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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. secretary of defense and the nation’s top military leader were pressed today on Capitol Hill about an American course of action in Iraq.

    GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman: We have a request from the Iraqi government for airpower.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, made clear the sense of urgency in the crisis in Iraq today, as he spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill. He was joined by the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, who was pressed by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana on the severity of the situation.

    SEN. DAN COATS, R, Ind.: We have already lost some territory. They have already gained control of the second largest city in Iraq.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: No, I — we ought to be clear. It wasn’t the United States that lost anything. We turned a pretty significant situation over, as you noted, for the very reasons you noted, to the Iraqi people when we phased out of our military involvement in Iraq.

    And so we have done everything we could to help them. But it’s up to the Iraqis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But pressure is mounting now for the U.S. to come up with a course of action against ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    In his final briefing as the White House press secretary, Jay Carney said the option of airstrikes is still on the table.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The only thing the president has ruled out, and I want to be clear here, is sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq. But he continues to consider other options. Taking direct military action by the United States will not solve Iraq’s challenges, certainly not alone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, President Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House today. Earlier, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner expressed their hesitation over U.S. involvement in the spiraling crisis.

    SEN. HARRY REID, Majority Leader: It’s not worth the blood of American soldiers. It’s not worth the monetary cost to the American taxpayer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Boehner warned against the U.S. working with Iran to combat Sunni extremists.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: I can just imagine what our friends in the region and our allies would be thinking by reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorism, foster terrorism, not only in Syria and Lebanon, but in Israel as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amid the challenges the U.S. government faces over Iraq, the American people have become wary of how the U.S. will handle it.

    According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the public’s approval rating of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy has dropped to its lowest level. In December 2012, 52 percent of those polled approved of the president’s foreign policy. That number is 37 percent as of this month.

    As the U.S. deliberates its course of action, the White House has made clear that Iraq’s Shia-led government must do more to mend sectarian divisions in the country as part of any solution to the crisis.

    Now two U.S. senators with different takes about the next steps for the U.S.

    Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, is on both the Senate Armed Services and the Foreign Relations Committees. I talked to him just a short time ago.

    Senator Kaine, thank you for joining us.

    SEN. TIM KAINE, D, Va.: Absolutely, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Should the U.S. be providing military — more military assistance to Iraq right now?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Judy, the question is a little bit premature, because what we really need — and there is a process — the way this is supposed to work is the president will come to us and lay out what he thinks is the preferred option.

    And then, after consulting with Congress, we will go forward. I expect that he will do that soon. He’s already been in significant consultation, not only with leadership, but with others like me, but when he does come, there’s going to be some hard questions.

    Maliki — we had the opportunity. The U.S. wanted the stay in Iraq and Maliki basically kicked us out. He didn’t want us to stay. Then he ignored all the advice that we and others gave him about how to govern Iraq, to try to do it in a way that brought Kurds and Sunnis and Shias together. Instead, he’s run Iraq for Shias and marginalized, even oppressing Sunni and Kurds.

    And so this extremism, the Sunni extremism, has been a predictable consequence of that, in my view. They’re horrible people doing horrible things, but he’s given them an opening by governing in such an autocratic way.

    So, if it’s just a matter of, do we come in now to back up Maliki with military force after he kicked us out and after he’s governed the wrong way, that would be foolish. What we should be first talking about is, are there reforms that the Iraqis are willing to make to try to demonstrate to all in the country that they are all going to be treated equally?

    Those kind of reforms really are the things that have to happen before we decide what kind of assistance we should provide.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you have had raised a couple of things. And let me just pick them one by one.

    In terms of the reforms, Prime Minister Maliki says he has reached out, for example, to Sunnis. He’s brought them — he’s given them a role in his government. He says, in essence, that it’s just wrong to say that he has not reached out.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Virtually every objective account that we have heard from Iraq experts here, not only folks connected with the administration, State Department, DOD, but NGOs and others, suggest just the contrary, that he has ignored that advice and that he has run this government for Shias with the strong support of the Shia-based government in Iran, and he has done it in a way that has marginalized Sunnis and marginalized Kurds.

    And that’s why they’re not coming to his aid right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And should U.S. — should any U.S. military or security help be contingent on his reforming or on his leaving government, for that matter, as some people are saying?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: The notion of him leaving government, that’s for Iraqis. We shouldn’t be dictating who nations choose as their leaders.

    But if their leaders are asking for our help, it’s very fair for us to say, OK, well, you kicked us out, and now you’re running this government in a way that’s creating the conditions of extremism. This isn’t about coming in and bailing you out of your bad decisions.

    So, in terms of contingency, I would rather not do contingent things based upon promises that he might make. I would rather see them actually take steps for reform, put in a Sunni as the defense chief, put in a Kurd as the intelligence chief, make the visible, necessary reforms to demonstrate to Iraqis that it’s going to be an open society.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And if he’s not prepared to do that, are you saying the U.S. shouldn’t provide military assistance?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: I think it is a very hard case to make.

    Aside from humanitarian aid that we ought to be doing in tandem with regional partners, I think it’s a very hard case to make that we should provide the Maliki government with military assistance, if they are not willing to show that they are going to govern in an even-handed way.

    What would be the likelihood that it would work, providing assistance to a government that has created these very conditions of instability by rejecting the U.S. wanting to stay and help and then governing the wrong way?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on your point, you say he did reject U.S. help. As you know, Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina both insist that they were talking to the Iraqi government at the time, that Prime Minister Maliki was prepared to accept U.S. troops staying in the country.

    We are going to be interviewing Senator McCain after we speak with you, but he insists that it is not the case that Maliki rejected U.S. troops.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Well, Judy, let me tell you why I think it is the case.

    President Bush signed an agreement with Maliki in 2008 that said the U.S. would be done in 2011. And President Obama was in dialogue with Maliki in 2011 about staying. Foreign Minister Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, I heard him give a public speech in Bahrain in December where he stood up and said, the United States wanted to stay in Iraq and we told them no, and we made a huge mistake when we told them no.

    And Zebari even said that he had spoken with Hamid Karzai and said, don’t make the same mistake in Afghanistan.

    So, when the foreign minister of Iraq says, we know you wanted to stay, but we stiff-armed you and told you to get out, I actually think that that’s probably the state of affairs; they didn’t want us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me come back to this question of use of force.

    Should any use of force by the U.S. first be approved by the Congress, if that’s what it comes to?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: It should definitely be approved by Congress in one of two ways, Judy.

    The framers of the Constitution said it’s always Congress that should be making the decision about whether military action should be initiated. But in the event of an emergency, there was an understanding that the president would go to the congressional leadership of both houses in key committees explain plans.

    And in the event of emergency, that consultation would be initially sufficient that Congress would have to come back and give their stamp of approval. So, if the president feels like this is so urgent and emergent that all he can really do is inform the leadership and get some consensus buy-in and then go forward, then he can act in the case of an emergency without a vote.

    But he would still need to come back to Congress, in my view, and get a vote for the initiation of military hostilities. That’s the way it was intended in the Constitution, for a very important reason. If you don’t get Congress on board, you’re putting American men and women’s lives at risk without doing the necessary work of reaching the political consensus that the framers intended between the legislature and the executive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Tim Kaine, we thank you very much.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a leading Republican voice in this debate is Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. He too serves on the Senate Armed Services and the Foreign Relations Committees.

    Senator McCain, thank you very much for joining us.

    A number of things I want to ask you about, but let me just start with that last question I had for Senator Tim Kaine. And that is this question of whether Congress should give its approval before there is any military — or additional military or security assistance for Iraq.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R, Ariz.: No, I think the president could act in certain ways, depending on what the emergencies of the moment are, depending on exactly how he wanted to do it.

    I think he should consult with leaders of Congress, particularly the Intelligence Committee members. But I don’t think he has to have a blank check or a — excuse me — I don’t think he has to have their permission.

    We woke up one morning some years ago, you might remember, Judy, and found out that Ronald Reagan had decided to invade a small island nation called Grenada.

    But, look, I want to get back to what Senator Kaine said. I don’t know what he heard, anybody giving a speech, and I don’t know how many times he’s been to Iraq, if ever. I have been there more times than I can count.

    We — Lindsey Graham, in direct, direct conversation with Maliki, after direct conversation with Barzani, after direct conversation with Allawi, they were all ready to deal. And it is a fact — in fact, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff himself said that the number of troops that we were proposing cascaded down to 3,000, when it had been recommended to be 20,000

    And by that time, the leader of — especially Maliki, decided that it wasn’t worth the problem. So, what Senator Kaine is saying is just totally false. And it’s — and, in fact, it’s a lie, because Lindsey Graham and I were there. And we know what happened, because we were there face to face.

    And the administration would never give a troop strength number. Senator — the chief of staff, General Dempsey, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and said the number cascaded — his words — down to 3,500.

    At that point, Maliki and company decided that it wasn’t worth it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, you — those are very strong words, accusing Senator Kaine of lying.

    This is something…

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: No, I’m saying — I’m saying it is a lie to say — to say that we — that the Iraqis rejected. It was — it was President Obama’s commitment to get everybody out of Iraq. That’s the overriding fact here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is something you have spoken about — you have been outspoken about in the last few days. You have spoken about it today and previously on the floor of the United States Senate.

    Why is it so important, do you think, to continue to make this point to talk about what happened in the past?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Because the — because the opponent — the opponents and those who want to justify this colossal failure that has caused the greatest threat to United States national security since the end of the Cold War, they’re trying to justify it by saying that Maliki didn’t want American troops there.

    And that is not true. And the fact is, the other point that Senator Kaine missed here, this isn’t just a Sunni-Shia conflict. This is about the richest, most — largest terrorist organization control that is dedicated to the distinction — destruction of the United States. And that’s the words of the director of national intelligence and the director — secretary of homeland security.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, what do you believe the United States should do now?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: What General — what a number of other military leaders have recommended.

    And that is that we go in, we use airpower, we get some boots on the ground, a few that can identify targets. We need to get some planners over there that can help the Iraqis repel the — what is going to be at least some assault on some of the other towns — I don’t think they can take Baghdad — and recognize that this is not a civil war going on.

    This is — this is the most extreme element of the extremes of jihadists that want to destroy the United States of America. That’s what this is all about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, what do you say to those, including those in your own party? Speaker John Boehner has been talking about this. And I know you know a number of others in both parties saying their concern is that the U.S. gets involved without being clear about whose side it’s on, then it risks inflaming the situation.

    There is Iran. There are the Saudis. There is what’s going on in Syria.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does the U.S. know whose — who it’s siding — whom it is siding with?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: We have leaders, generals, such as General Keane, General Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, many others, they know the Iraqis. They were with them for years and years. We know who our friends are and who they aren’t.

    Maliki is totally an abysmal failure. And he is really the cause of a lot of the success that ISIS involve. But we know who these people are. We served with them side by side for years. We can identify them. But the fact is that Maliki has got to set up a government of reconciliation, and that has to be an inclusive one, and that — we have to work with that group.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you believe military action should be contingent on the prime minister taking — making these political reforms?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: No, no, no.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why not?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: We’re in immediate — because we’re in immediate danger militarily.

    They took Mosul. They now have American equipment. They are trying to attack Baghdad. They have taken over — there is now an enclave, a caliphate of Iraqi and Syrian — and you can’t leave Syria out of this — the most hard-core terrorist organization in America who has pledged to attack and do what they can do to destroy America.

    That’s — American national security should be our first priority.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Senator, you’re comfortable with the U.S. working with Iran in this? And how long should the U.S. stay?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: The — well, first of all, I do not in any circumstances want to deal with Iran. They were responsible for IEDs that killed Americans.

    How long — how long did we stay in South Korea? How long did we stay in Bosnia? How long did we stay in Germany? How long did we stay in Japan?

    We have always left behind residual forces. We had this won, Judy. In case you missed it, we had this won, thanks to the surge. Iraq was largely pacified. We weren’t going to take more casualties. And we had it won.

    And then the president of the United States wanted us out. And I predicted it. And I predicted what would happen. And I’m sorry that I was right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator John McCain, we hear you loud and clear. Thank you for joining us.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Sens. Kaine and McCain debate U.S. exit from Iraq, prerequisites for new military response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy of Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

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    GWEN IFILL: Federal regulators have opened a new investigation into a second Detroit automaker, digging into reports that air bags failed to open in some older Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler models because of potentially defective switches. So far, no deaths or injuries have been reported.

    That news came on a day when General Motors’ troubled record on ignition switches was the focus of a second round of congressional hearings.

    MARY BARRA, CEO, General Motors: For those of us who have dedicated our lives to this company, it is enormously painful to have our shortcomings laid out so vividly.

    GWEN IFILL: For the first time since the release of a critical internal investigation, GM CEO Mary Barra faced tough questions on Capitol Hill over how her company handled the ignition switch defect now linked to at least 13 deaths.

    Barra sought to reassure lawmakers.

    MARY BARRA: I want this terrible experience permanently etched in our collective memories. This is not another business challenge. This is a tragic problem that never should have happened and must never happen again.

    GWEN IFILL: Attorney Anton Valukas, who led the independent investigation for GM, also appeared before the House subcommittee.

    ANTON VALUKAS, Head of GM’s Internal Investigation: The story of the Cobalt is a story of individual and organizational failures that have led to devastating consequences.

    Throughout the decade it took General Motors to recall the Cobalt, there was lack of accountability, a lack of urgency and, extraordinarily, a failure of the company personnel charged with safety issues to understand how this car was manufactured and the interplay between the switch and the other aspects of the automobile.

    GWEN IFILL: Valukas said GM long characterized the ignition switch troubles as a — quote — “customer convenience issue,” rather than a safety problem.

    Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette pounced on GM’s record.

    REP. DIANA DEGETTE, D, Colo.: This kind of boggles my mind. A car could be going down the highway at a high rate of speed, 65 miles an hour, and it gets bumped. It goes into neutral and then everything stops, the power steering, the brakes, the air bags, yet the GM engineers said that this was a convenience issue, right?

    ANTON VALUKAS: They not only said it internally. They said it publicly when they were interviewed by the press. They said, this is our position, that a stall doesn’t constitute a safety issue.

    REP. DIANA DEGETTE: I mean, that’s — that’s just insane, isn’t it?

    ANTON VALUKAS: I — it is — I don’t — won’t use the word insane, but I’m troubled by that.


    GWEN IFILL: Barra said GM has now launched a campaign to reward employees who report potential safety issues.

    But several House members, including Republican Tim Murphy, remained skeptical, even in the wake of this month’s announcement that 15 GM employees and managers would be fired.

    REP. TIM MURPHY, R, Penn.: You mentioned 15 were fired. That’s 99.999 percent, if my math is right, of the people are the same. If you haven’t changed the people, how do you change the culture?

    MARY BARRA: Well, again, the people — the 15 people that are no longer with the company are the people that either didn’t take action they should or didn’t work urgently enough to rectify this matter. And they are no longer part of this company. That was a strong signal to send within the company.

    GWEN IFILL: GM has issued 44 recalls this year alone, including Monday’s pullback of 3.2 million cars for a separate ignition switch defect.

    I am joined by David Shepardson, who covers the automotive industry as Washington bureau chief for The Detroit News.

    Welcome back, David.

    DAVID SHEPARDSON, The Detroit News: Thanks.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s start with this Chrysler — what is the scope of this Chrysler investigation that we hear about today?

    DAVID SHEPARDSON: So, it covers about 1.2 minivans, SUVs.

    It’s a similar issue in which there are hundreds of complaints of stalling when a driver’s knee hits the key, similar to what happened in the GM cases. The difference is, there are no reports of any people killed or injured.

    However, the same issue, that the air bags could fail to deploy in the event that the key moved out of the run position, is what’s prompting the government to take a very serious look at it.

    GWEN IFILL: At GM, Mary Barra said today that they now fixed 199,000 vehicles, which is quite — sounds like quite a lot.


    GWEN IFILL: Did she in any way satisfy members of Congress today that GM is taking sufficient action about what seems like an endless round of recalls? We announce more every week.


    Well, I don’t think she satisfied members of Congress, but she did, I think, set the right message that this is crucially important. Yes, they fired 15 people, disciplined five, hired dozens of engineers, recalling almost everything under the hood.

    But she said words — you know, actions are going to speak louder than words. This is not going to be resolved in a week or a month. GM is going to have to spend a long time convincing the public, Congress that this really is a new company and that they’re not going to allow a problem like this to fester for a decade without fixing it.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, speaking of festering for a decade, we hear today about a flawed Impala, Chevrolet Impala, which I don’t — don’t even know if they make them anymore, that someone reported that there was a problem and they didn’t do anything about it for nine years?


    It was certainly troubling. They do still make the Impala. They have just redesigned it. And it’s getting some good reviews. But what happened was, in 2005, a GM employee sent e-mail saying, hey, I had a serious stall, to the same engineer responsible for the Cobalt, at the center of the deaths.

    And they didn’t do anything about it. And it wasn’t until Monday of this week that GM recalled three million cars, including the Impala, for this ignition or the steering problem. So it does raise the issue that, despite all the progress they have made, all the recalls, there are still a lot of issues that are still hanging out there.

    And why, if an employee said, hey, this is a big issue, we have got to address it, why did no one take it more seriously?

    GWEN IFILL: A big issue, 15 people, including this engineer you talked about, no longer with the company, as they put it euphemistically.

    Is that satisfying? Is that enough? Do people think that a series of recalls over a decade in this amount of time can point to only 15 people?

    DAVID SHEPARDSON: Well, I think that gets to the culture problem at GM, that did the senior management, the board, the CEOs, how did they let this culture exist where problems didn’t get — didn’t go to the top, where employees were under the impression, don’t take notes during serious meetings about safety issues?

    There just wasn’t a culture of we — this is very important, we have to do whatever it takes to prevent customers from being hurt. And, you know, I think, you know, the 15 people are not going to resolve it, as the congressman said, that 99.9 percent of the employees are still there.

    But I do think that has sent a huge message to people. We’re talking about vice presidents — or a vice president, senior lawyers. A lot of key people at GM were forced out.

    GWEN IFILL: But how do you change culture? It seems that that’s more difficult than fixing an ignition switch.

    DAVID SHEPARDSON: Absolutely.

    A company like GM, with 220,000 people, this is like a battleship trying to turn around. And it’s not a new issue. GM’s culture has been pilloried for decades. And the company does things its own way. It’s very siloed. When you have a company that big, you people with very narrow responsibilities, and people don’t always talk.

    And there’s not a — hasn’t been enough incentives to bring bad news up the chain. It’s easier — or has been easier to just push it under the rug.

    GWEN IFILL: Compensation, that’s the big question hanging out there right now, for people who either owned the cars or people whose loved ones died in the cars, but not necessarily — well, actually, not for just people who owned the cars, only for actual victims, and there lies the rub.

    DAVID SHEPARDSON: Right. Right.

    Ken Feinberg is going to announce by the end of the month a proposal to compensate the 13 families, at least, of people who were killed related, plus the 54 crashes, but will not propose money for the millions of owners who the value of their car, they say, has declined as a result of these recalls.

    So those lawsuits are going to go on for years. However, GM is contending that because of its exit from bankruptcy in 2009 as a new company, they’re shielded from the liability from those old cars; therefore, they shouldn’t have to pay anything for those. So that’s going to drag on, I think, for a long time.

    GWEN IFILL: Is it fair to say they expect more recalls?

    DAVID SHEPARDSON: Certainly. GM has said they want to wrap up the big issues by the end of the month. They have had 44 so far, but I would expect at least a few more for the next couple weeks.


    David Shepardson, Detroit News, as always, thank you.

    DAVID SHEPARDSON: Thanks, Gwen.

    The post Lawmakers skeptical that GM can remodel its leadership appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Critics are worried that New Zealand’s decision to drill for oil in protected marine reserves could spell disaster for the world’s rarest marine mammal, the Maui’s dolphin. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Earthrace Conservation.

    Critics are worried that New Zealand’s decision to drill for oil in protected marine reserves could spell disaster for the world’s rarest marine mammal, the Maui’s dolphin. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Earthrace Conservation.

    Despite pressures from international bodies to increase its conservation efforts, the New Zealand government has decided to open more than 3,000 square kilometers of an endangered marine wildlife preserve for oil drilling.

    Last April, the country’s ruling party — the National Party — signed a block offer to allow for the gas and oil exploration of over 400,000 square kilometers of the country’s land and sea area, the largest such offer in New Zealand history. Tuesday, through documents obtained under the country’s Official Information Act, New Zealand’s Green Party announced that the National Party did so despite the knowledge that over 3,000 square kilometers of this offering overlap with the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary, which plays home to the world’s rarest marine mammal, the Maui’s dolphin.

    This news comes in the face of mounting calls for New Zealand to better protect the Maui’s dolphin, whose total population is believed to be less than 60. In May, the International Whaling Commission released a report detailing the extreme threat of extinction facing the Maui’s dolphin, found only in the waters off New Zealand, and calling on New Zealand to curb fishing in its habitat to ensure the species’ survival. A few weeks later, the World Wildlife Fund joined the International Whaling Commission in critiquing New Zealand’s conservation efforts.

    “WWF is urging the New Zealand government to heed the advice of the world’s leading scientists and ensure the survival of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin through the full protection of the coastline they inhabit,” the WWF stated in it’s May 22nd release. “Maui’s dolphins are only found in New Zealand. With time running out to save the species, both the survival of Maui’s dolphin and New Zealand’s international reputation are on the line.”

    Yet in spite of these criticisms, government officials aren’t worried about adverse effects on the Maui’s dolphin population.

    “I think primarily once you go from exploration right through to production, you’re not jeopardizing the wildlife,” said Simon Bridges, New Zealand’s Minister of Energy and Resources. “There has been petroleum exploration in that area for a long period of time. I think it’s about achieving a balance.”

    Those assurances, however, aren’t enough for many Kiwis.

    “The International Whaling Commission is calling for even greater protections for Maui’s dolphins. This National Government is putting these beautiful dolphins at greater risk of extinction,”said Russel Norman, co-leader of the country’s Green Party. “The Government should stop putting the short-term interest of a few mining companies ahead of the thousands and thousands of New Zealanders who love and want to protect the endangered Maui’s dolphin.”

    The news of New Zealand’s plans came, ironically, on the same day that President Barack Obama announced his plans to use an executive order to create the world’s largest protected marine area in the South Pacific Ocean.

    The post New Zealand government plans to open endangered dolphins sanctuary for oil drilling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Snakebites, although they are rarely fatal here in the United States, every year, about 100,000 people die worldwide after being bitten by venomous snakes. A California doctor has come up with a way that might lower those numbers.

    NewsHour special correspondent Spencer Michels has our report.

    And a warning: It contains images that might be disturbing to some viewers.

    MAN: Oh, my God. Did you see that?

    SPENCER MICHELS: In India, children sometimes play with venomous snakes like cobras. This one in a YouTube video may have been defanged, but, playing aside, snakes these children encounter in the wild or in agricultural areas can be deadly.

    In fact, venomous snakes attack more than two million people a year in rural parts of India, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Most of the victims come from poor agricultural areas remote from hospitals. Without timely medical treatment, patients often die.

    Matt Lewin, an emergency room physician and medical director of King American Ambulance in San Francisco, has used his experience in treating seizures and his training as a neuroscientist to develop a fast-acting treatment for poisonous snakebites.

    Lewin does much of his research and his snakebite research here at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. He serves as a physician on academy expeditions around the world where the health of scientists is often at risk, sometimes from snakebites.

    In fact, in 2001, a 38-year-old academy researcher, Dr. Joseph Slowinski, died after being bitten by a small snake while doing field work in Myanmar. Venom from some snakes contains neurotoxins that paralyze the body, including the respiratory system, and Slowinski couldn’t get to a hospital before he stopped breathing.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN, California Academy of Sciences: They were more than 24 hours from help. And they were breathing for this poor man, down a mountain, taking turns, and they just couldn’t sustain it.

    He was bitten by krait, which is a highly venomous snake. It could fit in the palm of your hand.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Treating snakebite victims in India is extremely expensive, often more than rural families can afford. To temporarily counteract the neurotoxins in some snake’s venom, doctors often rely on a drug called neostigmine, which is commonly used in surgery.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: It’s available everywhere in the world, heat stable, and it’s very inexpensive.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But in the hands of inexperienced people, injecting it into a bite victim could induce heart problems.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: In the injectable form or I.V. form, it’s very toxic. It’s difficult to handle. So the idea is to develop a formulation that’s less toxic, less prone to complications. To get rid of the needle would be a great way to do this.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Lewin says a nasal spray containing neostigmine drug could be used safely by almost anyone anywhere, unlike the injectable version.

    He got the idea from his work in the ambulance and the emergency room.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: As one of our protocols, we were using nasal sprays to treat the seizures. And so the thoughts came together sort of out of the blue in a clear moment, and I thought, wow, wouldn’t it be cool if we could treat a snakebite with nasal spray?

    SPENCER MICHELS: It would buy valuable time until the hospital could administer antivenoms that uses antibodies to treat and neutralize the snake poison.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: Seventy-five percent of the patients or more who die from snakebites never get treated in the hospital. If you make it to the hospital, you will probably do quite well.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Without funding, Lewin and a group of his scientific friends decided they had to prove that nasal spray would actually counteract the neurotoxin-induced paralysis.

    So Lewin became the guinea pig while a team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, including anesthesiologist Philip Bickler, conducted a full-hour, self-financed experiment.

    DR. PHILIP BICKLER, University of California, San Francisco: It involved administering an infusion of curare-like drug to create a controlled and safe state of partial paralysis.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: I couldn’t see, couldn’t move, couldn’t talk. I was very weak.

    DR. PHILIP BICKLER: So he developed some blurred vision, then difficulty swallowing, and at the level we were using it, some slight effects on breathing.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: Then Dr. Theiner administered the nasal spray, and a few minutes later, I was really quite close to normal.

    DR. MATTHEW LEWIN: It worked.

    MAN: It worked. It worked. It worked.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But it hasn’t been proven in humans against actual snake venom.

    DR. ROBERT NORRIS, Stanford University: No, you stay right where you are. I will move the snake around.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And some scientists say its benefit is limited, because it won’t work on most North American snakes, especially not the most common ones in this country, which don’t inject neurotoxins in their victims.

    At Stanford University, director of emergency medicine Robert Norris, is a snake enthusiast and a former colleague of Lewin’s. Here, he’s wrangling a venomous Northern Pacific rattlesnake named Jake. It’s a common North American snake.

    DR. ROBERT NORRIS: Neostigmine would have no benefit for a rattlesnake bite. The venom from rattlesnakes is going to cause tissue damage, blood clotting problems, possibly shock, but very rarely any neurotoxicity at all, which is what neostigmine might help in some cases.

    SPENCER MICHELS: In fact, Norris argues the venom from most snakes throughout the world are not affected by neostigmine.

    DR. ROBERT NORRIS: Well, I think it’s a noble idea. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to have a — would have a great impact. The percentage of snakebites that it would be applicable to are pretty — is pretty small, and whether or not it would even be effective in those types of snakes is still questionable as well.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But Lewin and his colleague Bickler disagree and they add that the spray is just a first step towards solving a large problem.

    DR. PHILIP BICKLER: Neostigmine specifically addresses the venom of snakes like cobras that paralyze the muscles. And that alone would have a major impact in terms of a number of victims worldwide who die from snakebite. The paralytic snakebites are the vast majority of the deaths that occur.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Since statistics on snake deaths are spotty, it’s hard to tell who’s right. Lewin and others are working on that problem and on finding a drug or combination of drugs, a universal antidote that would counteract various kind of venom, either administered by nasal spray or by an EpiPen that is common for getting relief from allergies.

    DR. ROBERT NORRIS: Well, that’s obviously the Holy Grail, but there’s nothing out there right now that looks like it would even potentially fit that definition.

    SPENCER MICHELS: One thing Norris and Lewin do agree on is that because it is not a major problem in the U.S. and Europe, there is far too little attention or research going into snakebites and their treatment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If you can take it, read more about the research to save lives affected by snakebites. Spencer details that in a blog on our Health page.

    The post Searching for the holy grail of snake bite antidotes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Johann Breyer, a retired tool maker in Philadelphia, is in custody after being accused of accessory to murder as a Nazi guard at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II.

    At age 89, he is the oldest person the United States to be arrested for ties to the Third Reich. Germany issued a warrant for Breyer’s arrest and the U.S. Justice Department has tried to deport him for years.

    The New York Times reports that Breyer appeared in court Wednesday looking “pale and thin, he was stooped over and walked with difficulty with a cane.” Breyer’s lawyer says he suffers from mild dementia and other health issues.

    Breyer’s arrest is part of a larger effort to wrestle with the continuing legacy of the Holocaust. PBS NewsHour Weekend reported on the investigative office in Germany that continues to build case files against former guards, including Breyer.

    Kurt Schrimm, the lead investigator from that office told NewsHour, “according to German law we are committed to prosecuting these cases — it is true that because of their age they may never reach trial or go to prison, but it is just and right that we go after these cases.”

    Breyer acknowledges being a guard at Auschwitz, but says that he was forced to enlist. If extradited to Germany, Breyer will be charged with 158 counts of aiding and abetting Nazi atrocities.

    The post U.S. arrests 89-year-old Auschwitz guard in Philadelphia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Obama Signs Memorandum On Reducing Burden Of Student Loan Debt

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: This week, the White House has announced three separate executive actions dealing with gay rights, the environment, and manufacturing, raising the question, in the midst of partisan gridlock, how much can the president do without Congress?

    Jeffrey Brown has that debate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama has been expanding these executive actions. It’s something he promised to do earlier this year.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I have got a pen and I have got a phone.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And he’s followed through, on a wide range of issues, including equal pay for women, student loans, and more recently carbon pollution.

    But every time President Obama does this, he’s faced backlash from those who charge that he’s an imperial president.

    We have our own debate on the subject now, with Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, and Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Jonathan Turley, start with you. You made the case that these actions by President Obama have gone too far. What have you seen?

    JONATHAN TURLEY, George Washington University: Well, certainly, he didn’t start this process, the concentration of authority in the executive branch, but it has reached a level that frankly is a matter of concern.

    You know, our system is designed primarily to avoid one central danger, and that is the aggregation of power in any one branch, and what we’re seeing, particularly in the Obama administration, is this rise of a type of uber-presidency, this president who can govern alone.

    And when the president said to Congress in his State of the Union I intend to effectively circumvent you, I was astonished to hear applause. It was almost self-loathing from Congress as they applauded a president who said I intend to effectively make you a nonentity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will walk through some of these.

    But, first, Michael Waldman, a response. What do you see happening?

    MICHAEL WALDMAN, Brennan Center for Justice: I’m considerably less concerned about it.

    And, in fact, I think that given divided government and not a hostile Congress, but a completely paralyzed Congress, this president doesn’t have much choice within the bounds of the law. He’s using executive action, especially in his second term, just the same as President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan did.

    He, in effect, has I think a duty to seek his goals and advance his policies, again, within the Constitution, within the law and in public, without secrecy. But I’m considerably untroubled by him acting to require contractors to not discriminate based on sexual orientation and that kind of thing, which sometimes some people scream Mussolini every time he does something like that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: If you look at the numbers, Jonathan Turley — we have got a graphic here of recent American presidents — it doesn’t look like he’s overdone it. Is it a numbers question? What troubles you?

    JONATHAN TURLEY: It’s not.

    And the thing is, I think it’s silly to compare the actual numbers of executive orders. In fact, when this came up the last time I testified in Congress, and I told Congress you can’t simply look at the number of executive orders. You could have a single executive order that changes the very essence of our system.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, it’s not the number, it’s the quality or the kind or…

    JONATHAN TURLEY: That’s right.

    And the White House White House that I was testifying with agreed with that, and was asked, and said, no, it’s true. It really doesn’t come down to how many executive orders have been issued, but what type.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you’re saying, in this instance, in this administration, it’s certain kinds that have gone too far, not the number?

    JONATHAN TURLEY: That’s very — that’s absolutely correct.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, give us an example.

    JONATHAN TURLEY: An example is the president has essentially rewritten some laws like the health care law, the ACA, by changing its meaning, not just on its starting date, but core issues in terms of the obligations of classes of parties that have to function under the act.

    He shifted $454 million in that act from the legislative purpose to an entirely different purpose. On immigration, he ordered the agencies not to enforce the immigration laws against an entire class of individuals.

    It’s a rather long line. It’s a difference of magnitude that we have seen with this president.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Michael Waldman, go ahead. I can see you’re…

    MICHAEL WALDMAN: I’m afraid I don’t agree with that.

    For starters, as that list showed, he was actually, in the first term, quite timid in many respects in using his executive power. The number of executive orders tells a story. It’s not the only story. Sometimes, you count calories and sometimes you count carbs.

    I’m not aware of any executive actions that he took that were akin to seizing the steel mills or any of the other kinds of things that other presidents have done in the past that have raised many questions.

    And a lot of the things that he has done have been in the nature of phase-ins and the other very typical things that presidents do when they’re implementing complex statutes, such as the health care law, or making priority decisions about what kinds of deportations to do and that sort of thing.

    I’m actually puzzled by the degree of hyperventilation that sometimes we hear about this. My concern first off is how we can get Congress to not be as paralyzed as it has made itself with the supermajority requirement of 60 votes to move anything.

    And I actually think there are things the president has not acted on that he could act on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, me — go ahead. Finish.

    MICHAEL WALDMAN: Voting — on voting, for example, he’s talked a lot about voting rights, but he could designate federal departments as voter registration agencies under existing law and help register many, many Americans.

    I think there are things he could continue to do. And I’m just untroubled. I think it’s actually, in many respects, not always, but in many respects, an encouraging development.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Jonathan Turley, in a system of gridlock, is what Michael — one of Michael Waldman’s point — what else is he supposed to do?

    JONATHAN TURLEY: Where I disagree fundamentally with Michael is that there’s a reason things are not getting done right now.

    We’re a divided nation. We’re divided on these very areas. And when we’re divided, fewer things get done. And some would say that’s a good thing because we can’t come together. But the system is designed to force compromise.

    And I think, even though Michael says he’s not troubled by this, I’m quite astonished the position of Democrats on this. They will rue the day that they created this type of presidency within our system. This is not going to be our last president. But Democrats are acting like the next two years are the only two years left. They don’t know who the next president will be. And he’s going to exercise all of these powers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    Well, Michael Waldman, a last word then. Are you — might this blow back the next time you face a president that you don’t like?

    MICHAEL WALDMAN: Well, I’m sure that, whether it’s President Rand Paul or President Hillary Clinton or whoever else it might be, first off, they need to follow the law.

    Second, people will scream over each, no matter what they do. I am concerned, especially when it comes to foreign policy and terrorism-fighting, that presidents of both parties, Bush and Obama, have reached beyond their authority.

    And I am concerned especially, for example, about the kind of surveillance practices through the executive branch that do warrant the kind of reaction that we are seeing from the American public.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will leave the argument there.

    Michael Waldman and Jonathan Turley, thanks so much.

    JONATHAN TURLEY: Thank you.

    MICHAEL WALDMAN: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And if you’re interested in learning more, you can check the NewsHour online, where you can see how every president from George Washington on has used executive actions.

    The post How much power can the president wield by sidestepping Congress? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Innovations in the oil and gas industry are making production faster and cheaper and resources more plentiful. Photo of a  Polycrystalline diamond compact drill bit in Canadian County, Okla., by Robert Bryce.

    Innovations in the oil and gas industry are making production faster and cheaper and resources more plentiful. Photo of a Polycrystalline diamond compact drill bit in Canadian County, Okla., by Robert Bryce.

    Editor’s Note: Doomsayers have long said the end is near – peak oil, food shortages, excessive borrowing; we’re living beyond our means and there’s only so long our economy and our planet can sustain us. But there’s no reason to be such a downer, according to two of this week’s authors on Making Sen$e.

    Wednesday, we heard from Milton Ezrati, who argues that America can overcome its demographic challenges (an aging workforce and decades of low birth rates):

    The doomsayers – and there are many – assume, incorrectly, that people will simply stand by passively while demographic trends destroy their prosperity. History shows the opposite to be true. To protect what they have, people, firms and governments almost always will do whatever is necessary.

    Whatever is necessary to Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Robert Bryce means “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper.” Despite warnings to the contrary, he believes things are getting better because technology in nearly every industry has evolved.

    This video dramatization of the book (emphasis on the dramatic) gives you a taste of his optimism:

    The world will be demanding more oil than it can produce, former President Jimmy Carter says in his archival cameo in the above montage. But it’s 2014, and we haven’t hit peak oil yet, says Bryce. In this post, he specifically zeroes in on the oil and gas industry to illustrate how innovation has made drilling more efficient, keeping America more competitive.

    A critique of this kind of innovation thesis is to ask, well, what about human welfare — jobs, for example, or in this case, the environment, especially if, as Harvard economist Marty Weitzman has written on this page, there’s an economic incentive to protecting ourselves against the risk of climate change, even if we’re not sure it’s happening. As Jill Lepore writes in June 23’s New Yorker, those are questions we often don’t feel the need to address when we talk about innovation. Speaking of “innovation” instead of “progress,” as we used to, she writes, “skirts the question of whether a novelty is an improvement: the world may not be getting better and better but our devices are getting newer and newer.”

    But, to Bryce, this innovation is about progress. “Today, people are living longer, freer, healthier lives than ever before in human history,” his video says. Meanwhile, solutions for making the world a better place — Bryce reserves special critique for Bill McKibben’s calls to dramatically reduce hyrdrocarbon consumption in his book and his Wall Street Journal op-ed — are thrown about a bit too easily. Bryce is skeptical of so-called soft renewable energy sources like wind and biofuels that, he fears, won’t leave nearly enough energy to exceed a “starvation diet.”

    However, innovations in the oil and gas industry, he points out, have induced foreign investment in the U.S. and stimulated the economy, while cheaper energy has boosted GDP and brought jobs to some Rust Belt towns. He details more below.

    And for additional doses of optimism, check out Making Sen$e posts from Charles Morris (“Comeback: Why the U.S. sits at the brink of a new boom”) and Joel Kurtzman (“America unleashed: Why we’ll be number one once more”).

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    In April, at a conference in San Antonio, an official from ConocoPhillips made an aggressive prediction: he said that by the end of 2014, oil production in Texas could hit 3.4 million barrels per day. That figure seems inflated given that the latest data from the Texas Railroad Commission shows that in March, oil production was about 2 million barrels per day.

    But the important issue here isn’t identifying the precise production number. Instead, it’s acknowledging the trend. U.S. oil production – along with domestic natural gas output — is soaring. And here’s the remarkable part of this story: few people, if any, saw this coming.

    Indeed, back in 2005, Lee Raymond, who was then the CEO of Exxon Mobil, declared that “gas production has peaked in North America.” The numbers tell a remarkably different story. In 2013, the U.S. produced a record 24.3 trillion cubic feet of gas, an increase of about 35 percent since Raymond made his claim back in 2005.

    What happened? The oil and gas industry innovated. Over the past century, oil and gas drilling has gone from a business dominated by wildcatters armed with a hunch and a prayer to one that is more akin to the precision manufacturing that dominates aerospace and automobiles. Today, drilling rigs are so good that they can punch holes in the earth that are two miles deep, turn the drill bit 90 degrees, drill another two miles horizontally, and arrive within a few inches of the target.

    Smaller, Faster, Lighter, Denser, Cheaper

    The ongoing innovation in the oil and gas sector is happening because the U.S. has more companies working to find and deliver oil and gas than any other country in the world. More than 6,000 independent oil and gas companies are now operating in the U.S. In addition, there’s a similar number of companies providing services to those independent producers, supplying them with everything from drill bits to diesel fuel. In all, there are roughly 12,000 different companies in the oil and gas sector whose very existence depends on finding better ways to do things. To be more specific, they are trying to make their products and processes smaller, faster, lighter, denser and cheaper.

    Yes, that’s the title of my new book. In the book, I show how the never-ending push to do more with less is propelling iconic American companies like Ford and Intel as well as smaller upstart companies like Kenya’s Safaricom. But I also put the spotlight on the U.S. oil and gas industry because it provides so many strong examples of innovation.

    Among the most innovative is Tulsa-based Helmerich & Payne, which has been a leader in the development and deployment of the AC top-drive drill rig. First used in offshore drilling operations, Helmerich & Payne’s leaders saw that the AC top-drive — which puts the rig’s main drive mechanism onto the mast of the rig instead of on the rig’s floor – could result in major efficiency improvements for companies drilling on land in shale and other formations.

    An AC top-drive rig owned by Helmerich & Payne in Canadian County, Okla. The lower part of the 800-horsepower drive mechanism can be seen above the workers' heads. Photo by author Robert Bryce.

    An AC top-drive rig owned by Helmerich & Payne in Canadian County, Okla. The lower part of the 800-horsepower drive mechanism can be seen above the workers’ heads. Photo by author Robert Bryce.

    The AC top-drive consolidates the rig’s drive and hoist mechanism into one unit. That allows the automation of several mundane processes that used to require human intervention. Although many of the operations on the rig still must be handled by roughnecks, a bank of computers monitor key data points such as rotational speed on the bit and drilling and flow rates. The computers feed that data into an automated drilling-control system which keeps the optimum amount of weight on the drill bit and keeps it spinning at optimal speed. Add in the rig’s ability to use longer sections of drill pipe and its modular design — which allows it to be transported more quickly than older rig designs — and it’s easy to see how companies are able to drill more wells and do so faster and cheaper.

    In addition to better drilling rigs, numerous other technologies, ranging from better drill bits and seismic techniques to more powerful pumps and nanotechnology, are allowing the oil and gas sector to accelerate the drilling process.

    Faster drilling has allowed U.S. companies to produce oil and gas more cheaply. That can be seen by looking at Southwestern Energy, a Houston-based company that has pioneered the development of the Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas. Between 2007 and 2012, the company’s per-well costs in the Fayetteville Shale have stayed fairly constant, at about $3 million per well. But over that same time frame, Southwestern reduced the number of days needed to drill a well from 17 to just seven. Better yet, the initial production rate on the wells being drilled has more than tripled.

    Thanks to companies like Helmerich & Payne, Southwestern, and many others, the U.S. now has a price advantage for natural gas that is second to no other country on the planet, with the possible exception of Qatar. Over the past two years or so, U.S. natural gas prices – measured at the Henry Hub in Louisiana – have averaged about $4 per million BTU. In the European Union, that same 1 million BTUs of gas will cost two to three times as much. In Japan, it will cost three to four times as much. European steelmakers now pay about twice as much for electricity and four times as much for natural gas as steel producers operating in the U.S.

    Cheaper energy is attracting tens of billions of dollars of foreign investment to the U.S. Last year, an Egyptian company, Orascom, began construction on a new $1.8 billion fertilizer plant in Iowa. Last June, Vallourec, a French company, opened a new steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio, a Rust Belt town that has seen many of its industrial jobs evaporate over the past few decades. Vallourec’s investment in the new steel mill: $1.1 billion. Sasol, a South African company, is spending $21 billion on a new gas-to-liquids facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The project is believed to be the single largest foreign investment in U.S. history.

    Late last year, BASF, the giant German industrial company, estimated that it could save nearly $700 million per year in energy costs if it were to relocate all its plants to the U.S. That clearly will not be happening, but it is indicative of the energy-cost advantage that the U.S. now enjoys. And that advantage is attracting more investment from BASF. The world’s biggest chemical maker by sales, BASF doubled the amount of capital that it invests in the U.S. In 2010, the company was investing about $500 million per year in the U.S. By 2013, that figure had jumped to $1 billion per year, and BASF expects to continue its annual investments at that level through 2017.

    Cheaper energy is not only attracting foreign investment dollars, it’s also stimulating the economy. Last fall, Wallace Tyner, an energy economist at Purdue University, along with two of his Purdue colleagues, estimated that the shale revolution was adding some $473 billion per year to the U.S. economy, or about 3 percent of GDP.

    The punchline here is readily apparent: despite myriad warnings about “peak oil” and the end of hydrocarbons, the U.S. is now leading the world in natural gas production and it may soon even eclipse Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil production.

    It’s not difficult to imagine what the economy would look like today without that extra 3 percentage points of GDP. In 2013, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. economy grew by 2.6 percent. Subtract the 3 percent being added by the surge in oil and gas now being produced from shale, and it’s clear that current unemployment numbers would be far higher than they are today.

    The punchline here is readily apparent: despite myriad warnings about “peak oil” and the end of hydrocarbons, the U.S. is now leading the world in natural gas production and it may soon even eclipse Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil production. And those increases are a direct result of the oil and gas sector’s desire for smaller, faster, lighter, denser, cheaper ways of doing things.

    In 1929, the economic historian Abbott Payson Usher wrote, “The limitations of resources are relative to the position of our knowledge and of our technique.” He continued, explaining that the perceived limits of available resources “recede as we advance, at rates that are proportionate to the advance in our knowledge.”

    The history of the oil and gas sector is one of advancing knowledge and increasing resource availability. And those advances are giving the U.S. a significant economic advantage over the rest of the world that will endure for many years to come.

    The post How innovation in oil and gas production is giving the U.S. a competitive edge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Updated June 19, 2014 at 2:10 p.m. EDT

    WASHINGTON — Holding back from more robust options, President Barack Obama on Thursday said he was dispatching up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help quell the rising insurgency in the crumbling state. He called on Iraqi leaders to govern with a more “inclusive agenda” to ensure the country does not descend into civil war.

    Obama left open the option of “targeted” military action in the future, and he said the U.S. also would increase its intelligence efforts in Iraq and was prepared to create joint operations centers with Iraqis. But he was adamant that U.S. troops would not be returning to combat in Iraq.

    “We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq,” Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room. “Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by Iraqis.”

    The post Obama on Iraq: ‘We’re developing more information about potential targets’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Common Core standards for math and English have been roiling state politics across the country this spring, especially in states led by Republicans. But a poll out this week estimates 47 percent of the country’s adults still haven’t heard of the Common Core standards.

    The standards were developed by the National Governor’s Association and a coalition of state superintendents of education. States began signing on to adopt the Common Core in 2010 and, as recently as March, 46 states and the District of Columbia were still signed on to use the guidelines for what skills and information should be taught at each grade level in math and English. Common Core supporters say the guidelines are more rigorous than what many states had in place before 2010 and focus on the critical thinking and problem solving skills students will need to be ready for college and the workplace.

    According to this week’s poll, after being told the new standards “have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every states for students in grades K through 12,” 59 percent of respondents said they supported the idea.

    Those respondents might be surprised to hear that in the last three months the Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina legislatures have voted to dump the standards and draw up new academic guidelines specific to their states. North Carolina’s state house is also working to scrap the standards and Missouri’s governor could sign a similar bill any day.

    On Wednesday Gov. Bobby Jindal moved to add Louisiana to that list by issuing an executive order to drop the standards and tests developed with federal funding that go along with them. But, Louisiana’s legislature, superintendent of education and state board of education still favor the standards and say they plan to stay the course. That could leave the fate of Louisiana’s academic standards in the hands of the courts.

    Jindal, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, were once strong supporters of the Common Core. But recently Jindal changed his tune, saying “the federal government would like to assert control of our educational system,” according to NOLA.com.

    As that site rounds up, Jindal’s executive order has media outlets positing he’s planning a presidential run in 2016. But, according to this week’s poll, conservatives are evenly split on Common Core: 45 percent were supportive, while 46 were opposed.

    The post As political leaders fight over Common Core, almost half of adults don’t know what they’re arguing about appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    House Republican Whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), leaves a meeting of the House Republican conference June 18, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. McCarthy has been elected to the position of House Majority Leader  to replace Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) who was defeated in primary race last week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    House Republican Whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), leaves a meeting of the House Republican conference June 18, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. McCarthy has been elected to the position of House Majority Leader to replace Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) who was defeated in primary race last week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans have made the first change in their leadership since Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost a primary election last week. They’ve elected California Rep. Kevin McCarthy to replace him in the No. 2 job.

    The 49-year-old McCarthy has been GOP whip, the No. 3 post, and his election Thursday was anticipated. He defeated Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a conservative who has often battled his own party leaders and said voters want change in Washington.

    McCarthy came to Congress in 2007 and has climbed rapidly through his party’s leadership ranks. He’s a close Cantor ally.

    House Republicans will also choose a new whip to replace McCarthy. That’s a hard-to-predict contest between Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana.

    The post Rep. Kevin McCarthy voted next House majority leader appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during an inauguration ceremony in the rotunda of the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, in Madison, Wis. Photo by AP/Morry Gash

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during an inauguration ceremony in the rotunda of the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, in Madison, Wis. Photo by AP/Morry Gash

    MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, illegally coordinated fundraising with conservative groups as part of a nationwide “criminal scheme” to violate election laws, prosecutors said in court documents unsealed Thursday.

    No charges have been filed against Walker or any member of his staff. The documents were filed in December as part of an ongoing lawsuit by the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth, which challenged a secret investigation into campaign fundraising coordination.

    The investigation began in 2012 as Walker was facing a recall election, but has been on hold since May when a federal judge ruled it was a breach of the group’s free-speech rights and temporarily halted the probe.

    Prosecutors said in the December filing that Walker, his former chief of staff Keith Gilkes, top adviser R.J. Johnson and others were discussing illegal fundraising and coordination with a number of national groups and prominent figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.

    The investigation began in 2012 as Walker was facing a recall election, but has been on hold since May when a federal judge ruled it was a breach of the group’s free-speech rights and temporarily halted the probe.

    Prosecutors said in the December filing that Walker, his former chief of staff Keith Gilkes, top adviser R.J. Johnson and others were discussing illegal fundraising and coordination with a number of national groups and prominent figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.

    “Two judges have rejected the characterizations disclosed in those documents,” Walker’s campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said in a statement, referring to previous rulings favorable to the governor and others under investigation.

    Marre also said that because Walker is not a party to the federal lawsuit the campaign has no control over any documents that are released.

    The court document quotes an email Walker sent to Rove on May 4, 2011, in which he talks about the important role Johnson played in leading the coordination effort.

    “Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin,” the quoted email from Walker said. “We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities).”

    Johnson, in addition to being Walker’s top campaign strategist, also was an adviser for Wisconsin Club for Growth. He did not immediately return a message left on his cellphone.

    Prosecutors, including Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Schmitz, have appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Gilkes did not return a message placed on his cellphone. While he eyes a run for president in 2016, Walker is seeking re-election this year against likely Democratic nominee Mary Burke. Both Gilkes and Johnson are working on his re-election campaign.

    It’s been known for months that the investigation, known as a John Doe, focused on allegations of illegal coordination between Wisconsin Club for Growth, Walker’s campaign and other conservative groups during recall elections in 2011 and 2012.

    But until Thursday it wasn’t clear that prosecutors saw Walker as having such a central role.

    “The scope of the criminal scheme under investigation is expansive,” Schmitz wrote in the Dec. 9 court filing, objecting to an attempt by Walker’s campaign and other conservative groups to quash subpoenas. “It includes criminal violations of multiple elections laws” including filing false campaign finance reports, Schmitz wrote.

    Wisconsin Club for Growth attorney Andrew Grossman argued the public has the right to see the documents.

    “These documents show how the John Doe prosecutors adopted a blatantly unconstitutional interpretation of Wisconsin law that they used to launch a secret criminal investigation targeting conservatives throughout Wisconsin,” Grossman said in an email Thursday. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this is a story that needs to be told to prevent more abuses and to hold the John Doe prosecutors accountable for violating the rights of Wisconsinites.”

    An attorney for prosecutors, Sam Leib, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

    Prosecutors have defended the investigation as a legitimate probe into whether Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws had been violated. They have rejected the argument that they were on a partisan witch hunt.

    Walker rose to fame shortly after taking office in 2011, passing a bill that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. The uproar over that law led to Walker’s recall election in 2012, which he won, making him the first governor in U.S. history to ever defeat a recall.

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    A photomicrograph of anthrax bacteria. Image by CDC

    A photomicrograph of anthrax bacteria. Image by CDC

    The Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday that as many as 75 scientists may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria. While none of the people who were exposed have shown signs of infection, they’re being offered treatment.

    The exposure may have happened when the researchers working in a high-level biosecurity lab at the CDC failed to follow proper procedures to inactivate the bacteria, NBC News reports.

    A statement from the CDC offers more context:

    The potentially infectious samples were moved and used for experimentation in three CDC Roybal campus laboratories not equipped to handle live B. anthracis. Workers, believing the samples were inactivated, were not wearing adequate personal protective equipment while handling the material.

    Lab safety investigators also determined that, sometime between June 6 and June 13, procedures used in two of the three labs may have aerosolized the spores. Environmental sampling was done, lab and hallway areas were decontaminated and laboratories will be re-opened when safe to operate.

    CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said that the risk of infection is “very low” in this particular situation. However, he included that “out of an abundance of caution, CDC is taking aggressive steps to protect the health of all involved, including protective courses of antibiotics for potentially exposed staff.”

    The CDC also stated that the public is not in danger of being exposed to the anthrax as a result of this incident.

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    income inequality poster

    Creative Commons photo by Flickr user mSeattle.

    There’s new data on income inequality out from the OECD Thursday, so we thought we’d take a look to see how the U.S. compares against the group’s 33 other countries — and its upcoming World Cup matches (more on that in a bit).

    When we look at income, the U.S. has had a wider gap — meaning less equal distribution of income — than the OECD average for at least the past 30 years.

    Note: The OECD computes the Gini Coefficient based on income after for taxes and transfers, and adjusts for differences in household size. Not all countries’ data are available for every year, so the results are not strictly comparable. The interactive is meant to highlight trends.

    The data also shows that lower-income households across the OECD were hit harder by the financial crisis — the poor either lost more during the crisis or benefited less from the recovery than did their higher-income neighbors.

    While real household income hasn’t changed much (stagnated) across the 34 member countries, young adults have been hit the hardest since the financial crisis. By age, 18- to 25-year-olds “suffered the most severe income losses,” while those 65 and older “were largely shielded from the worse effects of the crisis,” according to the release. The young also continue to beat the elderly for greater risk of poverty, a trend the OECD has tracked for at least 25 years.

    While the report doesn’t give much explanation as to why this is, high youth unemployment and more generous social services for those 65 and older are likely to have something to do with it.

    In the U.S., poverty has averaged around 26.92 percent of the population with an income less than 50 percent of the country’s median income, after taxes and benefits are added (how the OECD defines “relative income poverty”). For years with data available since 1983, it maxed at just under 18 percent in 1989; the lowest was 16.5 percent in 2009. In fact, the U.S. poverty rate in 2011 was higher compared to all other OECD countries other than Israel, Mexico and Turkey.

    You can take a look at the data for all 34 countries, but for a bit of fun we decided to see how the U.S. compares against the two countries it’s competing against next in the World Cup — Portugal and Germany — for income distribution and poverty.

    To measure income inequality, we use the Gini Coefficient. It ranges from zero to one, with zero representing a completely equal distribution of wealth, and one referring to a single person holding the entire country’s wealth. So the higher the score, the more income equality there is. In 2011 (the year with the most complete data available), Germany had the lowest Gini score (0.29). Portugal’s was 0.34 and the U.S. was at .39 — meaning fewer people in the U.S. held more of the wealth, while income in Germany was distributed more equally. As for poverty, Germany was the lowest of the three, at 8.7 percent, followed by Portugal at 11.9 at the U.S. at 17.1 percent in 2011. For all years with available data, the U.S. has had the highest poverty rate as well as the highest Gini score.

    So at least by those measures, the U.S. comes up short compared to it’s next two World Cup matches. And we can’t offer any predictions based on who the U.S. has played already, as Ghana is not a part of the OECD and therefore wouldn’t make a very good comparison.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans in the House of Representatives have elected new leader, first a new majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California. Members met and voted today behind closed doors. The vote count was not made public. McCarthy had been the party’s majority whip. He will be replaced as whip by Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who defeated two other House members.

    After the vote, McCarthy told reporters his new mission is clear.

    REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, Majority Leader-Elect: America is struggling. We’re struggling with a stagnant economy, a failed health care law, and so many are living paycheck to paycheck. They’re looking for individuals that put people before politics.

    I make one promise. I will work every single day to make sure this conference has the courage to lead with the wisdom to listen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: House Republicans were forced to scramble to elect new leadership after former Majority Leader Eric Cantor shocked the political world and lost his Virginia primary to a Tea Party challenger. Cantor will step down from his leadership post July 31.

    GWEN IFILL: As many as 75 government scientists in Atlanta may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued that warning today. The agency said researchers at one of their high-level bio- security labs failed to properly inactivate the bacteria samples. They were then transferred to less secure labs. The CDC is offering treatment to anyone who may have come in contact with the bacteria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three Midwestern states braced for flooding today after torrential rain and heavy thunderstorms all this week. The 400-mile-long Big Sioux River is pushing record levels, already flooding parts of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Residents are filling sandbags and shoring up their homes against the encroaching water. The Big Sioux River is expected to crest tomorrow morning, a foot above the record that was set in 1969.

    GWEN IFILL: In Wisconsin, state prosecutors have accused Republican Governor Scott Walker of illegal fund-raising. Newly unsealed court documents show prosecutors allege he was part of coordinated fund-raising with conservative groups in a nationwide — quote — “criminal scheme.”  No charges have been filed against Walker or any member of his staff.

    The investigation began in 2012, when Walker faced a recall election, but a federal judge put it on hold in May.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces were locked in intense fighting in Eastern Ukraine today. The rebels tried to organize their forces, but said they were outnumbered and outgunned.

    A top rebel commander begged Russia for help. In London, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Russia has resumed a military buildup along the border.

    ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, Secretary General, NATO: We call on Russia to stop the flow of weapons and equipment from Russia to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. We call on Russia to stop the support for pro-Russian armed gangs in Eastern Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russian President Vladimir Putin said today he expects the Ukrainian onslaught to end soon, in line with a peace proposal offered by Ukraine yesterday..

    GWEN IFILL: Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinians in the West Bank as they searched for three missing Israeli teenagers. The teens disappeared a week ago while hitchhiking home from the West Bank. The Israeli raid took place overnight in Jenin. About 300 Palestinians threw explosive devices and opened fire. Thirty were arrested.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Spain swore in a new king today. Felipe VI succeeds his 76-year-old father, Juan Carlos, who gave up the throne after nearly 40 years in power. Felipe was formally proclaimed the new monarch during a ceremony in parliament. Although he wields no executive power, the king promised a reinvigorated monarchy for new times.

    GWEN IFILL: Stocks on Wall Street saw very little movement today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 15 points to close at 16,921; the Nasdaq fell three points to close at 4,359; the S&P 500 added two points to close at 1,959.

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    GWEN IFILL: President Obama announced today that he will be sending up to 300 military advisers to support Iraqi forces in their fight against the Sunni militant group ISIL. But he pushed again for the country’s leaders to come up with their own political solution.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama announced he would instead dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to the region this weekend. He also pledged to increase support for Iraqi security forces through intelligence-sharing and coordination. The U.S., he said, wouldn’t rule out targeted strikes against insurgents if events on the ground demand it.

    But the president said repeatedly that it is the Iraqis themselves who will ultimately be responsible for stabilizing what he described as a dire situation.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Regardless of what’s happened in the past, right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance.

    And the test for all of them is going to be where they can overcome the mistrust, the deep sectarian divisions, in some cases just political opportunism and say, this is bigger than any one of us, and we’ve got to make sure that we — we do what’s right for the Iraqi people. And — and that’s a challenge. That’s not something that the United States can do for them.

    GWEN IFILL: Mr. Obama also said he would be open to working with Iran, so long as they send the same unifying message to the Shia-run government.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia and it — if it is framed in that fashion, then that probably worsens the situation and the prospect for a government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term.

    GWEN IFILL: Left unaddressed, the future of Nouri al-Maliki, who is faulted in some quarters for fanning the sectarian divisions now roiling the country.

    Maliki’s political movement won the most seats in April’s election, and the president suggested today Iraqis would have to sort out internal politics on their own.

    But The New York Times reported today that U.S. officials have already signaled to opposition leaders in Baghdad that Maliki step down, something many Sunni leaders have already demanded.

    SHEIK ALI HATEM AL-SALMAN, Sunni Tribal Leader, Anbar Province (through interpreter): We think al-Maliki has completely lost his balance. We advise him to leave government, because I can’t imagine that, with al-Maliki remaining, the Iraqi crisis will be solved.

    GWEN IFILL: Maliki, a Shiite, joined with other Iraqi leaders calling for unity earlier this week.

    Meanwhile, battles raged on across the country, as government soldiers and helicopters faced off against Sunni extremists at the sprawling Baiji refinery north of Baghdad. An Iraqi witness told the Associated Press that black ISIL banners now hang on facility towers and militants man checkpoints. But officials insisted government forces maintain control of what is the country’s largest oil refinery.

    The Iraqi Defense Ministry also released video of targeted Iraqi airstrikes near the city of Tal Afar. A military spokesman claimed the bombings killed 50 militants. Elsewhere, Iraqi emergency police patrolled streets and checkpoints throughout the northern city of Kirkuk. Kurdish peshmerga forces had held the ethnically diverse and oil-rich city since Iraqi military forces retreated last week.

    MAN (through interpreter): Security forces and peshmerga forces have control over Kirkuk, and the situation is very good.

    GWEN IFILL: Still, the exodus from ISIL-controlled regions continues. A hundred miles southeast of Kirkuk, families packed into pickup trucks and minibuses to flee towns now in the grip of the Sunni militant forces.

    While on television, the government’s public relations battle waged on. State-run Iraqiya TV today broadcast patriotic footage and music, including messages that read, “All of us are ready to lay ourselves down for Iraq” and “Our safety is with your help.”

    In Baghdad, hundreds of Shiite volunteers eager to join the fight lined up at recruitment centers.

    HASSAN ABDULLAH, Volunteer (through interpreter): I have volunteered to join the Iraqi army to crush the heads of the ISIL fighters and those who have allied with them.

    GWEN IFILL: Officials said, in the past week alone, over two million Iraqis have volunteered to take up arms against the insurgency, raising fears that the violence gripping the country could deteriorate even further.

    The post Obama to send military advisors to Iraq while urging political leaders to prevent their country’s collapse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Obama Holds News Conference With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki At The White House

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    GWEN IFILL: So can Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki unite his country? Or will it take another leader?

    Feisal Istrabadi was Iraq’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations from 2004 to 2007. He’s now a professor of international law and diplomacy at Indiana University. Abbas Kadhim was born and raised in Iraq and is now a senior foreign policy fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. And Charles Duelfer, who has decades of experience in dealing with Iraqi leaders, first on political and later on intelligence issues, after the U.S. invaded Iraq, he was the lead weapons inspector in the country.

    Welcome to you all.

    Feisal Istrabadi, until a few years ago, Iraq’s politics seemed to be relatively stable. What has happened in what seems to be such a short time?

    FEISAL ISTRABADI, Indiana University: I think, over the last two years, the prime minister has increasingly come to confront some of the other partners that he has in the coalition.

    He has begun in the last few months to confront the Sunni of Iraq militarily in a variety of ways. And he has come to confront the Kurdish parties — or, rather, the Kurdish region in Iraq economically. And I think this has caused many of his coalition partners to look upon him with some question marks.

    GWEN IFILL: Are the question marks from within or from without? That is to say, are just coalition partners looking at him askance or also are fellow Iraqis?

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: Well, I mean — well, I mean, they’re all fellow Iraqis, right?

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: But, in theory, all of these parties that are asking the questions are in government and — or part of the government.

    And so I think he has lost the ability, in my judgment, to be an effective interlocutor with at least two of the three major ethno-confessional groups in the country, the Sunni and the Kurds.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. I think I was talking about coalition partners outside of Iraq.

    But let me ask Abbas Kadhim about this.

    Is Nouri al-Maliki to blame for the current set of circumstances?

    ABBAS KADHIM, Johns Hopkins University: Well, he is part of the entire Iraqi political system, and he has worked with many others.

    Maliki isn’t the only decision-maker in Iraq. It’s a coalition of politicians from all parts of the country, and the entire political ruling class has failed Iraq, definitely. So I think blaming Maliki alone would be unfair, I think.

    There are three things that I would — or two things maybe I could just put quickly about Maliki. One is that he is the most popular politician, as the last elections showed. He outperformed the closest rival 3-1 in the number of seats taken. And he himself got 721,000 votes alone in Baghdad.

    The second, which has to do with the debate that is going on in Washington, D.C., is this idea that Maliki has to go. You know, this is the worst thing that can be done to a country that is democratizing, to have people in Washington or in any other place to call on someone to resign or to pick kings or to overthrow kings.

    I think the president in his statement today got it right when he said, we are not in the business of choosing or picking Iraqi leaders. This is the way it should be done. If Maliki is overthrown at the orders, if you will, or the pressure of outside forces, this will have grave consequences for the prospects of democracy in the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Charles Duelfer, as you look at this shake down, this shake out, do you think that al-Maliki has done enough to avoid this impasse we’re now at?

    CHARLES DUELFER, Former UN and U.S. Weapons Inspector in Iraq: The short answer is no.

    But the problem really was born in the immediate aftermath of the invasion in 2003. We made some — I think everyone acknowledges now some mistakes in terms of not being inclusive enough of the Sunni groups. Some of them former were Baathists. Some of them were former army.

    And throughout the succeeding 10 years, they have been looking for some signal that they will have a role in the new Iraq. For a while, they seemed to be brought in during the awakening period that General Petraeus was taking credit for, but now, under Maliki, he has gotten less inclusive, rather than more inclusive.

    And, as Obama said, yes, we must be driven by the elections, but when the end results are to exclude a very important population, and that population, by doing nothing, can encourage the evil that is ISIL, then we have got a problem that must be addressed. They need a strong message, and I don’t think they’re getting it.

    GWEN IFILL: Is it about excluding Sunnis in general or former Baathists in particular?

    CHARLES DUELFER: I think there’s a collection there.

    And then there are obviously gradations, but what they need to hear now, they need to hear something which will give them a good, positive alternative to either doing nothing or actively supporting ISIL. I don’t think that message came across in the president’s words tonight. He was too nuanced.

    He needs to be very, very clear. If Secretary Kerry goes to the region, as has been predicted, he may see Maliki. If he sees Maliki, but doesn’t see Sunnis or some representatives of Sunnis, they’re going to get exactly the wrong message. This is a critical time. They have got to act quickly.

    GWEN IFILL: Feisal Istrabadi, I want you to weigh in on that. How important is it for the U.S. to be more pointed, I guess, in its statements about what it is willing to do and what it is not willing to do?

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: Well, I think it has to be very careful.

    And I’m sorry if I misunderstood your question earlier. But it has to be very careful in how it deals publicly. Diplomacy ought to occur behind the scenes and not in front of the cameras. I agree with Abbas. The United States cannot be seen to be forcing the hand of players in Baghdad.

    But it can make its own interests clear in Baghdad behind the scenes. And it can — I think it’s fairly clear that the current leadership of Iraq simple doesn’t have a vision. I agree that all political parties, all politicians in Iraq have a share in the blame in where we got here and how we got here, but that’s not really what we’re discussing.

    The question is, how do we get out of the hole that we’re in? And I think, as they say here, one of the first things we need to do is to stop digging and find a new leadership.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you about — a little bit about that, because Vice President Biden has been very involved in talking to the leadership, the current leadership and being that broker.

    And now we see John Kerry is on his way to the region. Was there a breakdown somehow in the relationship that allowed us to get to this place, where there seems to be such distrust?

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: Well, I think that the United States, once it withdrew, took the position that the Iraqis were now in charge. And I think that that may have been appropriate.

    I think it’s appropriate now for the secretary of state to engage in Iraq. I’m very pleased to hear that he’s going to Iraq. I agree with Mr. Duelfer that he needs to meet with all parties to get a sense of where they all stand.

    I would say that if Maliki’s list got one-third of the seats, that means that two-thirds of Iraqis didn’t vote for his list. And I think that, too, is something that ought to be taken into account. In any parliamentary system, a list that gets one-third which is unwilling to meet some basic demands of the other parties might well find itself in opposition.

    GWEN IFILL: Abbas Kadhim, Maliki or no Maliki, what are the chances of a unity government that has been talked about at least?

    ABBAS KADHIM: Well, it is a matter of whether the others are willing to work with — to work together, to work for Maliki.

    If they are driving a hard bargain that Maliki has to be completely out of the picture, I don’t see any possibility for ignoring the top vote-getter, and especially with this kind of huge margin among the two. Feisal is right that two-thirds of Iraqis didn’t vote for the State of the Law, but also they didn’t vote for one entity that had the two-thirds.

    They voted — their vote was scattered. And, you know, if it is impossible for someone who got 95 seats to form a government, it would be even harder, more impossible for someone who got 30 seats. So, perspective on numbers is important.

    GWEN IFILL: You’re saying there is not necessarily a clear alternative to status quo?

    ABBAS KADHIM: Yes, there isn’t. And where are the other leaders who are going to take over from Maliki? I mean, we don’t see them in the crisis.

    And the Iraqis are highly disappointed by their performance. And that is the bigger problem. There is no clear alternative to Maliki right now. And, if anything, this crisis has driven his popularity even higher among the Iraqi people.

    Yes, he is unpopular in Washington, maybe unpopular in certain Sunni areas. And now that he’s armed with a fatwa, a religious edict, from the top grand ayatollah in Najaf, Ayatollah Sistani, I don’t see any way taking him out. So anybody who wants to form a government, a unity government, he has to put a special place for Maliki.

    GWEN IFILL: Final thought, Charles Duelfer. What’s the best possible outcome here?

    CHARLES DUELFER: The best possible outcome is an agreement where there’s parties in Iraq who can say, we’re going to divide up power, with serious ministries going to Sunni groups, with perhaps a reconsideration of the hydrocarbon law, where oil can be divided.

    And I don’t see how that can happen as long as Maliki clings to power. Now, we’re asking Maliki to something very, very difficult, because at a time when he’s under crisis, we’re asking him to be inclusive. And that’s almost the opposite of what you would normally do.

    GWEN IFILL: Charles Duelfer, Feisal Istrabadi, Abbas Kadhim, thank you all.

    ABBAS KADHIM: Thank you very much.

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    Florida v UConn

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The National Collegiate Athletic Association has long defended the idea of the amateur student-athlete, but that concept is facing its toughest trial yet. In fact, it’s literally a class-action trial under way in a federal district court in Oakland, California.

    The lawsuit contends the NCAA should permit former and current college basketball and football players to profit from the use of their names, likeness and images in television broadcasts, video games and other media. The case’s origins go back to a lawsuit first brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon after he saw his likeness in a video game. It’s evolved into a much bigger suit against the NCAA, with potentially bigger implications.

    Today, NCAA president Mark Emmert took the stand.

    We’re joined now by Michael McCann. He is director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

    Michael McCann, welcome back to the NewsHour.

    So, tell us, at its core, what is this case about?

    MICHAEL MCCANN, University of New Hampshire School of Law: Sure.

    So, at its core, the Ed O’Bannon case is about whether or not Division I men’s basketball and football players, so students at the highest level, should be able to negotiate for their name, image and likeness, when they’re on television, when they’re in archival video, when they’re on Web video, when they’re in video games, when they’re somehow related to apparel or eve trading cards.

    Anything using their name, image and likeness, they’re arguing they should be able to negotiate money for that, some type of compensation. Now, under NCAA rules, they are barred from doing so. The NCAA has a system called amateurism, which focuses on a stark distinction between professional and amateur sports.

    O’Bannon argues that distinction is flawed and it’s in violation of antitrust law. And the basic antitrust theory is this. The NCAA and its members have purportedly joined hands, so the NCAA conferences, individual colleges, to prevent them from negotiating, and that’s an anti-competitive market and they should be able to negotiate.

    And they hope that Judge Wilken will issue an injunction allowing them to do so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So they’re arguing the antitrust provision is their way — it’s their way in, in this argument?

    MICHAEL MCCANN: That’s right, Judy.

    Their way in is the antitrust argument, the idea that there’s a cartel, they have called it, a conspiracy, others who are making money off of their name, image and likeness and denying them the opportunity to even negotiate. The athletes have said, look, we’re not asking for millions. We just want to have an opportunity to negotiate.

    Now, the NCAA — in fairness to the NCAA, it has a number of arguments, including the fact that they have had this institution for years and that they believe college sports would be harmed if student athletes were quasi-professional, as they have described them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do they argue they would be harmed?

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Well, the NCAA believes that some schools would cut their sports programs. If student athletes, specifically men’s basketball and football players, are able to negotiate for their name, image and likeness, some of that money would have gone to their colleges, will now go to them.

    So that could require schools to lose some money, and it could be more expensive to have sports, so the fear is that, if this system comes about, some schools will cut their sports programs, or more likely cut some aspects of their sports programs, and there’s another area of law that we know is called Title IX that would prevent schools from just cutting women’s teams so the women’s teams would remain, but the men’s teams that are, say, golf, tennis, maybe baseball, lacrosse, other sports that are not typically generating revenue would be axed from the program.

    And the NCAA believes that once you allow student athletes to be essentially professionals — now, the O’Bannon team would say that is untrue, but let’s just go with that — that fans would become less interested in college sports, less money would go into it, and as a result schools would be more inclined to downsize their sports programs.

    So that’s the central thesis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how does the plaintiff, how does Ed O’Bannon himself and the people who are bringing this suit who represent his point of view, how do they counter that argument?

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Well, part of the argument, Judy, is they argue that that’s just not true, that college sports fans would still like sports in college even if student athletes were able to negotiate for their name, image and likeness.

    And they would likely do so not individually, but through a trade association. So the idea that there would be sports agents on campus negotiating contracts, that could be true for some of the elite college athletes, but it’s unlikely to be true, at least O’Bannon argues, for the mainstream basketball and football player.

    So they believe that the parade of terribles that might occur really isn’t true. And they have also argued, regardless of whether it’s true or not, that doesn’t mean that antitrust law is violated by the system, that a system where they’re denied an opportunity to negotiate because of a — quote, unquote — “conspiracy” or “cartel,” that that’s illegal, regardless of the effect it would have on college sports.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, finally, Michael McCann, whatever the judge rules, this is an argument that goes on, and there are other efforts to change the relationship between college athletes and the sports they play, are there not?

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Yes, that’s exactly right, Judy.

    So, as a starting point, let’s say O’Bannon wins. There will be an appeal. And an appeal will likely take years. It would have to go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then potentially to the United States Supreme Court, so there won’t be a resolution in this case for some time.

    But, like you mentioned, there are other litigations going on. There’s an argument brought by Kain Colter, a football player at Northwestern University, who argues that he’s an employee, that college football players are employees, and they should be able to unionize. That’s before the National Labor Relations Board.

    There’s a separate case over whether or not college scholarships for sports are illegal. The NCAA is being attacked with a number of cases. And it would have to run the table to keep it the way it is. And that seems unlikely to happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will continue to watch this trial under way in California.

    For today, Michael McCann, we thank you.

    MICHAEL MCCANN: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Would the rise of quasi-professional student athletes harm college sports? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: The college town of Madison, Wisconsin is not the sort of place that leaps to mind when it comes to the discussion of racial disparities.

    But the gap between black and white residents in Madison’s Dane County, are, according to recent reports, more extreme than most other jurisdictions in the nation. Now there’s a new effort to find ways to bridge that gap.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports.

    REV. ALEX GEE, Fountain of Life Covenant Church: Doggone it, this is our — this is our community. And we’re not going to let it go to hell in a handbasket. So thank you for coming.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: At the Fountain of Life Covenant Church in Madison, Wisconsin, the Reverend Alex Gee recently addressed hundreds of residents about a campaign he calls justified anger.

    REV. ALEX GEE: But don’t let our anger frustrate you. Don’t let it cause you fear, or consternation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The reverend is angry about statistics that show significant gaps between Wisconsin’s white and black populations.

    REV. ALEX GEE: Racial disparity is awful. We are ground zero for so many issues, particularly those concerning African-American men.

    Six hundred and fifty people poured in. They filled this place. There was standing room only. We had 150 people in the foyer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a report that detailed nationwide racial disparities, the Annie E. Casey Foundation found Wisconsin had the worst rankings for African-American children in the country.

    The report cites stark differences in between African-American and white children when it comes to education, family income, and home stability.

    REV. ALEX GEE: People don’t come to Madison so their kids can fail in school. People don’t come to Madison so their kids can go to prison and rot in cells. Dreamers come to Madison, and then, when they feel excluded from the dream, they become nightmares.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Gee says the national spotlight on Wisconsin’s racial disconnect hit a nerve.

    WOMAN: I did this same thing 30 years ago, where we’re right back again for the same issue, and I’m sick and tired of this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Noble Wray is the interim president of the Urban League of Greater Wisconsin.

    NOBLE WRAY, Urban League of Greater Madison: It reflects on our community in a very deep way. What are our values? Do we believe that this is the way that there should be almost these two cities coexisting, or two counties coexisting in terms of the experience that people have here in Madison and Dane County?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The reasons that cause these differences between white and black children start young, even before school.

    WOMAN: Do you want to read that with momma?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: To get kids caught up before entering school, Dane County officials began sending social workers to work with parents from under-served communities. Katie Snow is the program supervisor.

    KATIE SNOW, Dane County Early Childhood Initiative: The brain is developing very rapidly in the first three years of life, and particularly in that first year. So, you want as much as possible to have a stable family situation, where there’s not a lot of stress.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joe Parisi, executive for Dane County, says the program is specifically designed to close the educational gap.

    JOE PARISI, Dane County Executive: We engage the parents and the kids in opportunities to learn how to interact with each other in the most productive way, and aimed at helping those kids achieve the educational and developmental milestones necessary to enter 4-year-old kindergarten at the same level as the majority of the kids coming in.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dione Blouin says working with Snow has helped her improve her daughter’s language and comprehension.

    DIONE BLOUIN: I feel like, being a young mom, you just feel like you’re going wrong with a lot of things, and you just need that support to let you know you’re doing good and what to do, what not to do. And I think that is very important.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: By the time babies like Dione’s are in middle school, the gaps are significant.

    In Wisconsin middle schools, white children are six times more likely to be proficient in eighth grade math than black students. Reading proficiencies for African-American students are four times worse.

    Principal Tremayne Clardy from Sennett Middle School welcomes attention to the problem.

    TREMAYNE CLARDY, Principal, Sennett Middle School: There are definitely disparities that we have to address and are addressing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Clardy, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on racial disparities, says educators need to make learning more personal and purposeful.

    TREMAYNE CLARDY: When a student identifies a purpose for being in the classroom, and you enhance that with a culturally relevant curriculum, that’s when the light comes on. That’s when the education truly happens.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Wray links much of the racial divide to poverty and employment opportunities.

    NOBLE WRAY: The gap is pretty striking. For African-Americans, it’s 25 percent unemployment here in Dane County. For whites, it’s 4.8 percent unemployment. That’s pretty stark.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Those unemployment numbers are troubling at a time when Madison’s construction industry is experiencing a labor shortage. So the Urban League partnered with Dane County officials to train minorities for trade industry jobs.

    They helped Walter Konya, who had trouble finding work after high school.

    WALTER KONYA: I believe that the odds are stacked against you as a minority, within — this day in the country, but programs like this do help even the odds in a great way, I would say.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What Madison is facing is not unlike racial disparities seen across the country. The Annie E. Casey report called the imbalance between African-American and white children’s achievement a national crisis.

    Community leaders see it as a call to action.

    REV. ALEX GEE: If we don’t capture it now, if we don’t address it now, then I’m really concerned about what Madison will become in the next decade.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so what is the solution for Madison?

    REV. ALEX GEE: I think what’s going to be different is the indigenous voice. We’re rarely at the table. We’re rarely asked what we think, and that doesn’t dignify us. So we’re the topic of every discussion, we’re the subject of every report, and we don’t get to interject, we don’t get to submit, we don’t get to say anything.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Noble Wray says that may be changing.

    NOBLE WRAY: There seems to be a movement. There’s community leaders. There are nonprofits involved. There are grassroots people that are talking about this.

    All of the other initiatives were really led by government, and that has been one of the problems, because we can never sustain the effort. Politically, when we get turnover, it’s not thought about anymore.

    REV. ALEX GEE: We have the wherewithal and we have the goods. The question is, do we have the will to change this on our watch?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Both Reverend Gee and Noble Wray are optimistic that addressing the thorny issue of racial disparity here in Wisconsin could become a template for other communities around the country.

    The post To tackle racial disparity in Wisconsin’s capital, community leaders start with the very young appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supreme Court Allows California Gay Marriage, Voids U.S. Law

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A coalition of groups opposing same-sex marriage rallied in Washington today outside the U.S. Capitol, marching to the Supreme Court in support of marriage between one man and one woman.

    This comes just days after the Obama administration announced its intent to ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and as polls show the tide of public opinion changing rapidly.

    To discuss how the fight over gay rights is playing out both here in Washington and across the country, we are joined by Edward-Isaac Dovere. He’s senior White House reporter for Politico. And David Crary, who covers national social issues for the Associated Press.

    And welcome to you both.

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, Politico: Good to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Isaac Dovere, let me start with you.

    This executive action, the order the White House issued the other day affecting federal contractors, what is it and who’s affected by it?

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE: Well, the White House actually has just announced that the president will sign this executive order. They haven’t announced what’s in it exactly yet, but it will ban discrimination against LGBT people who are working for government contractors.

    There are questions about some of the minutia that will be in it, especially what kind of religious exemption might be in there, but it does seem like it is going forward and the president will sign it soon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David Crary, what’s your understanding of why the administration is doing this now?

    DAVID CRARY, The Associated Press: Well, when President Obama took office, the gay rights movement had a pretty long wish list of things that they hoped that this liberal president would do.

    And he’s checked off all the other items on this list, gays in the military serving openly, several other things in support for gay marriage. This was the last big item on the list, and I think there’s a sense of relief and delight by gay activists and probably a sense of relief at the White House that they finally finished this list and can now sort of celebrate together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that how you see it, Isaac Dovere?

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE: This was a promise that the president made when he was running in 2008. He didn’t do anything on it during his first term. He was doing a lot of other things that gay advocates were very happy about.

    But in the spring of 2012, when he was preparing for reelection, his advisers told guy activists that they shouldn’t expect this to happen, that it wasn’t going to happen until after the election. This was definitely the last big thing. Some gay activists put it to me as the third leg of a stool, with repealing don’t ask, don’t tell and coming out in favor of gay marriage.

    There are lots of other things that the administration has to be touting when it comes to their record on gay rights, but those are the three big items.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile, David Crary, what’s happened in terms of public attitudes about same-sex marriage — and I think we have some graphics here to show our viewers — is really kind of remarkable. Just in the last five years, you have seen a complete shift in the percentage of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage and those who support it.

    DAVID CRARY: That’s right, and it’s across a lot of different demographic sectors, which is interesting.

    Young people are tilting hugely. A lot of Republicans, they are showing a shift there, older people. So it’s not just liberals, it’s not Democrats. It’s across-the-board shift, and a contrast here with the polls on the abortion issue, for example, another hot-button issue. Those haven’t budged in 20 years, if you look at the Gallup poll. It’s that same 50/50 split on abortion.

    With the gay rights, the change is very dramatic. And it seems that even the hard-core opponents of same-sex marriage see that this is going on. They don’t really deny that trend.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David Crary, what makes it fascinating is, we are seeing playing out across the country, as we mentioned, in state after state.

    There are so many states that have banned same-sex marriage, but courts — the courts are putting a stop to it. Let’s look at — now, this is a graphic showing the states in orange, same-sex marriage not allowed. In green states, it is allowed.

    But, as I was starting to say, David Crary, the courts have stepped in to intervene.

    DAVID CRARY: They have been more than a dozen cases since last December all striking down either state bans in their entirety or part of the state ban.

    It’s been a winning streak on one side, a losing streak on the other, with no exceptions. And it’s pretty striking. The next step will be to go to the level of U.S. circuit courts. They will be hearing appeals of some of these decisions. Those are going to come down probably this summer, maybe in Denver. They will rule on the status of Utah’s and Oklahoma’s gay marriage bans. There will be a hearing in Cincinnati of four different state cases, one single hearing.

    So it’s going to be an interesting summer as all these litigated case move one step higher up on the federal court system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Isaac Dovere, for the Obama administration, they really can’t be involved in those cases, but they’re obviously watching with interest.

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE: Watch with interest and with support.

    At this point, just in the last week, the last state that didn’t have a court challenge to a gay marriage ban now has one. That was North Dakota. This is something that the administration is in favor of, and they have been doing what they can to interpret the legal rulings that have come down in favor of gay marriage as broadly as possible, specifically the Windsor decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last spring.

    They have tried in every way that they can to figure out how to apply as many rights to gay couples under federal marriage statutes as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Isaac Dovere, staying with you, what are the politics of this? We are in an off-year, a congressional election year. The administration would like to energize the Democratic base, the liberal base.

    How much does this, what’s happening, what we have been talking about, play into that?

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE: Well, this is definitely part of it. When the president talks about what Democrats need to do for the midterms, he every time, at every fund-raiser says Democrats have a tendency to fall asleep or not pay attention in midterms.

    He wants to make sure as few people as possible, specifically the base, buy into the narrative that the president is done with any big things. This is about making people believe that the president is still doing things, making the gay community believe that, and also to progressives in a wider way who we have seen poll after poll views the gay marriage, gay rights issue as a way of connecting with the president’s progressive values.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David Crary, in the LGBT community, how do they read what the administration is doing?

    DAVID CRARY: Well, I think they’re very pleased with what the administration is going.

    I also think they’re very pleased at what they see happening in the Republican Party in terms of the Republican officeholders beginning to shy away from this battle. You see Republican governors in gay marriage states kind of accepting the fait accompli, Chris Christie in New Jersey, Governor Corbett in Pennsylvania, who decided not to appeal when a judge struck down their law against gay marriage.

    That’s replicating itself. I think, at the march today in Washington, there was one Republican member of Congress who appeared. Four or five, 10 years ago, there would have been more. So I think LGBT activists are cautiously pleased that Democrats see this as a winning issue, gay marriage, and Republicans no longer seem to want to go to the mat to fight about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fascinating changes.

    David Crary, Edward-Isaac Dovere, we thank you both.


    DAVID CRARY: Thank you.

    The post Why the tide is turning in support of same-sex marriage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Second grade students at Horseshoe Trails Elementary study typing in anticipation of new Common Core standards. Photo by David Jolkovski/Washington Post

    Second grade students at Horseshoe Trails Elementary study typing in anticipation of new Common Core standards. Photo by David Jolkovski/Washington Post

    Five years ago, Washington, D.C. became a centerpiece in what became a national push to improve teaching by tying raises and job performance reviews to improvements in student test scores.

    Then-chancellor Michelle Rhee made test scores count for up to 35 percent of evaluations for teachers who taught subject areas with standardized tests, a move supported by many in the school reform movement, including the Department of Education’s Race to the Top program, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others. In 2010, Rhee made headlines for firing 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor appraisals under the new evaluation system.

    That’s why a Thursday announcement from current D.C. School Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s predecessor and former deputy, could make waves across the country. Her district will take a break next year from tying teacher evaluations to students’ test scores. She said she still believes in using test scores to assess teacher performance, but said the new Common Core-based tests have to be assessed first to ensure they accurately reflect student learning. The new online tests were piloted in schools across the country this spring, but next year will be the first time students receive scores on the exams.

    “I want my teachers focused on teaching and not worried about whether or not the hiccups that come with implementing a new test are going to impact their livelihood,” said Henderson, who notified teachers of the change in a letter.

    Washington, D.C. has made marked progress on national standardized tests since Henderson took over, although it has been embroiled in a cheating scandal that many have tied to the pressure of high-stakes testing.

    A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Education said in a statement, “Although we applaud District of Columbia Public Schools, DCPS, for their continued commitment to rigorous evaluation and support for their teachers, we know there are many who looked to DCPS as a pacesetter who will be disappointed with their desire to slow down.”

    Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joined the two largest teachers’ unions in calling for a temporary halt to evaluating teachers based on Common Core tests.

    For more on Common Core, visit our Education Desk, and for Special Education Correspondent John Merrow’s coverage of Michelle Rhee and Washington, D.C., visit Learning Matters.

    The post D.C. will wait a year to rate teachers with Common Core tests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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