand and supply. And the VA is going to really need to turn to the private sector, primarily for urgent and emergent care and for hospitalizations.
VA does a great job of chronic care on scheduled appointments, things like diabetes, high blood pressure, getting your medications, but they fall down terribly, especially out West and in sparsely populated areas, where there isn’t any appropriate hospital, let alone a VA one. I would definitely favor something like a Medicare card that’s run very similar to Medicare.
I would not reinvent the wheel. I would look at how Medicare does things and issue these patients that live far away, like more than 40 miles, which Senator McCain has suggested, and give them a Vet-I-Care card that is valid for urgent and emergent care.
And don’t use the VA fee basis system now called for the non-VA care system. That takes months to get approval from the center and maybe six, 12, 18 months for Austin to pay it. You need something where they can bill the Vet-I-Care immediately, because, otherwise, unless you have a senator on one arm and an investigational TV crew on the other, they’re not going to pay that bill when you go into a hospital for emergent care that you need.
GWEN IFILL: Well, some of that is what’s the legislation that is making its way through Congress right now.
Dr. Sam Foote, former VA doctor and Ralph Ibson of the Wounded Warrior Project, thank you both very much.
DR. SAM FOOTE: Thank you.
RALPH IBSON: Thank you for having us.
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In a show of solidarity for a city struggling through bankruptcy, Detroit’s three automakers announced Monday a pledge of $26 million to go toward a deal that would help save the integrity of the city’s renowned art museum and alleviate pension reductions for thousands of city workers.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Chrysler will donate $6 million, and Ford and General Motors and their charitable arms will each give $10 million to the Detroit Museum of Art’s $100 million pledge for pension funding.
According to the Free Press, the DIA has committed to raising the $100 million for the federally mediated deal in which ownership of the museum will be transferred to an independent charitable trust for the equivalent of $816 million — to come from wealthy foundations, the state of Michigan and the DIA. The money raised would go toward funding the city’s $3.5 billion pension deficit. The auto companies’ contributions have pushed the museum to 70 percent of its commitment.
These are the first major corporate donations for the DIA-pension deal. According to CNNMoney, museum officials originally asked each automaker to give $25 million.
Detroit is unique from other major U.S. cities in that it owns its art museum. In 1920, it became the first art museum in America to acquire a Van Gogh.
Some of the city’s creditors want bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to allow interested buyers to look through the DIA’s collection in order to allow them to make their own estimation of the worth of the collection. Christie’s valued the artwork between $450 million and $870 million.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Educators and lawmakers across the nation are engaged in ever-escalating disputes over a set of education standards known as the Common Core. The rules once enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, but that is eroding.Just last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill to repeal and replace them. And that followed a similar move by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Now, a third Republican governor, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, is heading in the same direction.
We have a report from Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s Shauna Sanford.
It’s part of a collaboration with our American Graduate team, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
SHAUNA SANFORD, Louisiana Public Broadcasting: Seventeen-year-old Christian Meyers of Denham Springs, Louisiana, looks like a typical high school student, but his English classroom is considerably different than most. It’s his family’s kitchen table.
Christian is homeschooled and had been studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel “The Scarlet Letter” with his teacher and mother, Beth.
BETH MEYERS, Common Core Opponent: When she looks at her child, what bothers her?
CHRISTIAN MEYERS: Somehow, her sin had gone into the baby.
SHAUNA SANFORD: Beth Meyers is a former English and literacy teacher and last year she and her son both decided that homeschooling was the best way to get him ready for college.
BETH MEYERS: I had never, ever thought about homeschooling before. In fact, I had a fairly negative view of homeschooling as a teacher, because a lot of times the kids that came into my classroom who had been homeschooled in the early part were generally two to three years behind.
SHAUNA SANFORD: But Meyers says she changed her mind after Louisiana, along with much of the rest of the country, adopted and began implementing the Common Core state standards in 2010.
Common Core was designed by state leaders and school superintendents to ensure children in participating states met the same math and English benchmarks from kindergarten through high school. Advocates say they are more rigorous than previous standards and will ensure both parents and students of the quality of public schools.
But opponents like Meyers aren’t convinced, especially, she says, after she saw what her son was studying in his Common Core-approved American literature textbook as part of the new curriculum.
BETH MEYERS: And that first chapter was bouncing all over the place. Ben Franklin got two paragraphs with a couple of pages of his aphorisms. And then he was bounced into pages of Dan Rather interviewing people.
There didn’t seem to be any foundational, philosophical material that I feel is critical when they go to college.
SHAUNA SANFORD: Beth Meyers has since joined a chorus of voices opposed to Common Core in Louisiana and has heard about many other parents who are thinking about or actually pulling their children out of public school because of it.
NARRATOR: Thanks to the unprecedented collaboration among states, young people…
SHAUNA SANFORD: But just a few years ago, the push to create the set of K-12 educational standards enjoyed bipartisan support. Governors across the country got behind it, including Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, a Republican.
MAN: Let’s reach higher. Let’s invest in our teachers.
SHAUNA SANFORD: Some business groups and large employers in the state, including ExxonMobil, came out in favor of Common Core, too, saying Louisiana needed a better-educated work force.
ERIC LEWIS, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Louisiana Chapter: In Louisiana, we still remained ranked 48th amongst high school graduates or high school achievement. And, so, to me, that’s struggling.
SHAUNA SANFORD: Executive director of the Black Alliance for Educational Options in Louisiana, Eric Lewis, agrees. Lewis, who is also a parent of three, believes Common Core raises the bar for public schools and will make Louisiana students more competitive with their counterparts across the country.
Thus far, more than 40 states have adopted the Common Core.
ERIC LEWIS: We have got to make sure our children are able to be productive citizens, but that they’re also prepared to thrive in a global world in the years to come.
SHAUNA SANFORD: But Lewis and other supporters are having to fight to keep Common Core in Louisiana schools. Originally, a majority of states signed on to Common Core, but earlier this year, Indiana was the first to back out and now, as opposition grows here in Louisiana, some state lawmakers have pushed to do the same.
This year, bills that would have repealed the standards were introduced in the state legislature. Former teacher Amy Dutsch, who started the Louisiana chapter of Parents and Educators Against Common Core, supported the move. She began homeschooling her two young sons last year after learning more about the standards.
AMY DUTSCH, Common Core Opponent: The main big problem I am finding and I believe is that there’s no more local control.
SHAUNA SANFORD: Even though the federal government didn’t develop Common Core, the Education Department did provide states financial incentives to adopt the standards and it is funding the creation of the assessment tests. Those tests will measure, in part, how well students are meeting those standards, and that worries Dutsch.
AMY DUTSCH: Standards always drive curriculum. I don’t care what they say. As a teacher, you know that standards drive curriculum.
SHAUNA SANFORD: The pushback against Common Core has been so strong in St. Tammany Parish, where Dutsch lives, that the school board voted last year on a resolution urging the state to drop the standards altogether.
MAN: The St. Tammany Parish school board opposed the Common Core state standards since the idea was first introduced.
SHAUNA SANFORD: But despite that resolution and a last-minute apparent change of heart by Governor Jindal, none of the bills passed. In an op-ed published in USA Today, Jindal explained his new thoughts about Common Core.
“Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia. It’s not working with our health care system, and it won’t work in education.” And he said, “If the feds dictate the standards of measure, the local curricula will have no choice but to follow.”
YOLANDA BRAXTON, Common Core Supporter: We wanted the governor to know that we as parents are in support of Common Core.
SHAUNA SANFORD: The governor’s about-face didn’t fit well with everyone, though, including Yolanda Braxton. The mother of three public school students led this group of parents and educators to Louisiana’s state capitol.
YOLANDA BRAXTON: And with Common Core, it begins to hold people accountable, not just one person, but everybody is held accountable to doing what needs to be done for the kids. And accountability is important.
SHAUNA SANFORD: The man tasked in many ways with implementing Common Core in Louisiana is state Superintendent John White. He announced that he would delay by two years the date when students, teachers and schools will be judged by the assessment tests, saying that it gives district more time to prepare.
Even so, he still strongly supports the Common Core and believes backing out would be a big mistake.
JOHN WHITE, Superintendent of Education, Louisiana: Imagine that our state said to the rest of the country, we don’t think our kids are capable of being educated to a standard that’s as high as California’s or New York’s or anywhere else in between. What would that say to companies thinking about doing business here? What would it say about their employees thinking about moving here? What would it say to our families here about the jobs of companies that are operating in Louisiana?
SHAUNA SANFORD: Back at the Meyers’ homes in Denham Springs, both mother and son are happy with their decision to homeschool.
Christian, who struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, says that he and his mom figured out a pace that works for both of them. Eventually, Christian wants to be a nurse anesthetist, but, for now, his focus is set on finishing high school, which, at his current pace, he should be able to do next year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can find much more on the Common Core standards, the political battles and the effects on teaching and learning on our Web site. Just click the Education tab.
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We bemoan our decisions when we get a bad deal or miss out. New research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience this week finds that regret may not be just a human emotion. It turns out rats also experience regret.
Researcher David Redish at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis set up a “restaurant row” for his lab rats. The “restaurants” consisted of four stops where the rat could receive one option of his favorite flavor foods — banana, cherry, chocolate and a fourth unflavored food. The rat stops at the entrance and presses a button, which made a sound. The pitch indicated how long the rat needed to wait for food, anywhere from one to 45 seconds. If the rat was impatient, it could walk to the next stop and try again. However, each rat had an hour to get through the course, so it needed to be efficient.
To watch how these decisions manifested in the brain, Redish and his colleagues wired electrodes into the rats’ brains, so they could monitor the neural activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. Specific neural patterns indicated which foods the rats were thinking about at the time.
The experiment replicates a common human dilemma, Redish said. You go to a restaurant, discover it has a long wait and decide to go somewhere else, only to find your second choice restaurant has an even longer wait.
To the researcher’s surprise, when the rat got a “bad deal” it immediately turned around and looked back at its first choice. It’s neural pattern changed, and it thought of the first-choice food.
“That’s the regret,” Redish told National Geographic.
But regret is not just wishfully thinking about the past. Redish found that the regretful rats were more likely to wait longer for a “bad deal” than they would normally. They also ate their less-desirable treat more quickly. A few of the rats learned from their mistake and their neural activity showed them planning their next food stop.
Which leads Redish to wonder: “Humans avoid regret. Do rats?”
GWEN IFILL: Student debt in America has more than tripled in just the past decade, and experts say too much debt can put a crimp on graduates’ futures. It’s an issue that Democrats, particularly the president, have targeted for new remedies. It was the focus of his latest executive action today.
It’s the season for pomp and circumstance, triumphant graduations, cap-tossing, and a reminder that, although college may be over, the bills are just now coming due.The average student who graduated last year had nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. Today, in the White House East Room, President Obama signed an executive order that would allow borrowers who took out federal loans prior to 2007 to tie their repayments to their incomes.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let’s be honest. Families at the top, they can easily save more than enough money to pay for school out of pocket.
Families at the bottom face a lot of obstacles, but they can turn to programs designed to help them handle costs, but you have got a lot of middle-class families who can’t build up enough savings, don’t qualify for support, feel like nobody is looking out for them.
GWEN IFILL: The program would expand on 2010 law that capped federal loan repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income, while allowing low-income borrowers to have their loans forgiven after 20 or 25 years of on-time payments.
The White House says up to five million former students would benefit, providing a boost to the overall economy. The president also cast his plan in political terms, challenging Republicans to support him.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you’re a big oil company, they will go to bat for you. If you’re a student, good luck.
GWEN IFILL: Americans are now carrying student loan debt of over $1 trillion, $125 billion of it added just in the first three months of this year.
Some Republicans criticized the president’s plan today. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told The Wall Street Journal: “I still haven’t found the authority for the president to do this. And there’s very likely to be a cost in this and we need to know what it is.”
So what, if anything, could this approach do to help ease the growing problem of student loan debt?
For that, we turn to Deanne Loonin, who leads the student borrower program at the National Consumer Law Center. And Richard Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
Professor Vedder, today, I was talking to a recent college graduate who says she owes $100,000 in school loans. She just graduated last year. How deep, how wide is this problem?
RICHARD VEDDER, Ohio University: Well, that’s a little atypical for an undergraduate to graduate with $100,000 in debt, but it is a significant problem when you have 40 million Americans having debt to the government, and this debt now is greater than the debt on car loans, on credit cards, home equity loans.
This is the largest form of debt in the United States, except for home mortgages. So it’s become a widespread issue, and it’s not surprising that it’s surfacing as a political issue in this election year.
GWEN IFILL: Deanne Loonin, does this solution that the president’s proposing that has been in place for some college graduates or for the last several years, is that shifting the burden from the student to the taxpayer?
DEANNE LOONIN, National Consumer Law Center: No, I wouldn’t look at it that way.
I think that it’s actually a very good investment in students, so that students are more likely to succeed, and when students after college are more likely to succeed, that benefits taxpayers, it benefits society, it benefits everyone.
GWEN IFILL: But you heard what Senator Alexander said about the cost and the White House said today, we’re still doing rule-making, we don’t know the costs yet.
But given what we have done — what they have done so far, is there a way to put a price tag on something like this?
DEANNE LOONIN: Well, there may be some additional short-term costs and I think that we want to hear more about that.
But again I think that we need to look at the cost issue in a more comprehensive way. If these borrowers are more able to handle their debt burdens better, and they’re more likely to succeed, that’s an investment in students, an investment in student borrowers, and, frankly, instead of money going to the private contractors, private servicers to collect them from those borrowers if they’re so financially distressed that they can’t afford their payments.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Vedder, how much a bite would this approach take out of the problem?
RICHARD VEDDER: Well, I think this is not dealing with the real root cause of the problem.
The real root cause of the problem, the reason there’s so much student debt, over $1 trillion to begin with, is that tuition fees and college costs in general have been rising almost exponentially and at an ever faster rate of increase in the last several decades.
This is dealing with — is not dealing with the problem in a fundamental sense. It’s a panacea that is addressing the short-run problems of people who are distressed. It’s not dealing with the long-term problem of how we get out of this mess which is still growing and will continue to grow. And this does nothing to stop that.
GWEN IFILL: Deanne Loonin, what about that? If the costs keep going up, what’s the point in just forgiving loans?
DEANNE LOONIN: Well, absolutely right that it’s not the entire solution. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but that doesn’t mean that we should not try to put that piece of the puzzle in.
Borrowers are suffering now. Students are having trouble with the debt-to-income ratios, with the draconian collection powers that the government has. We need some relief for borrowers now. And the president is taking this step to do it. But there is certainly more to be done, including more accountability from the schools themselves to help keep costs down.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk long-term solutions, Richard Vedder. what do you suggest?
RICHARD VEDDER: Well, I would agree with the last comment that she made, that Deanne Loonin made, that maybe it’s time for the colleges to have some skin in the game, so when they have high default rates among their graduates, for example, the colleges themselves perhaps should help pick up some of the costs.
Frankly, I think we’re having a problem where in some ways we’re not underinvested in higher education, but overinvested. We have lots of students graduating from college today that are underemployed. They’re taking jobs paying relatively low wages, and we have a serious problem there.
None of this is dealing with any of that. And so I have some concerns that we are dealing with the symptoms, but not really with the real problem or the real disease, as it were, and we need to address that. And part of the problem is the student loan program itself.
The student loan program enables colleges to raise their tuition fees. And it almost invites them to raise tuition fees, creating an academic arms race, which I think has become very costly, very inefficient and very harmful, particularly to lower-income people.
GWEN IFILL: Well, Deanne, that’s a lot to bite off, but we were just talking in the Veterans Affairs segment about reverse incentives. I wonder if that’s what we’re seeing here, that after a while, you keep saying to people, as long as you — we will forgive your loans, you won’t have to pay more than a percentage of your income to repay them, and then you borrow more and more and more.
Is that the larger long-term problem?
DEANNE LOONIN: Well, we work with borrowers here in Boston, in Massachusetts, and we don’t see that problem.
That may be a problem in some ways. But these are people, for the most part, individuals who are trying to better their lives, trying to borrow — trying to better their family’s lives. And we want to make sure that there is access to that opportunity for as many people as possible.
Yes, there’s responsibility on the part of the borrowers, but right now basically all of the risk is falling on the borrowers, so the idea here is more risk-sharing. Let’s get the institutions more accountable. Let’s get the private contractors that are profiting from the system more accountable, and look at the costs in that way, more holistically.
And if you look at it that way, as an investment in our future, then I think it’s really a very good investment.
GWEN IFILL: So you don’t think the investment, as Professor Vedder is suggesting, is misplaced?
DEANNE LOONIN: No, I don’t.
I do think, again, that there’s a lot of schools that have not — there’s not been enough oversight, they don’t have good outcome measures, they have too many students who are defaulting or delinquent on their loans. So let’s make sure that those schools are accountable. And if they have some other standards where we want to make sure that they’re admitting students who are likely to succeed, and there are ways to deal with that problem front on, but we don’t want to have that impede opportunity for the most vulnerable borrowers and, frankly, for borrowers and their families in general.
GWEN IFILL: Deanne Loonin of the National Consumer Law Center, and Professor Richard Vedder of Ohio University, thank you both very much.
DEANNE LOONIN: Thank you.
RICHARD VEDDER: Thank you.
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